Portland Institute of Contemporary Art hosts Time Based Art Festival

Illustration of three dancing figures.
Corryn Pettingill / The Mossy Log

Every year in September, the Portland Institute of Contemporary Art (PICA) hosts the Time Based Art Festival (TBA).

The festival’s goal is to appreciate modern artists and to display pieces that revolve around the themes of time, and what it means to live in today’s society. TBA uplifts artists who thrive on making contemporary art and pushing the boundaries and their abilities, reforming expectations as to what we see in art. Contemporary art is defined by being made in the twenty-first century, but is also created for the idea rather than the aesthetic. 

The TBA festival has been praised for being one of the best festivals for contemporary performance art, and shows a wide range of diverse performances such as dancing, singing, culinary experiences and drag shows. Beginning in 2003, the events welcome everyone regardless of background or knowledge of art to experience and support their fellow artists. 

The events scattered at a variety of different venues spread across Portland lasted from Sept. 8 to Sept.18, and offered audiences for artists from all around the world. While select events were free, most range between $10  and $30 for entry, but can rise up to $500 for VIP and exclusive access. 

One of the first performances presented was “NOTHINGBEING,” a three-person dance choreographed by Takahiro Yamamoto that explored themes of transformation of the self, not-feeling and surrendering to the existence of life. The three performers moved in and out of unison, contorting their bodies and then separating to different parts of the floor, using props for sounds or emphasis of emotions.

Each viewer might have a different viewing experience by focusing on different dancers at separate times and connecting with their behavior in unique ways. The three figures expressed feelings of pain and suffering by writhing on the floor, slamming a pillow on the ground and slamming their feet in a toddler-like tantrum. Their actions elicited physical and emotional reactions from the audience; the audience jumped at some parts, laughed at others and for a great deal of the time, were completely silent. 

Spotlights splashed their shadows over the walls, exaggerating their movements and arching over the crowd dramatically. The fifty minute piece highlighted a pain in transformation, frustration and getting lost in one’s own emotions before being brought down and comforted by their friend. 

The festival also included “Clown Down 2: Clown Out of Water,” a sequel to a previous work of famous Portland drag queen Carla Rossi. The performance is a part of the Indigenous Residency Series (IRS), and is all about climate change and the horror of living on a distressed planet, The IRS is a multi-year program that included many different artists.

Other events included showcasing work by Sasha Wortzel, an opening night performance by San Cha and a presentation by UwU Collective. The festival is planned to return next year.

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