TBA:12 puts groundbreaking contemporary art in your face

By Nick Mattos, PQ Monthly

Thank heavens for the Time-Based Art Festival. Founded in 2003 and inspired by European and Australian-modeled projects, including the Edinburgh and Adelaide festivals, Portland’s TBA Festival and its mother organization the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art have quickly garnered themselves an international reputation for embodying the creative vitality of the Northwest while showcasing emerging and master artists from around the world.

On a local level, TBA has become a fixture of the city’s social calendar, exposing tens of thousands of Portlanders to the cutting edge in theatre, dance, media, music, and multidisciplinary works each year. 2012’s TBA Festival, running from Sept. 6-16 in several venues citywide, promises to up the ante even further with a challenging, inspiring line-up that includes such major acts as Laurie Anderson and Yo La Tengo alongside artists and performers that deserve to be big names.

Perhaps no other performance will be as unsettling, gross, and hilarious as that of genderqueer neo-drag pop icon CHRISTEENE on Sept. 7. The creation of performance artist Paul Soileau, CHRISTEENE is a hideously fabulous and glamorously menacing pop chanteuse who mixes rap and R&B to indict the structures of the gender binary, capitalist imperialism, corporate mendacity, celebrity worship, and cultural complacency. Reports from live shows describe scenes involving butt plugs tied to bouquets of balloons being released into the air from CHRISTEENE’s rear end, intimate and bizarre confessionals over “tea,” backup boys in handmade panda masks urinating upon the burlap-encased singer, and a DIY anti-fashion wardrobe styled from the forgotten scraps of society. Appearing alongside CHRISTEENE are two sexually-distinct Backup Boyz, T-Gravel and C-Baby, along with accompanying DJ/music producer JJ Booya, rumored to be the entertainer’s third cousin.

On a wholly different, but perhaps no less unnerving note, multimedia artist Clare L. Evans’ Sept. 13 design fiction presentation, RESTORE FROM BACKUP, questions love, memory, and design in the Internet age.
“Every relationship leaves a trace,” says Evans, who is perhaps best known for her work with disco-pop band YACHT. “In a world of data, even the most intimate relationships are now externalized, backed up. The Web voraciously holds onto our memories, even when we want to let go. Ending romantic engagements, breaking up with friends, avoiding a sworn enemy: these are all antithetical to the industry of our sprawling social networks.”

Evans calls RESTORE FROM BACKUP “a service for precisely this problem.”

“With RFB, a relationship can be completely excised from the Web and all the data contained in a physical object of the customer’s design,” she says. “If you could gather every single bit of this relationship data and turn it into an object, what would you do with that object? Would you hold it in your hands, feel its depth and weight, and summon from a patchwork of sensory and fallible recollections your ever-shifting, foggy, and surreal memories of the person? Or would you destroy it?”

Venus X

For those who believe that good art should involve shaking what their mamas gave them, the TBA Festival’s dance parties never disappoint. A highlight of 2012’s offerings is young New York City-based DJ Venus X, who is certain to pack Washington High on Sept. 6. Born in 1986 to Dominican-Ecuadorian parents in Harlem, Venus X’s sets mix raw blends of songs across genres, bridging club cuts to global street anthems, Al Jazeera clips, and YouTube samples, opting for narratives rather than beats-per-minute matching. Her verve on the decks has led the selectress to receive high praises in the New York Times, The Guardian, Vibe, ArtForum, V Magazine, Rolling Stone, and Fader, amongst other high-profile coverage.

Her TBA Festival set will give the Rose City a taste of her legendary GHE20G0TH1K party, hailed by none other than the Village Voice as New York’s best party. In other words: clear your mid-September schedule right now.

TBA:12 runs Sept. 6-16 at various venues throughout Portland; for a full festival schedule, check out PICA.org. Admission prices for projects vary; festival passes as well as discounts for PICA members are available. Tickets for individual projects are available online at PICA.org now, and from Aug. 20 onwards at the TBA Central Box Office at Washington High School (SE 13th and Stark, Portland) and by phone at 503.224.PICA (7422).