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TBA stakes its place ahead of the curve

by: PHOTOS COURTESY OF TBA - This years Time-Based Art Festival features (from top to bottom): male playful Pieter Ampe and Guilherme Garridon; Moroccan choreographer Bouchra Ouizguen and singers; Lola Arias Pinochet testimonial; and musical groups such as The Julie Ruin.Much of the contemporary and cutting-edge artistry displayed at the Time-Based Art Festival might be tough for “normal everyday people” to understand, says Angela Mattox, TBA’s artistic director.

That’s OK. You don’t have to “get it.”

Just enjoy it.

Mattox, who travels the world to scout artists and sets up the extensive schedule for the popular annual festival, exits some performances feeling the same way: What just happened?

“I believe, firmly, the work we’re doing can appeal to a broad audience,” she says. “People put pressure on themselves, that they have to ‘get’ everything.

“Just think, when you travel, you may go outside your comfort zone. TBA is quite like that. TBA is a place where we’re focusing on artists going into new territory and asking normal everyday people to come join us. It’s kind of a journey.”

Artists, too, understand their performances might be lost on some, Mattox adds. “They encourage multiple interpretations. That’s exciting to us. I’m still finding my own way through the work. I like to see the projects many times,” she says.

Always ambitious and provocative, the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s Time-Based Art Festival of performance and visual arts takes place Sept. 12 through 22 throughout the city, with the headquarters changed from the old Washington High School to the Con-Way Inc. warehouse at Northwest 21st Avenue and Quimby Street.

Yes, a warehouse that soon will become a New Seasons. The 30,000 square feet will be home to “The Works” shows and exhibits, with two different stages — a 250-seat black box theater and a late-night show stage — as well as a pop-up kitchen/restaurant with featured chefs and indoor and outdoor bars. It’s where people will gather to talk about TBA, and there will always be something to talk about.

“We really encourage an informal dialogue,” Mattox says. “We get that this work is new and it’s outside of people’s comfort zones.”

There are scores of performances and visual arts to see. “They’re all kind of like my children,” Mattox says. “I love them all.”

But some stand out:

• It’s likely for adults only when Pieter Ampe and Guilherme Garrido perform “Still Standing You” (Sept. 13 and 14), where they unflinchingly seek out what they mean to each other, with turns toward the hilarious, macho, violent and foolish. They physically put their bodies to work — together — to discover the layers of their friendship.

“I saw their work in January. It was a breath of fresh air. I booked it almost immediately,” Mattox says. “It’s a very male playful work ... they push the boundaries of each other’s bodies. They strip down to partial nudity, but I think Portland can handle it. There is a bit of shock with it, but it’s not for shock value.”

• Lola Arias, an Argentinian theater director, orchestrates the U.S. premiere of “The Year I Was Born” (Sept. 13 through 15), working with a Chilean group, whose members poetically share personal stories about themselves and their parents living during the oppressive Gen. Augusto Pinochet regime. “You can’t help but get caught up with them,” Mattox says. “It’s emotional. This is one that people will get.”

• Also on opening weekend, Pink Martini’s Thomas Lauderdale teams with Meow Meow and the Oregon Symphony (Sept. 14) for a celebration of music and humor that is “deeply intelligent,” Mattox says. “It’ll push the symphony in really fun ways.” Meow Meow has been called a “post-post-modern cabaret diva” with a “kamikaze” performance style.

• Later during TBA, Moroccan choreographer Bouchra Ouizguen explores madness, obsession and ritual (Sept. 18 through 20), inspired by the poetry of Rumi, with her cabaret singers Madame Plaza, who have been both celebrated and scorned in their home country.

“I’ve not seen any work quite like it,” Mattox says.

• A highlight of musical performance, Janka Nabay and the Bubu Gang, had to back out of TBA. But Mattox was able to attract Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth, together with fellow electric guitarist Bill Nace (Sept. 19) — they’re called Body/Head.

• TBA has always emphasized international artists, and PICA has entered into the Contemporary African Consortium, dedicated to experimental work from Africa. But, Mattox says, “we have more local new projects ... people can see them locally, but they will see brand-new pieces.”

The next TBA might be approaching, but it’s a scramble to the finish — three groups, for example, have not received visas to work the festival; Janka Nabay had a visa issue. And, Mattox already has set her sights on 2014. It’s a never-ending process to evaluate the kind of talent that experiments and pushes aesthetics and ideas.

“It’s a logistical matrix in some ways,” she says. “We want artists who are ahead of the curve, and I love watching artists who I can’t predict where they’re going to go in their work. It belongs here at PICA.”