My TBA Adventures

The "L" is For Loser

I told all my Twitter friends that I was going to be tweeting about PICA’s Time Based Art Festival (TBA:09) this year. Alison Hallett at the Portland Mercury included me on a list of folks who would be writing about TBA, going so far as to identify me as a “local arts writer." I promised that I would be reporting on TBA:09 with “grace, wit and perspicacity.” I don’t know what I was thinking.

The awful truth is that I’m a cardboard-cutout of a cultural critic. Every September I have the best of intentions to immerse myself in PICA’s annual time bomb of an arts festival, but it never happens. I suffer from two TBA bugaboos: Time and money. Well, three problems: Time, money and torpor. Always the torpor.

Three years ago, I had a full Festival Pass that I never used, even though it identified me as a TBA Artist and bestowed special bragging rights. I earned that distinction by joining the Extreme Guitar Orchestra, an outfit which opened TBA:06 in Pioneer Courthouse Square with verve and volume. Along with a few dozen confreres, I whanged away on an electric guitar under the baton of composer John King to create what a least one observer (me) said was "unequivocally the most epic musical moment that Portland is likely to ever experience. Ever."

As shown in the photographic evidence below, I'm one of the few orchestra members who dressed appropriately for the event by bedecking myself from the Johnny Cash Man in Black Collection. I also donned dark shades and rocked my head back and forth in the hope that audience members would think, "Wow. That blind cat really has it going on."

When my ship has come in (any day now), I swear that I will take two weeks off from work to devote myself full time to TBA. My wife and I will send the dog to doggie summer camp and check ourselves into a downtown boutique hotel. We'll sleep in until noon, rising to order crepes and mimosas from room service. We’ll spend afternoons and evenings attending performances, films and lectures. Then we’ll party late into the night at The Works with the rest of the Scapigliati. Of course, I will set aside a few hours each day to post intelligent reviews of everything I see. Until that day, you can expect me to continue constructing my little Potemkin Villages of cultural insight.

This year, the extent of my TBA participation was: (a) I visited the Washington High School site on a quiet Sunday afternoon to check out the visual art installations; (b) I watched a little bit of an online performance piece in which the artists drove around town all day with a camera pointed at themselves; and (c) I watched a lunchtime performance of "Small Metal Objects" in Pioneer Courthouse Square. In the next few days, I'll write a little bit about what I saw, mostly to encourage you to visit the installations at Washington High, which will remain there for the next month.

All I really did was read about what everyone else was doing and thinking. I have to say that the blogosphere, twitterati and alternative press (aka Portland Mercury) smoked the main stream media (aka The Oregonian) when it came to covering the TBA. Not that the Oregonian's coverage was bad, it was just scant. Here are some of the best places to read about the Festival if you missed it:

Culturephile at Portland Monthly provided insightful and timely blog and Twitter coverage of the festival courtesy of associate editor, Lisa Radon, and her compatriots. You may have noticed that Culturephile has been added to the Culture Shock blogroll.

Portland Mercury fielded a team of folks in a special TBA section of its blog. I especially liked Alison Hallett's stories because she's not afraid to call out bullshit when she sees it.

PICA had its own blog team at work, hosted by the folks at Urban Honking. It wasn't all puff and fluff.

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