TBA:19 Week One

Laura Ortman & Kara-lis Coverdale

Portland’s annual Time-Based Art Festival (TBA), presented by the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA), opened last Thursday, September 5, kicking off the ten day festival. TBA features an array of artists performing and displaying their work in venues across the city. 

I had the opportunity to attend two events over this past weekend and got to witness two different musical performances from artists invited by the festival’s curators. 

Laura Ortman is an indigenous Navajo Nation artist whose work consistently pushes the envelope of contemporary experimental music and visual art. Ortman, whose video installation titled My Soul Remainer was selected for the 2019 Whitney Biennial, was joined on Saturday night by long-time collaborator Raven Chacon and Portland’s own Marcus Fischer (a fellow Whitney Biennial artist) for a freeform collaborative musical performance. The trio managed to display each artist’s strengths and individuality while conjuring a variety of noise and ambient sounds for the packed audience at PSU’s Lincoln Hall. As strange and uncompromising as it was at some moments, the artists’ contributions did converge periodically to form striking and singular music. The disparate elements of each artist’s influence were present, ranging from Ortman’s extreme improvisation of harsh noise — culminating in her grinding a violin on sandpaper into a microphone — to Fischer’s ambient sound art-based loops and synth phrases. Throughout, the artists found ways to play off of each other effectively.

The following night featured composer and seasoned organist Kara-lis Coverdale at First Presbyterian Church in Downtown Portland. She debuted her original work “DIAPASON”, a musical term that refers to an organ technique involving “a grand swelling burst of harmony” that was carried out on the church’s Jaeckel pipe organ. The piece was commissioned by Max and Patricia Wolf — the curators of Variform, previously a gallery in Portland dedicated to exhibiting works of sound art by local artists — via TBA. The piece spanned a 90 minutes and juxtaposed Coverdale’s complex arrangements with the more intricate traits of her composition.

TBA is scheduled to continue through September 15 with a final performance by Liz Harris’s project Nivhek. A list of artists and schedule of this year’s performances can be found online at http://www.pica.org/tba/

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