XOXO and TBA keep pushing Portland’s art scene forward
I often have a major fear of missing out, not living in New York with accessibility to see cutting edge, boundary-pushing art. This past weekend reminded me that Portland, despite it’s much smaller size, is becoming a prime spot for visiting and local artists to experiment with eager audiences.
Two festivals took over the town last weekend, XOXO and TBA. XOXO hails itself as an “experimental festival celebrating independently produced art and technology.” It applauds makers, game developers, and other artists speaking on dealing with failure and continuing to create anyway. While more geared toward technology, XOXO attendees and speakers are often creating works at the crux of art and technology, as showcased in the Electronic Objects Salon curated by Courtney Stanton of Feel Train.
This popup gallery featured internet, software, and digital artists using Electronic Objects screens. These screens look like regular photo frames but are lightweight computers that allow you display most any art with a url. As digital art becomes more popular and mainstream, galleries and collectors are still scrambling with ways of showcasing and collecting these pieces and Electronic Objects seems to try to begin to answer this problem.
Katie Rose Pipkin and Loren Schmidt’s moth generator comes across as a mounted scientific specimen but is a twitter bot, creating new generative digital moths based on an algorithm they wrote.
In a similar generative process, Darius Kazemi’s Broadside pulls in streaming news stories, breaking them apart as they dissolve into the next click-bait style headline.
As part of a $5 Kickstarter campaign with Electronic Objects, some artists made work that involved connections with their project backers. In Lauren McCarthy’s arduous performance piece, Friend Crawl, she performed 10 hours a day for one week interacting with each one of her 1,108 backers social media profiles for at least 5 minutes, illustrating the labor of relationships in an attempt to automate the process.
With Share the Sky, Addie Wagenknecht connects pairs of her supporters by merging the colors of the sky, based on their zip codes and live weather feeds, into a calming gradient that fades into the next pair’s.
Similarly, the Time Base Art Festival (TBA), an annual event put on by the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA), focused on performance and visual art has more artists exploring the technology realm. TBA’s visual art exhibition, Pictures of the moon with teeth, curated by Kristan Kennedy, explores the theme of spirit and belief.
Jibade-Khalil Huffman’s Vanishing Point/A Drive-In at the End of World is striking visually, a single screen balanced with a projection mapped structure. Two concurrently running video works operate independently finding moments of alignment that express a larger narrative between the two. The result is an exploration of adaptation, mediation, and the act of seeing by way of pursuing the vanishing point and the nostalgia of drive-in movie theaters.
A Japanese haiku describes the sea as “hinemosu notari notarikana… all day and night it moves slow and calmly,” with the shapes of waves never ceasing to shift and turn. In his work Nami, meaning waves, legendary sound artist Akio Suzuki translates this idea as sound installation.
With And Others, Tannaz Farsi renders in light, text by Bertolt Brecht with 5000 LEDs programmed to brighten and intensify parts of this well-known author’s writing. The decentralized method of reading and understanding this text disrupts narrative, highlighting words as “vehicles of ideas” and with compelling simplicity suggests a thesis on the relationship of visibility to power.
Both festivals brought acclaimed artists and makers from around the world to Portland providing much needed inspiration and a crossing of ideas with local artists, solidifying Portland’s scene.
Text and photos by Megan McKissack. All images and copyrights belong to the respective artists.