There were no bouncy castles to be found where I grew up, so I’ve been waiting all my life to finally get in on some inflatable jump room action. Naturally, when I arrived at the launch of TBA’s 2011 festival at Washington High School, I beelined to get to the head of the queue for Oscar’s Delirium Tremens, TBA’s humongous inflatable forced-air elephant, (and a likely mascot for this year’s festival.) Oscar was developed by Patrick J. Rock of Rocksbox Fine Art in North Portland. On TBA’s site, Oscar is described as evoking “all the ecstasy, absurdity, and ensuing nausea in the life of a modern artist.” I was one of the first to slide through Oscar’s clever anus hatch, into the vast interactive bounce chamber of his belly. It’s hard not to get carried away while encapsulated in a vibrant pink jump dome, so I bounced up and down until I was as nauseous and dizzy as a recent art school graduate opening their first statement from Sallie Mae.
Once my stomach chilled, and after a scare caused by the fake feet under one of the stalls in the unisex bathroom, I was ready to explore ON SIGHT Visual Art. In room 102, artist Michel Groisman organized playing cards that have images of different body parts. Players sat in circles and helped make each other into momentary body sculptures. Groisman’s piece illustrates one of the festival’s core strengths: its ability to induce interaction with both the art the participants.
I was captivated by Claire Fontaine’s matchstick map of the United States in room 204, made out of over 10,000 matchsticks. In addition to being a sculptural marvel, there’s an undeniable and provoking tension in its fragility as a symbol for the impending complications of our country’s future. Then there’s also the inherent suspense of standing next to something with the perceived potential to burst in flames at any moment. Rumor has it that the original plan was to light the map on fire. Ambiguity about the final incarnation of the map is adding to its mystique.
In room 202, Kate Gilmore’s Sudden As A Massacre involves a video loop of five woman, all in identical floral dress, dismantling an enormous five thousand pound cube of wet clay. The performance occurred one month ago in the same room where the work is now being shown, so visitors are also able to peruse the physical evidence of the performance. You can see marks on the wall where they flung the debris while they toiled, along with their white strappy sandals, now ensconced within the hardened clay. It’s clear that this was a grueling endeavor. No matter at which point you arrive in the video loop, the ladies perpetually grow evermore exhausted as they claw, fling, moan and pant, up until the anticlimactic ending.
The opening’s festivities concluded with a high octane performance by Portland’s Bounce music favorite Beyondadoubt. Once her aggressive booty originals got rolling, the crowd went crazy. A gorgeous hard-bodied gentleman took the stage and went to work on a rhinestone covered chair, wearing an elaborate feathered headdress and assless chaps. The music throbbed and swelled, and everybody bumped to the auditory jolts. By the time the show concluded, diverse booties of all sizes and genders were twerking all over the place.