Friday, August 04, 2006

State of the Arts: Tailgating

Something wonderfully simple is going on in the Portland arts scene: Tailgating

Nat Andreini tailgating with his
1977 Ford Ranchero GT at the
Peninsula Park Commons Ice Cream Social 2006

What is so wonderful about tailgating? Well, for me it's the mobile lounge that pops up at my favorite events. Not the traditional football type tailgating scenario - these fabulous Portland tailgaters are pulling up to the arts scene with a cooler, some chairs, a small overhead tent to shelter guests from the unpredictable weather and even at times a small grill is cooking up hot dogs and toasting the buns.

I was delighted to meet Nat Andreini and Scott Porter at the Time Based Art Festival (TBA) last year. A couple of guys sitting in the back of a hatchback with hotdogs and cold beverages is not the typical art scene experience, to state the obvious. When I found them just outside the gate at a TBA event I was in the midst of an unbelievably full schedule of shooting for the Portland Institute of Contemporary Art (PICA). I still had a few more hours to go before my work would be completed after 2:30am. My feet were tired and I was working so intensely that I hadn't even realized I was starving. The guys offered me a cold soda and a hot dog straight off the grill. I'm not normally a hot dog and soda person - but it hit the spot that night. Served with a heaping side of welcome and some mellow conversation it was just the oasis from the crowd and typical art talk I didn't even realize I needed at that moment.

I can't say if I had ever tailgated in my life before that serendipitous occasion. Since then I've joined these guys a few times. Each time meeting new people via introduction of the gracious hosts and sincerely appreciating the genuine and frank flow of conversation. I read today that conversation is even more appealing for us humans than storytelling. (Naked Conversations by Robert Scoble & Shel Israel) I think Nat & his partner in crime Scott Porter have tapped into something there. If the art on display is accomplishing a form of storytelling, it seems to me that tailgating outside of these arts events is setting a new stage for the even more compelling counterpart: conversation. The topic may wander, as it does in any casual conversation, but this new hybrid atmosphere is a refreshing setting for frank and genuine exchanges among art enthusiasts and critics alike.

It seems to take the pretense out of the typical arts banter and bring it down to earth in a way that is unique for conversations about art that happen during an art event. When asked, "What did you think? Did you like it? " while sitting in the back of a truck with a hot dog in your hand...well, there just isn't much atmosphere for a pretentious comment, even if the topic is interpretive dance, a video installation by ground breaking artists in Europe, or a local scenesters latest attempt at visibility.

I'm hoping Nat and Scott are instigators of a trend that will sweep the arts world. It doesn't have to be hot dogs and PBR served out the back of a car with folding chairs and a card table, so long as casual atmospheres with genuinely friendly hosts start popping up just outside of arts events across the world. Maybe a picnic blanket under a large parasol with a couple of elderly women serving baked brie and fresh fruit just outside of films at Cannes???

Please post your own dream tailgating scenario in the comments. I'd love to hear what others would like to experience in their ideal casual atmosphere outside the gates of their favorite art events. Who knows, somebody out here in the the blogosphere might just make it happen. Nat? Scott? You guys game?

The last time I was tailgating with Nat he was parked outside of an ice cream social. I guess this means the guys are taking their art form into new territory once again. Or maybe their idea is more to do with tailgating parties than tailgating art events? Whatever the motivation, it's always a welcome twist.

Daytime scenes: tailgating at the
Peninsula Park Commons Ice Cream Social 2006


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