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May 14, 2009

Rhael

Dummy: A Dis-Play
Open Eye Figure Theatre

One might miss the theatre all together in light of the large footbridge across the street that seems to demand more attention the entrance. However, once inside it is like stepping into an old movie. The art on the walls has a hand made feel that demonstrates a personal quality and the stage is small and welcoming, allowing the viewer to choose their seats. I love when tickets are first come, first serve, there’s nothing more depressing than having to sit assigned in a bad spot. The stage is versatile. Every object has multiple uses and each is reintroduced throughout the entire performance. This is extremely effective in keeping me engaged in that I am constantly alert and aware of what is going on. I want to read the writing and follow the dynamic lighting as it reveals more and more to me with each minute. The use of balloons is very dramatic, allowing for sound, color, and emotion to be openly and successfully expressed whether the performers were celebrating, smelling, or destroying them with darts. In fact, one of the most pivotal moments was when the character of L stabs the character Leonard with a dart in the heart. The intermittent acts are beautiful breaths of entertainment that is simple but highly enjoyable and refreshing. It reminded me of old time cartoons, like Chuck Jones; from I believe the forties and fifties, when the littlest actions, such as an implied smile or shrug, would reveal everything, making the viewer feel intimate. Although, much to my surprise, very little dummies were used, the title is more appropriately a theme relating to the concept of humans as puppets. The music and lighting was surreal and I desperately would love to know how to come across some of my very own. The plot is amazing, invoking in me a wide range of emotions, I laughed hard, and came close to tears. I am looking forward to going again soon, and taking my family with me. Thanks for the heads up Laura ☺

May 10, 2009

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

I thought that I had been as deeply moved by a movie as I would ever be. I also thought that I would never again forget that I was watching a movie. I think that if I had been watching The Diving Bell and The Butterfly alone, I would have paused it often for crying breaks.

After hearing about this movie in class, I really wasn't sure how successful the decision to shoot the movie in first-person, almost completely through the main character, Jean-Dominique Bauby's eyes, would be. Sometimes it seems like too many camera tricks and gimmicky techniques can really take a person out of the experience (breaking the fourth-wall, you might say). However, there was a moment, while he is talking in his thoughts in the voice-over that goes on through out the film, when he imagines his story becoming a stage play. I honestly remember thinking that I wasn't sure if I could imagine it visually, until I remembered that he already wrote his book, that it was turned into a movie, and then I finally realized that that was what I was watching. Instead of making you aware of the film, the way cinematic conventions are broken instead just made it feel like something other than a film.

It is very difficult to explain the experience. Mostly, the viewer only sees what Bauby would have seen from his locked-in state, and the camera is basically stationary from shot to shot. His thoughts, and the voice over of them, happen in real time. They are in direct relation to what is happening at the moment so it's like we are with him in his head, we see everything that is contributing to his thought process. As viewers, we are also disconnected from the people around him, and we are as helpless in the situation as he is. This creates such an intense connection... What is so meaningful to me is how even though he felt so completely alone, his words and the movie itself were able to put us inside of his head. I was so glad that he was at least very physically close to people who loved and cared for him during what seemed to be the majority of his time.

There were a few moments that I found to be particularly powerful in the way they were done. Bauby can only communicate through a series of blinks and since it is through his perspective, blinks look just like they do when you blink your own eyes. During one scene, Bauby talks to his father over the telephone. Afterwords, he is trying to say something--so you hear his therapist going through the alphabet and you know he is waiting to blink at the correct letter, but his eye is also beginning to fill with tears and everything gets blurry, but this is his only way of expressing himself and his desire to do so is so strong that he holds his eye open, and tears are rolling down my own face, and the camera holds the shot for so long until he finally blinks and the scene changes.
Another scene shows the moment when he has his stroke. This part is not shot through his perspective, and I think that was a very good directorial decision. This way, we are able to see both him and his son at the moment the stroke occurs. Bauby begins to act differently while he is driving with his son, and we the boy pulling back from his father in fear of what is happening to him, and we become aware that this is the very moment when he becomes totally isolated.

Watching the film, I become more and more grateful that he was able to find a way to communicate, that the people around him cared for him, and that he was able to express himself, share his consciousness with these people and with us. I feel like there is so much more to say on this movie, but I think I could go on for too long.


Dummy

I definitely went into "Dummy-A Dis-play" with expectations. Ventriloquist dummies always make me think of cliche horror movies and other weak attempts at being creepy. "Dummy" was neither of these things and actually, the puppets had a relatively small role. Instead of being creeped out or disturbed, I was actually pretty bummed out by the end.
Somewhere in the beginning, the character Leonard said something to the effect of "the funniest thing is unhappiness." Throughout, various unfortunate things happened to Leonard, but they were executed with comedic timing and carried out like punch lines. Many people laughed at these moments, others didn't. Mostly, they gave me a bad feeling, but I don't think that people who laughed actually thought unhappiness to be funny. I think sometimes people laugh when horrible things are set up like jokes because they see the irony, like things that are so un-funny that it's funny. Maybe?

The performance was not long, maybe an hour, but the story seemed to cover so much time, and the characters of Leonard and El seemed to have grown and lived so much towards the end that I found myself missing the beginning, when everything seemed happier and more hopeful. Successful portrayals of the passage of time are so intriguing because it is so hard to grasp how the effect is achieved. I think it must rely a lot on the unconscious.

There were some visual aspects that I really appreciated. One was a board that covered in words which were then covered in balloons. The words weren't visible until an actor would throw a dart and pop a certain balloon. So at key moments, they would throw a dart at a balloon instead of saying a word out loud. The timing was practically perfect.
Anyway, by the end I remember there being much less laughter. Instead of being uncomfortable creeped-out, I was uncomfortably bummed-out, so I think the performance was very successful in it's look at humor and the idea of laughing at the expense of others.

May 5, 2009

Soap Boxing Grand Slam

Leaning on the wall in a dark back corner of the Artists Quarter last night, after my attempts to find an empty chair in a very packed and small venue failed, I saw what a series of local competitions over the past few months has narrowed down to the 9 best spoken word performers/poets the twin cities had to offer. There was an enormous range of styles represented in this group.
The first poet, although linguisticly impressive, stood very stiff and in a monotone voice recited a poem about apocolyptic prophesies of the grim fate of the human race. This was dramaticly contrasted by the next poet, whos poem was about his fantasies about platonic hugs with big black men. Unlike the first performer he was very animated and his performance felt like a hybrid between spoken word and stand-up comedy. Everyone had their own distinct style. One girl started soft, reading a resentful letter to her mother, and crescendoed into desperate plea of reconciliation with her mother who turned out to be terminally ill, sounding as if she was on the verge of tears. Another poet spoke in a victorian-esque style about his frusterations with dieting. There were a couple poets who's delivery was very aggressive and coupled with violent hand gestures, seeming to be influenced by hip-hop. Some of the poets spoke in very conversational tones, letting the words hold their own weight and not get lost in overly theatric delivery. My favorite poet, and the only one whos name i remembered (Sam Cook) performed a poem about throwing out old tennis shoes and jeans, using extremely rich language and a plethora of visceral and visual metaphors that made me drool a little bit. His delivery got louder and softer, faster and slower, at all the right moments. At the end of every poem selected judges from the audience would hold up score cards, but they gave almost everyone virtually the same exact score. I didn't see it so much as a contest as a showcase of various poetic and spoken performance styles.

May 4, 2009

playing for DUMMYs - Laura Lechner

I have been thinking about this little play for several days - I saw it Friday night, and I keep going back to images, moments, phrases, melodies that seem to haunt the world that Michael Sommers, Elise Langer and Bob Rosen have created as much as they haunted me. This "dis-play" brings together elements that I have seen Sommers explore again and again in his work; word play, both verbal and written in the form of various art objects, water, spinning objects and wigs. It's intriguing to see what an artist goes back to, what makes up his or her particular performance vocabulary. Using these tools, the dis-players conjure (a word that Michael frequently uses to describe his creation process) up a melancholy world, where people struggle with the expression of love, and the ventriloquist dummies know more about the human condition than the humans.

Melancholy is the word that keeps popping up when I think about Dummy, and when I have conversations about it with other people. To be melancholy isn't quite the same as being sad, or despairing, or being depressed. It have it's own ethereal, fragile quality, and it is in this fragility that Sommers and Langer's characters seem to exist. Langer's smile, as I think Kate pointed out, encapsulates this heart-breaking quality. I haven't seen a performance with this much pathos in a long time - pure, unadulterated emotion present on stage. Sommers uses the phrase "having the appearance of being real" in the show. I think, through the use of objects, imagery and text, that Dummy gets very very very close to approaching the real.

May 2, 2009

DUMMY, A Dis-Play

DUMMY is a new work by Michael Sommers with Elise Langer and Bob Rosen, one of the co-founders of the Theatre de la Jeune Lune. From the Open Eye site: Sommers has taken his inspiration for Dummy from the world of late 1950’s—early 1960’s children’s television programming, and its influences of burlesque, parlor tricks, gags, and carnival games.

DUMMY effortlessly combines the comedic with the tragic. Objects live in the world that Sommers created. Balloons transform into flowers, hearts, eyes, dreams. A cigarette becomes a dancer. Hands and fingers are legs with attitude. Suitcases are worlds within worlds. There is very little dialogue and the play is threaded together by a series of vignettes with Sommers as Leonard, Elise as Elle and Bob as a headless man with the ability to manifest objects from his fabricated body. No psychology is present, no comments on actions. It exists because the people and objects exist. It breathes because the humans and objects breathe. Both humans and objects dictate action. The world contracts and expands by the very objects that are present. Elise gives a charming performance as Elle. Her smile is both joyous and melancholy, as if she hides behind her gleaming bright red lipstick. Her treatment of the objects shows her respect for their ability to define Elle.

DUMMY is not a selfish performance. It plays and invites you to see and play. DUMMY takes an object, like the balloon, and attempts to exhaust its every possibility. Sommers, Langer and Rosen create a world, choose an idea and explore as many facets of that idea as possible.

Hunger- A Sensual Experience

Hunger is a film of the senses. Steve McQueen's first feature-length film focuses on the last six weeks of Bobby Sands' life in the Maze Prison at Belfast in 1981. Michael Fassbender plays Bobby Sands and gives one of the best physical performances I have ever seen.

Most of the film stays on the cell block where Sands and other IRA members are harassed, humiliated, brutalized and treated like sub-humans by the guards of the Maze prison. Hunger is structured into the three parts: the first part, which is mostly silent, introduces the viewer to the Maze prison and the perpetual torture the IRA prisoners endure; the second part is a 17-minute static shot between Bobby Sands and Father Moran where Moran and Sands argue over the moral and political implications of the hunger strike that begins with Bobby; and the third part chronicles the decline and deterioration of Sands' body over 66 days.

The film begins with clanging pots on asphalt which crescendoes to a high-pitched reverberation that overwhelms the aural senses. We then meet one of the prison guards in his bathroom at home soaking his wounded hands in a sink. McQueen lingers on the day-old wounded hands to invoke the sting one feels when he or she puts fresh wounds under water. The prison guard eats his breakfast, at his table, by himself and McQueen films the crumbs falling from his mouth to the napkin under the table. McQueen enters the Maze prison and we see the maggots, the feces, the piss, the scarred bodies. The feces smeared on the wall. Rivulets and lakes of piss in every pore and crack in the prison. Maggots feasting on feces, devouring the remnants of human waste. McQueen's camera does not flinch. We see it, we taste the sourness, we smell the debilitating stench, we can feel the wounds on the body. This is no longer just a prison cell, it is a place of protest.

We see a prisoner at the barred window attempting to caress a buzzing fly. I could feel the tickle of the wings and the legs. It is scene about touch and the humanity of a soft touch. I see the doctor attending to Sands' sores and feel the bite every time he rubs a white, viscous creme on his open wounds. Bobby touches his skeleton and I can hear his bones rearrange.

Steve McQueen is truly a visual artist. Sometimes it seems he overstays his welcome, but he allows the viewer to
process what he or she sees without interruption. McQueen begs us to ask the question: How can a human being protest when his only resource is his own body? McQueen does not cast Sands in a heroic light, nor does he see Sands' act as a selfish one. The phenomenal scene between Sands and Father Moran complicate the viewer's notion or idea of Bobby's motives for going on the hunger strike. Moran poses legitimate questions that demand thoughtful answers. Sands responds (I paraphrase here) "I have an unyielding love for a united Ireland. It is not the only thing I can do. It is the right thing to do."

Never has a film demanded or sustained my undivided attention. Hunger is probably the best and most astounding work of art that I have ever experienced or perhaps ever will.

April 29, 2009

Blerg!

My never being loneliness- open eye figure theater

Last weekend I saw a sweet little cabaret, two one-hour plays performed by the same four actors. The first, a work by Melissa Birch, was a lot of abstract poetry and dancing behind screens. The visual effects were cool experiments. Though it seemed a bit too dense, too inaccessible, I managed to sit through it and enjoy the ride. I think that the artist was aware of the monster they were creating, and allowed for some fourth-wall reflection, I don't think it took itself TOO seriously. I'd like to think part of the inaccessability was meant to be a theme, it did seem to be talking about the impossibility of expressing sexual love, the incapability for others to understand transhavior.
The second piece "chicken baby" by Molly Van Avery, was a refreshingly sweet story about not belonging and what is normal anyway? It took a similar "nontraditional" approach to presentation: video, script about reading the script, going between performance and performing confusion about what is the performance, random breakouts into old pop culture songs. I think it was an even more accessible (or at least enjoyable) self-aware, abstract art. It made me think of our discussion about Family Guy, a performance that anyone can enjoy, even belittle for its ease of digestion, even though it delivers through an incredibly complex and clever set of fine arts jargon approaches.
I also sensed a sort of thread running between the two pieces; the actors weren't afraid to play very similar characters, touch on similar themes, they were aware of what we had just sat through. My head left spinning with performance class analysis and a warm feeling that anyone off the street could share.

DID I MENTION Melissa Birch and a video of Melissa Birch sang a duet together? Ze has the pipes for melody AND harmony!

Terror Town - Laura

I attended Terror Town last night, a mash-up between Thorton Wilder's Our Town and the real-life history of Playas, New Mexico, a tiny town in the desert that was purchased by the Department of Homeland Security where the military stages terrorist attacks for military training purposes. The production was a work-in-progress presentation of material generated in a Creative Collaboration course led by Gulgun Kayim of Skewed Visions, a Minneapolis-based sight specific theatre company. Last night (one of three showings), twelve student actors, two installation artists and a sound designer guided an audience of about 65 through Norris Hall on the East Bank of campus, in a roving performance that touched on military training, waterboarding and other torture practices, and old-timey American family values.
II think the premise has a lot of promise (the history of Playas itself is fascinating. Just the idea that the government bought a town is kind of blowing my mind. I really want to do some more research on this concept.) I am definitely looking forward to a full-blown production of this, which Gulgun says will be premiering next year. And this permutation had some great moments - particularly strong was the scene where the state college professor and Mr. Webb the newspaper editor give a presentation on facts about Grovers' Corners. Four actors, in military outfits, played the professor. Mid-way through the scene, I began to hear the sound of running water (I was pressed up against the door, crouching to try to see the action). Then, a door opened to reveal the actor playing Webb, in fatigues and a blaze-orange vest, dripping wet. The actor (who I will admit is a friend of mine) just has amazing physicality - he is an extremely compelling performer to watch, and the moment when he is revealed, wet and alone in a tiny concrete room, was really powerful. The professors then dragged him to a chair, and under an intense lamp, he proceeded with Wilder's monologue about the cultural awareness of the citizens of the town. Really great stuff. The opening was pretty effective too. As the audience arrived, we were kept outside, asked to check in, and then shown an information video for new recruits. From then on, we were the recruits. After the video, we went back outside. From several blocks away, we could hear "left, left, left right left." The actors proceeded to march into Norris, led by the Stage Manager, reimagined as a drill sergeant.
The good moments were great, but not enough to completely carry the show. There was a weird split between "acting" and "not -acting," and I feel that they needed to push it in one direction or another. Regardless, it gave me a lot to think about.

March 21, 2009

planet of the APE: return to APE feat. R. Kelly

So I saw the Walker show APE at Red Eye theater last night. One of the best shows I've seen in a while. For starters, even though it was a Walker performance, they had a student discount rate of $7. AND there was free beer. Need I say more? Needlessly:

I guess I knew it was going to be a sort of "comedy". The soundbyte said would start with every-day situations and go stranger from there. Well, it started very non-daily, but did get stranger. People carrying furniture around, running in circles, and shouting things. Basicly.
The strangeness eventually revealed itself as an everyday situation. The machine responses of "have some tea. have some tea. don't think of it. have some tea. don't think of it. sit down. have some tea." began to sound so much like an afternoon at my grandmother's.
It was definitely performance art, not a play, not stand-up or improv. The lead artist said after the show that he thinks of himself as a sculptor and a visual artist first. The moving of props and attention to patterns and physicality, in the absence of narrative and character, felt much more like "art" and not "theater".
Much of the audience responded with laughs, I guess as the bad-news bear I enjoyed the work on a level of deconstruction of language, culture, the absurdity of the social. I admit, especially due to the British accents, it did have its moments of BBC comedy.
I like thinking in Ain Gordonist terms about the post-show discussion. Was that a performance? Did the audience members asking questions become performers? Did they know it? Were they successful? Was the piece successful? Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes, in a dry satire sort of way. Yes.

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March 16, 2009

leather pants and air jordans

hmmmmmmmmmmm. i would agree with all you lovely people that this performance followed some of the conventions of music theater. it seems to me that in music theater, the song is used to delve into the character -- the nuances, the psychology, things that might escape the larger lense. seems to me that that goes against what brecht-baby was interested in. who cares about the pyschology of the character? not brecht. but it seems that the production was after the traditional sense of the music theater song. i would have to agree with kate that there was some sort of disconnect in the performance of the songs. seems to me that the performers weren't sending those words and notes into the audience. you were either like kate, lulled by the distance between the communication, or exhausted from your movement toward the communication. this disconnect may help explain the floating feeling of the piece i recognized some time after we all left the theater. perhaps the songs could have been used to sink us to the stage -- to help us move with the movement of the piece -- but it seems that they rather cut us all lose.

on the other hand, the six minute clap and stomp ritual had the opposite effect. that shit drew me in and revitalized me, connected me to that larger lense, and took me in deeper once it finished. i could have watched that for another hour. but maybe then i would have become too revitalized and freaked out, causing a scene, and enraging david gordon...

David Gordon's Uncivil Wars

I am still not entirely sure how I feel about this performance. Looking back on it, I would say that I enjoyed various aspects such as the actors' energy and the incorporation of the monitor. The music, and also the marching and stomping were entertaining. I liked the way the set was composed of racks and ladders that served whatever purpose, and I also really enjoyed the versatile black jumpsuits. The characters were all very charismatic in a theatrical way. The fact that we had gone to see their rehearsal added a very strange layer to the whole thing since there were moments that were familiar and I felt almost like I knew the actors personally, which, I think, 'alienated' me almost more successfully than anything else they did to achieve that effect. I was constantly aware that I had seen these people before out of this context, and each time when I felt like I knew what was going to happen, I was thinking about the fact that I was watching a play that had been written.

However, as soon as the performance began, I became very uncomfortable and part of me wants to attribute this to their extensive use of Brecht's alienation techniques. As I was watching the performance, I noticed that I was feeling sad, but I couldn't attribute the cause to anything we had seen. I was also very aware of how warm the theater felt to me. I found myself thinking that certain lines were humorous, but I didn't feel engaged enough to actually laugh. The only explanation I can come up with is that their techniques were successful in alienating me to the point where I was only able to view the performance objectively.

The speed of the performance I felt was a deterrent, however. The way the actors switched roles so often that it was already confusing and I was trying so difficult to keep track of what was going on, I think they lost me several times just because I was always going back and making sure I understood everything. I feel that this technique really undermined the actual content and I think that the play turned into an informational performance about Brecht's life, a little bit about Eisler, and a showcase of their techniques.

Overall, I think I have to admit that it was a successful performance. My one gripe with it would be that there did not seem to be anything essentially new or experimental about it. I am positive that I have experienced all of the different aspects in other performances. Use of multimedia and video screens, repetition and breaking the fourth wall seem to be staples of high school one-act competitions. This is probably because Brecht's techniques are decades old now and we've been talking in class about the relationship to Dada and the effects that these have had on contemporary theater. I also found it to be very easily classifiable as a play. Even though it broke some theatrical conventions by addressing the audience and having actors play multiple roles, it's conception was based on these theatrical conventions. It also set up its own rules and followed them to the very end. The way information was presented, the chorus in the background, and the synchronized marching were introduced immediately. Primarily, I would consider it to be a good learning experience about Bertold Brecht and his work.

Thoughts on David Gordon's Play

I'm not sure how to organize my thoughts on the performance we saw on Friday, maybe because they are bouncing around in many different directions. So I'll start in no particular order with my first impressions of the piece. It was much more of a play than I would have expected, as I see others also feel. I'm not sure that I should have had any prior expectations for this, but I did expect it to feel less like musical theater with well rehearsed characters. Maybe I should back up and start by saying what I enjoyed about the production.
The elements that intrigued me most were the use of electronic media with the projector and the computer. I especially liked the titles that would pop up on the screens, sort of like intertitles in a silent film. I felt the use of the screens was especially clever, how they would move and flip around shifting between their function as surface for projections and architectural props. I wished there had been more of this movement throughout the play. Another element of the show that I felt really illuminated the themes of the play was the costuming. The jumpsuits nuetralized all the characters, making them uniform. It makes me think of the restrictions put on citizens by fascist dictatorial governments in places throughout history, especially with the addition of the small caps (pointed and round). I don't know much about the original production of the play that David Gordon was sort of basing this play on, so I'm not entirely sure how many ideas are from the original or not.
I think perhaps one of my favorite moments in the play was the when the extras sitting in chairs around the edge joined in and they all began to stomp and clap their hands. It was really interesting listening to all the rythms, I could have listened to that for a while I think. Also there was a song which I really enjoyed, that invovled two characters being up on the movable step ladders. This was visually very interesting to me because the only lights on the stage were raised up and pointing towards to center of the stage, so they illuminated only a section of the space inbetween ceiling and floor. It looked like they were floating up there, it was really very beautiful.

Uncivil Wars Reflection

David Gordon's "Uncivil Wars: Moving with Brecht and Eisler" uses conventions from Brecht to create a space where the audience can excite and explore their imaginations, but not entirely remove ourselves from the happenings of the stage. The stage space is used effectively with momentous objects and objects that perpetually become. Some of the object play between the actors was precise and efficient. Precision and specificity with objects created dynamic stage pictures. The music juxtaposed with the action of the play had an interesting effect on me. The content of the music is contemplative and at times inflammatory, yet most of the musical numbers' rhythms and overall tone had a lulling effect. Perhaps Gordon was commenting on the idea that we are constantly inundated with information, that is sometimes damning, but it lulls us to sleep because it all starts to sound the same. That is what the performance became for me. A constant inundation of the same information delivered in the same way that lulled me to apathy instead of outrage. The alienation effect is so overused that it de-sensitized my responses to the piece. Again, perhaps it was Gordon's intention, but I found it gratuitous.

The parallels the script made with our contemporary society was obvious. Some people in the audience felt as though they were being enlightened, yet I found the delivery of the information bordering on pontification. The actors dressed in all-black, another convention that seemed too obvious. The actors' identity is signified by an object, usually by something on the head. I found this convention effective and economical.

I did appreciate the history of the words reflected on the screens behind the actors, and the incomplete words flashed on another screen during the trials. This incompleteness echoed the holes in history and those that are in control of history.

"Uncivil Wars" fails to find fluidity in the momentous objects onstage and the movements between Brecht and Eisler. It caught itself in a complexity of webs designed by the playwright and never seemed to recover from the density of the text. I found the actors to be in love with themselves and the idea of their performances, yet we never had a chance to enter or experience the space for a moment to understand or at least be aware of their infatuation. A piece thata attempted to deconstruct boundaries and yet reaffirmed them. Perhaps I went in with too high expectations, nevertheless, a disappointment.

Uncivil Wars indeed

I found uncivil wars to be a very successful inquiry and investigation into David Gordon's creative process as it pertains to Brecht and Eisler, an adapted play which was itself an adaptation of Shakespeare, HUAC, and contemporary political, and economic issues. I found the implications of these elements to be enchanting within the context of the play. And yes, I definitely think that was more of a play than "Live Art." I call it a play for several reasons; the script, linear sequence of events, and the blocking are most "play like elements" I identified in Uncivil Wars. However, I find myself already contradicting myself, because I am recalling Ain's discussion with us on the first day of our "workshop" with him, in which he asked us to consider these conventions. He brought up my ever favorite example of the family guy and how he see's it as performance art (which I agree we completely) because of its abstraction of life as we know it. So to that end, I would also call Uncivil Wars live art in that it was absolutely an abstraction of theater as we know it. The blocking was evident and the story contained abstracted elements such as character identification and speed (i.e. "The tempo of a run through")
But in terms of what we actually witnessed on Friday night, I have to say that there is always a benefit in an artists talk.. such as what we experienced at the lab. I kept on coming back to something David Gordon said to us at the Lab that really struck me as it pertains to artistic process in the context of the project. He said something to the effect of "I am a New York Jew. I have no love for Germany. I did a residency at a gallery there and the whole time, every time I saw a 60some year old man, I thought to myself, He was a soldier, a Nazi. I was a crazy person while I was there." I completely felt that way when I visited Germany in 2004. I’m not a Jew, but from the experience of traveling there from the Eastern part of Poland and seeing how much they’re culture and environment is still trying to recover from Nazi occupation and seeing German culture thrive, I felt no love for Germany either. I still don’t, even though I completely admire a lot of German Artists. I feel like this is getting off the subject, but I assure you, it is not. I am merely trying to explain that his explaining his lack of love for Germany and me feeling that same sentiment makes me really interested in this idea of making work that incorporates elements of something you dislike. I’m not saying that David Gordon didn’t like Brecht of Eisler’s work, but his preoccupation with their work as a result of investigation into a historical event in his own culture (i.e. The HUAC investigation) leading him to a culture that he didn’t feel drawn t in any way, and ending up making successful work, is fascinating to me. Following this line of thought, I came back to Laura’s first “self portrait” piece, in which she took elements from theatre that she didn’t like and produced work around that. I find that very interesting in that it’s a kind of conundrum because if we always as artists make work around things we like, how does that represent the adverse effect? How do you arrive at a conclusion about what you like without knowing what you don’t like? It’s almost as if working in this adverse was is a kind of therapy for the artist. It’s like they are working through a problem. I kept thinking about this way of working, before and after the performance we witnessed on Friday night and I wonder how this conundrum will affect me as I continue to work.

March 15, 2009

Some thoughts on Uncivil Wars - Laura Lechner style

I still have the last song stuck in my head.

Here is a list of thoughts I had about David Gordon's Uncivil Wars;

1. It was much more of a PLAY than I expected it to be. Perhaps because of the context of the performance (at the Walker, a place where I have usually experienced more "performance art" or "live art" than traditional theatre), perhaps because I read about David Gordon in our Performance Art textbooks - but regardless, I was not really prepared for some straight up musical theatre. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but I was surprised.

2. For me, the piece didn't strike the "right" balance between the story, or Brecht's script, and the story of Brecht and Eisler's HUAC trial. The HUAC story was introduced at the beginning, and commented on sporadically throughout the 90 minutes, but I would have liked more - I really enjoyed the moment towards the beginning when the actors playing Brecht and Eisler were seated at a table in front of an image of the historical trial. I think more blending and blurring of these two interconnected stories (the story of Roundheads vs. Pointheads and Brecht/Eisler vs. the American government) would have drawn me into the story more. I remember David saying a few times when we met with him that he didn't think he had to tell this story, until Bush was reelected in 2004. If the play really carries so much political weight for the director, I think that more explicit political commentary is called for. Why be subtle when Brecht's messages - overt political references to his time - are rarely subtle? I would have liked to be beat over the head a little more. I mean, why not show some Gitmo images, or something?

3. Having read a bunch of Brecht, but never having seen a production of a Brecht play, I was interested in seeing how his theories on theatre making were translated into a live event. The constant reminder of the constructs of performance - the actors introducing themselves as actors playing characters, the explanation about costuming and costume changes, allowing the audience to see the "backstage business"of a play - were a large part of the performance. Seeing people performing the role of actor performing the role of a character - I like these sort of layers and complications.

4. I was expecting there to be way more movement. I mean, the subtitle is "Moving With Brecht and Eisler," and having knowledge of David's background in dance, I assumed that this piece would involve much more choreography, or physicality or something. The concept of a set on wheels was intriguing, but I feel this could have been pushed MORE. Why not create a world in constant motion? While the story was intriguing, I think the storytelling was a little stale.

March 1, 2009

Spark Festival Installations

I experienced an installation on display during the Spark Festival. I saw "Strategies for Post-Apocalyptic Computation" by Robin Meier in the East Building of the Regis Center for Art. The set-up was created with few, but powerful elements. The environment Meier created felt post-apocalyptic because of its simplicity and starkness. There were three light bulbs that would flicker according to the frequency of the three mosquitoes' wing vibrations. All the mosquitoes were attached to a pin by gaffers tape and physically separated from each other. On either side of the mosquito was a video camera and a small speaker that transferred the sounds of the other mosquitoes. Above the mosquitoes were magnifying glasses and projected on a white wall were the movements of the mosquitoes from the cameras. Meier's sound system amplified the buzzing sounds of the male mosquitoes which allows them to harmonize with each other. To excite the mosquitoes, you could either blow on them gently or put your finger near their little legs. It was interactive, yet clinical. Sometimes there was harmonizing, but other times it sounded dissonant. An interesting subject-object relationship existed. I could manipulate the mosquito (treating it like an object), but simultaneously I was studying it with the magnifying glass and video projections (now object turned subject). The three bare, flickering light bulbs hanging separately reminded me of a severe environment. Since the only light in the space was provided by the light bulbs and the video projection light, the severity was enhanced. The title is interesting because it begs the questions, "what strategies were Meier alluding to for computations?" and "what is he considering computing?" I always appreciate a piece that leaves a residue of questions.

Nash Gallery Exhibition

I found a lot of pieces in the exhibition to be strong evidence of hard work, I will write about a few that I found to be particularly interesting to me.
I have to say that my very favorite peice was by TJ Barnes entitled, "Nash Mantel". Talk about residue of a performance. As far as I am concerned that's what the piece is all about. I am assuming that most people have visited the current exhibition at the nash gallery, but for those of you who have not I'll tell you that you absolutely must, because there is a ton of really innovative work in there. To that end, TJ's piece contains a kind of duality in several aspects. There is a tall mantal installed in a corner of the gallery and on the porcelain colored walls there are markings of greasy black residue from whatever the performance was. The marks are deliberate and aggressive where as the black camping size, minimally designed back pack standing erect about 4 feet away from the mantel is stable, stubborn even. I was curious as to how it kept its shape, so I inquired by becoming a part of the performance and opening it up only to find it is filled with gravel. I wondered if there was a relationship between the black markings and the gravel in terms of the performance this residue represents, but somehow I am doubtful and conclude that the duality was a part of the content of the piece. I found this pieces elemental simplicity an effective tool for projecting the content as well. Where as only ten feet away the, cluttered garbage tent confused me, I couldn't focus on the individual elements completing a whole by means of communicating a message. Whereas in "Nash Mantel", it was completely evident that this represented a kind of struggle. So, I think that is something that we all need to consider when making our instillation in the quarter gallery. A lot of times, less is more in terms of form especially when you're trying to project something as complicated as our overall subject. But I am confident that we will make it a success.
Moving on to another piece I found to be quite compelling, entitled "The Party's Over" It is a cake decorated in white, pink, and red, frosting wearing its title on top. When I first noticed it I thought, "What the hell is this doing in a gallery with so many other amazing pieces?" But then it occurred to me that this was entirely a durational work. As it sits in the gallery the cake will start to erode and change its form on without human manipulation. Which really speaks to the whole essence of a party whether the party the artist was meaning was social or political. Because in the act of planning and preparing for a party, you have many expectations and preconceived notions of how the outcome will end up but there's no real way of knowing. Just as the artists nor the viewer has some kind of idea of what the cake will end up looking and smelling like in a month, there is no real way to predict that just as social and political behavior is unpredictable. I felt like this piece was very minimalistic as well, which contributed to its overall success.

February 24, 2009

Concert 6: Ray Lee's Siren

Unfortunately, I was a little bit disappointed by this performance. I suppose I did have some high expectations for a sculpture made with sound, but even though I had never experienced something quite like that before, it didn't really feel new to me. The performance started out very mysteriously as we were all led into a large black room full of silver tripods. Each tripod had a pole with a speaker on each end mounted on it. They were arranged in different heights throughout the room with space to walk around and through them. There was already a low bass sound moving through the room and as soon as we were all inside, they shut the doors. The artist and another man were present and they were wearing thick gray suits (which I later learned were made from felt because of the way the material absorbs sound instead of deflecting it) They began by going to each of the speakers and turning them on. They also tuned each one, which felt to me like it was more for show than actual necessity since there had been another performance right before the one I was in. Once all of the sirens were on and spinning slowly, people began wandering about the room. The performance carried on this way pretty steadily for what seemed like a long time. Each person had to make it interesting for themselves by experiencing the sound in different locations and seeing how it was different if you moved around. That aspect made it much more like a sculpture than a concert since a sculpture tends to require much more active interest than a typical concert where the audience can sit passively and expect the musicians to entertain them without much effort on their own part. I got the most out of the experience when I closed my eyes because then I was able to feel the shape that the sound made. The spinning sirens seemed to create a boundary, or an outline and it was almost like different areas even had different textures. Eventually, all of the lights were turned off and we were left with the tiny red lights on each of the speakers, spinning around each other, evoking the feeling of fireflies or a planetarium. Eventually the lights were turned back on, the speakers gradually stopped spinning, and the sound faded. Afterwards, I felt like it could have been more than it was. I'm not exactly sure why, but I was left with feelings of blankness and spaciousness. My final impression was that it was created around the idea of a sculpture made of sound.

Ray Lee's Siren

Last Thursday I went to see one of the showings of Siren at the Walker. I thought this piece was really phenomenal. It was one of the most succesful pieces of experimental sound art that I have ever seen. I really had no prior expectations of this piece having not read any synopsis prior to the performance. I entered the performance space intrigued by the instructions given to us before hand. "Walk around during the piece, do not touch the machines, and no talking". When I walked in I felt the performance had already begun, I looked around at all the people, wandering, getting situated, ready to embark on any journey that would be thrown at us, and the two men standing very still inside the no touch zone. What I noticed after looking for quite a while at the "performers" was that they were dressed in matching suits with matching shoes, the suits appeared to be made of felt or something similar. This of course recalled Joseph Beuys and his obsession with felt and his own felt suit. When the noises began I examined the movements of the men very carefully, as they walked up to each tri-pod like machine and turned them by twisting a small screwdriver in the center, which was also used to adjust pitch. When the pitch seemed to have reached its correct destination one man would give the other a little nod. This was intriguing to me, because as an audience member I did not get let in on the secret to the machines, or the secret mapping of the pitches, how spontaneous and how precise were there actions? As they turned on one whiny machine after the other, which I got the impression came from actual sirens themselves, I walked around the space observing the shifting tones and harmonies that were created. Each area of the space, and each angle presented a new sound. After all the machines were on, then began the next phase and another total transformation of the piece, the spinning. Atop the tripods were the sirens attached to metal rods, and made to spin in circles like helicopter propellers. The sound in the room became symphonic, like an orchetra of siren sounds. Again walking around I searched for the spaces, and combinations of sound which produced the most pleasing harmonies for me, but afraid of enjoying the sound too much (performance art is often supposed to make you uncomfortable right?) I would move around, migrating toward to lower tones. It was very eerie and magical. This piece was in constant transformation, and after some time the lights were shut off, leaving us all in the dark with only the small red LEDs orbiting their centers at different heights thoughout the room. I thought it was a really mesmerizing performance in all, I walked about with closing my eyes from time to time feeling magical and full from all the noises, wondering if anyone outside the space could hear this as well. The simplicity of the forms of the machines, and the lights and sounds really made this piece work for me. I was left with questions about the mechanics and the process, but the answers I doubt I would understand.

Spark Festival Concert 5

This was the first of the Spark Festival events which I attended, and one of the more traditional performances that I at the festival. There were five seperate "performances" at this concert ranging from prerecorded sound to live musical performance to animation. It was a short concert in all, only lasting about 45 minutes. I'm going to focus specifically on the performance which sparked the most interest for me. It was the first performance, so maybe my interest in it had something to do with my attention span that day, but thinking about it now I still think it was the most unique and interesting of the five, the piece was Clifton Callender's "Metamorphoses". In many respects this performance was very traditional, in the setup and the actions. The performer (Callender) mounted the stage, wearing a suit, spotlit, sat down with his cello and began to play. I sat comfortably in my chair awaiting some melodious sounds. The performance actually incorporated three cello sounds, two recorded and one played live by Callender. The music of the three cellos shifted through different tempos seperately from one another, slipping in and out of synchronization while all playing the exact same music. The shifts were subtle, but like a lot of sound art the changes are felt within your body as the waves of sound surround you. The formal presentation of this piece allowed me as an audience member to focus all of my attention on the sounds without being distracted by any other disruptive elements. The sounds produced by such a simple act were really phenomenal. I have found that with a lot of work that I have witnessed the simplest twists and variations can often be to most interesting or moving.

This was the piece that really struck me the most upon seeing it, or hearing it I should say. Another piece within the performance which I enjoyed was one by Philip Blackburn, called "Car Squawk". This was a sound piece, no physical presence was made by the artist besides at the very end of the performance, which I feel is worth mentioning, a man from the audience stood too take a bow from his place. During this sound piece which had no intro but just began out of no where, one heard a panoply of sound effects made by the human mouth, all simulating car noises. More specifically dying car noises. It was very humorous to listen too, and really didn't require any visual or physical presence to understand the joke or to feel the way you relate to those experiences. Car trouble is a universal problem, something we can all joke about or at least understand.

February 23, 2009

Spark Fest Concert number 12

I was hoping to find more meaning in the performances I saw in Concert 12 as I did the previous day. But unfortunately they didn't move me as thoroughly. Therefor I will write about two of them instead of all of them. I exhausted my creative writing abilities in my last entry. Therefor I'm going to keep this more brief.
I found the first performance of this event to be a little bit underdeveloped and predictable, which is not to say that it was unprofessional. It most certainly was that. And it was enjoyable too. The performance consisted of a women playing her flute with synthesized computer music she played along with. It was apparent that there was supposed to be a playful kind of struggle between the performer and the prerecording she played with. I read in the pamphlet that the piece was inspired by the tv show "Buffy the Vampire Slayer". Which I find to be an interesting idea; making a musical reaction piece to a tv show, or movie. However, I found her flute/computer piece to be an hoaky as the show it was inspired by. However, one aspect I really appreciated about the piece was that she had amazing energy both in the way she played it, came on and went of stage, and the energy pulsing through her body throughout the duration of the performance. When I witness a performance that I dont necessarily connect with strongly, I really always appreciate when the performer(s) are fully engaged and energized by what they are doing.
Another performance that I found interesting at the Concert was this piece were two young guys entered the stage. One east Indian, carrying an East Indian Instrument that I have only seen in two dimensional artwork. The other was a white american guy toting a macintosh lap top. I liked that juxtaposition right there. They sat on the stage floor with about a 3 foot space between them. The music they composed together was a kind of conversation between Eastern and Western music. I thought it was interesting, and successful. I found it meditative actually. I recalled Patrick's piece he shared with us last week on wednesday with the prayer wheel and the madonna record and the space between them representing his desire to meld west with east. I saw the space between the two performers in this piece to be much less voided than the space in Patrick's piece. I wished he was there to see it, because I think he could take something from it to redo his piece. I love and hate the idea that any art piece you don't witness could contain an element that would make one of your own pieces better.

Spark Fest Concerto 13

I went to the Tedd Mann Concert Hall Saturday night for another spark experience, expecting a much stuffier, avante show. I have to say, it is very strange to mix the usherlords of Tedd with the experimental, no-rules-no-mercy spark culture. It was an interesting audience display of the precarious balance between not riding a high horse with a stick up your butt, and not being incredibly disrespectful. I guess its one of those consequences of fine art meeting a sort of subversive subcultural feel.
Concert: Another piano player hooked up to a googlemachine, testing it and the audience's patience. Another Saxaphone player playing to a video, this one either was incredibly masterfully performed or the player was actually manipulating the video a little bit with his sound and movement. He sure gesticulated a lot.

DANCE: Wow! I was so happy to see some dude with a deer mask crawl on stage. Finally. A full -blown performance, multiple dancers, enough "narrative" sense for me to start making meaning, two awesome old men dancing what can only be called "the crazy spider dance" captivating, playing with expectations, not offering explanations. It was visually beautiful, set to a soundtrack of strange, borderline disturbing and irreverant/irrelevant recorded sounds interspersed with silence, allowing us to hear the sound of the dancer's flesh thud against the floor, breaking the 4th wall as I become aware that the artist is aware she is a dancer, dancing to a broken sound track, not an agent in some imaginary world of nonsense.
Personally, I interpreted it like this: So there was nature, and it was good and slow, and then the Native Americans came and danced all organical and in tune with nature, and then BOOM came the white man, and he was a crazy spider machine destroying, harvesting, attacking the light. Then there were a lot of farts and CO2 emissions, and the world ended. And then there was only dancing, angels slamming out smooth beats and sleeves but no pant legs.

-Kyle J

Spark Fest Concert 12

Wow so I was a little disappointed with my first Spark Fest experience. I went to the CCC for an afternoon concert, expecting electric music and performance. What I got was technically that. The first two performances were basicly instrumentals being fed into some computer machine, the result being some very subtle and some very obvious electronic distortion/reinterpretation of the sounds. I spent most of the first three performances just trying to figure out how it "worked" (e.g. was the electronic sound live? were there more than one program? what caused what?) I think this was mainly because the music itself didn't really appeal to me as more than sound. Theka may have been nice as a CD track to zone out to. disLocations was a man playing saxaphone to a video of a saxaphone being put together in the middle of the woods. Again, I was trying to figure out, or wishing, that the live music was manipulating the video. Alas, the performances seemed more exihibitions of the capabilities of the computer machines, and less "music". That being said, it seemed evident the performers were very well trained musicians first, composers, and live art performers third. The fourth performance was canceled, I had to wonder if the announcement of its cancelation "due to circumstances beyond our control" was indeed the performance. (I doubt it, but again a neat idea!). The fifth piece I did actually enjoy. It was a prerecorded piece that immediately made me think of some sort of spaceship, a soundtrack to some sci-fi movie or something. Best of all, it was delivered expertly in surround sound, I felt the track created a very real "space" around me by moving different sounds around the room (instead of just blaring out of the stage speakers). If I ever get a spaceship, I will have that track on my ipod.

-Kyle J

February 22, 2009

Concert 9, Sprak Festival (02.20.2009)

Spark Festival; concert number 9.
I feel like its going to be hard to blog about these performances if no one else experienced them. But I’ll try to make it relatively painless and go through each one one at a time and give my thoughts.
And Death… Jason Bolte
If I had to retitle this piece I would call it; The most beautiful and terrifying thing I’ve ever heard
It was a sound piece based on Dylan Thomas’s poem And Death Shall have no dominion. Of the sounds I could identify (among them seagulls, flames crackeling in a blazing fire, rhythm, a train screeching on its hot tracks)I found the most interesting aspect of this piece to be the way the sounds were stung together and layered to reflect the inspiration the artist derived from Dylan Thomas’s poem. I looked the poem up and read it after the performance. I feel this work did more than justice to it, it made it better. It made its meaning have a new level. I like that idea of taking someone else’s piece and making your own piece out of it. We all just sat there in the dark marveling at the pieces unsuppressed beauty.

Sweep Doug Geers
If I had to retitle this piece I would call it; Fucking Brilliant
The piece consisted of a violinist, a South American percussionist using very beautiful, very tribal looking and sounding percussion instruments, and this is the best part. An assembly of young men standing with laptops at their feet playing synthesized music on……. Wait for it……. Wait for it……… Wiimotes. The violist commenced the piece with a sort cabinet of dr. caligariesc solo. Her solo alone had a lot of drama and grace and when the wiimotes and percussion joined in, the drama in the piece was heighten. The piece explored motion in a variety of different ways. The violist was the most mobil member of the ensemble making very organic sweeping motions while the Wiiists were confined to their station and their sweeping motion was much more digitalized. The percussionist looked like he was enjoying himself the most, he had a very carefree way of playing and expression on his face. The actual product of the piece was very refreshing. I loved the innovation and variation of both music and electronics as well as motion within the piece.

Liminal Surface David Btihell and Ali Momeni
If I had to retitle this piece I would call it; Retarded in the worst way
This pieced really got under my skin for a lot of reasons. First of all it was set up without regard to the audience’s field of vision. I’ll try to paint a mental picture for you; In the center of the stage was a small square table with the two performers profiled to the audience. There was a small screen just in back of them. Which was blank at all times except a few dull moments of prerecorded footage of one of the actors holding a small block looked at it, terrified in the background. Then, on the large screen in back of them, there was s projection of what they were doing on the small table, which was, making percussive sounds with small blocks and symbols. People, let this description of this performance be a lesson to you; too many moving components in a piece can destroy the piece!! I think it could have been pretty cool actually, but I couldn’t even really see what was going on because of the small screen projecting nothing most of the time! The way it was set up was retarded in the worst of ways. But the truly worst part about this performance was that one of the performers had a smug little smirk on his face the whole damn time. I had the urge to get out of my chair, walk up to the bastard and slap that shit eating grin under the guise of a smirk of his face!

Some things about my body and moving large piles of sand Patrick Holbrook
If I had to retitle this piece I would call it; Retarded in the best way
The artists used dual images in a lot of his work that we saw on Wednesday when he visited our class. This film was a split screen. On the bottom there was a single shot image of a large barge moving slowly down a canal carrying several large piles of sand. On the top screen was shots of Patrick doing things with his body (such as pushing his nose down to meet his upper lip, taking his shirt of and putting it back on 3 times, and my personal favorite pointing to his hair on his head, then on his beard and holding up two separate piles of hair on a piece of white printer paper. I loved this piece, although I don’t know why still. I don’t know why I have such a strong positive reaction to his work. I think part of it is because it’s funny. I see a lot of art that makes me chuckle in a smug way that’s like “haha that’s funny cuz I’m smart I get it.” But his work tends to be funny in a way that actually makes me laugh out loud like I’m watching The Family Guy or something. I also think his work is also very distinct to our culture. Even though I think its possible that he’s trying to bridge a gap between cultures in a lot of his work, I can’t help but think that this piece would have a whole other meaning than the one I experienced if people were viewing it in say, China. Now I feel like I’m kind of contradicting myself though because he deals with some pretty specific political events in our country which we saw in his work, and he works with cultural memory so much too, which is definitely culturally specific to us, maybe that’s why I’m so drawn to it then, because I feel so connected to it….. and because it makes me laugh. Like just now, I realized that he and I have a common view point on some things. When I set out to write about these performances this afternoon, I thought of it as I am performing, it never crossed my mind that I could be doing anything but performing right now. Which is a parallel thought to what he said about how we’re actually performing interactively with the internet and the larger world when we are online. Wow, I better get on with the next performance before I alienate everyone reading this.

Ritual #2 Zac Crockett
I don’t have a made up title for this one, cuz I like the original one, and cuz it makes me laugh giggle inside every time I read, say or hear the words “number” and “two” in that order… hehe, see, I told you I love the family guy.
This piece was about meaning. How we as cultures and as individuals construct meaning. The piece itself was very beautiful, and so was a meaning, i.e. meaning.
Ok, thanks for hanging with me until the end here folks.

February 20, 2009

Spark Festival event response.

My original intention had been to go see the free screening of Siren tonite at the Walker, which I was pretty anxious to see after reading a couple articles and reviews of it and being intrigued by the idea of “sound sculptures”. But both the Walker website and the City Pages claimed that the Thursday performance was “sold-out”(which I was confused about because it was supposedly a free event) and I have to work both Friday and Saturday night so I couldn’t go then. Anyway, as an alternative I decided to attend the Sparks festival matinee performance at the Cedar Cultural Center today. There was a series of short pieces, two of which I will talk about.
The first piece, Metamorphoses featured an extraordinarily skilled celloist alone on the stage with nothing but a cello and a “stomp-box” sort of delay pedal contraption. His piece was an experiment in delay-effects produced by a pick-up under the bridge of his cello that attached to an amplifier which was also hooked up to what looked like more than one laptop in the back of the room. He played his cello in real-time, which was recorded onto the laptops and simultaneously played back with varying tempos of delay. The lag-time of the delay(the two recorded “echo” cellos, I will call them) would either “ritardando” or “accelerando” throughout the song, and at some points would even catch up to the real-time cello being played and play in unison with it, only to slowly ritardando and become more and more delayed. There wasn’t much happening visually on the stage, so I spent most of the time with my eyes closed focusing on the dynamics of the cello and the echo-cellos.
The other piece that stood out to me was a video-art piece by Olga Mink, entitled Reis door Brabant-stad. It started out with what looked like black & white cut-and-paste still images of people walking on a blank white screen. It started with one figure and then another was added until several people had accumulated on the still white background. Buildings, streets, trees, streetsigns, in the same black & white cut-out style were added one by one. Eventually things started to be cut out one, leaving shapes of white negative space, as new people and archticture were simultaneously added. This went on for several minutes. Suddenly there was a shift into color photographs, arranged in a rapid stop-motion style, from the perspective of a person walking through some European city(I’m not sure which” looking up at the buildings and signs). The entire video had a musical score of electronic clicks and static (very delicate sort of computer-generated beats), synthesized bass, all orchestrated into a very intricately rythmic composition that complimented the video/camera images. As the music built rythem and momentum, the frames of the stop-motion video would coincide with it, until both were at a very frantic almost head-ache inducing flashing pace. The editing of this video was some of the most impressive I’ve seen.

February 7, 2009

Faust- Charles Gounoud -MN Opera - Lynn Lukkas

Though this performance was not on the list I decided to write about it anyway.

Faust, if you are not aware of the legend, is the story of a man who sells his soul to the devil and is, in the end, well, .... The German legend tells of Dr. Faust or Faustus, a man who longed to know the true meaning of happiness. Thinking his moment of pure happiness would never come he makes a deal with Mephistopheles (the Devil). The wager is, if Mephistopheles is able to deliver Faust true happiness Mephistopheles will claim his soul.

Mephistopheles leads Faust through experiences that culminate in a lustful and destructive relationship with an innocent and nubile woman named Gretchen. Gretchen and her family are destroyed by Mephistopheles' deceptions and Faust's desires and actions. The story ends in tragedy as Gretchen kills Faust's child she bore out of wedlock and Faust is left in shame.

The singing was beautiful with the most powerful voice that of Mephistopheles, a rich and dramatic baritone who convinced this audience member that, were there a devil, he his voice would be as lush and seductive as his. Though talented, the leads seems to have a less engaging and less dramatic emotive vocal qualities. The staging was exceptional as was the costuming.

The most powerful aspect of the performance was the inclusion of the Doug Verone Dancers in the production. They were supurb and added a visceral material to the production that only moving bodies can do. Verone's stage direction was also supurb as he deftly created an seamless and elegant pastiche movement, acting and singing.

The run has passed now -- but the story is definitely worth research and adaptation to contemporary contexts!

February 3, 2009

In The Beginning Was The Word - as seen and blogged by Laura Lechner

“You are incredibly similar to all the people sitting around you right now. The vast majority of them are doomed to a life of disappointing mediocrity just like yours" from Young Jean Lee's Church

What is the role of the audience in live performance? This is a question that I have been struggling with as of late, and while YJL's Church didn't necessarily provide me with a definitive answer (is there a definitive answer?), it was primarily through my interaction with, and my participation as a member of the audience that I was able to engage with the performance. The experience from the other side of the performer/audience member relationship solidified for me the importance of the energy that bodies in space will undoubtedly generate, and how this energy is indispensable to Live Art. From Rev. José's first sermon, in which he denounced us (the audience - we had become a collective unit upon entering the theatre and sitting down in our seats, agreeing to the social contract between performer and spectator) as a "vast majority . . . doomed to a life of disappointing mediocrity," until the choir finished it's big number, the discomfort of the audience was palpable. People were laughing, but not from a place of genuine mirth, but instead out of (or so I perceived) defensiveness. The reverends were attacking us - our middle-class values, our ideas of culture and art, our self-satisfactions and self-doubts. But instead of internalizing these attacks, or responding in a more constructive way, people laughed. The joke's not on us, we seemed to be saying, the joke is on these Christians. These religious freaks. These easy targets for mockery and ridicule. I think we were wrong. We sat in the houselights, equal participants in the service, but unable to truly receive the Word.

I don't know what the Word is. But we the audience were not in a receptive mood. We're not in a church, we said each time we giggled nervously, we are playing at church. The performance continually brought to light issues of realness, of sincerity versus irony, of truthfulness. We didn't want to be the dumb ones, the ones who didn't get that the whole thing was a send-up. So we laughed at what we thought were the punch-lines. We laughed when we should have listened.

Have you heard the Word?

Laura

good news! god is love! -- stan dukich

The aspect I find most enchanting with Church is Young Jean Lee’s attempt at pointing out the notion of art as religion. The idea of solely relying on one’s trips to the gallery, as a way of connecting to the environment, is constantly examined by the four performing reverends. “THAT’S NOT ENOUGH!? the piece keeps preaching. YJL draws parallels between the church institution and the art institution by pointing out their similar functions. Both institutions seek to create a community of people needing a product – a product that gives us the illusion that we are all sentient, and we have completed our civic duty en route to the Dairy Queen. The church institution will save your soul and the art institution will save your aesthetic – of course, you’ve got to give them both some money first. By placing the performance in a church setting, and by paying great attention to the divisions the church space is quick to create (stage/audience, active bodies/passive bodies, etc), YJL further exposes our desire to passively consume art -- and the institutionalized consecration of its civilizing function -- as we would fast food hamburgers or television sit-coms. YJL does not offer us with an answer of what art is, or the function it should perform because that would be oddly counter-intuitive and dogmatic in relation to the ideas she proposes. Rather, I think we come away with the sense that watching performance art and thinking about it in our safe, insular homes, is not enough if we are to understand and celebrate the suffering that unites our celestial sphere. We must leave the pew, and the art galleries, and decide to act.

February 1, 2009

Kate Dorrough - Church, Young Jean Lee

I was less inspired by the performance, but I thought there were some elements that made an impression on me throughout the viewing experience and after the theatrical experience. This performance combined different approaches to Christian services. The set had three simple pieces: 2 benches and a pulpit/podium, all made out of wood. This set reminded me of minimalist Protestant churches. The content of the sermons surpassed conservative approaches of the Protestant church. Towards the end of "Church" there was a dance performance that reminded me of non-denominational churches that use contemporary Christian pop music. The performance ended with a Gospel choir. The mix of these approaches and elements seems to suggest that none of the approaches are right or wrong, but a means for people to communicate the best way they know how with their fellow man or G-d.

The opening of the piece, with all the lights out, and the man telling everyone that all of us are self-centered and perform futile actions was satiric in tone, but possessed the message of most "sermonizers" who tell everyone that there sinners.It was an interesting choice to start in the dark, almost as if to provoke the audience to reflect or not and feel their sin.

The light designer did an effective job of creating the feel of a church service, besides the performers because the lights were on the audience the majority of the time. It made many audience members uncomfortable and I could tell they felt extremely vulnerable. Like Angie said, there tone was satirical and irreverent. Some people were laughing not because of the funny sermons, but because of the "brutal truth".

I find it humorous that all the attendees gave to the "Church" fund. Almost as if the ticket price was really an action of tithing.

Overall, I felt as though Lee was attempting to turn the idea or the ritual of a church service on its head, but the attempts were so subtle that I did not find them effective. It felt like the piece was incomplete. But Reverend Jose said that we would forget everything they said once we had left. Perhaps it was a mere illusion, a representation of a copy of a copy that need be an altering event.

January 31, 2009

Angie Lynch - Church, Young Jean Lee

I'm not sure if this is the correct forum to post these performance
reactions on, but if its not you can all laugh at my
blog-ignorance(blognorance?) and then I can copy/paste this somewhere else.

I attended "Church" last night and all expectations I had were surpassed
and I thought it was fantastic. The whole play, which featured only 4
actors and a set consisting of 2 pews and a pulpit, was structured like a
traditional protestant church service. It opened with a "reverand"
addressing the audience from the back of a pitch black room, in a
belittling to the point of verbaly-abusive monologue about our meaningless
and insignificant lives; it was hillarious in its brutal honesty. The whole
play had a very sattirical tone, which was very evident to me having grown
up in a lutheran church. There was the exaggerated testimonial of the woman
with the sick and depraved past who found the light. The shouting, wildly
gestural, rambling style of the sermon with some of the most bizzare
tangents of parables and metaphors I've ever heard. And to top it all off a
choreographed dance to"modern-christian music", and the surprise 20+ person
choir that came out at the end (I was actually going to volunteer to be in
this choir, but I had to work during the rehearsal last monday).
The acting was phenomenal, particularly the "reverand", who delivered every
line with the emotional-expressiveness and seriousness that a real reverand
would. The woman who gave the testimonial spoke in a more deadpan,
monotone, way (while delivering some of the funniest lines in the play).
The song the play opened with, with its surround sound in a dark room, and
echoing-vocable almost african-influenced style I thought was incredibly
powerful. I also liked the closing number.
I can't rave enough about the play. I think you should all go see it.
Although it's meant to be sattirical and mocking of Christian church
service, I found, surpisingly, an underlying spiritual message that was
just what I needed yesterday(It was a rough day). Alright. I'm done now.

January 29, 2009

Seeing & Blogging Information

Solo -
Church, Young Jean Lee.
$16 with student discount or contact Allison Herrera immediately for possible less expensive tickets (email below).
January 29, 30 & 31 – 8:00 p.m.

Solo - Free - (website with dates and time listed below) please discuss your choices with me in advance).
The Spark Festival of Electronic Music & Art
February 17 - 22 Schedule @ website

Solo - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
Siren, Ray Lee.
Thu Feb 19 - 7:00 Free
Fri, Feb 20 7:00 or 9:00 - $7 with student I.D.
Sat, Feb 21 2:00, 7:00 or 9:00 - $7 with student I.D.

Group Event - Free. Meet in the Walker Art Center Lobby at 1750 Hennepin Avenue South at 7:30 p.m.
Uncivil Wars: Moving With Brecht & Eisler, David Gordon Pick Up Performance Co (S)
Saturday, March 14, 8:00 p.m.

Solo -
Ape, Gary Stevens.
March 18, 20 & 21 – 8:00 p.m.
$16 with student I.D. or contact Allison Herrera a week prior for possible less expensive tickets (email below).

Solo -
The Success of Failure (or the Failure of Success), Cynthia Hopkins.
April 16, 17 & 18 – 8:00 p.m.
$16 with student I.D. or contact Allison Herrera a week prior for possible less expensive tickets (email below).

Walker Art Center Contact person for possible additional reduced prices on tickets - allison.herrera@walkerart.org
Walker Art Center performance schedule website - http://calendar.walkerart.org/search.wac?toCategory=617
Spark Festival website - http://spark.cla.umn.edu/
Course Blog - http://blog.lib.umn.edu/lukkas/liveart/

Grade breakdown for Seeing& Blogging - 20% of final grade.
(5 events.=A+, 4 events=A-, 3 events=B, 2 events=C, 1 event=D, 0 events=F).