Posted at 9:29 AM on December 15, 2010
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: News and reviews
Here's a round-up of arts news from the past 24 hours... fyi, since MinnPost's "Max About Town" column continuously defies categorization, he's getting his own category...
Walker steps into art censorship fire
A video pulled by a Smithsonian gallery is headed for screenings at the Walker.
- Mary Abbe, Star Tribune
Fine art versus design explored at the MIA
The creative overlaps of fine art and design are the subject of a panel discussion this Thursday at the Minneapolis Institute of Art's MAEP Galleries.
- Sheila Regan, City Pages
A fascinating, true story of liars and dupes
Jonathan Miles' biography of Soviet trickster Otto Katz is exhaustively researched and felicitously written. A fascinating tale.
- Michael J. Bonafield, Star Tribune
Micheal Eyedea Larsen: A life remembered
Mikey was an inspiration to the hip-hop community and beyond
- TD Mischke, City Pages
No. 1 memories for First Avenue's 40th
Musicians playing Wednesday's anniversary party name their all-time favorite moments at Minneapolis' landmark rock club.
- Chris Riemenschneider, Star Tribune
Faith Prince relishes the road in 'Billy Elliot'
Decades into her career, Faith Prince isn't afraid to try new challenges. That's why the longtime Broadway veteran and Tony Award winner will spend the next year and a half on the road with Billy Elliot The Musical, the miner's-son-turned-ballet-dancer musical that opens a monthlong run this week at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis.
- Ed Huyck, City Pages
Max About Town
Percussionist Owen Weaver; a strange museum; a Minneapolis secret- Max Sparber, MinnPost.com
Walker Art Center Director Olga Viso traveled to D.C. earlier this week to tour the National Portrait Gallery's exhibition Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture. The exhibition is the ongoing source of controversy, after public reaction to the video "Fire in my Belly" prompted the Smithsonian to pull the video from the exhibition.
Viso, a former Smithsonian curator and museum director (of the Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden), says the Walker will screen various versions of the film "Fire in my Belly" daily at the Walker Art Center later this week (see update below), pending arrangements with the artist's estate. In a statement on the Walker's website, Viso says:
Hide/Seek was organized by the NPG to "show how art has reflected changing attitudes toward sexual identity"... In every regard, the [National Portrait Gallery] should be applauded for organizing, mounting, and presenting this groundbreaking, scholarly exhibition and supporting the curators' well argued thesis that a powerful artistic and cultural legacy has been "hidden in plain sight for more than a century." Yet the NPG's and Smithsonian's surprising decision to remove a key work from the exhibition a month after its opening undermines this thesis as well as the premise and curatorial integrity of the exhibition in alarming ways. Indeed this action serves to sublimate or "hide" the very thing the exhibition attempts to make visible.
Last week the
American Association of Museum Directors Association of Art Museum Directors, under the leadership of Minneapolis Institute of Arts' Kaywin Feldman, also condemned the actions of the Smithsonian.
The video in question, it should be noted, is easily found on YouTube:
Update: The Walker will screening the film beginning tomorrow through December 30 from 11:30-noon in the Lecture Room; and on Thursday evenings at 8:30 pm. It will be screening the original 11-minute film and the artist's excerpted 7-minute version, as well as the 4-minute version that was shown as part of the National Portrait Gallery exhibition.
Natalie Portman in "Black Swan"
I usually try to limit the reviews I collect to those of local productions, but "Black Swan" - a film which explores the world of professional ballet - seems ripe for contemplation. Pair it with the recent scandal of NY Times' Alastair Macauley criticizing two ballet dancers for being fat, and the film's paranoia and self-mutilation becomes even more timely. Read on for excerpts from a variety of reviews, and click on the authors' names for the full review.
One of the pleasures of "Black Swan" is its lack of reverence toward the rarefied world of ballet, which to outsiders can look as lively as a crypt. Mr. Aronofsky makes this world (or his version of it) exciting partly by pulling back the velvet curtains and showing you the sacrifices and crushingly hard work that goes into creating beautiful dances. Nina doesn't just pirouette prettily, she also cracks her damaged toes (the sound design picking up every crackle and crunch) and sticks her fingers down her throat to vomit up her food. Mostly, though, she trains hard, hammering her toe shoes into floor much as Jake La Motta pounded his fists into flesh. She's a contender, but also a martyr to her art.
...It's easy to read "Black Swan" as a gloss on the artistic pursuit of the ideal. But take another look, and you see that Mr. Aronofsky is simultaneously telling that story straight, playing with the suffering-artist stereotype and having his nasty way with Nina, burdening her with trippy psychodrama and letting her run wild in a sexcapade that will soon be in heavy rotation on the Web. The screenplay, by Mark Heyman, Andrés Heinz and John McLaughlin, invites pop-psychological interpretations about women who self-mutilate while striving for their perfect selves, a description that seems to fit Nina. But such a reading only flattens a film that from scene to scene is deadly serious, downright goofy and by turns shocking, funny and touching.
...director Darren Aronofsky ("The Wrestler") fashions an excellent, thoughtful work of art with the giddy urgency of a slasher movie. Using a handheld camera, Aronofsky shoots intense, intimate close-ups that hold the characters in a clinch. In tightly framed shots of Nina performing, we don't see her dancing so much as her absorption in it -- the concentration of a professional who has become almost selfless. As the camera moves acrobatically through the performance, we experience Nina's ecstatic abandon. And when her grip on reality loosens, Aronofsky's camera recoils in horror along with his heroine.
Portman's performance as the psychologically disintegrating dancer is beyond praise. Her worry, guilt and grief are so potent they're nearly unbearable. Nina's not all that articulate, which makes Portman's accomplishment all the more impressive. She has to communicate volumes through expression alone, and she carries it off brilliantly.
Everything in "Black Swan" is designed to put us on edge, right where Nina is. There's her fragile body, which seems to be sprouting rashes and sores. There's a startling sound design that incorporates effects where there couldn't possibly be any -- Winona Ryder, who is smashing as a washed-up dancer, shows up at a party accompanied by a noise that sounds like hundreds of cellos being pulverized. There's the color palette, with Nina nearly always in white and everyone else in black, until she starts ominously donning black, too. And there's the stylized acting, which is just unreal enough to remind us we're seeing people as Nina thinks they are, not as they really are.
Not since "Shine" have I seen a movie so enthusiastically mud-wrestle with lugubrious orchestral classics: Tchaikovsky thunders on the soundtrack as Aronofsky's camera stays tight in on the dancers' spinning heads and limpid limbs. Aronofsky's approach to ballet is like George Lucas's approach to space combat: even if you wouldn't hear those loud wooshes in real life, they sure make for some exciting cinema.
Have you seen "Black Swan?" If so, what did you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section.
Posted at 12:05 PM on December 15, 2010
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: Theater
There's a saying that "everything old is new again;" it seems particularly fitting for this latest news from Music Box Theatre in Minneapolis.
On Monday the 440-seat performance space will reclaim its original name, "Loring Theater," named after the Minneapolis civic leader Charles M. Loring. Monday also happens to be the 90th anniversary of the theater's opening.
Music Box/Loring Marketing Director Paul Anderton says the theater staff found the original marquee in the basement. The organization is now seeking funds to refurbish the marquee and use it once again.
The Nicollet Avenue space has led a storied history; in the 1970s it became known as the Cricket Theatre, and then changed names to Music Box Theatre in the mid-90s when it became home to the long-running comedy "Triple Espresso."
How is it that two Twin Cities museum directors are players in a story that takes place in Washington, D.C.? And what will be the consequences of their actions?
Earlier today I reported that Walker Art Center's Olga Viso has decided to screen the video "Fire in my Belly" at the Walker starting tomorrow. This after the same video was pulled from an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery.
Last week the MIA's Kaywin Feldman, who is also head of the Association of Art Museum Directors, released a statement on behalf of close to 200 museum directors criticizing the actions of the Smithsonian.
A deeper look at the controversy, and their reactions, reveals more than just protest.
Kaywin Feldman, as head of the AAMD, had an obligation to speak to this incident, in part because it sets a scary precedent: namely, museum administrators caving to the opinions of politicians. In her statement she pointed to the particularly disturbing fact that those protesting the work of art had, for the most part, not even seen it.
Olga Viso, on the other hand, is joining in with several other museums across the country to show the video by artist David Wojnarowicz (now deceased). As the head of a contemporary art museum, Viso must regularly support work that is controversial. The former director of a Smithsonian museum (the Hirshorn), Viso felt an obligation to see the show and comment on the incident on her blog (she has turned down requests for an interview).
But showing the video is by no means a controversial act. "Fire in my Belly" has been around for almost 25 years and can be found in numerous places on the web. That fact makes the Smithsonian's action seem all the more questionable... and it makes the Walker screenings seem more like a bid for foot traffic than a genuine act of solidarity.
At this time what is needed is not another screening but a forum for an intelligent conversation, in which those who are offended by the work and those who are passionate in its defense can come to mutual understanding.(8 Comments)
Can the former head of the SPCO save a dying symphony?
For over two months now the musicians of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra have been on strike because, according to the musicians, they "and their many supporters have a starkly different vision of the orchestra's future from the DSO's Board of Directors and management."
DSO management has proposed salary reductions of 30 percent for existing players and 40 percent for new hires. Musicians say such cuts would hurt the symphony's ability to attract and retain talent. Meanwhile DSO management argues the quality of its talent will hardly matter if it's forced to fold.
In order to come up with some creative solutions that can appeal to both musicians and management, the orchestra has hired on Bruce Coppock as a consultant. Coppock oversaw dramatic changes at the SPCO while president, including eliminating the position of Music Director (that role is now taken on by a series of artistic partners). Coppock also served as executive director of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra during Leonard Slatkin's tenure there as Music Director (Slatkin is now Music Director of the DSO).
But orchestra business writer Drew McManus questions whether Coppock will have much good advice to share. On his blog Adaptistration he writes:
...the DSO has hired Bruce Coppock as a consultant although what he's doing with the organization beyond his meeting presentation is not clear... What is known is that the far-reaching changes Coppock put into place at the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra during his time there as the president and managing director don't seem to be helping that organization fare any better than their peers. Over the past decade, the organization has had endured numerous staff cuts and musician base pay has been cut three times, the most recent of which was in 2009. Whether or not this was taken into account by the DSO when deciding to hire Coppock is unknown.
Coppock stepped down from his position at the SPCO in July of 2008 for health reasons.
Posted at 6:28 PM on December 15, 2010
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: Music
Tonight on All Things Considered, Chris Osgood of the Suicide Commandos (and more recently of McNally Smith College of Music) reminisced about his first time on the First Avenue stage, early in its 40 year history. And he talked about how the venue has changed over time. One revelation? How the building's more "nuanced" smells became apparent after the smoking ban was enforced.
Osgood went on to say that he's struck by how a venue once known for its "anti-establishment" status has become a cultural institution. Forty years later, he says live performances are more important than ever to the success of a band.
Click on the link above to hear the entire interview.