Posted at 9:46 AM on January 19, 2011
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: News and reviews
Lots to peruse in the "stage" section this morning...
Kristin Berwald: 100 CreativesYou may know jewelry designer Kristin Berwald as Bionic Unicorn, her other, more fantastical name. Her creations are statement pieces, often featuring whimsical-yet-dense references to steampunk, nature, literature, pirates, and rock 'n' roll.
- Jessica Armbruster, City Pages
On responding to art -- and, in particular, the national student show at the Nash Gallery
When you see two or three dozen pieces, and you have a few hundred words, all you can do is mention a few that immediately jumped out at you.
- Max Sparber, MinnPost.com
Dark mystery will blow you away
The second Mercy Gunderson mystery is set squarely in the winds and prairies of South Dakota.
- Carole E. Barrowman, Star Tribune
Hip-hop hurray for Lauryn Hill at First Ave
After a long absence and a late start, the rap/soul superstar delivers an unexpected unforgettable performance.
- JON BREAM, Star Tribune
Trampled by Turtles prove fleet-fingered at First Avenue
The thick aroma of high-quality marijuana wafting through the air may have had something to do with all those smiles.
- Kate Gallagher, TC Daily Planet
Dense 'Woods' gets fine staging
Director Joe Chvala and a large cast plumb a tricky Sondheim musical for its mythic meanings and musical depths.
- William Randall Beard, Star Tribune
Former Guthrie head Michael Langham dies
Michael Langham, who led the Guthrie Theater back from the brink during his tenure at the helm from 1971 to 1977, has died at age of 91.
- Ed Huyck, City Pages
Acting Company's "Comedy of Errors" at the Guthrie Theater is fun and frothy
In the new production by the Acting Company in association with the Guthrie Theater, Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors goes down easy, a light frolic that amps up the goofy physical comedy.
- Jay Gabler, TC Daily Planet
Trena Bolden Fields celebrates leaders of the Civil Rights Movement
[Fields has] crafted a series of monologues, Daring to Think, Move, and Speak, to showcase key leaders and supporters of the Civil Rights Movement.
- Dwight Hobbes, TC Daily Planet
"Gob Squad's Kitchen (You've Never Had It So Good)" at the Walker Art Center: Authentically muddled
Gob Squad, the European performance troupe who presented their take on the films of Andy Warhol last weekend at the Walker Art Center, have a lot of tools in their Kitchen--maybe too many.
- Jay Gabler, TC Daily Planet
Bette Midler at the Orpheum, 1/18/11
Midler came to Minneapolis last night as part of the inspirational lecture series SmartTalk... she delivered a bubbly, hour-long overview of her "65 years on this planet" before a sea of mostly middle-aged, upper-class women before taking a few questions from the crowd.
- Andrea Swensson, City Pages
"Girls Only" at Hennepin Stages: The secrets of womankind can be yours for just $29.50
What did we learn? That women think tampons are really funny.
- Jay Gabler, TC Daily Planet
Walker Art Center's "Out There" series continued this past weekend with Gob Squad's "Kitchen (You've Never Had It So Good)." Inspired by the Andy Warhol film, Gob Squad sought to recreate the movie as theater. Here's a look at what the critics thought of the performance:
Warhol's was a ragged little film with actors drifting in and out, flubbing whatever lines were written, smoking, talking, posing and prattling on. We wince at the banality of revolution, one actor assessing a cake thusly: "It's a layer cake. Just like my life. One meaningless layer after another." Dig it.
But it was Warhol, it was downtown, it was hip. Norman Mailer's wrote that "I suspect that a hundred years from now people will look at 'Kitchen' and say 'Yes that is the way it was in the late '50s, early '60s in America. That's why they had the war in Vietnam.'"
Or maybe not.
The Gob Squad doesn't so much lampoon the film as earnestly attempt to explore concepts that once seemed revolutionary. History, after all, teems with moments that we now consider embarrassingly trite, but often that's because those once-fresh notions are now taken for granted. So we can laugh at Sharon Smith, puzzling over why she should burn her bra. What's this proving? Oh right, something about feminism. Meanwhile, Simon Will is throwing breakfast cereal at her head. "I'm repressing you," he offers helpfully.
What could become an overlong satire transforms when the Gob Squadders begin to pluck audience members to join and eventually replace the actors. Wearing headsets, the civilians take cues from troupe members, who have wandered to the back of the auditorium, murmuring into microphones. At one point, a civilian turns to actor Bastian Trost and says, "We're real, you're yesterday."
Yes. The deposit of an actor's work -- in this case the film that is "being made"-- is instantly past. The audience is alive. "Kitchen" is remade with all of us and we understand that it's true, we've never had it so good.
The piece itself isn't as much a recreation of the obscure film but a meditation on the influence it--and the rest of the 1960s counterculture--have had in the decades since Warhol and his Factory friends decided to make art in their own image. So instead of trying become Warhol or Edie Sedgwick or any of the other denizens of the Factory, they are instead themselves playing themselves in the film.
In and of itself, this action is a lot of fun. The actors are well aware of the absurdity of it all, but go for it with full gusto. The company, a British and German collective, play at their idea of what Americans of the era would be like, drinking instant "kwa-fee," burning a bra (bought from Target, actor Sharon Smith admits), and trying on different personas along the way.
All this time, the barriers between the audience and the performers are broken down, as the cast selects people to first take part in the side films and then to take their places on the stage. Audience participation is nothing new, but there's something startling about plucking someone out of the crowd, giving them a set of headphones (so the actor they are replacing can feed them lines and stage directions), and setting them off on the set.The actors then head out to take seats in the house, so you can hear them whispering lines and directions a moment before they are said onstage.
It's the perfect embodiment of Warhol's pop-art aesthetic, making regular members of the audience stars for their own "15 minutes" at the Walker. All of this heightens the feeling that anything could happen--one of the rarest reactions you'll ever feel at a scripted theatrical event.
In the end, Gob Squad's Kitchen reminded me of the late, very lamented Theatre de la Jeune Lune. Like that ensemble, the Gob Squad love to play with the very forms of theater itself and recraft it into something rare, thrilling, and beautiful.
Andy Warhol is a tough artist to riff on, because his work is so conceptually complete: it's hard to start with a Warhol piece and turn it into something more than, or even simply other than, it is. His ideas--the embrace of mass production and commercialism, the genius of bald appropriation, the importance of chance--still seem revolutionary when applied to more conventional art, but if you try to apply them to Warhol, your piece just eats itself.
You can't fault Gob Squad for lack of ambition. With recreated sets behind a large screen (audience members are invited to visit the sets before the show begins), the troupe members begin by self-consciously replicating Warhol's films Sleep and Kitchen, as well as one of his "screen tests" in which subjects stare blankly at the camera for minutes on end. With great, intentional, awkwardness, constantly and ironically declaring their intentions, the troupe members pose in the kitchen and proceed to approximate the sloppy circumstances of Kitchen, in which cast members repeatedly forgot what they were supposed to be doing there in a kitchen in front of a movie camera.
In time, audience members replace the members of Gob Squad, who come out to the audience and feed directions to the "found actors" (Gob Squad's term) through headsets receiving signals from wireless mics. As the audience members share very personal stories (repeating lines fed to them), attempt to sleep, and ultimately kiss a troupe member in a recreation of Warhol's Kiss film, sound and editing are used in pursuit of drama, momentum, and a kind of minor profundity. At its best, Gob Squad's Kitchen demonstrates the truth of Andy Warhol's dictum that "virtually anyone can become famous." By taking the mundane acts of (nothing personal, folks) mundane people and blowing them up both literally and figuratively, Warhol challenged the idea that art was qualitatively different from life.
But Gob Squad aren't content to simply replicate Warhol--they have their own, more traditional tricks up their sleeves, and they're not about to let those go. The resulting production is left in uneasy limbo: it never coheres as either a scripted entertainment or as an avant-garde experience. In this Kitchen, Gob Squad lose their cake and don't eat it either.
Did you see Gob Squad's Kitchen? If so, what did you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section,
Hoof Heels by Roxanne Jackson
Ceramic artists are very familiar with the "craft vs art" debate. Many will tell you that if you work with clay, you can expect to be summarily lumped in with the rest of the craft world. No matter what your work looks like, you will be associated with teapots and mugs.
However some ceramic sculptors are defying stereotype, making their way into art museums and contemporary galleries.
Northern Clay Center is currently showing two group exhibitions in its galleries, and three of the artists stand out for their work in sculpture.
First and foremost is Roxanne Jackson, who came to clay relatively late in life.
When I was in grad school making my work I was adding all these elements like beef jerky and dried fish parts. And I was told by my colleagues that I couldn't do that, because this was "ceramics." But I was a botany major undergrad, so I didn't have that background of what you can and can't do.
Jackson's pieces explore the blurry line between our animal and human nature. Her "Hoof Heels" were inspired by the work of a German fashion designer who creates incredibly expensive shoes using actual animal hooves. "It's a fascinating modern day references to pan mythology - my version hopefully plays with these tensions of the whimsical and the horrifying," says Jackson.
Ouroboros by Roxanne Jackson
Jackson's also interested in challenging traditional ideas of beauty. Her sculpture "Ouroboros" was inspired by the mythical snake that eats its own tail. Using the forms of a zebra head, a woman's face and a dog's snout, she depicts birth and death together in an form that is both grotesque and sublime.
I think there's a really thin line between what's horrifying and what's beautiful. A great example is birth - birth is grotesque and kind of disgusting. The visuals, the liquid, the colors, but of course it's a miracle, it's life!
Jackson also points to our fascination with horror movies; is it our more base animal nature that makes us want to look?
Comfort Creature by Elizabeth Coleman
While not as grotesque visually, Elizabeth Coleman's pieces combine elements that are both innocent and raw in a way that leave the viewer unsettled. Exhibition Curator Jamie Lang says she's working with unfired brick clay and her own memories to create a haunting sense of nostalgia:
They're memorials, honoring elements of childhood, innocence lost. Using the teddy bear that everybody has - it's a pneumonic device that brings people back to their childhood. Brick implies permanence, something everlasting.
Coleman says she's transforming her childhood friends into "immortal watchers" and "guardians" similar to the Japanese "Haniwa" - terra cotta figures that were buried with the dead.
The second gallery at Northern Clay Center is dominated by a sculptural piece by David Swenson. Hanging from the ceiling by a single cord, his "Handelier" is approximately six feet tall and seven feet wide, and is made almost entirely of... handles.
Handelier by David Swenson
Swenson, who works at NCC, is playing with one of the most utilitarian elements in pottery, and through repetition turning it into a thing of ornate beauty. He's even created small platforms onto which he's placed miniature "handelabras." By leaving the work unglazed, he's drawing the viewers' attention to the process and the materials.
Each of these artists is working with clay, and they obviously have attained a mastery of their "craft." But their work would be equally at home in a fine art gallery or museum. Exhibition curator Jamie Lang says he hopes the show will help to break down some stereotypes about ceramics.
I think there are more people like [these artists] out there, but people haven't had the opportunity to see the work, or they don't know to look for it. Having artists like Roxanne Jackson in the show I hope will bring in new people through our doors - people who might not normally consider the Clay Center a destination.
The two exhibitions - "Three Jerome Artists" and "Fogelberg and Red Wing Fellowship Artists" - are on display through February 27.(3 Comments)