Erica Spitzer Rasmussen's "Book of Sustenance"
When is a book not a book? And when is something that doesn't appear to look at all like a book, actually a work of "book art?"
These are the questions I keep returning to when I see a show at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, because - like all good art - the works on display regularly challenge my assumptions about what is, and what could be.
Currently on display in the Center's gallery space is a group show called "Parts of a Whole"; it consists of work by MCBA staff, faculty, co-op members and past artists-in-residence.
MCBA Managing Director Jeff Rathermel says while on the surface many of the works look nothing like books, they share themes of repetition, storytelling, and time.
It's the true power of a book that you have a time element within it, rather than just one snapshot view. Unlike a photograph or a painting, you have more time with the viewer/reader... you repeat ideas to emphasize them, you build upon them. But that's also a real responsibility and a challenge. To do this successfully you need to be a "page-turner" to engage people in the entire process - an artist book has a lot more in common with a film or a musical score than it does with traditional print-making.
Julie Sirek's "A Family Matter"
After perusing the exhibition, I was interested by strong themes that emerged around domesticity and women's work.
One of the most powerful works in the exhibition is Julie Sirek's "A Family Matter." It consists of 30 miniature dresses, made from gampi paper, thread, glass and wire. Sirek made each of these dresses to represent the 30 women from Minnesota who died as a result of domestic violence in 2009. Rathermel says in this work, each dress is in essence a page in a haunting narrative.
The delicateness of those small dresses really works well as a metaphor of vulnerability. And the other thing that I think is really interesting, is that it demands intimacy. Each of those dresses appears relatively similar, but as you start to engage with it you see that each one is unique. By demanding that intimacy you're pulled into a very uncomfortable situation - it's a quiet and powerful conversation.
From a distance, the dresses appear innocent and pretty. But once you move up close you notice subtle differences; one has a tear in the skirt, another a cigarette burn in the chest, a third has wire thorns in the collar. Each of them has been disfigured in some way.
Chandler O'Leary's "Mnemonic Sampler"
On the opposite wall is a piece with a completely different, far more playful, tone. Chandler O'Leary's "Mnemonic Sampler" consists of embroidered letters of the alphabet, alongside images of ordinary objects whose names start with the given letter (N is for needle, O is for oven mitt, etc). Rathermel says Leary is known for exploring what we have traditionally called "women's work."
At one level it's playful and whimsical, with great detail and humor, but I think there's also this addressing of the "art vs craft" hierarchy, and addressing what we've typically thought of as "women's work" in the community. Certainly it's much better now, but we still have these biases... I think Chandler is interested in reclaiming some of these craft traditions, to say that it's more than just women's work, and that anything done at this particular level could be considered art.
Detail of Erica Spitzer Rasmussen's "Book of Sustenance"
Erika Spitzer Rasmussen seeks to raise the life of the working-mother to that of high glamour. Her "Book of Sustenance" is a wearable work - similar to a ruffled collar that Queen Elizabeth might have worn. But this collar consists of a grocery list printed on grocery bags stained in cherry Kool-Aid. The result, Jeff Rathermel says, is both stunning... and unsettling.
She's worked with corsets in the past - this notion of being both decorative and restrictive;To have something this big around your neck...and in this case, blood red. She's talking about sustenance and food, and yet collar appears to restrict your throat.
In her artist statement, Rasmussen referred to the repeated pages on the collar as a sort of "mantra for domestic divadom."
"Parts of a Whole" runs through April 24 at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts.
Posted at 9:24 AM on March 9, 2011
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: News and reviews
Michael Gaughan: 100 Creatives
While some artists find creativity in dark places, others take on projects with a joy that is instantly contagious. Local illustrator and performer Michael Gaughan definitely belongs in the latter category.
- Jessica Armbruster, City Pages
Kristina Perkins shows photographs from her bus tour of the U.S.
With the help of donations from friends and family, as well as her own money, Perkins bought a bus ticket for $430 and travelled to 37 states, taking over 4,000 photographs along the way.
- Sheila Regan, City Pages
Picoult sings a new song
Picoult, known for her social-issue themes, pits fundamentalists against a lesbian couple in this novel about the rights of gay parents.
- CYNTHIA DICKISON, Star Tribune
Young Austin, Minn., author finds fame -- and fortune -- publishing her work online
Amanda Hocking, 26, has enjoyed sudden success, earning somewhere between $1.4 million and $2 million, she says
- Tad Vezner, Pioneer Press
Day of Irish Dance at Landmark Center
St. Patrick's day is close upon us, and for anyone looking for more than a kiss and some green beer, St. Paul's Landmark Center will be thumping with the sounds of Irish music and dancing.
- Coco Mault, City Pages
Out of the past: 'Rango' and 'Take Me Home Tonight'
A look at the 'acid western' and '80s romantic comedies.
- Max Sparber, MinnPost.com
Lady Gaga dumps Target over anti-gay donations
Well, that didn't last long.
- Andrea Swensson, City Pages
Bob Dylan gets the green light to play China
After being barred from performing in China by the Ministry of Culture last year for unknown reasons, Bob Dylan has received the go-ahead to perform two dates in April.
- Andrea Swensson, City Pages
Michael Jackson headed to Target Center (sort of)
Cirque du Solei is bringing the late singer's memory out on the road in "The Immortal Tour."
- CHRIS RIEMENSCHNEIDER, Star Tribune
Mike Starr of Alice in Chains dead at 44Starr had been publicly battling with drug addiction for the past few years.
- Andrea Swensson, City Pages
An effectively campy, creepy "Cabaret" from Frank Theatre
A seductive evening at the Kit Kat Club is provided by Frank Theatre's production of Cabaret.
- Bev Wolfe, TC Daily Planet
Dido thwarted by the madness of mythic love
For all its virtues, Theatre Pro Rata's Dido, Queen of Carthage proves too inconsistent to build the tension needed for the play's heartrending final act.
- Brad Richason, Examiner.com
Mumblecore is one of those terms that elicits one of three reactions:excitement, horror, or bewilderment. Members of the low-budget, low-tech, high-concept movement (although 'movement' may be too strong a word) produce movies about people drifting through life, looking for meaning and fulfillment, without finding much. If you are a fan, it's a comfortable reflection of real life. If you're not there's an infuriating lack of explosions or resolution. If you don't know anything about mumblecore, you might want to check out "Wah Do Dem"
tonight next Tuesday (March 15th) at the Trylon in Minneapolis.
"Wah Do Dem" is the story of Max (Sean Bones,) a mopey 20-something, who finds himself on a cruise to Jamaica. He's there because he won two tickets, but he's alone because his girlfriend Willow (a brief appearance by singer Nora Jones,) dumped him just before departure, and none of his friends can, or will take the time off to go along. Max believes himself a sophisticate of sorts, but he soon gets lost in the very different Jamaican culture, which at one point leaves him stranded alone on a beach, with literally only a pair of cut-off shorts to his name.
Writer/directors Ben Chace and Sam Feischner capture Max's predicament as he works his way out of trouble. It's a gently funny film, with moments of discomforting mysticism, which Max tries and usually fails to embrace.
The "Wah Do Dem" screening is part of the Trylon's Premiere Tuesdays series where the microcinema screens interesting movies which otherwise might bypass the Twin Cities. It's an opportunity worth checking out.(2 Comments)
The cast of Frank Theatre's "Cabaret," on stage at the Centennial Showboat on Harriet Island.
Frank Theatre is known for taking its shows to locations that help underscore the mood of the play. For its production of Cabaret, it's moved to the Centennial Showboat on Harriet Island, and converted the main stage hall to the "Kit Kat Club." Thinking of climbing on board? Check out these reviews - click on the links to read the full review.
...I have seen Cabaret performed on stage twice before but, despite a slow start, this production is the most compelling of the three. Under Wendy Knox's direction, the performance concentrates on two couples whose romance is intruded upon by the growing Nazi menace. The social pathology of Weimar Germany initially takes on a playful eroticism that turns ominous; portraying the enticing nature of evil.
Written by Joe Masteroff with music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb, Cabaret originally opened on Broadway in 1966. Since then it has been brought back twice in two Broadway revivals and made into a movie by Bob Fosse staring Liza Minnelli. For those unfamiliar with the musical, the story centers on Cliff Bradshaw. Cliff, an American, is a would-be writer who goes to Berlin during the 1930s to seek inspiration for his writing. On the way there he is befriended by a disingenuous German named Ernst Ludwig and rents a room from an older woman named Fraulein Schneider. On his first night, he meets a young English woman named Sally Bowles, a performer at the seedy Kit Kat Club. Another boarder at the rooming house is Herr Schultz, an elderly Jewish fruit vendor. When Sally's relationship with the Kit Kat Club owner ends, she is both jobless and homeless. Her solution is to persuade Cliff to let her share his room. A romance ensues between her and Cliff, as well as one between Schneider and Schultz.
The specter of Nazism pervades the show in the guise of the Kit Kat Club and its Master of Ceremonies. Seduced by the hedonism and loose sexuality found at the club, Cliff and Sally are oblivious to the growing control of the Nazis. Living a more proper life, Schneider and Schultz also initially discount and ignore the growing influence of the Nazis. In the end, the overshadowing evil dooms both couples.
Once the show warms up, the club ensemble keeps the show moving effortlessly from scene to scene...The Centennial Showboat provides an appropriate vaudeville atmosphere for the show's decadent cabaret style. The sparse set design by Joseph Stanley works well as scenes shift between the boarding house and the Kit Kat Club. Whether you have never seen Cabaret or have seen it umpteen times, Frank Theatre's production merits your attention.
The Emcee has commandeered the "Cabaret," and thank goodness for that. He had always haunted the edges of this awkward musical about Weimar Germany, but a 1987 Broadway revival pushed this enigmatic waif out of the shadows. He stands -- still something of a blank mirror -- at the center of a culture teetering on disaster.
Bradley Greenwald consumes this delicious avatar of decadence in Frank Theatre's production of "Cabaret" at the Centennial Showboat in St. Paul. Less creepy than Joel Grey's original, Greenwald's Emcee is funny and charming -- insouciantly poking fun at himself and his club mates. Sexy, dangerous chorus girls and rouged, dandy chorus boys all respond to his prompt.
With Greenwald at the center, the Kit Kat Klub musical numbers dominate Wendy Knox's staging. Music director Michael Croswell and choreographer Bonnie Zimering Bottoms create the palette, and Knox squeezes more flesh and bone onto the small Showboat stage than seems possible. Kathy Kohl's costumes serve a dual purpose, festooning these oddballs and turning them into human scenery.
...Knox gets all this stuff to stand up on its hind legs, driving through the dreary scenes and getting us back to club life. And at the center of it is the Emcee, who in his final image will raise the hair on your neck.
Bradley Greenwald is the Emcee in Frank Theatre's production of Cabaret
Sally Bowles musically wonders "What good is sitting alone in your room?" in the title song of the musical "Cabaret." Rather than a glib query, the question takes on more ominous overtones in the Frank Theatre production.
Director Wendy Knox, opening her theater's 22nd season with performances on the Minnesota Centennial Showboat, offers an intentionally scruffy-looking production of the dark Kander and Ebb musical set in Germany near the end of the Weimar Republic. Inside the Kit Kat Club, there's a sense of forced, almost desperate gaiety as showgirls bump and grind in torn stockings and tired expressions and the boys cavort, rouged and hard-eyed. This isn't the stylized, heroin-chic look of the Broadway revival that played the Twin Cities in 1999. Rather than dancing as hard as they can to avoid thinking about the end of the world, everyone in this staging seems to be painfully aware that the good times are nearing a sickening end. Their debaucherous reveries, then, are fraught and tainted.
It's a subtle difference, but an effective choice, and it permeates every aspect of Knox's production, which titillates, teases and finally torments. Rooted at the center of it all is Bradley Greenwald's solid and splendidly sung performance as the Emcee. The character is ubiquitous -- wearing hose and heels in the chorus line one moment and appearing as a stern conductor the next, all the while acting as a kind of Greek chorus who doesn't so much narrate as illustrate.
...Sadly, the other leads don't provide as much support. Sara Richardson acts the snot out of the role of chanteuse Sally Bowles and is spot on in projecting a forced optimism that belies her desperation. But Richardson's singing voice is a limited instrument -- even for a character who probably is not much of a singer anyway -- and when she flats out (with disconcerting consistency), she can't fully construct the fantasy necessary to successfully carry the role.
Max Wojtanowicz presents an opposite problem as the struggling American novelist Cliff Bradshaw. His singing voice is sure enough, but his charisma-free characterization is such a limp noodle that it's hard to see why Sally would fall for him.
...The uneven performances make Frank's "Cabaret" something of a bumpy ride, diminishing but not obliterating the dark charms of a classic.
This show has staying power to a large extent because of the disturbing message at its core: we know that "the party" continued and much of the world refused to acknowledge the terrible truth about the Nazi's campaign against the Jews. "Life is a cabaret," indeed! Director Wendy Knox uses this dark fact to make the debauchery of cabaret culture just that much sadder and the play's personal stories that much more poignant.
But there are plenty of laughs, in large part because Brandley Greenwald played an exquisite and delightfully depraved Emcee, embracing all that was other worldly about this iconic character and showing us a tremendously good time - right up to his own moment of truth. He was simply too marvelous!
...Max Wojtanowicz as Cliff played the foil to pretty much the rest of the characters - a little odd since Cliff is supposedly drawn to the Cabaret, but in this production he barely acknowledges his own presumed proclivities.
But Melissa Hart (who originated the role of Sally Bowles on Broadway) as Fraulein Schnieder was positively breathtaking. Her emotionally charged voice in "What Would You Do?" was so moving that the entire theater was silent but for that song. You could go to this show just to see this number and it would be worth it. Patrick Bailey played an endearing Herr Schultz, especially paired with Hart - a dynamic that powers the emotional content of the show and draws the relatively shallow relationship of Cliff and Sally in sharp relief.
Knox has chosen a diverse cast to otherwise populate this bizarre environment. They're not only incredibly good, they make us forget how demanding this show must be - and wow, are they an interesting bunch! This fact, and the wonder of hearing a show of such power acoustically, makes for a special and memorable night out. There's nothing Hollywood about this show. It's live theater all the way and I absolutely loved it.
So, have you seen Frank Theatre's production of "Cabaret?" If so, what did you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section.