By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
But with alternative rock as the new mainstream, it only makes sense that musicians are exploring other ways to communicate. "As different types of music evolve, the style will always reach a point where it gets sort of stuck. I think that's where alternative rock is now" says Vance, hoisting his daughter up into his arms. "And then there's a transitional period that comes, when people break all the rules and try all sorts of strategies to try and get things moving again. That's kind of what we're trying to do." (E.F. products are available at Let It Be and Roadrunner Records in Minneapolis, or from E.F. Tapes, P.O. Box 14013, Mpls., MN 55414-0013.)
KENT Aldrich's self-described vocation as "a hunter-gatherer of projects involving the Arts and the Book" is one that allows him to be his own boss while carrying on the dying art of letterpress printing--and yes, even make a living at it. He has a clean, well-lit storefront studio in a low-traffic St. Paul neighborhood where, eschewing typical careerist attitudes, he intends to remain "for the next 50 years or so," turning out elegant, one-of-a-kind books and special editions for clients, many of whom are high-powered corporations.
But the patient, old-timey artisan-for-hire is only a part of Aldrich's persona. Some may recall seeing a handsome letterpress handbill posted around the Twin Cities a while ago that read, "FUCK YOU. And thanks for supporting my right to say so." Aldrich rode his bike around foisting the broadsheets on people and tacking them to lightposts. As he recalls, they were all gone the next day; he reasoned that people either took them for their own use, or hated them enough to tear them down. Either result satisfies him, and he sees this sort of provocation art as part of the volatile history of his medium. One reason there are no surviving Gutenberg-era printing presses, he points out, is that so many were destroyed by those who took offense at what they were producing.
One of a number of political works he's done over the years, his free-speech handbill was prompted by the anti-NEA and censorship movements that started up a few years back. Anger is usually his motivating force for these kinds of projects. "I used to get inspired by stuff on TV," he says, "until we put a cinder block through it a few years back."
The personal, political, and commercial aspects of Aldrich's life are complexly intertwined in The Nomadic Press. He's made announcements about the theft of his and his wife's two-seater bike, as well as assorted protest pieces (though he never collaborates with activist groups on his work, having found that they tend to want to "make it into their propaganda"). There's a whole string of works about war and violence ("The U.S. spends nearly half its budget on defense. Isn't that offensive?"), censorship, and a more cryptic flyer, "The President doesn't read books!" made after learning that Ron and Nancy Reagan had refused an annual gift from the American Booksellers Association, a selection of the year's notable books to display in the White House. Then there was the little card he sent to catalog companies that read, "I will not purchase anything from an unsolicited catalog or brochure. Don't waste money and resources."
Aldrich's personal artworks have no identifying logos, nor are they signed and numbered, which sets them apart from most printed matter--especially artsy letterpress stuff (he notes that in many of the poetry broadsheets he's produced for hire over the years, the acknowledgements to various foundations and organizations sometimes run almost as long as the poem itself). He delivers his handouts anonymously, free, and without obligations, offering them in the belief that claiming credit for a piece or making it into a commodity will only detract from its actual message. That makes Aldrich's handbills, broadsheets, flyers, and cards notable in a culture where everything, it seems, has a sponsor, and nothing goes without a price. (Kent Aldrich's letterpress prints and other artworks are on view at the Coffee Gallery, 715 W. Franklin Ave., Mpls., through December 1.)
CONCRETE Farm are six women dancer/ choreographers--Susan Scalf, Winona Sorensen, Kelli Tennyson, Morgan Thorson, Kristin Van Loon and Arwen Wilder--who have joined forces to shake the misery out of the current state of dance and pursue their individual development in a collective manner.
Sound like a throwback to '30s socialism or '60s idealism? Not entirely. In today's environment, even the most established choreographers are feeling the pinch, and modern dance companies nationwide are folding or reorganizing. By putting their eggs in one basket, the group realized a power and marketability that wouldn't be available to its members as individuals.
"I don't think this model is brand-new," says Scalf. "It's more of a survival technique for the six of us. We do what we have to in order to continue growing as artists. This seems like the most reasonable pathway."
Since many of the artists found themselves working together anyway, formalizing the arrangement seemed natural. Space for their first project was found at the Northstar Masonic Lodge in St. Cloud where, thanks to Tennyson's hometown connections, the collective spent eight weeks in residency this past summer, taking class, improvising and rehearsing new works. They also shared a house, which (unbeknownst to the landlord) became something of a grown-up dormitory for a summer dance camp.