Artists Of The Year

We list the best of the best of 1997.

Ophelias who need no reviving, the Spices have brought riot grrrls' pro-girl message--albeit without the grrrowl--to the mainstream. But best of all, they've made corporate America finally realize that little girls aren't sugar and spice and everything nice. In the rush to capitalize on the market's hunger for spice, everything from perfume to jeans to cars is now being sold by appealing to women's desire to become selfish, loud, and aggressive power-sluts. Like a Trojan horse, the Spices have managed to break through the barricades of the anti-feminist backlash. Now it's up to the rest of us to jump out and do some real damage.

Debbie Stoller, a.k.a. Celina Hex, is editor ofBUST.

IRA KAPLAN
by Ira Kaplan

Though pleased to be asked to contribute to this survey, I must confess to a certain hesitancy. It seems reasonably obvious that, no matter who I choose as hero, and whatever I say ostensibly about that person, I'll really be writing about myself, and at first I wasn't altogether comfortable about being so open. Then I hit upon a choice that seemed to meet my criteria for privacy: If describing someone else would reveal too much about me, isn't it axiomatic that if I write about myself, I reveal nothing? Sure it is. That said, I nominate for the hero of 1997, me, Ira Kaplan.

Is that a little crass? No, it isn't. Take Norman Mailer--he's good, right? Well, maybe not as good as he used to be, but that's my point. Quite a few years ago, he wrote a book called Advertisements for Myself. See? Of course, I'm not sure I read that one. I did read The Executioner's Song, I think. I definitely saw the movie and loved the scene where Rosanna Arquette visits Gary Gilmore in prison.

I've spent a fair amount of time touring Europe this year, which has found me unusually inundated with Brit pop, a phrase I don't think I knew at this time last year. If there's one thing I've figured out from reading about Damien and Jarvis and Noel and Liam, it's that you can go around tooting your own horn.

Hey, it's not as if I didn't have a hell of a year, and I'm not the only person that thought so. Your mayor--I don't recall his name just now--saw fit to name a day after me in June. Technically, the day was named for Yo La Tengo, so you might suggest I mention Georgia Hubley and James McNew, but I must, humbly--strike "humbly"--disagree.

I seem to have run a little longer than asked, but that's just the kind of behavior you can expect from me in 1998, when I hope to have an even better year. Billy Corgan, your days are numbered. Look out Courtney--here comes me.

Ira Kaplan sings and plays guitar in Yo La Tengo.

DV8
by Jelena Petrovic

Several people I know were ready to pack their bags and move to London after DV8's terrific performance of Enter Achilles at the Ted Mann a couple of months ago. A good dance concert has us secretly "testing" the moves on the way home, but a terrific one--and those are getting to be rarer than diamonds these days--is a life-changer.

A working-class pub is the setting for Enter Achilles, an alternately exhilarating and disturbing look at the peculiarities of macho dynamics. The piece's eight superb performers (with karaoke-singing, rope-climbing Liam Steel as an exceptional standout) guzzle Guinness, boogie to "Stayin' Alive" with their pants rolled down, and police all behavior deemed "unmanly." The latter may include wearing anything lighter than blue on the color spectrum, not holding a pint at all times, and having rhythm--which, given that all the performers kick some major butt, is a little hard to convey. During the pivotal rope scene, in which two of the dancers spent a good 10 breath-defying minutes en l'air, the audience burst into sweet, uncensored applause.

But the main thing about DV8 that makes you want to call your travel agent is that it dares. It's a dance company (or a theater company with trained dancers, some would argue) with the balls not only to impress you physically but also to provoke you and at times offend you. This state of affairs owes much to Lloyd Newson, DV8's charismatic founder and choreographer, who doesn't tread lightly on any subject, least of all on the state of contemporary art: "Maybe good art is about disturbing people, not pleasing people," he says. Indeed, what is dance really for in the end? "Is it just for prettiness? Prettiness is OK...but for me, dance can't be wallpaper." Hopefully, they'll provoke us this way again soon.

Jelena Petrovic is a Minneapolis writer and frequent contributor to City Pages.

The cast, crew, money, and minds behind
NOTHING SACRED

by Terri Sutton

Sometimes commercialization actually complicates an idea and, therefore, improves it. Because Nothing Sacred is a prime-time TV drama, it must cover sex, violence, issues of the day, and moral confusion. Because this particular show stars Kevin Anderson as an inner-city priest, religion (Catholicism, in this case) takes a bath in sex, violence, etc. This metaphorical baptism doesn't, of course, introduce the Church to any demons it hasn't already met--except, perhaps, candidness and her sister, acceptance (a far shyer duo than confession and forgiveness). Nothing Sacred's marriage of thirtysomething and Gunsmoke results in some mushy and bizarre frontier justice, the sort I would describe, at this hour, as more than a little holy.

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