Artists of the Year

Framed, penned, screened, danced, sung, shot, delivered: City Pages lauds the artistic creations of 1999

"Ezekiel's Wheel" succeeded largely because of its vehicle for communication; the stirring words of mid-20th-century writer James Baldwin, captured on a crackling recording, provided counterpoint to vibrant vocals and percussion by Philip Hamilton. At the same time, Buraczeski's wide-ranging interpretation of contemporary jazz movement, as carried out by the fluid performers of his Jazzdance troupe, created a physical embodiment of the text and music. Illuminated by a half-light, the dancers appeared as anxious seekers, guided by the optimistic voices of Hamilton's rhythmically complex score. A hunger for some kind of revelation was palpable, and when it finally arrived, the result was unbridled joy.

There have been many defining moments in dance history where choreography moved beyond the realm of technique to transform culture in ways only successful art can. Alvin Ailey's Revelations, Bill T. Jones's Last Supper at Uncle Tom's Cabin, and the "golden section" from Twyla Tharp's Catherine Wheel immediately come to mind. And now Buraczeski has made his offering, one we gladly accept.

 

Caroline Palmer is an attorney with the Minnesota Aids Project and a frequent contributor to City Pages.

 

SAYER FREY

by Lisa Ganser

Being a film programmer at Intermedia Arts puts me in the position to find films that I like and project them in a roomful of people who are equally interested. I can offer a screening that both suits the artist involved and receives publicity and technical support. The shows are also intimate and personal, with the filmmakers on hand for discussion. It's a cultural exchange that later trickles into the lobby where conversation continues.

In early December I had the privilege of meeting the local writer-director Sayer Frey and exhibiting her film Eileen Is a Spy. Much in the way this film is dynamic and intriguing, so is its maker. Sayer is witty and beams with artistic intelligence. She's got an off-beat speech pattern, too: She thinks before she speaks, and she comes across as strong and determined.

What makes the film so noteworthy is its many levels of being personal. The protagonist (Eileen) has been raised in an oppressive small town and survived the abuse of her father. Eileen's narrative story is intertwined with a documentary voiceover from interviews Sayer conducted with women friends and family. These honest voices speak of sexuality, intimacy (or its lack), and interpersonal relationships. Such brave subject matter invites the viewer to self-reflect, which can be quite therapeutic.

Sayer speaks about her newest project, 39,49,59, with a confident ease while laying out the movie's complicated motives. It's a feature film about different generations of women and how they deal with aging and beauty. It's also about the abuses of polygamy, which will no doubt make for another intriguing and dynamic film. The project is in pre-production and should be completed in 2001.

Eileen Is a Spy is by far one of the most daring, intelligent, and thought-provoking films I've screened in recent years. It's an incredible blend of documentary, narrative, and experiment, and it succeeds as a feature-length film. Even more encouraging is the fact that this is Sayer Frey's first feature. There should be many more on the way.

 

Lisa Ganser is a Minneapolis-based filmmaker and the curator of "Films First Fridays" at Intermedia Arts.

 

PATRICIA WEAVER FRANCISCO

by Carolyn Kuebler

During the height of the Christmas-shopping season of 1992, I joined a group of about 15 women from my neighborhood, all wearing costumes and signs, in a parade down Hennepin Avenue toward Calhoun Square. "Protect Yourself," one sign said. "Wear a Strap-On Beard." "Do you live in fear? Do you like it?" The rash of rapes that took place in Minneapolis's Wedge and Whittier neighborhoods in 1991-92 greatly heightened the vigilance of those of us living in the areas, inciting all forms of outrage and fear. But the "serial rapist" is a more common phenomenon in the Cities than we may have imagined. Most rapists commit their crimes more than once, and only when the media gets on board is the more alarming term serial used in place of the police term, professional.

Hamline creative-writing teacher and longtime Minneapolis resident Patricia Weaver Francisco was raped by such a professional in 1981. Now, almost 20 years later, she has written a stunning and terrifying account of her rape and the long years it has taken her to regain both her sense of autonomy and her capacity for joy. As she shows throughout the book, Telling, rape is much more than one night's horror; its effects--in the form of nightmares, paranoia, despair, shame, and myriad other posttraumatic symptoms--last for years, even infinitely, in the mind and body of the one who was raped.

Francisco acknowledges her hesitancy to write about rape, not wanting to give it any more room in her life than it has already demanded. But she finally chose to create the book anyway, partially in answer to Audre Lorde's dictum: "You who see, tell the others." Francisco's description of fear, and its power over rational thinking and behavior, is almost as harrowing as her description of the rape itself. Her inquiry into her own reaction to violence allows the reader to comprehend trauma of all types, and her discussion of the trial of Minneapolis serial rapist Timothy Baugh extends this discussion beyond the purely personal and into broader cultural territory.

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