SU -PEOPLE LIKE US
Walker Art Center, Saturday at 8:00 p.m.
Remember that bizarre moment in the early Nineties when the thrift store was transformed from a poor person's palace into a veritable playhouse for the well-off and ironic hipster? It was like something out of Karl Marx's worst nightmare: ratty cardigans retagged as "vintage" and resold at three times the price with a smirk that said, "Sure, gentrification stinks--but damn, you look good in those hotpants!" Of course, such bohemian posturing would go on to stake a claim at the very heart of popular culture. (Take a bow, Beck.) But on the fringes, People Like Us (a.k.a. British multimedia artist Vicki Bennett) have quietly used the same scavenging means to opposite ends, questioning the relationship between corporate globalization and our own hyper-consumptive tendencies by stitching together the spare parts of modern culture like artistic Frankensteins. Though Bennett's decadelong career is often aligned with Plunderphonics, the sarcastic cut-and-paste methodology exemplified by media pranksters such as Negativland and Wobbly, her own approach is markedly different and more nuanced, avoiding outright social commentary in favor of something more ambiguous. Pulling from a wide variety of discarded source material (everything from easy-listening tracks to BBC radio outtakes and strangely menacing Afterschool Special sound bites), Bennett crafts parallel-dimension dialogues between confused talk-show callers, peppered with glitzy Herb Albert-esque brass breakdowns and the words of over-the-top gardening enthusiasts. The end result never calls attention to its technical virtuosity or its impeccable background research (even though the "Where the hell did she get that?" factor remains jaw-droppingly high). Rather, Bennett emphasizes listeners' interaction with the recorded product without allowing them to engage in simple identification. As she told Xoxmag: "I tend to take two initial sources and get them to play a sort of tennis with each other. And then I add some more bits and it becomes more like a football match. Or maybe a swimming tournament if I'm really fortunate." --Nick Phillips
SU -STAN RIDGWAY: HOLIDAY IN DIRT
Oak Street Cinema, Sunday at 7:45 p.m.
Last time he was in town with his new-wave band Wall of Voodoo, Stan Ridgway tripped a purse-snatcher outside First Avenue, resulting in the culprit's easy capture. Then in 1999, he began releasing his solo recordings (which take on criminal pathos as a theme) through a local label, UltraModern. Clearly the man's L.A. noir-rock has some kind of mojo around here. Now the singer's name is attached to a Minnesota-produced movie you might call 14 Short Films About Stan Ridgway. The brainchild of UltraModern impresario Chris Strouth and St. Paul rock-video powerhouse Rick Fuller, Stan Ridgway: Holiday In Dirt hands over Ridgway's latest collection of song-stories to a slew of filmmakers and multimedia artists--from Devo clip-maker Chuck Statler to Residents computer-animator Jim Ludke. Freed of the impetus to sell, the resulting interpretations recall the narrative imagination of early MTV. Dave Moe's "Brand New Special and Unique," for instance, takes a tune about fetishizing youth and imagines a surreal corporate fashion show where one bored bigwig is ultimately impressed by a model groomed to look exactly like him. The project as a whole represents a reversal of roles for Ridgway, who used to make Kenneth Anger-inspired "backyard motorcycle demon movies" in Super 8, has written film soundtracks in his distinctive Western style, and remains an MTV icon for Wall of Voodoo's "Mexican Radio." "My slate is clean," he says, speaking over the phone from his L.A. home. "I fell off the radar a long time ago. It just allows me to do what I want to do. I've never been the type of person who's easy to market. I don't have a cowboy hat in my closet." Ridgway is excited enough about the movie to be performing a show at Lee's Liquor Lounge the night of the premiere, but remains freewheeling enough to be unsure about how to bill himself. "I'm still playing with band names," he says. "Big Black Stick? Stan Ridgway and His Bottomless Pit? How about Stan Ridgway and Drunk Cops?" In any case: Muggers beware. --Peter S. Scholtes