A performance artist who communes with crabs and crickets. A famous 93-year-old poet who turned down a $65,000 prize because he didn't like who was funding the award. A champion of rural artists. A comedian with cancer. A 23-year-old entrepreneur and college dropout who is trying to change the face of local hip-hop music.
These are just a few of the creative people who inspired us this year and give us hope for the year to come. Our annual Artists of the Year are the representatives and avatars of artists everywhere — the imaginative souls who remind us that life, to be fully appreciated, must not be just lived but keenly observed, celebrated, sung, danced, internalized, confronted, and laughed at.
For that, come to think of it, they deserve more than an award. They deserve our patronage at least, and our thanks for sure.
By Camille LeFevre
All artistic action originates with the body. Dancers, actors, and musicians know this innately, kinesthetically. Since at least the 1940s, when the action painters overtly manifested the physical gestures of putting paint on canvas, and the 1960s, when performance and body artists transgressed discipline boundaries to put their flesh at the center of aesthetic activity, the role of the body in creating art has been a ripe subject for investigation.
Kate Casanova is quickly becoming one of those subjects. Fearless, enterprising, and young (an MCAD grad, she'll complete her MFA at the U of M next year), Casanova is heir to such intrepid performance artists as Chris Burden, Carolee Schneeman, and Marina Abramovic. But with a marked difference.
Sure, in her filmed performances — whether hermit crabs are canoodling and burrowing in her braided hair ("Ornament"), crickets are emerging from the damp dark of her mouth ("Wetland"), or she's preparing and eating cicadas during a camping trip ("Blue Ridge Expedition: Seventeen Year Song") — the sight of her body conjoined with creepy-crawling "others" instantly incites reactions. Fascination. Fear. Wonder. The urge to recoil.
But also because these short films are silent or nearly so, and Casanova's demeanor is transcendently demure, her performance art inspires awe rather than shock or revulsion. The same goes for her art installations, recently featured on the TPT arts series MN Original. These include upholstered chairs embedded with fungal spores and encased in temperature- and humidity-controlled boxes, which quickly grow the colorful protuberances called mushrooms.
Her work is surreal, yes. It invokes Freud's sense of the uncanny with juxtapositions of that which, in everyday life, belongs here, not there. For Casanova, cultural separations between object and flesh (whether animal, insect, vegetable), idea and inspiration, exist to be reconfigured into, as she's said, "poetic moments" that unveil the taboo.
Such revelations occur across her body of work, which includes hand-cut paper collages and mixed-media creations that often reference the rotting — that grotesquely fantastical in between. In her body art, however, Casanova's willfulness and passivity as the canvas on which interspecies boundaries are breached generates a sense of adventure driven, in part, by self-disclosure. We can't help but wonder: Where will she take us next?
Camille LeFevre is an arts journalist, and has written books on architecture and dance. She is a frequent contributor to City Pages.
By Nick Pinkerton • Photo by Claudette Barius
Since Steven Soderbergh is no stranger to working at a brisk clip, there's nothing exceptional about his having two movies theatrically released in 2012. What is unusual, and little commented on, is how perfectly those two movies — Haywire and Magic Mike, both excellent — complement and are in dialogue with one another.
Each of these films — mirror images of the other — inverts traditional cinematic gender roles, in which the male is active and the female passive, the male looks and the female is looked at. Haywire is an espionage thriller lashed with double and triple crosses, which happen to involve a female operative who is deadly in close quarters. The warrior woman is nothing new in cinema, but what makes all the difference in Haywire is Gina "Crush" Carrano, a former MMA fighter from Texas who is wholly up to the task of hanging tough in some of the most punishing donnybrooks in memory, fight scenes whose bruising physical veracity is unquestionable. Haywire's set pieces open with foreplay flirtation and play out like sex comedy, which might also describe Magic Mike, a film also cast around performers with unique physical skill sets: Channing Tatum, the former Tampa stripper who has dusted off his old routines, and the snake-hipped old cowboy Matthew McConaughey, who play the star dancer and owner, respectively, of the Xquisite Strip Club. Magic Mike is chockablock with choreographed, full-body, bring-down-the-house, honest-to-God musical numbers. Like Haywire, Mike owes a great deal to American cinema of the 1970s. You might draw a straight line between it and 1979's football drama North Dallas Forty, likewise concerned with putting aside childish things. We can only hope that Mr. Soderbergh, who has a habit of announcing his retirement from filmmaking, won't put movies aside just yet.
Nick Pinkerton's writings about film appear regularly in City Pages, the Village Voice, and Sight & Sound Magazine. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
By Reed Fischer • Photo by Marcellina Reis
"I guess you could say I'm like a Kanye West-type of college dropout," Jake Heinitz says with a laugh. But the 23-year-old hip-hop impresario is actually not kidding. Underneath a golden-hued flow of hair is the rapid grind of gears in Heinitz's mind as he looks to leave his stamp on the Twin Cities' next decade in music. He spits out ideas for upcoming concerts, magazines, experiences, and even what he's ordering for lunch in a hurry, but without betraying reason. For starters, Heinitz's three-year-old No Static Records has linked up with a local vet who literally wrote the book on the scene, Kanser's Big Zach (author of Headspin, Headshots & History: Growing Up in Twin Cities Hip Hop), and he has taken a decidedly organic approach to local talent, regardless of genre. He wanted a wider net than just a label roster, and his BeSceneMpls.com blog proved a worthy platform to promote all sorts of emergent artists, conduct a roundtable on the status of hip-hop journalism in the Twin Cities, and get the word out about his burgeoning rap fest, Hip Hop Harambee. This past summer, the day-long fest was held in the Nomad World Pub's parking lot on the West Bank, and one of the most respected rappers in the game, Talib Kweli, headlined a tight lineup. Next year Heinitz intends to turn Harambee into a week-long event and team with nonprofits to add community outreach to its mission. That all of this comes from a Bloomington Jefferson grad who didn't garner a degree from the U of M or Augsburg College makes a little more sense when you look into Heinitz's background, which isn't quite ordinary. Perhaps he inherited a work ethic from grandfather Orlando Jacob Heinitz, who represented Plymouth in the Minnesota House of Representatives between 1968 and 1984. And Jake's father's longtime employment at Northwest Airlines gave him the ability to travel extensively and be a student of the world. "You realize who you are," he says of his trips off the beaten paths in North America, Europe, and Africa. "You have to actualize your identity." At his south Minneapolis apartment, Heinitz says he lives simply. But he dreams extravagantly and places high value in building social capital. "I think there's a place for a lot of growth in hip hop here because there have been the same gatekeepers on it for a little while," he says. "In our generation, we have such diverse palates. You can catch me listening to Beirut, Jay-Z, and George Winston. I just like people who make good music and are humble about it."
Reed Fischer is City Pages' music editor.
By Ed Huyck • Photo by Treleven Photography
Peter Rothstein isn't someone to rest on his laurels. Over the past 12 months he's had his hand in a dozen shows, from a controversial production of Oklahoma! in Seattle to a number of workshop productions for the Illusion, the Playwrights' Center, and his own Theatre Latte Da. With Latte Da, he directed a pair of the year's best productions: Spring Awakening (with the University of Minnesota Theatre Arts and Dance Department) and Company, along with the annual holiday-season remounting of All Is Calm with vocal group Cantus.
It's not just the hard work that makes Rothstein a tremendous presence on Twin Cities stages. His careful attention, from preproduction to the finished product onstage, builds a show, brick by brick, to be the best it can be. That creates an environment in which actors can thrive. The young cast of Spring Awakening, including a number of University of Minnesota students, lived every outsized emotional moment in the musical but also held enough back to give it all a deeper resonance. Dieter Bierbrauer, on the other hand, is a veteran performer who reached tremendous heights under Rothstein's guidance as Bobby in Company.
Rothstein is also a strong advocate. Also this year he directed 8, a play about Proposition 8, which was staged at the Varsity to raise money for Minnesotans United for All Families. He spoke eloquently about acceptance and the need to fight the marriage amendment when he won an Ivey Award for Spring Awakening. Rothstein even addressed the issues in the decidedly heterosexual Company, reminding us that putting bounds on love, relationships, and marriage is a loser's game.
Ed Huyck is City Pages' theater critic.
By Caroline Palmer • Photo by V. Paul Virtucio
Fearless. If ever a person embodied the word, it is Megan McClellan. In 2012 this versatile mover appeared in concerts by Black Label Movement, the Flying Foot Forum, and Shapiro & Smith Dance — plus her own lively performance venture, Sossy Mechanics, with partner Brian Sostek — and revealed a different aspect of her bold spirit each time she stepped onstage, whether it was at the Cowles Center, the Guthrie Theater, or the Walker Art Center.
Perhaps it's the way McClellan takes on her performance assignments. She never seems to be intimidated by daredevil moment. If you need someone to get tossed high into the air from one dancer to another (or cartwheel off an easy chair, take a punch to the gut, stomp with percussive intensity, etc.), she's the woman for the job.
Other dancers may be brave, but what makes McClellan memorable is the way she combines her derring-do with top-notch technique (in modern, tap, and swing dance, to list just a few of her skill sets), an impeccable sense of timing, whip-smart intelligence, a rebellious spirit, and laser-like focus. Add a natural flair for comedy and vaudevillian nuance (particularly evident in Sossy's audience favorite Trick Boxing) and you have the makings of an artistic quintuple-threat. No wonder choreographers like Joe Chvala, Carl Flink, and Joanie Smith, among others, seek out her talents time and again.
Even in her more contemplative moments (as in the reprisal of a 1971 piece by Judith Brin Ingber at Choreographer's Evening) McClellan seems to radiate possibility. And that's where this artist's brilliance really shines. The most compelling performers — particularly dancers — are the ones who keep you on the edge of your seat wondering how they will shift the energy in the theater. McClellan always responds to this question. And she does so with such strong emphasis that you will never forget her answer.
Caroline Palmer is a freelance dance writer and attorney living in Minneapolis.
By Michelle Orange • Photo by Ivory Orchid Photography
Arizona writer Lydia Millet has had a number of good years. There was 1996, when her first novel, Omnivores, was published; 2003 brought her the PEN-USA award for My Happy Life; in 2011 her short-story collection Love in Infant Monkeys was short-listed for a Pulitzer; and this year a Guggenheim fellowship preceded the publication of her seventh book, Magnificence. I realize Wikipedia could catch you up on all of this, but it feels right to repeat a few highlights. Because despite turning out exceptionally well-regarded, forward, and even prescient work at a rate few of her contemporaries can match, and despite being consistently honored in her field, Millet is not as well known or widely read or, let's just say it, famous as she should be.
I have wondered about this for years now: Why do certain less accomplished or just less prolific authors occupy more than their market share of whatever space the cultural conversation now leaves for writers? And is it wrong, when one is well published and well reviewed and otherwise well rewarded, to feel the lack of what might most accurately be called glory?
Millet's new novel, the third in a trilogy that began with How the Dead Dream, is another in the remarkably steady series of confirmations she has been sending the literary world that we have a giant among us. In Magnificence the recently widowed Susan Lindley (who appears in Ghost Lights) is installed in the taxidermy-stuffed mansion bequeathed to her by a rich uncle, and there unfolds an exquisitely sideways story of grief and restoration. The book draws many of Millet's themes and strengths — decay and death, environmental havoc and extinction, the indomitable female voice — to a fine and typically essential point. As one of Millet's fans and a fellow writer, I marvel most at the exuberance of her talent, which seems to know no earthly bounds or discouragement. She deserves recognition this year for that spirit of persistence especially, which I suspect feels not at all like persistence to her but simply living and breathing, in stories and language, natural as it could be.
Michelle Orange, a frequent contributor to City Pages' film section, is the author of This Is Running for Your Life, an essay collection to be published by FSG in February. Her writing has appeared in McSweeney's, the New York Times, The Nation, the Village Voice, and other publications.
By Bryan Miller • Photo by Kate Lacey for The Daily
"Good evening, hello. I have cancer," Tig Notaro says in the opening seconds of a half-hour comedy set later released online as Tig Notaro: Live. The audience laughs right away. You can't hold it against them. Notaro is famous for her distinctive deadpan delivery, and she's prone to dole out heavy doses of irony and unblinking sarcasm. Thanks to the proliferation of podcasts that allow fans to see behind the curtain to the business and process of standup, comedy audiences have grown exponentially savvier to the art form's provocations. They can't be blamed for anticipating a wry punchline lurking just around the corner, yet as Notaro presses forward, repeating "I have cancer" like an odd mantra, the crowd becomes increasingly, if temporarily, unsettled. This is no setup. For the next 30 minutes Notaro walks listeners through the past few traumatic months of her life, which began with a bout of pneumonia that led to a serious bacterial disorder in her stomach, followed shortly by a breakup from her longtime partner and the accidental death of her mother. Then, just one week before the recorded performance, she was diagnosed with cancer in both breasts. It's a parade of bad luck that seems perhaps too dark to be even darkly comic, but Notaro processes her colossal misfortune into an extraordinary, cathartic half-hour that bluntly acknowledges the pathos of the situation but never stops aiming for (and achieving) laugh-out-loud hilarity. It's the Cirque du Soleil of emotional balancing acts.
"With humor, the equation is tragedy plus time equals comedy. I am just at tragedy right now. That's where I am in the equation," Notaro confesses, and even she seems uncertain that cataloging the mordant absurdities taking over her life will be funny whatsoever, but she presses forward — and it is.
The criteria determining who is hailed in year-end lists are usually commercial in nature: album sales, film and TV appearances, a breakthrough into broader national and international markets. But at the most fundamental level, the artist's goal is to use a particular form to process personal experience and locate the vastness of the universal within the tight boundaries of the specific. It's tough to imagine someone doing this more gracefully than Notaro. She's a comedian who finds herself at an almost unimaginably unfunny point in her life, yet through her mastery of craft and purity of intent transforms the moment into something resilient and life-affirming.
Bryan Miller is a Minneapolis-based writer and comedian who this year appeared in the Boston Comedy Festival and on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.
By Jeff Gage • Photo by Erik Hess
Dan Huiting doesn't waste time pulling us into his videos. From the very first shot, we know where we are and where we're going. A lone microphone stands against a hazy blue backdrop. Bright red chairs sit in front of an out-of-focus movie screen, then we cut to a pair of blurry neon roulette wheels. The early-morning sun breaks through the treetops, almost blinding us, on an empty, snowy dirt road. Huiting has a crisp, bold style, full of rich colors and quick cuts. No one captures the energy of a music scene better than he does — not just of the music, but of the crowded, swirling nightlife of a concertgoer.
Ever since he first developed the "City of Music" series with Mpls.tv — a collection of filmed local music performances that has since been picked up by Pitchfork and led to full-time work with the TPT TV series MN Original — Huiting has established himself as one of Minnesota's most exciting artists, but he's more stylist than documentarian. Perhaps that's the legacy of a craft honed through live performances. His camera never lingers, moving instead with eager, inquisitive gestures, as though learning about its subjects on the fly. As Huiting has moved into more full-fledged studio work, he's found creative ways to expand his vocabulary — with aerial shots of the countryside using a camera hung from an airplane, as Andrew Bird whistles the background music; or with the time-lapse that accompanies Kathleen Edwards's hustle from tour stop to tour stop.
Yet if Huiting's craft is making music videos, his art, at its core, lies in storytelling. He is a keen observer with a knack for subtlety and nuance. With just one shot he can capture something vital about a person, be it in P.O.S.'s smirk or the way Margaret Lane reaches for a note on her tiptoes. When we're lucky, that sensitivity can inspire an artist to open up in more meaningful ways, as when Channy Leaneagh invites us into her practice room, the room that was once her ex-husband's. In these moments we are pulled toward these artists as people, not just as performers.
Jeff Gage is City Pages' editorial administrator and a regular contributor of music criticism and profiles.
by Eric Lorberer • Photo by City Lights Publishing
Artists make stuff. In poems, paintings, performances, and countless other forms, they give shape to ideas. Poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti did that this year in his Time of Useful Consciousness, the latest volume in his ongoing epic about Americans "steering toward democracy/ even as they plundered everywhere." It's a book made for our era: The title is "an aeronautical term denoting the time between when one loses oxygen and when one passes out, the brief time in which some lifesaving action is possible" — as apt a metaphor for our current condition as any.
However, the Beat Generation icon also did something else this year. After he was named the recipient of a prestigious award from the Hungarian branch of the literary organization PEN — one that comes with 50,000 euros, which ain't chicken feed — the 93-year-old poet turned it down, on the grounds that part of the purse is provided by the oppressive Hungarian government. "Since the policies of this right-wing regime tend toward authoritarian rule, and the consequent curtailing of freedom of expression and civil liberties, I find it impossible for me to accept," Ferlinghetti wrote. He suggested the money be used to support Hungarian authors whose work embodies the fight for social justice, but the award-givers wouldn't have it.
Ferlinghetti's stance in 2012 nicely mirrors the one he took back in 1957, when he was brought to trial for publishing Allen Ginsberg's Howl and Other Poems. His victory against censorship then is one to which every reader in America owes a debt, and it's inspiring to see the thread continue. But perhaps Ferlinghetti's most laudable action happened even earlier than his principled refusal: He actually asked where the cash prize came from. Few of us, artists or otherwise, remember to follow the money, when more and more it's the only question that matters. So kudos to a poet who's made a career of "constantly risking absurdity," for getting up on the high wire again and showing us how to fly.
Eric Lorberer is the editor of Rain Taxi Review of Books and director of the Twin Cities Book Festival.
By Linda Shapiro • Photo by Bill Cameron
Terpsichorean colossus Carl Flink straddles worlds. Dancer, choreographer, dance company director, former attorney, current head of the University of Minnesota Department of Theatre Arts and Dance, social activist, and frequent collaborator with scientists, Flink is a postmodern Renaissance man on a mission.
His restless mind and creative energy have fueled some remarkably diverse projects. Aesthetically committed to physical and emotional risk, Flink has created no-holds-barred dances for his company, Black Label Movement (BLM), that deal with everything from the sinking of an iron ore ship in Lake Superior to using dancers to convey catastrophic changes in human cells. His work with U of M biomedical engineer David Odde and science writer John Bohannon led to a TED Talk, "A Modest Proposal," that went viral. During a company residency at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory, BLM dancers and scientists explored "bodystorming," modeling molecular collisions by finding nonlethal ways to hit and tackle one another. A dance piece that came out of these experiments, HIT, was praised by one critic for "its exploration of the unexpected poetry within aggression." Science Magazine recently published an article about bodystorming, and an online article by Odde in Trends in Cell Biology suggests that scientists could use dance to prototype their hypotheses. Other accolades include a 2012 Ivey Award for Flink's choreography for Spring Awakening, in collaboration with Theater Latte Da, and a Sage Award nomination for HIT. With his life and artistic partner, Emilie Plauché Flink, Carl continues to widen the scope of dance and its interconnectedness with science, and to probe the outer limits of the body in motion.
Linda Shapiro is a Minneapolis-based writer and frequent contributor to City Pages.
By Susannah Schouweiler
Sluggish economic recovery or not, it's been a great year for independent art startups. Recent months have seen plenty of DIY gallery launches: David Peterson Gallery, TuckUnder, Public Functionary, the Bindery Projects. Among these can-do ventures, my favorite is a mostly online, artist-run outfit: Rural America Contemporary Art, the brainchild of Mankato-based painter Brian Frink.
A couple of years ago, Frink had an epiphany: With the advent of social media, artists don't need to strike out for the coasts or big Midwestern metropolitan areas for cultural exposure anymore. By connecting with the larger art world and each other online, artists can now make a name for themselves, cross-pollinate ideas, and even garner critical attention if they have enough talent and hustle, and a bit of web savvy. And with a fast internet connection, artists can do so from any home base they choose. Serious-minded, country-mouse contemporary artists just needed a virtual watering hole, a place to network with one another and share ideas, he figured. So he created RACA (pronounced rawk-a), a Facebook group with the cheeky aim of "making nowhere into somewhere."
Artists flocked to the group, and it quickly took off as a place for members to share artwork and common cause, in time becoming a real community in digital space, bringing together far-flung but like-minded artists across the country. Spurred by the enthusiastic groundswell of interest in the Facebook group (888 artist members strong at last count), Frink set up an eclectic offline exhibition last winter in the Arts Center of St. Peter, with enough accomplished talent on view to upend even the snootiest urbane preconceptions equating "rural artist" with farm kitsch. Then, over the summer, with the assistance of writer and Twin Cities-to-Mankato transplant Stephanie Wilbur Ash, Frink launched a flagship website for Rural America Contemporary Artists and a sharp, biannual art magazine, RACAonline, which just put out its inaugural issue last month. With entrepreneurial vision and follow-through, Frink is helping to realize the potential and untapped esprit de corps among artists who happen to work off of the usually urban art grid.
Susannah Schouweiler is an arts writer and editor for the statewide online arts hub MNartists.org at the Walker Art Center.
By Mike Fotis
There is no shortage of busy comedians in the Twin Cities. Turn to the left. Now turn to the right. Assuming you're in a public place, you saw at least two people who really want you to come to their show. It's safe to say that the Twin Cities is a comedic hot bed right now. Yet very few of the shows are appropriate for and amusing to younger audiences. That's where Levi Weinhagen comes in.
Weinhagen and Joshua Scrimshaw are the brains behind Comedy Suitcase, a comedy collective dedicated to creating comedy for all ages. In the past year, Comedy Suitcase has done its best to keep the kiddos happy and entertained at a staggering pace, producing four original shows and a podcast. But it's not the quantity that's impressive, it's the variety. Comedy Suitcase's Fringe Festival hit, The Gentlemen's Pratfall Club, played to young audiences' love of physical humor and still managed to squeeze in some valuable lessons. Then there's the Saturday Morning Submarine Adventure Show, an improv-variety show that makes kids part of the performance by encouraging them to try their tiny little hands at standup comedy. Brilliant. But that's not all.
Weinhagen explores what it's like to be an artist and a parent in his weekly podcast The Pratfalls of Parenting. Being a comedian with a podcast isn't all that unique (seriously, find a comedian who doesn't have one), but creating a podcast that's as insightful as it is funny is a small miracle. That's not to say that Weinhagen never ventures out into the world of grownup comedy. He's a producer and "fact checker" for the wildly funny and terribly underattended monthly variety show The Encyclopedia Show. His job is to watch each of the performers do their thing and then make fun of them for it. It's a testament to his understanding of comedy that the performers keep coming back for more (gentle) ridicule.
Here's to many more years of pratfalls and the future comedians they are inspiring.
Mike Fotis is an improviser and storyteller. He is also co-director of the Brave New Workshop Student Union.
By Laura Zabel • Photo by Dani Werner
We're lucky in the Twin Cities to have a wealth of excellent options for children's theater. And it's not rare for performers in kid-oriented or family friendly shows to stand out for their physical virtuosity or comedic timing. But to bring a moving, inner life to the character? That's something special.
There's something about Elise Langer's vulnerability and curiosity onstage that makes you want to hug her. Her characters all have a certain otherworldliness — as if not quite human, and somehow more human. They are curious little beings plunked into circumstances both bizarre and ordinary. She creates characters that have a captivating soul, and her warmth and joy in performing radiates from the stage. In the last year or so, she has played Tilly Silly in Milly and Tilly, which she co-created for Open Eye Figure Theater, a baby dragon in The Dragons Are Singing Tonight with Tiger Lion Arts, and most recently Sally in the Children's Theater's Cat in the Hat. She lifted those shows above typical children's fare by sharing her process of discovery with the audience, allowing us all to see how magical the world really is, if you just take a closer look.
Laura Zabel is executive director of the nationally recognized, artist-led economic development organization Springboard for the Arts.
The Twin Cities Public
By Jill Boldenow
In one vignette at Andy DuCett's recent Soap Factory show, attendees encountered real football players excitedly asking, "Are you ready for the big game?" Those inspired to reply "Yes!" were invited to run through the gauntlet to the field, getting high fives and cheers from the team. Participation in the art was, literally, applauded.
More and more, opportunities abound for you, me, and other game community members to create and shape art in our cities — producing fun, a blurring of the artist-audience distinction, and a focus on collective experience. Making art happen is worthy of recognition. So I have chosen to champion you, the public, as artists of the year.
This year, with Obsidian Arts, you brought your funky selves to attempt the world's longest Soul Train line in north Minneapolis. You created the Giant Sing Along playlist for the Minnesota State Fair and joined in to perform "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" and other tunes. With David Byrne's installation at Aria, you took a seat at an antique organ, wired to various architectural parts, and played the building.
With Northern Spark collaborators, you made the Twin Cities burn bright for an overnight arts festival. By contributing art (pedaling illuminated art bikes or powering the lights and set for the Peloton show), animating the streets, and experiencing art en masse, you changed our relationship to the city and to one another.
You boogied in the Dance Shanty on Medicine Lake. You programmed Walker's Open Field. You hosted your neighbors to see Open Eye Figure Theatre in your driveways. With In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre, thousands helped produce the annual May Day Parade and Festival, creating a story, puppets, and costumes; stilting and performing; and drawing thousands more to the event. Credit is also due to artists, ringleaders, and organizers who offer a vision and make the invitation for the public to be a part of the artistic process.
So, members of the public, you're MVPs on the art team. Get ready for the big game.
Jill Boldenow is chair of the Minneapolis Arts Commission and works for the Minnesota State Arts Board as director of communications and government relations.
By Melissa Anderson
At the Cannes press conference following the world premiere of his stunning, unclassifiable Holy Motors, Leos Carax's first feature-length film since 1999's Pola X — and only his fifth in 28 years — the French writer-director was positively funereal. Hiding behind his trademark sunglasses and seemingly counting the seconds until he could smoke his next cigarette, the gaunt, 52-year-old auteur who was both hailed and pilloried as a crazy romantic during the first decade of his career — the era of Boy Meets Girl (1984), Bad Blood (1986), and The Lovers on the Bridge (1991) — cryptically proclaimed that "cinema is a beautiful island with a cemetery" and moviegoers "a bunch of people who will be dead soon."
Undeniably, Holy Motors strikes an elegiac tone. But the film, about a professional chameleon named Monsieur Oscar, played by simian, sinewy Denis Lavant, the lead in Carax's first three films, is so full of transporting emotion, dream logic, and virtuosity that it practically pulsates; no other movie in 2012 seemed as alive as this one. Oscar explains that he continues his exhausting shape-shifting work for "the beauty of the act," a goal that Carax has similarly pursued for the past three decades. The beauty of Holy Motors flows from its deep reserves of melancholy, perhaps rooted in the director's own personal anguish: The film concludes with a haunting image of actress Yekaterina Golubeva, Carax's former girlfriend and star of Pola X, who died last year (their daughter appears briefly in one of Holy Motors' early scenes).
Carax himself appears in the film's prologue, a pajama-clad sleepwalker who opens a door with a key affixed to his finger, creeping down a passageway that leads to a movie-theater balcony overlooking a roomful of stony-silent spectators. Like these viewers, we too are hushed at first, not knowing what to expect. By the end of Holy Motors, however, audiences — and cinema — are revitalized.
Brooklyn-based critic Melissa Anderson is a regular contributor to City Pages' film section and also writes frequently for Artforum. She recently completed her fourth year as a selection-committee member for the New York Film Festival.
By Ray Cummings • Photo by Pieter Kers
A decade before Lou Reed cut Metal Machine Music as a transporting — if cynically calculated — act of artistic defiance, Pauline Oliveros was busily splitting signals, flattening frequencies, and otherwise exploring the possibilities of sonic mishaps. From hissing distortion, severe feedback, tape-delayed stutters, and countless electronic techniques and preparations, this professor, theorist, and author began to define a new, bizarre musical idiom; some know it as experimental sound, or noise.
Reverberations: Tape & Electronic Music 1961-1970, issued by Important Records back in May, is as daunting to absorb as it is to contemplate: an 11-hour-long question mark whose scope feels almost without limits. Aube, Merzbow, and a couple of others aside, few in experimental sound have had the nerve to lay quite this much grade-A rarity on seekers in a single sitting. One key difference is that Oliveros's compositions here — cut in the artist's home studio (1961), at the San Francisco Tape Music Center (1964-1966), the University of Toronto (1966), the Mills Tape Music Center (1966-1967), and the University of California San Diego (1967-1970) — treat abrasion with enough warmth and curiosity that her adventures never become oppressive.
No two explorations are alike here, each wandering into a unique meditative hinterland. "Angel Fix" (1966) approaches drone as something amorphously sculptural, sometimes suggesting the whine of a dentist's drill, at others implying a dirigible being inflated with helium treble. A late stretch of "Jar Piece," from the same year, presents as a polite cacophony of tonal squirts and squeaks. "TimePerspectives_MIX," cut in 1961, trawls, very casually, between what sounds like an especially discombobulated game of Ping-Pong, minute shifts in atmospheric pressure, tape manipulations, and recycled bell reverberations; the experience is not unlike lounging in a haunted recreation center. At moments, Oliveros seemed to anticipate both her spiritual descendants and the accidents that future technology would engender: loop clinic "Red Horse Headache" portends the whirlpooling laptop extremes of John Weise, albeit with less intensity, while "A Little Noise in the System" embodies the skipping of scuffed, silent compact discs and hospital monitoring machines.
Reverberations is the sort of project that a listener never quite becomes entirely familiar with, and that's part of its charm. Its depth and breadth ensures that it's perpetually surprising, thrilling, polarizing, confounding. A wealth of Oliveros material exists, and there's no reason not to explore everything, but Reverberations stands as an inspiring testament to left-turn digressions, a lark worth surrendering to, a gift that never stops giving.
Ray Cummings is a City Pages contributor. He lives in Round Rock, Texas, and is the author of several books, including Class Notes, Assembling the Lord, and Crucial Sprawl.