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Czeslaw's Loop: Where art meets the river meets music

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In 2008, Creative Electric Studios (David Salmela and Jenny Adams, along with a core group of artists) had the brilliant idea of turning an old abandoned houseboat into an art installation. For the past few years the project, which takes place on the Mississippi River behind the Sample Room, has gotten bigger and more elaborate, calling in a host of Twin Cities artists and musicians in what is arguably the coolest event at Art-A-Whirl. 

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This year, Permanent Art & Design Group has taken the reigns as producers of the project's new incarnation--though Creative Electric Studios is still very much involved. In the newest conception, titled Czeslaw's Loop, the four-act installation takes place over three days. There are still boats involved, but the majority of the event will take place on a giant barge on the river and on shore.

"Czeslaw's Loop is a four act 'opera' based on the creative process of an artist (desire, epiphany, creation, and decline)," Permanent's Kate Iverson explains in an email. "We wanted this year's event to reflect and respect that process of creativity and what Art-A-Whirl means as a whole, and also to have a solid concept behind it--not simply 'bands playing on the river.'"
The concept for the event centers on the fictional character of Czeslaw Janicki, an electronic music composer from northeast Minneapolis. A World War II vet, Czelsaw worked for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration during the Cold War, where he came up with a machine that could harness and compose a signal that could be shot into outer space as a "welcome" in the universal language of music. After years of toil and sweat, he finally created a signal that could extract all the information from an individual person, body, and mind. Experimenting on himself, he disappeared, disintegrating into music, which took the form of an electronic loop.  

Each act of the opera has a different conductor and team of artists creating the mood. On Friday, Ryan Olson (Gayngs, Totally Gross National Product) and Stef Alexander (P.O.S., Doomtree) conduct Act One: Desire at sunset. It will include a multimedia composition featuring Isaac Gale, members of Marijuana Deathsquads, and Martin Dosh, with large-scale projections, plus light and motion visuals from Playatta, Dr.Clement Shimizu, and the Elumenati Group. "Friday will be really primal and raw," says Chris Strouth, Saturday's  conductor. "There's a savage beauty about it."

Act Two: Epiphany takes place at the Sample Room parking lot at noon on Saturday. It's curated by Creative Electric Studios, and will feature sculpture, sound art, and interactive performance from artists Sean Connaughty, Ben Garthus, John Keston, and Ostraka Performance.

Chris Strouth is the conductor for Act Three: Creation, which takes place at sunset on Saturday on the river, bringing in musicians ranging from from classical soprano Maria Jette to Paul Robb from the Information Society to Tom Hazelmyer from Amphetamine Reptile. "It's a damn good collection of Minnesota music," Strouth says, who added that the event was the most insane thing he's ever worked on. "And I sort of work on insane things for a living."

On Sunday at noon Act Four: Decline exhibits some of the art created for the show, including pods created by Sean Connaughty which will be burned in effigy in a daylong homage to the end of the creative process.  

Basically, you will regret it if you don't catch this crazy show. "It's sort of one of those communal experiences that you don't get to have a lot of times," Strouth says. "There's going to be a lot of 'Wow!' moments. We could use a little more 'Wow!' nowadays."