Surrealist Leonora Carrington Inspires Shadow Puppet Opera


This weekend at Bedlam Lowertown, visual artist Erik Ruin and the band Spires That in the Sunset Rise will debut Down Below, or Womb of the Worlds: A Shadow Puppet Opera, a collaborative work that takes inspiration from surrealist artist/writer Leonora Carrington. With shadow puppets, projections of Ruin's drawings, live music, and narration, the piece takes on a dreamlike quality similar to Carrington's artwork, creating a feast of images and sound.

This isn't the first time that Ruin and Spires have worked collaborated. Together, they previously they created Mirror Cave, an artist book that has an accompanying EP by the band. Undertaking a full production takes the team to the next level. "This is our most ambitious project yet," Ruin says.

With Mirror Cave, Ruin was struck by how theatrical the Spires' music was, at once image-filled and narrative. With Down Below, the work is similarly immersive. The images guide the story, though it's not a traditionally narrative show.

Born to wealthy parents in Lancaster, England, Carrington was expelled from two schools before she was sent to study art in Florence. She was introduced to surrealism and many surrealist artists there, much to the disappointment of her father.

During World War II Max Ernst, with whom Carrington had a relationship, was imprisoned by the Gestapo, and Carrington plunged into a mental breakdown. Her family had her committed to a mental institution. She escaped, finding refuge with the Mexican Embassy. She ended up writing about it in her autobiographical novel, Down Below, and creating work on the experience in pieces such as Portrait of Dr. Morales and Map of Down Below. This weekend's performance draws from these pieces, as well as from some lesser known literary works: "The Hearing Trumpet," "The Stone Door," and "The Oval Lady."


Ruin's background is as a visual artist, but over the years he has worked his way to being a theater artist as well. He's developed shadow puppetry for Barebones' annual Halloween show, and also has done improvised projection performance as well.

For each night's show, a different band will play as the opening act. Musicians include Paul Metzger and Land on Friday, Circadia on Saturday, and International Novelty Gamelan on Sunday. Next weekend, performance artist Carly Wicks will do a piece prior to the show on Saturday, and John Zuma St. Pelvyn will perform on Sunday.


Down Below, or Womb of the Worlds: A Shadow Puppet Opera

8 p.m. Friday through Sunday this week, then Saturday and Sunday next week

April 17-26

Bedlam Lowertown

213 Fourth St., St. Paul