Artists of the Year
When British author Doris Lessing accepted the Nobel Prize last month, she told a remarkable story about her travels to Zimbabwe and the thirst among poor Africans for knowledge. Her vivid and eloquent speech concluded with this passage:
"Ask any modern storyteller and they will say there is always a moment when they are touched with fire, with what we like to call inspiration, and this goes back and back to the beginning of our race, to fire and ice and the great winds that shaped us and our world.
"The storyteller is deep inside every one of us. The story-maker is always with us. Let us suppose our world is attacked by war, by the horrors that we all of us easily imagine. Let us suppose floods wash through our cities, the seas rise...but the storyteller will be there, for it is our imaginations which shape us, keep us, create us—for good and for ill. It is our stories that will recreate us, when we are torn, hurt, even destroyed. It is the storyteller, the dream-maker, the mythmaker, that is our phoenix, that represents us at our best, and at our most creative."
Her words could apply not just to writers but to artists generally. Art is not just an entertainment or a diversion, Lessing is saying, but a primeval urge—something ancient and noble and essential.
Our painters, poets, authors, musicians, actors, and dancers feed us spiritual sustenance. Like a chef reduces a sauce to enhance its flavors, artists condense life into something richer, a sensual consommé that allows us to better see, hear, feel, and ultimately judge the essence of the thing.
For all of their inestimable contributions, though, we sometimes treat our artists rather shabbily. The "starving artist" is common enough to be a cliché. We force them to subsist on patronage and grants, we gut arts programs in schools, we make them keep their day jobs.
And so each year, we try to restore some balance and give artists their rightful due. City Pages' Artists of the Year issue is an effort to reconfirm the worth of our creative spirits by asking prominent writers and people in the arts to pay tribute to an artist of the past year.
Here we set them on our ink-and-newsprint pedestal and bring verbal burnt offerings to our storytellers, dream-makers, and mythmakers. As we should. —Matthew Smith
City Pages' 2007 Artists of the Year:
- Stephen Colbert
- William E. Jones
- Diablo Cody
- Matt Sciple
- Christine Boyka Kluge
- Marjane Satrapi
- Ernest A. Bryant III
- Sheletta Brundidge
- The Writers Guild of America
- Jim Denomie
- Myron Johnson
- Alex Jones
- Christopher Hitchens
- Paul Dickinson
- Twin Cities playwrights
- Philip Pullman
- Craig Zobel
- Al Franken
- John Grider
- Bon Iver
- Ben Olson and Emma Berg
- Michael K
- Latisha Jones & Patricia Hampl
- The Owls
- The Body Cartography Project
Stephen ColbertBy Eric Lorberer
Satire was in trouble. An art form nearly as old as civilization itself, it had fallen on especially hard times of late. In the age of reality TV, the edifying gesture of the genre seemed all but dead. Fortunately, a gaggle of comedic talents started fighting back, among them Larry David, Ricky Gervais, and Jon Stewart. But no one skewered our political pratfalls better this past year than Stephen Colbert.
Colbert pokes fun at our media-obsessed state with a proctologist's gloved finger—or make that fist. His pitch-perfect riff on punditry, The Colbert Report, takes the most sacrosanct aspects of our culture—religion, race, patriotism—and whips them into a Jabberwockian froth. But Colbert does far more than merely parody a conservative blowhard. This year, his caricature of our self-obsessed culture extended to having himself as a guest on his own show; his "Better Know a District" segments shamed members of Congress left and right; and his unconditional "support" of the president reverse-engineered a probing analysis of the executive branch.
This willingness to tackle the commander-in-chief isn't new; aficionados of Colbert's antics may remember how last year, as a wolf dressed in sheep's drag at the White House Correspondents Dinner, he goosed the president and his sycophants but good. This year, however, he topped that performance by running for president himself, a campaign so ridiculous it made the other campaigns look...just as ridiculous. Like any good satirist, Colbert knows that the best way to make fun of his targets is to become them.
Colbert's erstwhile presidential bid arrived hand in hand with his other modest proposal this year, the book I Am America (And So Can You!), which, like the silent Ts in Colbert Report, starts lampooning our penchant for huff-puffery in the very title. Replete with charts, stickers, and Colbert's trademark nonsensicals (e.g., "It's time to impregnate this country with my mind"), the book has something serious to say behind the chuckles—there's even a transcript of the aforementioned Correspondents Dinner speech included for those who missed it. The result is a paradox we Americans deserve: the silliest book released this year is also among the sagest.
Eric Lorberer edits the award-winning Rain Taxi Review of Books and directs the annual Twin Cities Book Festival.
William E. JonesBy Dean Otto
News of Sen. Larry Craig's arrest by an undercover police officer in a public-toilet sex sting at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport exploded in the press in late August. Newscasters were befuddled as they reported the details. Later, Craig's explanation that his "wide stance" in the stall was misunderstood by the officer became a pop euphemism for gay. Public-bathroom sex became fodder for late-night monologues, and the site of Craig's bust turned into a tourist attraction.
All of that gives remarkable weight and context to the work of Los Angeles filmmaker William E. Jones, who exhibited at Walker Art Center last summer, just before the scandal broke. Jones's films often rework footage from the nonsexual moments in gay porn, and addresses the lines between fandom and obsession. In the process of mining images of gay sexuality in film, he uncovered an instructional film called Camera Surveillance, produced by the Highway Safety Foundation, that taught officers techniques to covertly film illegal sexual activity in public toilets. In this case, the footage shot in 1962 in the small town of Mansfield, Ohio, led to charges and convictions of more than 30 men. Jones's reworking of the footage, Mansfield 1962, which showed at the Walker, contains many levels of irony. The surveillance tapes were shot by police hiding in a closet—natch—and the explicit footage shows the sexual abandon and joy, but not the horror and humiliation that soon followed. The restroom in the film is a cultural and social equalizer, ensnaring men of various classes. In this case, most served several years in jail and had their lives ruined.
We will be hearing more from Jones soon. Next up is a spot in the coveted Whitney Biennial—the holy grail of emerging artists—where he will be presenting Tearoom, another found film on gay sex in bathrooms.
Dean Otto is assistant curator of Film/Video at Walker Art Center. He was co-curator of the "Modes of Disclosure" exhibition at the Form + Content Gallery where Mansfield 1962 was exhibited.
Diablo CodyBy Matthew Smith
So what are we to make of the Diablo Cody media frenzy? In the last two months, she may have received more press than any screenwriter in movie history. From the New York Times to the L.A. Times, from NPR to Entertainment Weekly, she and her film Juno were hard to escape.
That's not supposed to happen to screenwriters. They're supposed to toil in obscurity. They don't get asked for interviews. They don't make TV appearances. Even when they win Oscars, they're usually the pasty, sweaty recipients that signal it's time to get more Doritos.
So why Cody? She did write a smart, funny movie, but Lord, it wasn't Citizen Kane. She is a very talented writer, but Fitzgerald wrote movies, too, and he didn't get nearly this much ink.
One reason, of course, is that Cody's impossibly colorful back story—the whole stripper thing—makes good copy. And she's a charming free spirit, with the oversized personality to pull it all off.
It's that, for sure, but that doesn't quite answer it.
Maybe we like Cody's story because it reminds us that the dream is alive for us, too. It tells us that with some talent and a bit of luck, the planets can align, angels can alight, our fairy godmother can whack us with her magic stick. One day we can be puttering on our novel/screenplay/website/business plan, and the next day we can be accepting our Pulitzer/Oscar/Google buyout/IPO stock.
Hey, it happens. Not so long ago, Diablo Cody was working as an insurance adjuster. Now she's a Hollywood superstar.
Good for you, Diablo. And thanks.
Matthew Smith is the managing editor of City Pages.
Matt ScipleBy Leah Cooper
In the messy and maddening collaboration that is live theater, where ego is the raw material and audacity the most recognized credential, directors must play the auteur just to get any attention. So the theaters are filled with increasingly esoteric concepts smacked on top of perfectly good stories, as directors upstage and grandstand to be sure audiences, other artists, and critics know they did something. As a fan of text-based theater, driven by story and character, I want to applaud the under-recognized directors who just direct great shows.
As a playwright himself, Matt Sciple knows how to find a whole universe in the blueprint of a script. And as a damn fine actor himself, he directs great actors to inhabit that universe with living, breathing characters. He's been diligently bringing great stories to life on Twin Cities stages for over a decade now, and if you don't know his name it's because he's got his head buried too deep in good work to wave his arms around with quirky, flashy concepts.
The variety and quality of Sciple's work has always been admirable, but this last year the sheer quantity and back-to-back difficulty of the scripts he's tackled are staggering. He took on the controversial and gut-wrenching Pillowman at the Jon Hassler Theater, well ahead of the Guthrie's production. Then a barking-mad portrayal of Captain Ahab in Or the White Whale in Southern Theater's athletic adaptation of Moby Dick. Followed immediately by directing the most robust and moving version of King Lear I've ever seen, staged in a barebones theater with Starting Gate Productions' scrappy little budget.
Toss in a precise and compelling turn as a Jewish painter in Sight Unseen at the Sabes JCC, plus directing Born Yesterday at the Paul Bunyan Playhouse, You Can't Take It with You at Theatre L'Homme Dieu, Mercy of a Storm at the Jon Hassler Theater, and the musical 1940s Radio Hour at 8-Ball Theater, and that is a hell of a lot of great theater to come from a director just quietly directing.
Leah Cooper was executive director of the Minnesota Fringe Festival for five years. She is now a freelance director and nonprofit consultant, serving as interim producing director at Theatre de la Jeune Lune.
Boyka KlugeBy Ray Gonzalez
In these days of short attention spans and popular literary texts appearing quick and flashy, the prose poem has come into its own. Absent of stanzas and line breaks, and sounding very poetic, the prose poem is taking over American poetry. In 2007, at least two dozen books of prose poems were published in the U.S. One of the best poets writing in paragraph form is Christine Boyka Kluge, author of Stirring the Mirror. In her third book, this North Salem, New York, native shows a keen awareness of what a prose poem does and how it can surprise the reader. Her book stands out in a crowded field of prose poetry.
Stirring the Mirror is filled with poems that transform daily experiences into legends and myths that bring the poems to life and remind the reader of the timeless action great poetry delivers. Kluge's uncanny ability to do this is essential, because part of the magic of prose poems is the way they take traditional poetic devices like metaphors and images and change them, often in one paragraph, into narratives, parables, and human lessons that stay ahead of readers, while inviting them in. As Kluge does this in poems like "Cold Truth, Bright as a Coin" and "Sixty Little Flames," she takes the prose poem into a whole new territory of poetic accomplishment.
In "All of Its Words, Both Winged and Quilled," Kluge writes, "The best poems have a steady wind blowing through them, a low, haunting howl you can almost hear. The wind threatens to lift the surface world like a rock, releasing the scent of damp soil, exposing the scurrying, chewing things beneath."
Ray Gonzalez is the author of several books of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, including the forthcoming Renaming the Earth: Personal Essays (University of Arizona Press) and Cool Auditor: Prose Poems (BOA Editions). He teaches writing and literature at the University of Minnesota.
Marjane SatrapiBy Michelle Orange
Marjane Satrapi loves cigarettes and refuses to call herself a feminist. Those two things alone would get my attention on paper, as it were, even before what Satrapi actually is on paper—a gifted graphic novelist—enters the equation. Author and artist Satrapi this year saw the release of Persepolis, an animated feature adapted from her graphic novel of the same title—four volumes that tell the story of her upbringing in 1970s Iran, her coming of age in exile after the Islamic revolution, and her return as a woman.
Working for the first time as both an animator and a director (along with fellow first-timer Vincent Paronnaud), Satrapi turned down offers for a live-action feature and a soapy television spinoff, and recorded the dialogue in French (using the voices of Catherine Deneuve and Chiara Mastroianni), a language now more natural to the Paris resident than her native Persian. "When you make a book like that," Satrapi said in 2004, pondering the options given to her to adapt her story, "you have a big responsibility, you cannot give it to anyone who will turn it another way. So I thought I would give it to the French people."
Persepolis, then, feels like a triumph on several levels. Inventively, poignantly beautiful and engaging, it is visually unlike almost anything happening in feature animation today. Satrapi's story, exotic and intense as it may seem, never loses its leveling gaze on the funhouse passages of youth and the struggle for identity. And though she may balk at terms like "feminist" (preferring to be called a humanist), one cannot help but bask in a portrayal of girlhood and young-womanhood that is more ingenuous in two dimensions than the majority of the brittle, shrugging, hair-tossing young women who pass for ingénues can manage in three. The fact that she smokes like a grease fire and will throw down over semantics as readily as geopolitics just proves she is a force I would be glad to reckon with.
Michelle Orange is the author of The Sicily Papers and the editor of From the Notebook, a story collection found in Issue 22 of McSweeney's. Currently the reviews editor for The Reeler, she is a frequent contributor to City Pages.
Ernest A. Bryant IIIBy Doryun Chong
It would be a gross understatement to say that 2007 was a busy year for Minneapolis-based visual artist Ernest A. Bryant III. He opened his first solo outing at Franklin Art Works in September, followed almost immediately by a group show at the MCAD Gallery. Now he's gearing up for another solo exhibit at Midway Contemporary Art in early 2008.
In a town blessed with so many contemporary art spaces that have ambitiously expanded their national and international programs in recent years, Bryant's ubiquity—I'm tempted to call it a conquest—is remarkable. His string of public sorties seems to be matching an important turning point in the artist's work. His earlier 2-D mélanges of photorealist renditions, clipped cartoon images, and gestural aerosol tags have evolved to more layered (literally and figuratively) collages that add found textiles and occasional loaded objects like a knee-high boot and military medals. The sensuous collages at Franklin were richly poignant, impudent, and funny, but the artist is clearly packing a few more punches to deploy.
For instance, he staged a public event in his own neighborhood—what he calls a "BBQ potlatch"—in which he served people cooked chickens and collected leftover bones that he fashioned into a suit. The traditional Native American potlatch—a ceremonial feast that earns great prestige for the giver even at the risk of destroying his accumulated wealth—seems incomprehensible to us in our capitalist economy, and it is also a comment from Bryant about today's fatally interconnected global market.
Overall, Bryant is energetically building a body of work that reminds viewers of the almost fetishistic power of images and objects in a world characterized by unbridgeable chasms, unexpected linkages, and chaotic collisions of systems of meaning. With all of his recent success, there is such a thing as overexposure, but Bryant may be acutely aware of that, too. After his Midway exhibition, the young artist will embark on a yearlong journey to West Africa, Germany, and China for a series of apprenticeships and sojourns. We will have to wait and see what he brings back to the American heartland.
Doryun Chong is assistant curator of visual arts at Walker Art Center.
Sheletta BrundidgeBy Jerry Freeman
It was winter three years ago when some of us at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder newspaper found ourselves gruesomely down in the dumps and wondering why. Suddenly the obvious dawned on us—too much bad news! We needed to lighten up! As if on cue, up from Texas came the antidote to our blues, a cherubic young woman with dimples and a drawl saying, "Hey, I'm funny and I need some money. Let me write for y'all."
Sheletta Brundidge sent us a few "A Funny Thing Happened" columns, and to our delight funny things did happen in those earthy little yarns leavened with ample heart and soul. We wanted more (the bad news was unrelenting) and suggested a soap opera serial. Sheletta came up with "As the Down Low Brotha Turns," which 100 episodes later keeps demonstrating how inventive storytelling, pitch-perfect dialogue, and comedic brilliance can take the sting from our cultural wounds and help us heal.
Much as I look forward every week to editing Sheletta's work, there is a dicey edge to the job. When I pointed out how often people in her stories get their butts whooped or get smacked upside the head with Big Momma's purse, she hinted that something comparable could be in store for me if I didn't quit hounding her about deadlines. I thought she just might have a bit of her own mama in her, whom she describes as "meaner than a two-headed snake." When I asked how mean a two-headed snake is, she told me I had just earned myself four flat tires.
Sheletta Brundidge is out there everywhere now, and unstoppable. She's widely syndicated with an Emmy-winning blog, "The Funniest Woman in the Twin Cities," at sheletta.com. Her TV show CrossRoads, monologues on Almanac, and regular standup gigs around the metro are earning her growing ranks of friends and fans. When your bad news gets hard to bear, check her out—chances are you haven't experienced such cathartic full-self-disclosure humor since Richard Pryor showed us how he set himself on fire.
Jerry Freeman is senior editor at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.
The Writers Guild of AmericaBy Max Sparber
At the time of this writing, it is six weeks into the 2007 Writers Guild of America strike, and it's quite a brawl. On its website, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers is keeping a running tally of how much the strike is costing writers, and how much it's costing other union members, in an unsubtle effort to drive a wedge between unions. The studios, meanwhile, are running out of canned episodes and are looking at a bleak spring season. It's an expensive game of chicken, as strikes always are, but few rack up this sort of price tag. The last strike, in 1998, cost the industry an estimated $500 million. The current strike may be costing more than $21 million a day, according to the L.A. Times. There may not even be a Golden Globe awards show this year; it will certainly be unscripted, and writers may not show even to accept awards.
The most interesting, and important, issue on the table is digital rights. It's important because it is the first major labor dispute over internet content. Writers are largely striking for residuals from downloadable and streaming digital distribution of their work. The dispute is a recognition that the internet may have as transformative an effect of film and television as it already has on music and publishing.
But it's also important because it demonstrates just how savvy Hollywood writers are about using the internet as a means of communication. Since the start of the strike, the web has been flooded with satiric web pages, YouTube videos, and writers' blogs presenting the writers' side of the strike. (Two of the best are Fred Armisen's recurring portrayal of the blissfully vicious studio head Roger A. Trevanti, and the studio heads of the fictional MegaPictures BFD, who occasionally show up to plead with the writers to accept the AMPTP's offers, which come with a full page of coupons.) As the strike plays out, many writers are starting to look to the web as an alternative to the studios, and are in negotiations to script web-only productions. In the past few years, there has been a constant flow of talent to the web from publishing and music; this strike could create a similar moment for Hollywood writers, who may turn to the web in droves. As this past six weeks have shown, they already have a talent for it.
Max Sparber is a playwright and arts journalist in Minneapolis. He is the editor of MNSpeak.com, on online forum for Twin Cities news, arts, and politics.
Jim DenomieBby Ann Klefstad
"Brown-Eyed Rabbit" is the name of Jim Denomie's recent show at the Todd Bockley Gallery. How can I explain how right that name is? There's so much to know before you can know this—and that's part of what makes Denomie's work so valuable. To see it, or to come to be able to see it, you have to see a lot more. It makes you step back, and back again, to enlarge your field of vision to encompass "America" from the outside as well as the inside. And it's tempting enough to make you want to do it.
Denomie's an Ojibwe artist whose life is made up of at least two cultures, plus that of the art world—an adventurer in any world that surrounds him. He likes to go golfing with the pickup foursomes that golf courses put together: Maybe he'll be grouped with a lawyer, a plumber, and a salesman. He's curious about lives other than his own.
But Denomie also has long Native hair. The rabbit in the title of his show is the animal form of Nanaboujou, the Ojibwe culture hero, intermediary between the divine and the human. Nanaboujou embodies contradiction but is emphatically himself, singular, powerful. He's also often funny. And he's an artist, a maker. That rabbit often appears in Denomie's paintings; the rabbit is his double.
His satirical Rabelaisian painting series "Renegades" I saw 10 years ago. In a crowded group show in Duluth I saw Transitions from that series, and was blown away by gusts of incredulous laughter and equally astounded tears: A group of Indians are riding winged horses, and some are in a flying Volkswagen. They're pegging golf clubs at a giant flying chicken, weaving through rainbow buttes in some otherworldly West. A number-one wood is aimed right at the viewer; you wait to be hit between the eyes. I loved the painting and looked for his work after that.
Since then I've seen the hallucinatory presences in his erotic landscapes and the intense colors of his prints. There've been more "Renegades": Indians riding horses through space, horses with jet-powered asses, White Castle white-people forts, cop cars with grinning Indians popping like jack-in-the-boxes from the trunks. And most recently, he's done a painting-a-day series: small works, brushy and wild, haunting images of faces, faces that grin like death and grin like life, wildly colored or brooding in sepia and brown, all different, all the same.
Denomie's recent show at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts summed up a lot of this work; his show at the Bockley Gallery fills it out. At Bockley, the drawings that came before the paintings have the vivid sense of notes taken in dreams, and the paintings in the show push the gleeful rage of his work to the borders of his obvious relish for life.
Denomie's life, his work, a dance with contradiction, is unfolding.
Ann Klefstad was the initial editor of mnartists.org; she's now the arts and entertainment writer for the Duluth News Tribune. She also writes about art for The Rake and Sculpture magazines, among others. She lives on the North Shore.
Myron JohnsonBy Linda Shapiro
For more than 20 years, Myron Johnson has been producing dance-theater that defies classification and attracts audiences who normally wouldn't set foot in a dance concert. Smart and smart-ass, campy and classical, sexy and sinister, Johnson's work injects large-scale ideas with intimate charm. In 1986 he formed Ballet of the Dolls, a company of glam dancers with chops in everything from classical ballet to club dance, and put them in funky, informal venues like Ruby's Cabaret in Minneapolis. Since then he has produced shows, at an almost alarming rate, that combine transgressive subject matter, kick-butt dancing, and a cozy sense of welcome.
While Johnson's work skews everything from gender roles to family dynamics to famous classical ballets, it also demonstrates over and over the transformative power of dance-theater. That's because Johnson knows a heck of a lot about theater, ballet, mime (he studied with Marcel Marceau in Paris), popular culture, musicals, and cult movies from Barbarella to Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? He mixes styles and genres in rowdy, inventive ways, creating dances that ricochet from wildly subversive to poignant to just plain gorgeous. His recent Le Chat Noir: A French Cabaret merges the stylized perversity of Helmut Newton's S&M fashion photos with a stylistic mélange that includes a hip-hop can-can number.
Johnson is also a savvy presenter who runs his shows for several weeks (typical in theater but rare in dance) and supports his organization mostly from box office receipts (unlike most dance organizations that survive on grants and donations). He not only puts butts in the seats, he has spearheaded the creation of audience-friendly venues like the Ritz Theater, the Dolls' new home that is currently jump-starting a performing-arts scene in northeast Minneapolis.
Long may this master of artifice continue generating innovative art that flies by the seat of its very fashionable pants.
Linda Shapiro is a freelance writer who writes about dance and performance.
Alex JonesBy Steve Marsh
Texas isn't all bad. I mean, there's Austin. Austin's given us Willie Nelson, Dazed and Confused, Bottle Rocket, and a couple of okay Spoon records. And Austin broadcasts The Alex Jones Show, a radio show in which Alex Jones fights the New World Order for three hours a day.
"I'm tired of it," Alex will say in that deep-as-a-barbecue-pit boomer. He'll sigh—he's got a classic sigh—and he'll say, "I'm so tired of their propaganda, I don't know what to say anymore." Then he'll talk for three hours about the trans-American highway, the ruse of global warming, the use of psychotropic drugs in black ops, the mainstream media's attempt to discredit Ron Paul's candidacy, federally sponsored terrorism, the country's disgusting centralized food system, the devaluation of America's currency, and the general forfeiture of our sovereignty. He's transmitting a lot of unpleasant shit, so he needs that great radio voice, that basso profundo that rattles and soothes at the same time, like an expensive subwoofer in the trunk.
Just like a Radiohead album, or a Marvel comic book, or an Alfonso Cuarón movie, he proves that the gloomy truth doesn't have to be a snooze. Jones knows how to entertain. Each broadcast begins with the "Imperial March," from Star Wars. Duhn duhn duhn, duhn, duhn duhn. He's played clips demonstrating how Hillary uses different accents in different regions of the country, he had Charlie Sheen on to talk about 9/11, and he always spins incisive bumper music: Johnny Cash, Rage, Leonard Cohen, the Beatles. Sure, he gets excited, and he can kick up a bluster like Mean Gene interviewing Jesse the Body, but a champion has to keep his energy up when he's fighting global enslavement.
And Jones is only getting better. At 33, he's already been on the air for 12 years, and he holds his own against "serious" guests like David de Rothschild or Pat Buchanan. He's a documentary filmmaker, too, and this year's Endgame: A Blueprint for Global Enslavement was his best film yet, a comprehensive investigation of our brave new world that named names. And his new site, prisonplanet.com, is essential reading. So don't give up, people; we're on the march. And the Empire is on the run.
Steve Marsh is an associate editor at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine.
Christopher HitchensBy Emily Condon
It's sometimes difficult, in our current quagmire of blogs and declining bylines, to remember that great journalists and critics still slog along daily, weekly, monthly. The golden era of American criticism may be behind us (here's hoping it's not), and maybe Edmund Wilson didn't have it so easy anyway, but one can still regularly find new and often astounding pieces from James Wolcott, Cynthia Ozick, Jed Perl, George Packer, James Wood, Joyce Carol Oates, Paul Berman, Jonathan Lethem, and others. Even old stalwarts like Stanley Kauffman still inspire (and for those interested in lighter fare, there are literati pinup boys like Adam Gopnik and Malcolm Gladwell). Among the intelligentsia, however, this year belonged to British expat (and new American citizen) Christopher Hitchens.
Fueled by cigarettes, alcohol, ego, and, most importantly, intellect, Hitchens employs his excoriating eye in his Vanity Fair column, television appearances, and what's quickly becoming his very own nonfiction canon. The only thing more surprising than the abundance of his output is his sheer audacity. After alienating pretty much every leftist in the country with his vociferous support for Bush's invasion of Iraq, he dropped God Is Not Great, the most cogent condemnation of religion in recent memory, onto the number-one slot of the New York Times best-seller list and earned himself a National Book Award nomination in the process. Far from the vitriolic diatribe of a God-hating misanthrope like Richard Dawkins, Hitchens's work is both appropriately respectful and right.
Meanwhile, Hitchens has managed to plumb the full emotional spectrum in his Vanity Fair column. In the last three months alone, he's written both a truly devastating piece about a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq and a divinely droll two-parter about the cult of self-improvement. In the latter, he coined the term "courting tackle," thereby offering the best-ever euphemism for male junk (no small feat, mind you). For any great writer, after all, the devil is in the details.
Emily Condon is a freelance writer and former programmer of the Oak Street Cinema.
Paul DickinsonBy Stephanie Wilbur Ash
I have a crush on a punk poet. Of course, being a recently divorced suburban housewife with an MFA, that's to be expected. It's my poet who's special. No poet I know can write about hitting a drunken sorority girl with a rented 1997 Chevy Astrovan like legendary St. Paul punk poet Paul Dickinson.
I've sat doe-eyed all year as he played a version of himself in the Electric Arc Radio Show. In one episode he offers a flame-thrower to another character with the fictionally true and very funny words: "I used it at a Loft reading I did once." And I've watched him waving his freak flag at the Turf Club in the newly revived Riot Act Reading Series, which he used to do at the Loring in the '90s while also ringleading underground punk shows at the old Speedboat Gallery.
Riot Act is a poetry reading in the Irish bard tradition—manifestos, rants, and drunken catcalls triumph over descriptions of the way snow looks on the beak of a hummingbird after your mother's funeral.
Paul D. has the pathos of a working-class Irish Catholic boy, the soul of the great romantics, the paranoia of an exonerated prisoner whose sentence has not yet been expunged, and the economic philosophy of a hobo. His mother looks like Joan Baez; his wife, a mermaid. He is the biggest mover of used copies of Mein Kampf on the internet. He was once behind a Minneapolis City Council motion to ban poetry readings in the city proper. He tried to hate Morrissey—"that whining Manchester wimp!"—but just couldn't do it. And even though he has an MFA from Amherst (oh, am I doe-eyed again?), he told me one night at the Turf that all you really need to be an artist is cheap rent in a crappy building and a couple of nights onstage at a shitty bar.
Stephanie Wilbur Ash is a writer and performer with the Electric Arc Radio Show.
Twin Cities playwrightsBy Quinton Skinner
If the world can be described at the battleground of limited perspectives, the stage might well be the place where every perspective exists at once: the performers, the technicians, the audience, all collaborating on (when it works) intoxicating artistic alchemy. Of course none of it happens without the opposite of communal behavior, the act of a lone individual committing words to page. In 2007, the Twin Cities saw a bevy of new works by local playwrights appear on local stages—so many, in fact, that the names and works ran over an entire page of my notebook and spilled over onto the next.
Early in the year was Jeany Park's 100 Men's Wife at the History Theatre, a new work about the first Asian woman in Minnesota. Later came the premiere of To All Men Named Jackson by Karla Reck, about a mother and daughter locked into a cycle of grieving and loss. The playwright-driven Workhaus Collective debuted with Dominic Orlando's weird, funny A Short Play About Globalization, starring Randy Reyes as the brainwashed American Idol champion they called Frisbee (no, really).
The Burning House Group staged Alan Berks's 3 Parts Dead, an entirely daring and gripping existential ghost story, while Off-Leash Area tackled Max Sparber's interstellar fairy tale A Gift for Planet BX63. Lest audiences forget to laugh, two of the funniest comedies in recent memory emerged in the form of Lisa Clair and Adam Collingnon's Jake-A-Dee Meyer and Sam L. Landman and Matthew Glover's Feelgood Hits of the '70s.
On the adaptation end of the spectrum, Anne Bertram penned the multifaceted Frankenstein Incarnate: The Passions of Mary Shelley for Theatre Unbound, while Hardcover Theater's Steve Schroer expertly adapted a spooky children's story for The Savage Joy of Breaking Things, and director Liz Neerland of Nimbus staged a two-part take on the Greek Orestes myth that brimmed with understanding and taut pacing.
Nick Ryan's Elizabethan thriller Bards was a solid highlight of this summer's Fringe Festival, along with Amy Salloway's gastric-bypass-pondering monologue Circumference. Fringe stalwart Joseph Scrimshaw, for his part, followed up the summertime confection MacBeth's Awesome Scottish Castle Party with the holiday comedy Fat Man Crying (not to mention the ongoing life of his Adventures in Mating).
At the History Theatre, Syl Jones took a (critically maligned, at least in these pages) run at the Puckett myth with Kirby, which if nothing else exhibited the brass to portray a complicated and flawed icon. Then, finally, in the fall, the new Exposed Brick Theatre staged Stacey Parshall's Shipside, a dark meditation on motherhood and mental illness (based on real-life tragedy) that raised more unsettling questions than it sought to answer.
While this list surely isn't as comprehensive as it could be, I hope the point is made: We have a surplus of writers here on the tundra, not to mention companies willing to take the risk of staging their work. So if playwrights rarely have the opportunity to take a bow, it's only because they're off by themselves, neck-deep in the next tantalizing shot at transmitting their vision to the world.
Quinton Skinner is City Pages' theater critic and author of the novels Fourteen Degrees Below Zero and Amnesia Nights.
Philip PullmanBy Rod Smith
Even if New Line's Golden Compass were a halfway faithful adaptation of Philip Pullman's novel, rather than the miserably bowdlerized, $180-million spool of poo it is, the film wouldn't have been the biggest feather in the 61-year-old British author's hat last year—or the brightest. In June, Northern Lights (The Golden Compass's title everywhere but in the U.S.) beat out a 70-year accumulation of Britain's Carnegie Medal of Literature winners to make Pullman the first recipient ever of the reader-selected Carnegie of Carnegies award. Pullman—who copped a regular version of the prestigious children's book award back in '96—responded to the announcement by saying, "It is without any question the most important honor I have ever received, and the one I'll treasure the most." Sadly, he couldn't make the presentation ceremony as he was off in Dundee accepting an honorary degree.
Given Pullman's manifest eloquence and the universe-hopping breadth of the His Dark Materials trilogy—of which The Golden Compass is the first volume—the one surprising thing about the accolades he's won is that they've gone to a devout atheist who makes no bones about his anti-authoritarian stance. While his defenders include the archbishop of Canterbury, Pullman has come under fire from any number of religious organizations—including the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, who called for a Golden Compass boycott despite director Chris Weitz's failure to include any of the novel's religious meat in his movie. They needn't have bothered; the spectacularly mediocre effort will be lucky to break even before DVD and digital sales. Still, with a little luck, the film will drive kids to the trilogy. With only 12 million or so sold to date, Pullman has a ways to go before he catches up with J.K. Rowling.
Rod Smith is a Minneapolis writer and DJ and an instructor in media and criticism.
Craig ZobelBy Jim Brunzell III
Craig Zobel's Great World of Sound premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2007 and emerged as one of the best films of the year, establishing Zobel as a filmmaker to keep a close eye on.
Zobel's debut feature follows two naive "talent scouts" who are working for a small, independent music label. They travel state to state in search of determined and eager (but mostly talentless) musicians, and ask them to make a down payment for a recording session and their chance at fame. With the promise of turning singles into gold records, passive Martin (Pat Healy) and boisterous Clarence (Kene Holliday) become unintentional swindlers for the Great World of Sound music label.
Zobel's film doesn't have any marquee names, gaudy special effects, or explosive action sequences, but it has an ingredient that's missing more than ever in most current American (independent or Hollywood) films: the elegant art of storytelling. Zobel and co-writer George Smith deftly weave together an admirable story about hardworking salesmen attempting to decipher the two-headed definition of success and the universal malaise of desperation. Great World of Sound also garners some huge laughs from scenes of American Idol-like tryouts in seedy motel rooms as each performer tries to achieve his 15 minutes of fame.
Zobel's own moment of fame could last a while longer: He recently won the Breakthrough Director Award at the Gotham Awards in New York, and GWOS has been nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards, including Best First Feature and Best Supporting Actor (Holliday).
Jim Brunzell III is with Minnesota Film Arts.
Al FrankenBy Sean Broom
Al Franken can't really be considered an artist or entertainer these days, but his stage presence comes from his past as a comic and performer. On the Senate campaign trail, he usually bursts into a room and declares that he's there to beat Norm Coleman. Speaking without notes, he bounces around the stage delivering his spiel, his frenetic energy almost suffocating the room.
If you had recently crawled out from under a rock and knew nothing about Franken, you might easily see him for the astute, Harvard-educated wonk he is. He has deftly built a campaign organization and gained momentum since his announcement in mid-February. He is the first Democratic Senate candidate to have field organizers in every congressional district in the state. He's also raised a boatload of money (the second-most of any Senate candidate in the country).
And yet it is Franken's past as an entertainer that has and will continue to dominate the political coverage of this race. It's not that Franken isn't thoughtful or doesn't show a depth of knowledge about the issues. It's that he has said many things in his role as a comic that were supposed to be antagonistically thought-provoking, funny, or ironic, but that in very different political context come across as polemic rants, or worse. (An example: "Nobody likes getting an abortion. Except, perhaps, rape victims." That's from his book, The Truth [with Jokes].)
If Franken wins the DFL nomination, we can count on months of Republicans dredging up these moments of comic indiscretion and using them to reframe the debate, not on Norm Coleman's mediocre record as a senator (where, with the exception of a few made-for-headlines splits, he has been an unyielding supporter of the last six years of divisive incompetence), but instead on ill-advised things Franken said to get a laugh. Al Franken has the potential to be a thoughtful, capable senator. And this race has the potential to be a political blood sport, annoyingly full of Stuart Smalley jokes.
Sean Broom writes for MN Publius (www.mnpublius.com) and lives in Minneapolis.
John GriderBy David Hansen
With the stiffening of sentences for crimes of graffiti, our bus stops and brick walls have become visual wastelands, left to scavengers of the stylus who lack the time and the inspiration to do anything more than scribble a hasty autograph with a thin Sharpie. In this post-Wild Style era, getting up has become a decidedly less vibrant affair.
But behold—a gorilla fires a revolver! An aquamarine angel towers pensively some two-and-a-half stories above! A space shuttle thrusts toward cosmic doom amid grazing bison! These are the works of Minneapolis stencilist John Grider. After being featured on the powerful street-art website Wooster Collective, Grider's work gained international exposure. In 2007, he found his way from a solo show at Minneapolis's Art of This Gallery to Reno, Dallas, New Jersey (where he kept company with the legendary Seen), and on to Paris, Sydney, and Jerusalem. With the local "Will Work for Food" show slated for April of '08 and another Paris show looming like a thunderhead, Grider's immediate future is BluBlocker material.
It's easy to see why. One has the eerie sensation that his pieces have been torn from our shared imagination and transposed on the world in all their Technicolor lucidity. In the hands of a less masterful practitioner, Grider's subject matter would be easily mishandled. Sure—a bikini-clad bimbo sporting a ram's head may seem absurd on first viewing, but Grider's craftsmanship and composition ensure that his pieces always get a second look—and a third. Grider's is the kind of discipline that keeps the imaginative from being mistaken for the absurd, and which has kept him from the self-repetition that leads to the graffiti graveyard. Powered by an exhaustive visual vocabulary, his pieces bite down and don't let go.
But let's not get too heady here. Social relevance has a tendency to dissolve when you're gazing into the jaws of a 30-foot-high great white shark, savagely breaching from a brick wall. However hard you want to think about it, this shit looks good. Drive around. Open your eyes. Get stunned.
David Hansen performs as Vicious Lee in local rap duo MC/VL.
Bon IverBy Steve McPherson
When Justin Vernon retreated to a cabin in Wisconsin, he wasn't setting out to make one of the warmest, most tender albums of the year, but that's just what he ended up doing. He was looking to hibernate and get over the breakup of his longtime band, DeYarmond Edison. Instead of succumbing to winter's chill, he built himself a tiny fire of hesitating acoustic guitar and falsetto vocals, cued the tape, and created For Emma, Forever Ago, his first album under the name Bon Iver.
It'd be easy to pin the album's resonance on a surfeit of the feelings on which melancholy feasts: loneliness, regret, heartache, and a fragile hope that it's all only temporary. But Vernon's done much more than simply document these feelings; he's taken that mustard seed of loss and softly moved mountains with it. The songs here bleed a careworn and handmade forlornness, from the first strums of "Flume" to the frosty choral gust that opens "Lump Sum" to the half-minute of silence broken only by a shuffle from chair to recording console that closes the album. Nowhere is this more palpable than on "Skinny Love," a song that reaches down into you, finds hurt you thought you'd forgotten, and pulls it out only far enough to catch in your throat. This is not a record that will grab you or demand anything of you; it's like a gentle touch on your elbow from a former love.
Each year sees the release of dozens of such albums, most of which will never rise above the murmur of background noise generated by thousands of musicians making their way through bedrooms, rehearsal spaces, bars, and recording studios. And in a sense, the very thing that elevates Vernon's effort is a fragility that says this could as easily sink as swim. Self-doubt born of loss is common enough, but it's the rare artist who can build a minor triumph out of such material over a lonely winter in a Wisconsin cabin.
Steve McPherson is a writer and editor at the online music magazine Reveille.
Ben Olson and Emma BergBy Taylor Carik.
It was another great year for the Twin Cities visual arts community. Anna Lee made a triumphant return with Voltage: Fashion Amplified; GQ named Rogue Buddha's Nicholas Harper an artist to watch; the Minneapoline beat out blogs from much bigger cities like New York and Monaco to enter the online street fashion finals; Gawker named 27 "the new king of New York street art"...the list goes on.
At nearly all the gallery openings, the dance nights, and the fashion shows stood husband-and-wife power duo Ben Olson and Emma Berg, two of the scene's biggest successes and coolest cheerleaders.
This year Olson was featured in several local galleries, had a successful solo show at Rogue Buddha, shared the "5" show at Gallery Co with four other Twin Cities veteran visual artists, and just recently showed at the celebrity-fest Art Basel festival in Miami. Anyone who's seen Olson's colorful, animated, and emotional paintings has also seen his wife, Emma, who's his accomplice, inspiration, and subject. Along with running the indispensable Mplsart.com, she's a ubiquitous socialite who often pops up in street fashion spreads for her creative clothing constructions.
While that kind of success can lead to bigger egos and moving on to bigger ponds, Olson and Berg have kept their feet planted on local ground and are some of the most cheerful and approachable people at local shows. At the 27 solo at the Soo Vac late last year, for example, as Berg and I chatted in the middle of a steady stream of art school kids trying to get a peek at the paintings, she took time to introduce a woman standing nearby: "Oh, by the way," she said, "this is the artist's grandma..."
That's about as grounded as it gets.
Taylor Carik is a freelance writer in the Twin Cities, co-host of the Flak Radio podcast, and author of the blog Mediation.
Michael KBy Sarah Askari
Though I revere Michael K, I know almost nothing about the man. Here is what I do know: He's part Asian and all gay, and he lives in New York. He's the voice of DListed, the celebrity gossip blog I want to marry. DListed is the best of its genre because Michael K's take on the material is the funniest. He can be dry, like when he posts a picture of Ice T's astonishingly shelf-assed wife with the commentary, "Coco is truly an elegant lady." He can be pithy, like when he observes, "Amy Winehouse is one of those 'can't-get-clean' types." And he can be vicious, like when he discusses Rupert Everett and concludes, "And I thought I was a bitter fag."
He's also a workhorse. Long after the last post at What Would Tyler Durden Do?, new material pops up on his blog. Even Nick Denton gives his minions the weekend off, but DListed keeps churning it out. Where Perez Hilton is self-promotional, Michael K is self-deprecating. While the hetero gossip bloggers bore with their endless worship of Jessica Simpson, Michael K rolls his eyes and puts up another picture of Pete Doherty, confessing, "Yes, I'd hit it."
Of course, you could argue that gossip is trash, that the paps and publicists and wannabes and has-beens are all contributing to the decline of American culture, and that this kind of prurient entertainment is dirt thrown on the coffin of our national discourse. Well, you probably waste your time on sports websites and have mint issues of dumb comic books in a box in your closet. Don't front. Go to DListed and learn to be entertaining while you still can. It's only a matter of time before Scientologists kidnap its host and relocate him to a Thetan-extraction facility deep in the Mojave Desert.
Sarah Askari is the music editor at City Pages.
Latisha Jones & Patricia HamplBy Jocelyn Hale
Last January I found myself trying to avoid sloppy boot drippings as I sat on the floor in a back corner of Open Book's packed auditorium to hear Patricia Hampl read from her soon-to-be-released memoir, The Florist's Daughter: "Even more wonderful than the renewal of life that the refreshing Minnesota change of seasons bestowed on us was the urban farm of the greenhouse where he seduced and betrayed the calendar and the clock and of course the climate, timing blossoms as if with a stopwatch for the holidays, Christmas poinsettias and Easter lilies hoodwinked and hustled, duped and drugged, depending on their growth cycles, so that all bloomed for his customers exactly on the dot."
When Trish finished her reading, a moment of silence—even reverence—was followed by a roar as the audience jumped to its feet and cheered. I knew the book would be a masterpiece. These are simple yet complex stories about her parents and her St. Paul upbringing. The Florist's Daughter has since garnered rave reviews nationally, including a New York Times Notable Book award. Hampl reads her work with the precision of a poet and the skill of a highly trained actress. Throughout the year I saw her experiment and expand the performance of her readings, which were often accompanied by the lyrical piano playing of Dan Chouinard.
Later in 2007, I headed to the same auditorium at Open Book. As I waited for the performance to begin, I became mesmerized by a young woman dancing her way through the crowd, pausing to talk to fellow writers and fans. Tish Jones, Queen of the B-Girl scene, is a mere 20 years old. Her meteoric rise to local stardom has brought her a 2007 "On the Verge" mention in the Star Tribune, feature stories in City Pages and The Rake, and performances in New York City. She is a powerhouse, and her performance is flawless: Her spoken-word poetry dives into conflict and flows upward to survival and hope. Her work is political and personal: "10:00 a.m.—Breakfast made by sore hands and a room engulfed in silence, and yet, here I stand."
At first glance, Tish and Trish have nothing in common. They are of different races, different generations, and different styles. As you compare Patricia Hampl's elegant website to Tish Jones's raucous MySpace page, you know you have two writers who are miles apart. And yet these two women—both emerging from St. Paul—share a fierce commitment to the craft and style of their writing. The work of both is riveting yet accessible. Both have mastered performance, grounded in poetic language. Most important, their pairing represents the diversity of Minnesota's extraordinary and yeasty writing scene.
Jocelyn Hale is executive director of the Loft Literary Center.
Valve CorporationBy Nate Patrin
T he year 2007 marked the 15th anniversary of Wolfenstein 3D, the PC game that originally popularized the notion of the first-person shooter. Over a span of time that long, it's typical to see a new genre innovate, mature, stagnate, and eventually fall to the wayside, but Bellevue, Washington-based Valve—headed by former Microsoft employee and digital auteur Gabe Newell—has made every effort to keep that complacency from settling into a genre readily prone to it. Valve released the Orange Box earlier this fall, and it's one of the most exhaustive collections of superior gaming ever assembled. For the same price you'd shell out for any other game, you get 2005's classic dystopian sci-fi epic Half-Life 2, its two episodic semi-sequels (including this year's Episode 2), the online fracas Team Fortress 2, and the dimension-bending puzzle-shooter Portal.
All of these series expand on what it means to create a video game's world. Each installation in the Half-Life 2 pantheon turns the trials and tribulations of theoretical physicist-turned-resistance fighter Gordon Freeman into classic sci-fi adventure-pulp worthy of H.G. Wells. Team Fortress 2 not only refines squad-based capture-the-flag combat into a role-specific team sport where every type of combatant has a radically different role, but does it in a Pixar-esque art style that helps elevate it into a brightly colored world of explosion-heavy slapstick.
Portal is the most revolutionary game released all year. As a human lab rat entrusted to test Aperture Science's handheld portal device, you shoot a gun that places gateways on the flat surfaces of a room, thereby allowing you to undergo all sorts of strange spatial shortcuts that let you bypass hazards, divert projectiles, and fling yourself at ridiculous rates of speed for several yards, all while being taunted and cajoled by a hilarious, passive-aggressive AI. Video games may never be able to shake their stigma as time-wasters, but Valve makes sure they don't have to be a waste of brain cells.
Nate Patrin is listings editor at City Pages.
The OwlsBby Peter S. Scholtes
I've praised the Owls in City Pages enough that I thought this time I'd mark the occasion with something special and propose to my girlfriend. Jenny, will you marry me? I'll await your answer on the letters page.
The Owls have this effect on me. Whatever makes songs catchy has been around as long as songs, yet this alchemy is mysterious enough that I've gone for years and through stacks of records without experiencing anything like my recent bond with Daughters and Suns, the Owls' debut full-length from this fall.
For weeks, my (hopefully soon-to-be) fiancée and I woke up and went to bed with these tunes in our heads. "What's yours now?" I'd ask.
"Mine's 'Peaceful Place.'"
"Oh, wait, now that's mine, too."
It took Christmas music to break the cycle. Maybe the reason is that the Owls evoke something like the act of remembering itself—a subjective thing, I realize. Their sonic references (folk, the Kinks, the Beatles) belong to "the '60s," which I experienced firsthand for less than two months as a baby, and have been catching up with ever since. On "Welcome to Monday," they revive the common childhood fantasy of life as something planned out for you by mysterious forces, that it's all just a show for you. Since the three voices in the Owls—one male, two female—express something childlike, a kind of soft blankness, having them as a mental soundtrack can be like viewing reality through a snow globe. "Welcome" has its literal sci-fi meaning—it turns out you're a hologram, as electronic as the synthesizer accompaniment by John Crozier—and also a suggestive one: that adult life is a disappointment, and that other people—those behind what '60s kids called "the system"—are responsible.
I hear the protest music of dreams, in other words. Heavy on arrangement, light on inflection or any conspicuous show of technique, these songs seem to have been imagined whole by the Owls and transmitted straight into their still-learning fingers and all-too-human throats. The words just occur to their singers, which makes the recoiling horror at war ("I can't believe the news today") and the sensible impulse to improve ("There's a lot to be done, and we've not begun") sound felt rather than composed. And if the last punk-inspired four-piece on earth to still switch instruments is in fact a democratic model—and one built around a marriage, no less—then that seems felt, too.
Peter S. Scholtes is a former staff writer for City Pages, and is writing a book about hip hop in Minnesota.
The Body Cartography ProjectBy Caroline Palmer
Olive Bierenga and Otto Ramstad are the co-directors of the BodyCartography Project, a 10-year-old company with a history of more than 130 performances worldwide. When they aren't globetrotting they live in Minneapolis, developing new works that draw from modern dance, contact improvisation, and other movement theories. They've also won accolades for their clever use of film to capture movement.
The BodyCartography Project often creates site-specific pieces, works that take place outside traditional theatrical space, in public spaces or in nature. Some efforts have employed large casts and grand settings, but last September they took a much more intimate approach: They invited audiences into their Powderhorn duplex for Holiday House #2. The work has shape-shifted: It began as a film in 2005 and then evolved onto the stage at the Southern Theater in 2006. This year, confined inside a private home, the piece fully realized its themes of how time and perception shift during the holidays.
Their kitchen was filled with bustling movement in, on, and around the table, courtesy of Ramstad, Kristin Van Loon, and Karen Sherman, and the living room became a play area, where all of the performers, including Bierenga and Morgan Thorson, ran in breathless circles, exorcising a collective case of cabin fever. The basement was filled with surveillance video (exposing a sinister subtext), and, most memorably, the second-story balcony afforded a simple yet stunning forced-perspective view of a raucous backyard dance vignette. The show concluded in the alley as the performers again toyed with point of view, sprinting up and down the block, interacting with film projected onto garage walls, engaging in an eccentric picnic, and navigating a rickety bicycle.
Holiday House #2 touched on many ideas, including the intentional creation of community, the fleeting aspects of time, and metaphysical notions like the blurred continuum of past and present that exists within older homes—but ultimately the work succeeded because it transcended boundaries. These performers could just as easily run rampant through your house, upending your best-laid plans, haunting your dreams. With sly wit and subtle socio-political commentary, the BodyCartography Project revealed the teeming chaos within the shadows of even the happiest home. It's a dark thought, perhaps, but worth remembering in the wake of the holiday season.
Caroline Palmer is a Minneapolis-based attorney, dance critic, and frequent contributor to City Pages.
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