Blogs Field Guide Outside Voices

Freezing Man: Putting a Temporary Autonomous Zone on Ice

Inevitably, upon explaining the idea of the Art Shanty Projects to someone unfamiliar with them, a comparison to Burning Man will be made. NPR, BoingBoing, City Pages are all guilty. I’ve even caught myself pitching the event as “Freezing Man.” I lived in San Francisco for the past three years, and so I’ve picked up […]

The Sparkle Parade during the 2014 Art Shanty Projects' kickoff weekend. Al photos by Eric William Carroll

The Sparkle Parade during the 2014 Art Shanty Projects’ kickoff weekend. All photos by Eric William Carroll, except where noted

Inevitably, upon explaining the idea of the Art Shanty Projects to someone unfamiliar with them, a comparison to Burning Man will be made. NPR, BoingBoing, City Pages are all guilty. I’ve even caught myself pitching the event as “Freezing Man.” I lived in San Francisco for the past three years, and so I’ve picked up a second-hand knowledge of Burning Man (though I have yet to attend). In fact, the first time I had heard of it was after I had moved to the Bay Area and noticed that for one week at the end of summer the city got really quiet. Being a native midwesterner, and having recently relocated back to the Twin Cities, I was no stranger to the Art Shanty Projects — and ice house culture at large. So I was eager to make the trip up to White Bear Lake to see this year’s incarnation.

Shanties

Shanties in the 2014 edition of Art Shanty Projects

On the surface, Burning Man and the Art Shanty Projects may seem to have a lot in common. I assume that’s why the comparison is so often made. However, if you dig a little deeper, I think the comparison is a lazy one, and actually does a disservice to the Art Shanty Projects by writing it off as a smaller off-shoot of a larger, more important event. And it couldn’t be further from the truth. Let me explain.

Dance-Shanty

The Dance Shanty

My source for all things Burning Man is my friend Jason Meyers, who incidentally grew up in White Bear Lake, but has lived in San Francisco for what seems like forever, and has attended Burning Man over the past 16 years. On paper, Burning Man is an experimental community that pops up in the Black Rock Desert for one week — the last Monday in August through the first Monday in September — every year. Radical utopian ideals of society, commerce, and relationships are played out in a mixture of art, performance, and socializing. Unfortunately, like anything that achieves a certain level of popularity, the culture begins to dominate the content. According to Jason, today’s Burning Man attendees are largely relegated to two camps: “Old Guard Burners” who have attended over the years but have become increasingly cliquish and closed-off to newcomers, and the younger urban crowd who use the event as an excuse to experiment with drugs and strangers’ bodies. Still, he believes the openness of the community and freedom of expression are the event’s highest priorities.

A nearby cluster of icefishing shacks

A nearby cluster of icefishing shacks

Now the Art Shanty Projects have neither the history nor the reach of Burning Man: its attendance is estimated to be over 60,000, while the Art Shanty Projects drew around 2,000 on opening day this year. However, the two events do have some things in common. Both are arguably held in otherwise inhospitable landscapes. Both encourage the idea of encountering art and art experiences outside of the museum and gallery (Burning Man with its Mutant Vehicles and various installations, Art Shanty Projects with their artist-commissioned shanties). And both envision the landscape as a blank canvas or “Temporary Autonomous Zone” of sorts. Even the founder of the Art Shanty Project (and former Bay Area resident), Peter Haakon Thompson, said that he found inspiration in the desolate solace of both the Nevada desert and the frozen lakes of Minnesota. That said, if community is to be understood as the central focus of Burning Man, Art, I would argue, is the focus of the shanties.

INside the Eleveator Shnaty

Inside the Elevator Shanty

On opening day I arrived just in time for the “Sparkle Parade,” arguably the most Burning Man-esque aspect of my entire visit. A marching band with various large bicycle-driven polar bears danced along the temporary ice-road in joyous fashion. Toddlers and senior citizens alike joined in and made the loop past the 21 shanties about three or four times. From there on it was a largely voyeuristic experience, opening doors to strange structures with no concrete idea of what to expect. Some were more social than others. The Dance Shanty greeted me from the outside with thumping bass of the Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back,” and upon entering the geodesic dome a group of delighted strangers cheered at my arrival. Then I danced. The Elevator Shanty is a kind of short-form theater, which is actually quite hilarious if you’re invited “backstage.” The Meta (as in metaphysical) Shanty offers itself up as healing center, leading workshops on aromatherapy, yoga, and astrological readings. Aesthetically, it’s a gorgeous structure with the center part of its floor constructed of pink Himalayan salt bricks. It’s a space where you just want to sit, warm up, and listen to the conversations of others.

Meta-Shanty

Himalayan salt bricks make up the floor of the Meta Shanty

Like an inverse Burning Man, the one aspect that is rarely discussed in regards to the Art Shanty Projects is the culture. The ice house, by definition, is a structure on ice to protect one from the elements while fishing. However the popular culture of ice houses is overwhelmingly male, isolative, and alcoholic. Sure, you might socialize with your fishing/drinking buddies, but it’s an unspoken rule on the ice that you don’t go around knocking on other people’s shanty doors and walking in uninvited. The Art Shanty Projects completely subverts this aspect and turns the ice house into a family-friendly and open art experience that makes it OK for what midwesterners commonly find horrifying — approaching and talking to strangers. In that respect, the shanties (and midwestern culture) still have a ways to go. I didn’t feel that the shanties had formed a tight-knit community yet (it was just the first day, and the Town Hall Shanty was still soliciting names for the community at the time of this writing). But should I even be expecting that tight-knit community from the shanties — or is that an expectation born from the comparisons to Burning Man?

Ribbon-Cutting

The ribbon cutting for Art Shanty Projects 2014

To me, it seems more fruitful to compare the Art Shanty Projects to events like Chicago’s Guerrilla Truck Show or Brooklyn’s Lost Horizon Night Market, both of which use the back of moving trucks to host temporary art installations. Like the shanties, both repurpose an existing structure and transform it into a space for experiencing art. Or perhaps Elevation 1049, a site-specific art experience located in the Swiss Alps, would be a good touchstone for the Art Shanty Projects, with its focus on contemporary art outside of the museum and off the walls. But enough with the Burning Man comparisons! It’s a superficial similarity at best, and at worst it stunts the discussion of an otherwise exciting artistic experiment on ice.

Burning-Tree

A Burning Man–style pyre across Highway 61. Photo: Tucker Gerrick

But if you are looking for a Burning Man experience, I recommend trekking across Highway 61 to Bald Eagle Lake. It was there that I encountered a structure of more than 300 Christmas trees, stacked more than 20 feet high and meant to be set ablaze that night. In addition to the pyre the residents of the lake had created their own snow castle — complete with draw-bridge — that housed a fully stocked ice-bar. Ice-cold.

Eric William Carroll is an artist living in Minneapolis. He currently teaches at Macalester College.

Acshah’s Map

Throughout her residency as part of  Fritz Haeg’s At Home in the City project, artist Katie Bachler will be blogging about the people and ideas she encounters. Greetings from the ArtLab Map Room! This is Katie. I’m here at the Walker working on a community-created map of the Twin Cities. People can draw their own […]

BLOOOG

Throughout her residency as part of  Fritz Haeg’s At Home in the City project, artist Katie Bachler will be blogging about the people and ideas she encounters.

Greetings from the ArtLab Map Room! This is Katie. I’m here at the Walker working on a community-created map of the Twin Cities. People can draw their own maps of what they love here, and I will make a map based on what I learn from everyone! This is Aschah. She was born in Brooklyn Park and now lives in Maple Grove. Her map is really interesting because she put herself in the center. It is a representation of all of the things that she loves coming from her brain. She loves the Mississippi River, the library, her friends’ houses. When looking at the map, we see her version of the city, based on use and connection. She has the sparkliest eyes and biggest smile when she tells me she loves Maple Grove because there are nice kids there.

The Library is an Ambush

For the past several weeks, Lightsey Darst has been holed up inside the Walker’s resource library. A dance critic, poet, and author of Find the Girl (Coffee House Press, 2010) and the forthcoming Dance (September 2013), Darst was the first writer selected to participate in The Writers and Readers Library Residency Program, an initiative presented by Coffee House Press […]

One of four volumes of the short-lived surrealist periodical VVV. Published in the 40s by sculptor David Hare, VVV's editorial advisors included Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst and Andre Breton.

One of four volumes of the short-lived surrealist periodical VVV. Published in the 1940s by sculptor David Hare, VVV‘s editorial advisors included Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, and Andre Breton.

For the past several weeks, Lightsey Darst has been holed up inside the Walker’s resource library.

A dance critic, poet, and author of Find the Girl (Coffee House Press, 2010) and the forthcoming Dance (September 2013), Darst was the first writer selected to participate in The Writers and Readers Library Residency Program, an initiative presented by Coffee House Press through a grant from the McKnight Foundation. She entered the library well-intentioned: exhausted from a long semester of teaching, she hoped to explore library choreographies, to further her research into the private life, and to compose new poems.

In a space filled with more than 13,000 artists monographs, 30,000 exhibition catalogues and some 1,800 artists’ books, Darst found more than a few distractions.

“I believe in encounter — it’s why I’m here,” Darst wrote in her final dispatch from the library. “Research in the library is difficult. It is an encounter with actual and irreducible difference.”

The distractions, it seems, proved to be helpful. “I am here trying to find a thing that sparks a certain kind of question and seeking,” wrote Darst. “I am here to do something new.”

“At some point all books open to all other books,” Darst concluded. “Even a relatively small library becomes inexhaustible in terms of paths through it.”

With its Writers and Readers Library Residency Program, Coffee House Press aims to create a body of work that will inspire a broader public to engage with their local libraries in a new and meaningful way, and to encourage artists and the general public to think about libraries as creative spaces.

Join us in the Lecture Room here at the Walker on Thursday, June 20 at 7 pm to hear Darst and Walker archivist Jill Vuchetich discuss the residency. To read more of Lightsey’s dispatches, visit the Coffee House Press blog, Unfiltered.

“Lifelike” Redux: A Six-Year-Old Re-creates the Exhibition, by Hand

By Emma Cohen Six-year old Ella and her grandmother Karen were on their way home from the Walker discussing the many amazing and interesting things they saw. Grandma Karen, picking up on Ella’s excitement, suggested making a work of art when they got back home.  But Ella was quick to offer a more ambitious idea: […]

By Emma Cohen

Six-year old Ella and her grandmother Karen were on their way home from the Walker discussing the many amazing and interesting things they saw. Grandma Karen, picking up on Ella’s excitement, suggested making a work of art when they got back home.  But Ella was quick to offer a more ambitious idea: “Let’s make the museum!” Inspired by Lifelike, the pair used a combination of household items and handmade objects to make their own version of the exhibition.  When we got word of their undertaking we had to see it for ourselves. Here is what we found…

Robert Therrien made Walker visitors feel small by making his No title (Folding table and chairs, brown) larger than life. Ella also created a shockingly new sense of scale–but in a creatively different way:

(more…)

Perform Me a Picture

Who wouldn’t be curious about a place called The Museum of Everyday Life? And who wouldn’t want to know what that museum’s Chief Operating Philosopher is up to? Well, as it turned out, the woman bearing this title recently visited Minneapolis so I seized the opportunity to find out more. Last Saturday I witnessed Mild […]

Who wouldn’t be curious about a place called The Museum of Everyday Life? And who wouldn’t want to know what that museum’s Chief Operating Philosopher is up to? Well, as it turned out, the woman bearing this title recently visited Minneapolis so I seized the opportunity to find out more.

Clare Dolan performing cantastoria

Last Saturday I witnessed Mild Light, an evening of cantastoria performed by Clare Dolan. Ushered into the In the Heart of the Beast Theatre, I took a seat close to the stage. I was, I confess, hopeful that Dolan could clear up my ignorance surrounding this term “cantastoria.” She managed this with the gusto of a puppeteer, the elocution of a storyteller, and the insight of a philosopher.

But since I am none of these things, I’ll just lift a definition from the Web:

Cantastoria is an Italian word for the ancient performance form of picture-story recitation, which involves sung narration accompanied by reference to painted banners, scrolls, or placards. (Source: Museum of Everyday Life, Performance Department)

“Look.         Listen.        Observe.”

In a sing-song voice punctuated by gesture and music, Dolan urged the audience to examine the images depicted on a series of hinged canvases. This plea to look—deliberately, intentionally, and consciously look—had me hooked. It struck me what allies  we have in puppeteers! As museum educators, my colleagues and I work to enliven and animate the Walker’s collections. And I believe we could learn from puppeteers, artists who expertly imbue still things with life and feeling. The show charged me with energy (and questions) to bring back to the Walker. How can storytelling and theater amplify and enrich a gallery experience? How can multi-sensory experiences make the process of interpreting images more memorable and meaningful? How do cadence, musicality, and body language transform communication and yield an impact markedly different from ordinary speech?  I’ll be reflecting on the sensations of that night as I work with my colleagues to make meanings with objects, decipher stories within images, and share this process with our audiences.

What’s next for Dolan? She and her colleague Dave Buchen are organizing and curating  Banners an Cranks,  a festival of cantastoria performance. Curious to see for yourself right now? I recommend Dolan’s YouTube Channel.

Hollis Frampton, Bruce Conner and Helen Levitt come out to be played.

Like all museum collections,the Ruben/Benston Film and Video Study Collection is only seen in small bits at a time. A revolving program of films from the archive can be found on monitors throughout the museum, but the majority of film reels, video tapes and all-manner-of other-moving-image-data-forms are in a temperature controlled vault somewhere in the basement. As […]

Waste From Word Pictures, Hollis Frampton (1962-1963)

Like all museum collections,the Ruben/Benston Film and Video Study Collection is only seen in small bits at a time. A revolving program of films from the archive can be found on monitors throughout the museum, but the majority of film reels, video tapes and all-manner-of other-moving-image-data-forms are in a temperature controlled vault somewhere in the basement.

As the theme of surplus developed for Red76′s Open Field-related residency, the Film/Video department drew attention to the collection as a set of materials the artists could mine as part of their project. The result is a film program curated by Red76 comrade Jeremy Rossen of Portland’s Cinema Project. Made up on works in the collection and a few rentals, this one-time series addresses the themes of surplus and counterculture in either form or content.

Here is the list of films on the docket, with Jeremy’s notes on each:

A Lecture by Hollis Frampton (1967, lecture / cassette tape, 30 min. Read by filmmaker David Gatten)

Hollis Frampton – photographer, theoretician, philosopher and, above all, filmmaker – is one of the towering figures of American avant-garde cinema. Possessed of a frighteningly prodigious and wide-ranging intellect – he was a voracious reader from childhood, and his films abound with evidence of his fascination with linguistics, science, mathematics and philosophy – combined with a witty and mischievous attraction to puzzles and game-playing, Frampton was active as a filmmaker for only a decade-and-a-half (his career cut tragically short by his death from cancer in 1984). But in that brief time he created a breathtakingly ambitious body of work, whose range and inventiveness are unsurpassed.

Early Abstractions by Harry Smith (1946-1957, 16mm, color,  silent,  23 min.)

“You shouldn’t be looking at this as a continuity. Film frames are hieroglyphs, even when they look like actuality. You should think of the individual frame, always, as a glyph, and then you’ll understand what cinema is about.” – Harry Smith

Harry Smith’s (1923–1991) Early Abstractions is a set of seven films between two and six minutes in length produced between 1946 and 1957. Each film is numbered (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, and 10) in the order they were made. This numbering imposed an order and axis on these works from the beginning and suggests a commitment to a sustained “arc” that Smith undertook and achieved in his film-work.

In his first films, the Early Abstractions, there is a sense of a man meticulously building his animation practice from the ground up. This series of films documents a movement through technique, and through a growing mastery of camera-less direct to film animation leading to an embrace of cut-out and collage. This image construction moves from the blunt abstraction of form and rudimentary motion of the early pieces to 10‘s symbolic dance of Tarot Cards, Buddhist and Cabalistic Totems, highlighting, in the process, the films’ elliptical, surrealistic storytelling and graphic styles. — Dirk de Bruyn

In the Street by Helen Levitt (1952, 16mm, b&w, sound, 15 min.)

Photographer Helen Levitt’s short and deceptively simple film was a collaborative effort with fellow still photographer Janice Loeb and the critic and writer James Agee. Like much of Levitt’s photographic work, the film attempts to capture the lives of working-class people by documenting the ordinary activities of an Upper East Side neighborhood in Manhattan. Most poignant are Levitt’s candid views of children and the ongoing transformative drama that she reveals in the street.

My Name is Oona by Gunvor Nelson  (1969, 16mm. b&w, sound, 10 min. Sound by Steve Reich and Patrick Gleeson)

My Name Is Oona captures in haunting, intensely lyrical images fragments of the coming to consciousness of a child girl. A series of extremely brief flashes of her moving through night-lit space or woods in sensuous negative, separated by rapid fades into blackness, burst upon us like a fairy-tale princess, with a late sun only partially outlining her and the animal in silvery filigree against the encroaching darkness; one of the most perfect recent examples of poetic cinema. Throughout the entire film, the girl, compulsively and as if in awe, repeats her name, until it becomes a magic incantation of self-realization.” – Amos Vogel

Take the 5:10 to Dreamland by Bruce Conner (1977, 16mm, color, sound, 5 min.)

An oneiric, autobiographic chapter in Conner’s cinema with a mysterious, evocative soundtrack by Patrick Gleeson.


Journal of Radical Shimming and the Red76 Kickoff Barbeque

You may have seen evidence of Red76 around the Walker, enigmatic journals, green broadsheets, and a compiled YouTube video “essay.” In five days time, on July 20 at 6pm, Red 76 will be arriving and hosting their Surplus Seminar Kickoff Barbeque in the Open Field. In addition to offering free hamburgers and potato salad, the […]

You may have seen evidence of Red76 around the Walker, enigmatic journals, green broadsheets, and a compiled YouTube video “essay.” In five days time, on July 20 at 6pm, Red 76 will be arriving and hosting their Surplus Seminar Kickoff Barbeque in the Open Field. In addition to offering free hamburgers and potato salad, the Kickoff will be an opportunity to discuss Surplus Seminar  with Red76 and the community.

Red76's Broadsheets for Surplus Seminar at the Walker Art Center.

Red76 not only engages with the media, but it also produces and publishes its own journal: Journal of Radical Shimming. At the Walker, you can find the latest journal, Issue 10, and the first journal from 2007. In Issue 10, Gabriel Saloman reflects on radical faeries, Harry Hay, and subjectivity; and Stephen Duncombe and Sam Gould (the founder of Red76) converse on the subject of Utopia.
Here you can find Sam Gould introducing Issue 10 of the Journal of Radical Shimming:
 [vimeo]http://vimeo.com/11644476[/vimeo]

Red76's Journal of Radical Shimming Issue 10

Issue 1 of the Journal of Radical Shimming follows Sam Gould across the country on a search for sites of revolutionary action. Check out the relics of radical inquiry!

Red76's Journal of Radical Shimming Issue 1 Volume 1

 

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