As in previous years, Northern Spark 2014 promises to bring together an enticing mix of well-known out-of-town artists, local favorites, and emerging artists. Wondering what to do and see? Every festival veteran has his or her own system. Do you get there right at the start? Take a disco nap first and show up at 3 a.m. for the last stretch? There’s definitely something to be said for planning your night to a T, so you can be sure you won’t miss the pieces that you’re excited about. But there’s real value in just winging it, too. Wander aimlessly around the night’s offerings, and you’ll make discoveries and encounter work you might not have sought out otherwise. Even though I’ve already earmarked a few projects in the line-up I’m eager to see this year, I’d be willing to bet I’ll have new favorites by the night’s end. That said, if you’re looking for a place to begin, here’s what’s on my shortlist of things to see:
Sean Connaughty: Ark of the Anthropocene
Part science fiction, part biblical metaphor, part time capsule for future generations, Sean Connaughty’s Ark of the Anthropocene creates a handy getaway egg, just in case there’s a 500-year flood. Inspired by the Golghar in India that was built after the famine of 1770, Connaughty’s Ark encapsulates a whole ecosystem within its concrete structure, as if preserving life for future generations. Take a peek inside and you’ll see the grapevines and willow saplings, sustained by photosynthesis created with artificial light and glass lenses. As in his previous works, Connaughty has created art that is living and breathing, celebrating life’s cycles as he also manipulates them into sculptural forms. Find it at the Weisman.
Roman Verostko: The Magic Hand of Chance
Projected onto the outside wall at MCAD, Professor Emeritus Roman Verotsko’s Three Story Drawing Machine, was a huge hit at Northern Spark 2011. This year, the algorithmic artist presents The Magic Hand of Chance, a work he pioneered using BASIC with a first generation IBM PC in 1982. With only 200 pixels of horizontal resolution and three colors per frame, the automated drawing uses computer sequences as improvisation, creating retro-looking images with improvised and striking forms. Find it at MCAD.
Ananya Dance Theatre: Blue Dream Journeys
Last year for Northern Spark, Ananya Dance Theatre (ADT) presented one of the best pieces of the festival: an epic ode to water along the Mississippi river, collaborating with American Indian community members and elders in a powerful piece that stressed our connection to the water through celebration and ritual. This year, the company is back with Blue Dream Journeys, which will occur every hour on the hour from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. Along with guest artists and musicians, ADT invites audiences to join in dancing their dreams, moving from the David M. Lilly Plaza outside Northrop Auditorium to an area beneath Jack Becker’s cloudscape installation in the Hubbard Broadcasting Rehearsal Studio.
Asia Ward: Electric Hopscotch
Artist Asia Ward re-invents the timeless game using electronic memory sensors and LED lights. Here’s how it works: one person hops on the sensors with a specific pattern, which the LED lights repeat with blinking lights. Then the next person has to repeat the pattern. The lights blink red if you make a mistake and you have to give up a turn. As new players join, the jump pads can be reset to add variety throughout the night. This is definitely one to visit if you have kids in tow, or for the competitive among us. Who will be the Northern Spark Electric Hopscotch champion? Test your skills at the Convention Center Plaza.
Karl Unnasch: Glassicles
Turning recyclables into art, Karl Unnasch presents Glassicles, three light installations at the Weisman, Loring Corners and the “Parklot”, Made Here’s pop-up park in the Orpheum parking lot. Made from repurposed bottles and drinking devices mounted on a steel framework, these chandelier- like installations add a touch of off-beat grandeur to the festivities.
Stephen Vitiello and Michael J. Schumacher: The Audible Edge
Amidst the frenzy of activity that is Northern Spark – with all the walking, gazing, interactive activities, food trucks, and more – it’s nice to plan a few breaks where you can just sit and relax. Stephen Vitiello and Michael J. Schumacher’s The Audible Edge is a perfect respite, offering cushy seating and cool sound installations created by a bunch of different artists. In Hidden Noise, produced by Independent Curators International (ICI) Exhibitions in a Box series, Stephen Vitiello curates projects by a number of nationally known artists, as well as his own work. Among the designers are Andrea Parkins (who BodyCartagraphy Project fans may remember for her groundbreaking sound design in Symptom in 2010), Taylor Deupree, Jennie C. Jones, Pauline Oliveros, Steve Peters, Steve Roden and Michael J. Schumacher, who was a visiting artist this spring at the U of M’s School of Architecture. Also included in The Audible Edge will be student work from Schumacher’s workshop, plus artworks lent to the exhibition by local museums. At the Katherine E. Nash Gallery.
Whatever your plans for the festival, make sure you bring a water bottle and a little money – while the art is free, you’ll want to have enough cash in your pocket to make a few food truck stops along your journey. Besides that, keep your eyes open and don’t be afraid to play like a kid – some of the best times you’ll have at Northern Spark happen when you engage with the interactive elements.
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Northern Spark 2014, themed “Projecting the City,” will feature 76 artists’ projects scattered in and around nine venues throughout Minneapolis. This year’s nuit blanche runs from dusk on Saturday, June 14 (9:01 p.m.) until dawn, Sunday, June 15. Schedule your night and find complete details on the Northern Spark website.