Laurie Van Wieren has done something wonderful and original with her newest curatorial project, Monday Live Arts: She’s made the making of performance fun, enlightening, and participatory for viewers. “It’s real,” she enthused after the show on August 5. “I tell them, ‘Keep it real.’ And the configuration [she gestures, marking out the short rows that form a box around the center of the studio where most of the action happens] encourages that, don’t you think?”
“Them” are the four performers or groups she selects for each show, presented on the first Monday of each month in the studio at the Ritz Theater. According to Van Wieren, the series includes “time-based visual and performing arts, events that include a human presence and that question traditional views of the arts using dance, music, performance art, vocals, text, installations, science experiments, and more.”
August’s show kicked off with a delightful venture into the structure and essential nature of the pelvis by BodyCartography Project. Olive Bieringa, a practitioner of Body-Mind Centering®, walked within the center of the space, pointing out the various components of the pelvis on an anatomy model and her own body, encouraging us to feel these bones, joints and movements on our own bodies too—to the ribald laughter of some, squeamish discomfort of others. As she did so, Otto Ramstad moved around the outside perimeter of and through the space. Amusement turned to wonder as Bieringa’s engaging explanations found purchase in Ramstad’s body, twisting, flinging, arching, undulating and turning behind and in front of us.
Yes, do try all of this at home.
Next up was composer Mike Hallenbeck, who played, on his laptop, a new composition of sounds he recorded throughout Ritz Theater: a refrigerator grumbling, lights humming — ambient all the way. Hallenbeck’s sound score was akin to trance music, and ushered me into a reverie about a project I’ve long considered undertaking. Lulled into something like Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s flow, my mind opened to ideas taking shape and gelling around the core of an idea with real possibilities. The feeling, when the lights went back up: inspired and refreshed.
Inspired is how the performers—volunteers from the audience—did their parts in Charles Campbell’s riveting bit of improvisational theater. Did they know what they were getting into, these volunteers: Matt Spector, Megan Meyer and Ben Kreilkamp? (Van Wieren says no.) As Campbell positioned them at, on or around a table, gave them instructions, and asked them to read off slips of paper, the lights went off and he snapped on a light he carried from one participant to the other, spotlighting the immediacy of their performances. The entire process—watching Campbell work, witnessing the results—offered fantastic insights into his aesthetic and approach to creating theater.
Jes Nelson’s offering left some of us wide-eyed and slack-jawed—in a good way. A door opened and out tapped five little girls outfitted in tiny white competition-style dresses, lots of bling and tons of eye makeup. As they recited, from memory, instructions for a dance routine, their eyes self-consciously roamed from the floor, to people in the audience, and around the room. The piece, a brilliantly subversive work of performance art, left the audience chattering in dismay.
As she’s done with her long-running curatorial project, 9x22 at Bryant Lake Bowl, Van Wieren demonstrates—once again, with Nelson—that she certainly knows how to find and present emerging artists. She’s also, clearly, capable of cajoling established artists into revealing usually unavailable (or hidden) aspects of their work process to audiences. Most of all, though, Monday Live Arts is free of archness, irony and cynicism, and instead loaded with adventure and revelation. Get it on your calendar.
Related event information:
Upcoming Monday Live Arts events will take place October 7, November 4, December 2, January 6 at the Ritz Theater Dance Studio in Minneapolis. The October 7 show will feature theater work by Carl Atiya Swanson, dance by Megan Mayer, music by David Means, and dance/performance by Leralee Whittle. The event begins at 8:00 pm (doors at 7:30 pm ). Tickets $5-15; there’s beer and wine in the studio lounge. Cash only. Free parking.
Camille LeFevre is a Twin Cities arts journalist and dance critic.
Viewfinder posts are your opportunity to “show & tell” about the everyday arts happenings, interesting sights and sounds made or as seen by Minnesota artists, because art is where you find it. Submit your own informal, first-person responses to the art around you to editor(at)mnartists.org, and we may well publish your piece here on the blog. (Guidelines: 300 words or less, not about your own event/work, and please include an image, media, video, or audio file, and one sentence about yourself.)