Blogs The Green Room Jeff Hnilicka

Hey y'all! You may remember me from such favorites as "You are caller number 5", "Press 4 to be connected to the box office", or "Thank you for calling the Walker Art Center." That's right, it's Jeff, the voice of the Walker. I worked in Visitor Services for 5 years, but have recently relocated to New York. I will be blogging updates on new projects from past performing arts artists, and hopefully a few other fun things I find around the city. My puppy Mr. Pam and I are having a fab time in Brooklyn, but think of you often and fondly. kitten kisses, jeff and mr. pam

Young Jean Lee – Creature of Discomfort

Often, when I see projects that make audiences uncomfortable, I feel so isolated from the creators of the work. Because Young Jean Lee sets out to develop a play that is last possible thing she wants to write, I feel a deep connection to her anger, confusion, and lack of agency within the topic she […]

Often, when I see projects that make audiences uncomfortable, I feel so isolated from the creators of the work. Because Young Jean Lee sets out to develop a play that is last possible thing she wants to write, I feel a deep connection to her anger, confusion, and lack of agency within the topic she is tackling. Early this month, I saw The Shipment, an African-American identity-politics show, written by Young Jean Lee, a Korean-American. Structurally,The Shipment mirrors Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven, presented at Out There in 2007. In the first section, she floods the audience in a deluge of stereotypes, and once our political senses have been sufficiently placed off-kilter, her second act is a seemingly unrelated realistic drama. In both cases, she facilitates an experience of heightened racial consciousness within a traditional narrative form (see also: institutionalized white hegemony), especially poignant in a society which now is purporting itself to be “post-race.”

The young playwright has had an incredible start to 2009, being named a Creative Capital grantee, extending The Shipment‘s sold-out run at The Kitchen in NYC, receiving glowing reviews in The New York Times and The New Yorker, and touring CHURCH to the Walker, which wraps up Out There this weekend.

Young Jean Lee has already started to leave an indelible mark with her first three major works Dragons, CHURCH, and now The Shipment. I highly recommend checking out CHURCH, which opens tomorrow night.

Young Jean Lee’s work is often very funny – and we’re not really sure when its supposed to be. She’s one of those rare artists who risks failure in front of an audience, and failure is funny – maybe. Her work exists in a world that dares us to laugh – is she ironic? frighteningly sincere? In a Young Jean Lee performance, the audience’s laughter reveals as much about the human spirit and current cultural climate as what happens on stage.

I hope you can get tickets to this very special performance. Wish I could be there to laugh (or not) along with you.

Bill T Jones in new Puma ad, Gap gets into the art biz…

Well, I’m never a big fan of artists selling athletic wear, but Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zanes Dance Company does look cool in this Puma ad. Too bad the song is less than ideal. [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5x_zOV6z2ls[/youtube] In a related story of commercialization, the Gap has “commissioned” several past Whitney Biennial artists to sell T-shirts, including such Walker […]

Well, I’m never a big fan of artists selling athletic wear, but Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zanes Dance Company does look cool in this Puma ad. Too bad the song is less than ideal.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5x_zOV6z2ls[/youtube]

In a related story of commercialization, the Gap has “commissioned” several past Whitney Biennial artists to sell T-shirts, including such Walker favorites as Kiki Smith, Chuck Close, Jeff Koons, Rikrit Tiravanija, Sarah Sze, Glenn Ligon, Kerry James Marshall, and many more. Having worked at the Gap in high school (I was promoted to Khaki Specialist senior year), this marriage of contemporary art and graphic tees feels like a real homecoming for me.

Apparently, they’re “limited edition.” hmmmm… You can see them all here.

Meg Stuart and Catharine Sullivan preview

BOMB Magazine has posted a web-preview of Meg Stuart and Catharine Sullivan’s conversation which will be printed in full in their Summer ’08 edition. I can’t wait to read it in its entirety – such a smart pairing of artists investigating cross-disciplinary art practices. I love when Meg says “What about bodies in crisis? Bodies […]

BOMB Magazine has posted a web-preview of Meg Stuart and Catharine Sullivan’s conversation which will be printed in full in their Summer ’08 edition. I can’t wait to read it in its entirety – such a smart pairing of artists investigating cross-disciplinary art practices.

I love when Meg says “What about bodies in crisis? Bodies that are not in control? What about complex physical and emotional states? Is it possible to give these irrational bodies a platform to address contemporary issues while embracing a theatrical context?” It was clear that she was investigating these questions in her brown shag-carpet fantasy world of Forgeries, Love, and Other Matters (possibly my favorite show from the 05-06 season)

If you’re having a hard time remembering Forgeries, check out the Performing Arts department’s submission to the annual pumpkin carving contest.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=amnqqp9mM3U&feature=user[/youtube]

Excerpt from Catherine Sullivan on Art21

Nostalgia for Japanther, featured in that nostalgic show

Japanther had a show last night at Europa, a rock venue in Greenpoint, Brooklyn – a heavily Polish neighborhood reminiscent of Minneapolis’ Northeast (home to the ultimate Nye’s Polonaise). I’ve seen Japanther several times before, once at the Walker as they performed in Don’t Trust Anyone Over Thirty, a collaboration with Dan Graham and Tony […]

Japanther had a show last night at Europa, a rock venue in Greenpoint, Brooklyn – a heavily Polish neighborhood reminiscent of Minneapolis’ Northeast (home to the ultimate Nye’s Polonaise). I’ve seen Japanther several times before, once at the Walker as they performed in Don’t Trust Anyone Over Thirty, a collaboration with Dan Graham and Tony Oursler. The performance was an interpretation of the cult-classic 1968 film Wild in the Streets, starring the late-great Shelley Winters. The puppet/rock show/installation/video piece was visually stunning, and a big to-do as Walker re-configured the Cinema to fit the needs of the Out There 18 performance.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vZkhhHSg2wc&feature=related[/youtube]

Maybe it was the age-centric material I’ve previously seen them in, but last night all I could think was “Don’t Trust Anyone Under Twenty.” I stood in the back, occasionally sitting down (my back was hurting), I wore a bike helmet on my ride over, and I snickered to myself that the kids are still body-surfing. Long story short: I felt old and tired. And sadly, Japanther’s set kinda did too. This was the same show they’ve been playing for years. Loop a line from a vintage stoner-flick and mouth the words, sing distorted vocals into pay-phones receivers, have technical problems and stop mid-song. I’m all for a rough-and-tumble, but if Cat Power learned to pull herself together for a live show and I think it’s high time these guys do the same. It doesn’t take long for quirky to morph into gimicky.

I don’t want to be a total hater, though. There were shimmering moments that did remind me of the importance of releasing adult inhibitions. They opened the set by drumming along to Bel Biv Devoe’s Poison. The slam-dancers wearing gorilla and wrestling masks were going CRAZY. And the high-schooler yelling along to every word lost his mind, like, at least three times. All those crazy kids seemed like they were having a good time, even though it was past midnight on a school night. Inspired, I went helmet-less on the ride home – wild in the streets.

Mika Tajima/New Humans

You may remember New York-based artist Mika Tajima and her noise-band moniker The New Humans from their performance at the Walker Grand Re-Opening party. They performed their piece Grass Grows Forever in Every Possible Direction in the space age Skyline Room (the eyeball of the Ice Cube Monster). Blessed be an installation that results in […]

You may remember New York-based artist Mika Tajima and her noise-band moniker The New Humans from their performance at the Walker Grand Re-Opening party. They performed their piece Grass Grows Forever in Every Possible Direction in the space age Skyline Room (the eyeball of the Ice Cube Monster). Blessed be an installation that results in leftover beers. We had Budweiser for weeks.

Grass Grows

Mika Tajima/New Humans are featured artists in this year’s Whitney Biennial. Beyond the Whitney, Tajima is currently exhibiting in tandem at The Kitchen (NYC) and COMA (Berlin). I recently had the pleasure of meeting with the artist at her performance/installation The Double at The Kitchen.

The piece explores multiplicity, boundaries, translations. As viewers enter the gallery, they are confronted with a partition running the diagonal-length of the room, built from panels inspired by Herman Miller’s cubicle-zygote Action Office invented by Robert Probst. Along the panels are Xeroxed images of an artist painting landscapes on the Iraq wall, Tajima’s own extrapolations on Action Office designs, gigantic mirrors, comically poetic press releases filled with the Utopian dreams that inspired Action Office, and promo posters from the Mick Jaggar cult film Performance.

wall 1

Peeking through the perforations of angled panels, you sense the other side is operating with a similar vocabulary. Turning the bend, the audience sees that Tajima has crafted each panel as a double-sided artwork. With this system, the artist cleverly criticizes Probst’s design: a Cubicle Problem that due to over-privatization, people often create double-work. But this obstruction is more than a comment on office workers making the same PowerPoint – Tajima intends this incision into the space to highlight how “an architecture of isolation is a violent gesture”.

wall 2

Just past the wall, a swinging lampshade casts dramatic light beams on two mirrors… another homage to Performance (as evidenced by the film’s trailer).

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cyP0dgNSqok[/youtube]

On my initial walk-thru of the installation, I thought, “How am I gonna make this relevant to the Performing Arts blog?” At first glance, Tajima is blending elements of interior design, film history, installation, architecture, screenprinting, sculpture… kinda a little bit of everything except performance. This is a calculated move by Tajima, who continually agitates expectations, employing a widely varied methodology which she calls her “rubric of practice.” Whether opening up for Motorhead in Norway, or exhibiting at the premier American biennial, Tajima instigates audiences to question what they plan on experiencing.

She is well aware of audience expectations of a performative artist having a show at The Kitchen, a vanguard of New York’s performance scene. As we walked around the installation, she’d highlight different components of the installation (the lampshade, the poster, the rotating panels) and define each one as a performance. In an effort to combat the notion that performance should entertain or even that something should “happen”, she creates a space that hints that something could happen, or did happen. As we spent more time in the gallery, more of these moments of performance began to emerge. A large stage-like space framed by the wall and the lampshade, myself posing in the mirror, sneaking into a nook between the gallery wall and a panel to look at an image. Tajima says she’s exploring the Artaud-ian notion of audience as performer, wherein viewers experience the artwork around them.

Tajima also disrupts expectations at a macro level, in that her projects often stretch beyond traditional modes of duration or location. This desire to create a “continual monument” – a concept inspired by the radical Italian 60’s design collective Superstudiomanifests throughout her body of work. For instance The Double is one project occurring in both NYC and Berlin concurrently, assembled by similar components with slight variations. Also, the video piece in the Biennial extends from Disassociated, her installation/performance at Elizabeth Dee Gallery.

Tajima’s goals and tactics are reminiscent of recent Walker artists Jerome Bel or Tino Sehgal. What I love about this work is how it forces organizations and audiences to ask core questions – Why have we divided artwork into defined genres? Why do people pay for a cultural experience, and how/why do we market these experiences? How have our expectations for aesthetic experiences been shaped and manipulated?

Long story short – the next time Motorhead comes to town, be sure to check them out. Their opening band is full of surprises.

all images are courtesy the artist and Elizabeth Dee, New York.

if you’d like to read this blog, please press 1

Howdy y’all, It’s little old me, Jeff Hnilicka. You may remember me from such favorites as “Press 4 to be connected to the box office”, “You are caller number 5″, or my personal favorite, “Tickets to the British Television Advertising Awards are SOLD OUT”. That’s right, I’ve dutifully served as the Voice of the Walker […]

Howdy y’all,

It’s little old me, Jeff Hnilicka. You may remember me from such favorites as “Press 4 to be connected to the box office”, “You are caller number 5″, or my personal favorite, “Tickets to the British Television Advertising Awards are SOLD OUT”. That’s right, I’ve dutifully served as the Voice of the Walker on the phone recording and worked in Visitor Services for the past five years, but have since re-located to New York. Miss my cheery disposition and boyish charm at the front desk since my departure (see below)? No worries. With my virtual voice, I’ll be blogging with updates on new projects from performing artists featured at the Walker and other exciting work I see in New York.

A bit of the biographical info: Born ‘n’ raised in Milwaukee, before coming to the U of M where I earned my BA in Theater Arts. I worked in Visitor Services at Walker for 5 wonderful years, with a brief stint at MASS MoCA. Helped start the radical political action/art collective/party planner organization The Revolting Queers. I have also worked with Minnesota Public Radio, Soo Visual Arts Center, and mnartists.org I currently work as Company Manager for J Mandle Performance and reside in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Miss you much.

jeffy

bullhorn