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Bucky Fuller Night: A Quirky Guy with a Dymaxion Sphere of Influence

Set against the backdrop of Fritz Haeg’s thought-provoking Domestic Integrities exhibition, Bucky Fuller Night was an evening of storytelling, discussion, and hands-on activities celebrating the life and work of R. Buckminster Fuller. From mathematicians intrigued by his concept of synergetic geometry to linguists who appreciate his neologisms like “tensegrity,” “dymaxion,” and “omni-interaccomodative,” all kinds of […]

Sam Green on rug

Filmmaker Sam Green and the Walker’s Ashley Duffalo chat with guests on Bucky Fuller Night. Photo: Lydia Brosnahan

Set against the backdrop of Fritz Haeg’s thought-provoking Domestic Integrities exhibition, Bucky Fuller Night was an evening of storytelling, discussion, and hands-on activities celebrating the life and work of R. Buckminster Fuller. From mathematicians intrigued by his concept of synergetic geometry to linguists who appreciate his neologisms like “tensegrity,” “dymaxion,” and “omni-interaccomodative,” all kinds of Bucky fans had the chance to share and discover reasons to love the inventor-designer-thinker-futurist. The October 10 event served as a prelude to Sam Green and Yo La Tengo’s “live documentary” performance of Green’s film The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller at the Walker tonight.

Dymaxion sphere

Walker education intern Björn Sparrman created a dymaxion map to illustrate how far Bucky’s influence reaches. Photo: Lydia Brosnahan

The night’s Bucky-centric discussion was casual and cozy, with speakers and guests settled on Fritz Haeg’s thirty-foot crocheted rug. Walker intern Will Gobeli kicked off the event by discussing  Fuller’s influence on Haeg’s life and works. Haeg lives in Los Angeles in a geodesic dome — one of Fuller’s most well-known architectural inventions — and his Foraging Circle in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is also housed in a geodesic dome.

Philosophically, Haeg and Bucky share an interest in the sustainable future of the planet, and one of Haeg’s biggest sources of inspiration from Bucky was his idea of being a “comprehensivist” (a term coined by Fuller himself), refusing to adhere to a single label like “architect” or “mathematician.” In an interview with Michael Pollan, Haeg described how he often begins lectures to students with a quote from Fuller’s Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth (1968): “Specialization is in fact only a fancy form of slavery wherein the ‘expert’ is fooled into accepting a slavery by making him feel that he in turn is a socially and culturally preferred — ergo, highly secure — lifelong position.” For confirmation of Haeg’s dedication to these principles, look no further than this illustration of his At Home in the City project: “Haeg’s practice spans a range of disciplines — architecture, performance, design, education, gardening, and ecology — and includes projects as varied as public dances, urban parades, temporary encampments, edible gardens, videos, and publications.”

Audience

The audience listens to stories about R. Buckminster Fuller. Photo: Gene Pittman

With these connections drawn, Ashley Duffalo, public programs manager in the Education Department, then took us back in time with some anecdotes she found in her archival research about Bucky in Minnesota. Did you know, for example, that Bucky sat on the advisory board for an experimental city in northern Minnesota? Or that he built a geodesic greenhouse on the rooftop of the former Northwestern National Bank in Minneapolis, and spoke there about the importance of agricultural innovation?

Ashley opened up the discussion to the audience, and a former Minneapolis city planner chimed in. Inspired by Buckminster Fuller’s plans for a dome over Manhattan, he wrote to Fuller to ask how much it would cost to put a dome over Minneapolis, a city that could certainly benefit from a little more insulation in the winter. Fuller wrote back with an estimated sum of around $6 billion, and the city planner joked, “So then I had to think of an alternative, which was the Minneapolis skyway system.”

Ashley then passed the torch to Sam Green to talk about some of the reasons he loves Bucky. His film project began as a commission from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, which was curating an exhibition about Fuller. Green delved into research at the Stanford archives, which, given Bucky’s propensity to document every day of his life from 1920 to 1983, had more than enough information about the man. Given an in-depth look into Fuller’s everyday life, Green discussed some of the man’s personal quirks—such as his 5-hour non-stop “thinking out loud” lectures that always started with an uncomfortably long pause, and his talent for thinking up quirky titles for his books, like Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth and Utopia or Oblivion. “He was a great self-marketer,” Green affirmed, bringing up Bucky’s oft-mentioned habit of wearing three watches while he was traveling to correspond to the time zones of his past, present, and future locations. But Bucky may have been hyperbolizing a bit in order to create a legendary character for himself — Green joked that in all his archival research, he did not find a single picture of Buckminster Fuller wearing three watches.

Of course, Green found more in Bucky to appreciate than just his personality quirks. What he admires most about R. Buckminster Fuller is his idea that the world has enough resources for everyone to live a comfortable life — if we can find a way to use them effectively.

At the end of the formal discussion, more audience members shared stories of their recollections of Fuller. A few had been witness to his “thinking out loud lectures,” and came away laughing from his tendency for both awkward pauses and non-stop speaking but inspired by his ideas and his ways of thinking. One graduate of the University of Minnesota School of Architecture told a story of Bucky and the Dean of the School of Architecture writing a prognosis for the year 2000 and burying it in a bell jar at a Minnesota construction site.

The evening ended with an opportunity to try out some of Bucky’s geometric design techniques using cardboard triangles, an activity led by artist Margaret Pezalla-Granlund. Fuller revealed his geometric genius early in life, creating in his kindergarten class an octet truss made of toothpicks and dried peas — a design which he eventually patented in 1961 (minus the peas, of course).

IMG_7620

Making Bucky-inspired shapes with Margaret Pezalla-Granlund. Photo: Lydia Brosnahan

Buckminster Fuller — an inventor, visionary, architect, futurist, mathematician, author, designer, and environmental activist, to name a few — defied categorization. Bucky Fuller Night similarly highlighted the dynamic potentials of “comprehensivism,” connecting the world of Fritz Haeg’s intellectual, interactive art (itself quite uncategorizable) to another collaborative project: Green and Yo La Tengo’s The Love Song of R. Buckminster FullerDescribed by Green as “a cross between a film, a piece of performance art, and a really fancy lecture,” the “live documentary” reflects the Walker’s ongoing commitment to interdisciplinary, collaborative — perhaps even comprehensivist — work. We think Bucky would be proud.

Sam Green and Yo La Tengo present The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller on Friday, October 11 , 2013, at 7 and 9:30 pm in the McGuire Theater.

Season Parallels || Last Year / This Year

Did you see a show at the Walker this past season? Are you wondering which you’d like to see this season? As interns in the department, we had the unique opportunity to see most of the 12-13 season. Taking advantage of this, while hoping to avoid oversimplifying the works too much, we’ve put our heads […]

Did you see a show at the Walker this past season? Are you wondering which you’d like to see this season? As interns in the department, we had the unique opportunity to see most of the 12-13 season. Taking advantage of this, while hoping to avoid oversimplifying the works too much, we’ve put our heads together to find connections between last year’s performances and this year’s. Here’s what we’ve come up with:

(left) The BodyCartography Project. (right) luciana achugar. Photos: Gene Pittman

(left) The BodyCartography Project. (right) luciana achugar. Photos: Gene Pittman

The Bodycartography Project || luciana achugar
The Bodycartography Project’s Super Nature presented movement inspired by animal impulses and human communication– imagine a nature documentary about people. luciana achugar takes a similar approach in OTRO TEATRO, presenting ritualistic gestures and questioning “civilized” movement.

(left) Laurie Anderson. Photo: courtesy of the artist. (right) CocoRosie. Photo: Rodrigo Jardon

(left) Laurie Anderson. Photo: courtesy of the artist. (right) CocoRosie. Photo: Rodrigo Jardon

Laurie Anderson || CocoRosie
With Dirtday!, performance artist Laurie Anderson shared personal stories, charismatic narratives, and she was not afraid to raise important questions related to feminism and contemporary politics. If you enjoyed her mix of music with politically-charged commentary, you’re bound to enjoy the fearlessly imaginative CocoRosie.

(left) Zammuto. Photo: Nick Zammuto. (right) Olga Bell. Photo: Eric Lippe

(left) Zammuto. Photo: Nick Zammuto. (right) Olga Bell. Photo: Eric Lippe

Zammuto + Eluvium || Olga Bell
Last fall, Zammuto brought us an energetic and vibrant music show filled with virtuosic riffs, auto-tuned melodies, and zebra butts. Not only does Olga Bell present an analogous sound, she approaches her performances with a similar creative intensity and playfulness.

(left) Rude Mechs. Photo: Kathi Kacinski. (right) Nature Theater of Oklahoma. Photo: courtesy of the artist

(left) Rude Mechs. Photo: Kathi Kacinski. (right) Nature Theater of Oklahoma. Photo: courtesy of the artist

Rude Mechs || Nature Theater of Oklahoma
Both Rude Mechs and Nature Theater of Oklahoma are rethinking what theater and performance are. Rude Mechs did this in The Method Gun by performing theater games, re-doing a classic, and delving into the method of a fictional acting guru. Nature Theater, instead of focusing its lens onto theater itself, looks at the life of one person from birth to the third grade. Performed through song and dance, every “um” or “like” of this woman’s story is left in. Nature Theater takes a look at speech patterns and how one person’s life, no matter how ordinary, can still be mythical and heroic. If you liked the exciting energy of the Method Gun, check out Nature Theater’s Life and Times: Episode 1.

(left) She She Pop. Photo: Doro Tuch. (right) Wunderbaum /LAPD. Photo: ©Steve Greer

(left) She She Pop. Photo: Doro Tuch. (right) Wunderbaum /LAPD. Photo: ©Steve Greer

She She Pop || Wunderbaum/LAPD
Where She She Pop tackled the real familial issue of inheritance, the performance collaboration between Wunderbaum and LAPD (Los Angeles Poverty Department) tackles the real social issue of healthcare. She She Pop’s Testament used Shakespeare’s King Lear as a starting point to talk about their own very real experiences with their fathers (who also acted on stage). Wunderbaum and LAPD’s Hospital moves between live action and film, fantasy and documentary, and actors and residents of Skid Row (some of whom appear as performers). Both combine personal stories with greater, more universal issues.

(left) Bengolea/Chaignaud/Freitas/Harrell. Photo: Vlovajob Pru. (right) Niwa Gekidan Penino. Photo: ©Shinsuke Suginou

(left) Bengolea/Chaignaud/Freitas/Harrell. Photo: Vlovajob Pru. (right) Niwa Gekidan Penino. Photo: ©Shinsuke Suginou

Bengolea/Chaignaud/Freitas/Harrell || Niwa Gekidan Penino
Raw eggs, drag operettas, and dildo dancers. (M)imosa/Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at the Judson Church (M), from Bengolea/Chaignaud/Freitas/Harrell, was possibly the most provocative and enjoyably confusing performances of the 12-13 season. It embraced a sophisticated cultural sarcasm and challenged notions of sexuality, dance, and pop culture. Like (M)imosa, Niwa Gekidan Penino’s upcoming show, The Room Nobody Knows will likely present a comparable dosage of energetic discomfort, psychological confusion, and unpredictable excitement.

(left) Ben Frost. Photo: Bjarni Grímsson. (right) Tim Hecker/Oneohtrix Point Never. Photo: courtesy the artist

(left) Ben Frost. Photo: Bjarni Grímsson. (right) Tim Hecker/Oneohtrix Point Never. Photo: courtesy the artist

Ben Frost || Tim Hecker/Oneohtrix Point Never
In February, Ben Frost confronted us with a deeply invasive and exhilarating performance filled with incessant rhythms and foreboding sub-bass rumblings. This season presents an equally immersive equivalency: Tim Hecker and Oneohtrix Point Never. Instead of guitar drones, think abstract sound sampling and textural vintage synthesizers. Equally ground-shaking, expect this experience to be hallucinatory, sensory, and body-opening.

(left) Sarah Kirkland Snider and Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond). Photo: Murat Eyuboglu. (right) Jherek Bischoff. Photo: Angel Ceballos

(left) Sarah Kirkland Snider and Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond). Photo: Murat Eyuboglu. (right) Jherek Bischoff. Photo: Angel Ceballos

My Brightest Diamond || Jherek Bischoff
Last winter, Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond mesmerized the audience with her tender serenades and powerful rock ballads. Willfully charismatic and masterfully polished, she performed emotional and colorful songs full of personal and metaphorical anecdotes. Both Worden and next season’s Jherek Bischoff exercise a compelling tension between classical and popular music traditions.

(left) Cynthia Hopkins. Photo: Ian Douglas. (right) Sam Green/Yo La Tengo. Photo: Sam Allison

(left) Cynthia Hopkins. Photo: Ian Douglas. (right) Sam Green/Yo La Tengo. Photo: Sam Allison

Cynthia Hopkins || Sam Green/Yo La Tengo
Both Hopkins and Green are storytellers. Where This Clement World presented stories about Hopkins’ own experiences in the arctic, The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller brings a documentary to the live stage. Thematically linked, the environmental tones of Hopkins’ World parallel Green and Yo La Tengo’s exploration of the work of inventor, architect, futurist, and proponent of sustainability, Buckminster Fuller. If you like stories melded with music, pick up tickets for The Love Song.

(left) Kyle Abraham. Photo: Cherylynn Tsushima. Jerome Bel/Theater Hora. Photo: courtesy of the artist

(left) Kyle Abraham. Photo: Cherylynn Tsushima. Jerome Bel/Theater Hora. Photo: courtesy of the artist

Kyle Abraham || Jerome Bel/Theater Hora
Although Kyle Abraham and Jerome Bel/Theater Hora come from different backgrounds, Live! The Realest MC and Disabled Theater both explore ideas of identity, perception, and acceptance. Both give raw emotional connections between the stage and audience, have a balance between tension and humor, and give a nod to popular culture.

Learn more about the 13/14 Performing Arts season at Philip Bither’s multimedia Season Preview tonight (September 5) at 7pm.

Songwriting with Abraham: Minneapolis Artists Collaborate with Cruzvillegas for Music & Movies 2013

Abraham Cruzvillegas, La curva, 2003. Speyer Family Collection, New York. Photo courtesy the artist and kurimanzutto, Mexico City.
Roe Family Singers. Photo by Sara Rubinstein

Roe Family Singers will perform on August 5.

For a band accustomed to old-time standards like “King Kong Kitchie” and its own original bluegrass numbers, the task might’ve been a head-scratcher: compose music to accompany lyrics written by a Mexico City–based conceptual artist and play it live. But Minneapolis’ Roe Family Singers – as well as two other acts playing 2013’s Summer Music & Movies in Loring Park — was up for the task.

Abraham Cruzvillegas‘ lyrics are different in that they are more abstract, and the meaning behind them seems more up to the listener to fill in or deduce,” says the band’s Quillan Roe. “This is closer to how we write our own music, with lyrics used to evoke an emotional response that the listener can fill in themselves with their own experiences, or with their responses to how the music makes them feel.”

The exercise shakes up a format that the Walker has presented for more than 30 summers: a band paired with a film. The past two editions featured commissioned live musicians accompanying classic films — Brute Heart’s score for The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari in 2012 and Dark Dark Dark’s score for Fritz Lang’s Spies in 2011 — but this year the Walker will try something new by adding collaboration with a visual artist to the film/performance tradition. Cruzvillegas, whose Autoconstrucción Suites  is currently on view at the Walker, chose the four films featured in Summer Music & Movies 2013: Roadways. He also provided lyrics for three of the bands to transform into a new song to debut within their Music & Movies sets.

The musicians are excited to work with Cruzvillegas’ words. A few members in the Roe Family Singers (August 5) studied visual art, so they’re particularly interested in working on this project, while Grant Cutler (August 19) chose to use Cruzvillegas’ working method as inspiration. About his creative process, Cutler says he’ll “attempt to put the song together a little like how Cruzvillegas puts together sculpture. With found objects (or in my case found sounds). Maybe using a lot of sampled sounds that are just ‘around,’ and then working in the lyrics over that.”

Abraham Cruzvillegas, La curva, 2003. Speyer Family Collection, New York. Photo courtesy the artist and kurimanzutto, Mexico City.

Abraham Cruzvillegas, La curva, 2003.

Cruzvillegas’ interest in the transformation of found objects is rooted in his childhood in Ajusco, in the south of Mexico City. As Cruzvillegas explains:

The autoconstrucción concept comes from a building technique that is led by specific needs of a family and by the lack of funds to pay for constructing an entire house at once. People build their own homes slowly and sporadically, as they can, with limited money, with the collaboration of all family members and the solidarity of neighbors, relatives, and friends. Houses show the autoconstrucción process in their layers, through which it is possible to experience their transformations, modifications, cancellations, and destructions; they evolve according to changes in the lives of their residents.

In the summer of 2008, Cruzvillegas applied this concept of autoconstrucción to music during his residency at the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow. There, ten different musical groups worked with his lyrics to create and record original songs, with music ranging in genre from traditional choir and post-punk to ukulele and pop. It wasn’t finding wood to make a sculpture, but instead used human capital as a medium. The project also brought a local connection to his work. Unlike the usual process of making a sculpture in a studio and then transporting it to a museum, this project added local musicians who brought their own experiences and ideas to the lyrics and stories Cruzvillegas wrote.

In Minneapolis, in addition to providing lyrics for the bands, Cruzvillegas also selected the films, all road films in one sense or another. Although the bands were chosen independently from the movies, it doesn’t mean that they don’t like to think about the films they are paired with. Grant Cutler will perform alongside Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, which he says might be one of his favorite movies growing up (despite the scariness of Large Marge). “I hope it comes across as a big crazy experiment,” Cutler says about the set. “Aby [Wolf] and Holly [Newsom, of Zoo Animal] and I were toying with the idea of covering Tequila, but we’ll see.”

Grant Cutler, Holly Newsom (of Zoo Animal) and Aby Wolf will perform on August 19.

Grant Cutler, Holly Newsom (of Zoo Animal) and Aby Wolf will perform on August 19.

Summer Music and Movies 2013: Roadways

Monday nights, 7pm, Loring Park. Free. Hosts from 89.3 The Current will be spinning between the bands and films each Monday.

July 29: Prissy Clerks; DJ Barb Abney; The Hawks and the Sparrows

Aug 5: Roe Family Singers + Charlie Parr; DJ Bill Deville; Cochochi

Aug 12: The Chalice; DJ Jill Riley; In the Pit (En el Hoyo)

Aug 19: Zoo Animal + Aby Wolf + Grant Cutler; DJ David Campbell; Pee Wee’s Big Adventure

The Prissy Clerks, Roe Family Singers, and Zoo Animal + Aby Wolf + Grant Cutler will each perform an original song based upon lyrics provided by Cruzvillegas.

Vijay Iyer’s Venn Diagram: Community, Politics, and Activism

In trying to get a clear picture of pianist Vijay Iyer, it’s hard to know which direction to look. His series at the Walker this Thursday and Friday, however, is a start. The two nights reveal a large part of the Venn diagram musical world he inhabits.

In trying to get a clear picture of pianist Vijay Iyer, it’s hard to know which direction to look. His series at the Walker this Thursday and Friday, however, is a start. The two nights reveal a large part of the Venn diagram musical world he inhabits.

Iyer came of age as a jazz musician in the Bay Area, playing with some first-wave avant-garde jazz musicians in the process. In a video for Alverno Presents last year, Iyer spoke about why he chose to be a jazz musician: “I had a lot of amazing experiences playing with elder musicians, in Oakland for example… people who had been part of the history of [jazz] music for decades already. To see the music in motion, to experience it as connected to a community, and also to feel welcome in that place, clinched it for me.”

Wadada Leo Smith, on the program Thursday night, is a professor at CalArts and very much a part of the Bay Area scene that is one part of Iyer’s musical provenance.

On the program Friday night is a duo with Parisian-based hip-hop/spoken word artist Mike Ladd, who Iyer collaborated with on the 2004 album In What Language? based on the airport detention of Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi (whose smuggled-to-Cannes-on-a-USB-in-a-cake This is Not a Film was Walker film curator Sheryl Mousley’s vote for best film of 2011). Pitchfork wrote:

In April of 2001, Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi was merely passing through New York’s JFK International Airport, in transit from a film festival in Hong Kong to another in Buenos Aires, when he was detained by the INS for refusing to be fingerprinted, and kept in a crowded holding cell for ten hours. He was ultimately returned to Hong Kong in handcuffs, famously attempting to explain himself to his fellow passengers: “I’m not a thief! I’m not a murderer! I am just an Iranian, a filmmaker. But how could I tell this, in what language?”

The Iyer+Ladd album is a powerful statement, with continuing resonance for “imagining a new moment for community in the post-9/11 world of surveillance of people of color, which has created a force for us coming together,” as Iyer told the Star Tribune Saturday.

Iyer’s experience with and envisioning of community informs his musical work and vice versa. In an interview with Toronto blog The Ethnic Aisle, Iyer said that, “In the Bay Area I connected with Asian Improv Arts. They are community organizers as well as creative musicians, so they dealt with identity in this empowering way. It wasn’t just ornamental, they had this radical sensibility that connected music to activism, so working with elements of your identity or heritage in the music was part of the whole mission and ideology. That was really inspiring; it was a way for me to be myself in the music which I’d never really seen before, at that time.”

Friday night’s show at the Walker will conclude with a set by Tirtha (pronounced THEER-tha), another Iyer trio, featuring Nitin Mitta on table/percussion and Prasanna on guitar and vox. Iyer told the Star Tribune that, “Tirtha to me is a political project because it encourages shared creativity across the South Asian diaspora.” Musically, Tirtha merges Carnatic forms with jazz and “fuse their influences through many other catalysts, including Reichian minimalism and rock,” according to the Guardian.

There was “shared creativity across the South Asian diaspora” also on Vijay Iyer Trio’s 2009 album Historicity, in their cover of M.I.A.’s “Galang.” The Vijay Iyer Trio will presumably be playing many new cuts from their forthcoming album Accelerando (which is scheduled for release March 13) on Thursday night, but I hope they revive this cover for the set.

Iyer’s place in the indie/pop sphere is one aspect of the Venn diagram that won’t be covered in the Walker two-night program. Iyer has collaborated with hip-hop group Das Racist, producing their track “Free Jazzmatazz.” The Independent Film Channel reports that Iyer will also be co-starring in a short film Dosa Hunt, still to-be-released, in which “Rostam Batmanglij (Vampire Weekend), Vijay Iyer, Ashok Kondabolu (Das Racist), Alan Palomo (Neon Indian), Amrit Singh (Stereogum), Himanshu Suri (Das Racist), and Anand Wilder (Yeasayer)… pile into a van… looking for the best dosa in New York City.” Iyer also recently contributed a remix of Meredith Monk’s “Rain” for a Meredith Monk remix album produced by DJ Spooky, which also features remixes by Björk and Nico Muhly. Thus the indie/pop connections circle back to the realm of the avant-garde; Vijay Iyer’s musical world might be better described as a Möbius strip than a Venn diagram.

And speaking of Möbius strips, Iyer could tell us a lot about them. He recently led a talk on “Music and Math” at Duke University that featured “a timbre experiment…called ‘a Möbius strip of pitch.’” Iyer completed undergraduate studies at Yale in Math and Physics, and finished his PhD in Technology and the Arts at UC-Berkeley. Thus his choice to play jazz seems significant for what he has left behind, or rather, left on the side. His many musical projects show the potential that music holds for building community and opening up a dialogue about political engagement and activism.

He has said, “Trying to do the impossible is what jazz is to me.”

chelfitsch: Mumblechoreography

chelfitsch will return to the Walker three years after their January 2009 presentation of Five Days in March, which was a piece about twenty-somethings shacking up at love hotels at the beginning of the Iraq War. Their work coming to the Walker January 19-21, 2012, is Hot Pepper, Air Conditioner and The Farewell Speech; originally […]


chelfitsch will return to the Walker three years after their January 2009 presentation of Five Days in March, which was a piece about twenty-somethings shacking up at love hotels at the beginning of the Iraq War. Their work coming to the Walker January 19-21, 2012, is Hot Pepper, Air Conditioner and The Farewell Speech; originally three separate pieces, chelfitsch director Toshiki Okada combined them into a magnum opus of sorts.

chelfitsch’s singular anti-choreograpy emphasizes the ways we are stuck in our bodies, employing a dance vocabulary of formalized awkwardness and hunched postures that registers its relevance in terms of a contemporary experience of youth. If Robert Longo ever choreographed a piece about twenty-somethings stuck in a Japanese temp agency, it would look something like this.

The characters speak in fragmentary sentences and their movement could be called hyper-pedestrian in the ways ordinariness is magnified and repeated until it becomes its own vernacular. chelfitsch’s parallels with the American film sub-genre/phenomenon of Mumblecore seem striking, as relationships and conversations take precedence over narrative cues.  More literally, the company’s name comes from a mumbled, disarticulation of the English word “selfish.”

You can watch snippets of each piece in the video below, made by the Japan Society, with Japan Society Director Yoko Shioya providing some contextualization.

Acclaimed playwright/director of chelfitsch Toshiki Okada will lead an Inside Out There workshop Saturday, January 21 at 11 am. Participants will explore the nature of unconscious physical movements in creating choreography. Open to all levels of movers.

 

Photos by Toru Yokota

Oscillating Absurdities: Beirut’s Rabih Mroue responds to a “traumatized society”

Rabih Mroué— Lebanese visual and performance artist, actor, director, and playwright—is performing Looking for a Missing Employee during the second week of next month’s Out There 2012: Global Visionaries festival. In Looking for a Missing Employee, Mroué performs the role of a multimedia detective mining the fate of one of the tens of thousands of […]

Rabih Mroué— Lebanese visual and performance artist, actor, director, and playwright—is performing Looking for a Missing Employee during the second week of next month’s Out There 2012: Global Visionaries festival. In Looking for a Missing Employee, Mroué performs the role of a multimedia detective mining the fate of one of the tens of thousands of Lebanese people who went missing during the Lebanese Civil War.

Mroué has said, “How can one establish dialogue in a traumatized society, aware of this reality but not falling into the trap of disconsolate mourning, as the politics of memory is often seen today?” He answers partly through the use of absurdity in his work.

 

"Make Me Stop Smoking" 2006, video stills courtesy Rabih Mroué

 

In Mroué’s work Make Me Stop Smoking, he re-casts Freud as a member of Hezbollah, and in I, the Undersigned he “addresses the lack of accountability of those responsible for the Lebanese Civil War by offering his own striking apology.”

"I, the Undersigned" 2007, video stills courtesy Rabih Mroué

 

About his work How Nancy Wished That Everything Was An April Fool’s Joke, the New York Times wrote:

The four characters tell stories of contradiction that ricochet off one another. They will adhere to an ideological position and then change it. They pledge loyalty to a political leader and then betray him. They make allies and then forsake them. They switch sides and get lost. In each story they tell they are killed in battle, only to come back to life again in the next round, like irrepressible players of video games.

With similar irrepressibility, his work Old House (2006) oscillates visually between destruction and composure while Mroué at the same time narrates his own process of “remembering and forgetting.” And in Noiseless (2008) he presents a concocted newspaper article about his own disappearance with an image of himself that eventually blends into the notices of other missing persons until his image evaporates and becomes a void.

 

Born in 1967, Rabih Mroué began his work in plays, performance, and video in 1990, also the year the Lebanese Civil War ended. His emergence marks the aftereffects of a chronically “traumatized society,” one in which absurdity becomes the commensurate accuracy with which to express the loss of a quarter million people, and the tens of thousands disappeared.

Mroué’s investigation of the disappeared of his home country recalls, for me, the desaperacidos of another place, same time (roughly). Pinochet’s regime in Chile began before the Lebanese Civil War and continued over the same time period, with the disappeared in Chile numbering over 3,000. Most of all I am reminded of Roberto Bolaño’s novel Distant Star, which similarly mines the absurdity of (Chile’s) “traumatized society.” Distant Star tells the life story of Lorenzo—an HIV-positive gay artist with no arms who was born into poverty and became an adult at the height of Pinochet’s reign—who commits suicide by jumping into the ocean but who changes his mind at the last minute and swims to the surface using only his torso and legs:  “In the current socio-political climate…committing suicide is absurd and redundant. Better to become an undercover poet.”

Continually plagued by censorship at home, Mroué has freely performed his theater work and exhibited his visual art abroad, including the Istanbul Bienniale (2009), Prefix Institute for Contemporary Art in Toronto, and recently at the Rivington Gallery in London. As part of a U.S. performance debut tour, his engagement at the Walker is from January 12-14 2012 and includes an Inside Out There workshop January 14 , 11 am, where Mroué will present The Pixelated Revolution, a lecture-performance about the impact of mobile phones and social media in the recent Syrian uprising.

 

This week: don’t miss “African punk rock”

This Thursday is an especially rich Target Free Thursday Night for Performing Arts, with a free poetic/performative lecture-demonstration at 6:00 pm by Congolese choreographer Faustin Linyekula and guitarist Flamme Kapaya that precedes their two-night run of more more more…future at the Walker Friday and Saturday. The Artist Talk will be followed by a short Q&A, […]

photo by Agathe Poupeney

This Thursday is an especially rich Target Free Thursday Night for Performing Arts, with a free poetic/performative lecture-demonstration at 6:00 pm by Congolese choreographer Faustin Linyekula and guitarist Flamme Kapaya that precedes their two-night run of more more more…future at the Walker Friday and Saturday. The Artist Talk will be followed by a short Q&A, and then I recommend that you head over to the Walker Cinema for a free screening of the Staff Benda Bilili documentary at 7:30. Since Staff Benda Bilili were forced to cancel their entire American tour, including their show planned for the Cedar next week, this film is the closest glimpse of the band the Twin Cities will get for now.

Friday and Saturday, Faustin Linyekula’s evening-length dance & music performance will have its U.S. debut tour opening in the McGuire Theater. The title of the performance, more more more…future, is a positive inversion of punk rock’s slogan of no future (think the Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen”), and guitar god Flamme Kapaya filters the Congolese music of ndombolo through the sounds of punk rock. The piece is equal parts music and dance, as Flamme Kapaya leads a live band onstage and focus shifts between them and the movers.

In talking about the piece, Mr. Linyekula has referenced Antonio Gramsci’s idea of “pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will,” (head about 2:20 into this video) and more more more…future seems to find idealism and hope in the same places as punk’s anarchy and rage.

The distinctive costumes for the piece were designed by Malian/Parisian-based fashion designer Xuly Bët, whose Funkin’ Fashion Factory atelier has been open in Paris since 1989. Xuly Bët has been named a New York Times Creator of the Year in the past, and has used tags on the outside of his clothing as part of the overall look of his designs (another punk gesture?)

more more more…future promises to be a raucous opening to the Performing Arts season. I would like to say that this is a performance that will appeal to world music-types, dance-lovers, the fashion-curious, people who love guitar music, dancers/choreographers, punk/noise/jazz-heads, the fashion-inspired, people who read the New York Times, people who are interested in communism, other subsets, and the unaffiliated.

Check back on the blogs later this week to read the interview with Faustin Linyekula and Performing Arts Senior Curator Philip Bither.

The Heartbreaking Rumba of Staff Benda Bilili

Staff Benda Bilili are a group of musicians whose home base was originally the Kinshasa zoo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They even rehearsed on the grounds of the zoo, until they were discovered by a Belgian record producer who got them a record deal. Their first album (Tres Tres Fort or “Very […]

Staff Benda Bilili are a group of musicians whose home base was originally the Kinshasa zoo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They even rehearsed on the grounds of the zoo, until they were discovered by a Belgian record producer who got them a record deal. Their first album (Tres Tres Fort or “Very Very Strong”) was mostly recorded at the Kinshasa zoo as well. A documentary about the band—Benda Bilili!premiered to standing ovations at Cannes last year (and is screening at the Walker September 22 at 7:30 pm, as part of Target Free Thursday Night), one of many recent success stories for the group, who play festivals and arenas now.

photo by Hank Leukart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We might wish success for Staff Benda for another reason: four members of the band are paraplegic from polio bouts when they were younger, and they play their instruments from customized vehicles that look like tuk-tuks (wrong continent, I know) with vintage Harley handles. In other words, Staff Benda Bilili are some B.A. dudes.

courtesy the artists

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While affiliated with the Konono Nº1 crew, whose album Congotronics blew up in 2004, Staff Benda Bilili sound less like Konono’s junk-metal clang & roll and more like the warmer acoustic sounds of Buena Vista Social Club across the Atlantic. The Congo-Cuba connection has been widely explored in contemporary world music– Papa Noel (Congolese) and Papi Oviedo’s (Cuban) album Bana Congo one illustration of the fertile grounds for cross-pollination that exist–and we can hear these echoes in the music of Staff Benda Bilili.

Staff Benda believe that “the only real handicaps are not in the body but in the mind.” Their deft songwriting on “Polio”—with the lyrics “Parents, please go to the vaccination center/Get your babies vaccinated against polio/Please save them from that curse”—wrap politics in a tenderness uncommon for musicians anywhere. Staff Benda consider themselves “journalists,”  tapped into the events of everyday life. Their song “Let’s Go and Vote” was played repeatedly in the run-up to the 2006 DRC polls on radio and television stations; it was reported to be responsible for a 70% increase in voter turnout.

“Benda Bilili” means “look beyond appearances” – literally: “put forward what is hidden.” Their show at the Cedar in September is sure to be raucous, heartfelt, and virtuosic.  Like Buena Vista Social Club, Staff Benda are a class act.

Berlin’s Bonanza Re:View-Overnight Observations

Bonanza—A Documentary for Five Screens by Berlin is five films side by side underneath a miniature replica of the town Bonanza. The model includes the five houses of the seven permanent inhabitants, the line of mailboxes in the center of the town and the old fire house now used for monthly town meetings. The topographical ground […]

Bonanza—A Documentary for Five Screens by Berlin is five films side by side underneath a miniature replica of the town Bonanza. The model includes the five houses of the seven permanent inhabitants, the line of mailboxes in the center of the town and the old fire house now used for monthly town meetings. The topographical ground is metal, reflecting the stage lights that shift with the seasons. It’s metallic nature is not merely a lovely reflective, changing surface, it is also metaphor: Bonanza was once a silver mining town.

Bonanza, circa 1900

The citizens of Bonanza keep to themselves. They all seem to be there to be alone and despite being able to see each other’s houses from their own windows, rarely interact face to face. Indeed, this is an oft tossed about complaint – the new neighbors on the hill (the snobs on the knob) never tried to get to know us, the doesn’t-live-here town mayor never stopped by to introduce herself. It is a tiny town and everyone collects their mail in the same place but they do not cross paths. Indeed, in a rather amazing moment the recently widowed Mary asks the unseen filmmaker to thank her next door neighbor for his note of condolence upon the death of her Roger. She wants him to know that it really meant a great deal to her.

With moments like this, I wonder if Berlin got to know the residents better than they do themselves. And I wonder how much things changed because the filmmakers were there.  And I wonder more about the subjects; it’s interesting that on the whole these self-made hermits seem uncommonly open and forthright, willing to talk and comfortable being filmed, but so unwilling to talk to each other.

They have quirks, quirks that are cultivated into something larger and more defining by isolation and time. They are disproportionately religious, artistic, and engaged with energy work. But these shared affiliations do not bind them. Indeed, as one resident suggests, they apparently function on different energetic frequencies.

I want to go back to the metallic topography used in the recreation of Bonanza. The film gives the feeling that nobody is really able to sink their roots down in the land there. All but one of the seven residents settled in Bonanza at some later point in life. There are no children and there will be no homegrown future. The mayor of the town who is, controversially, not from town, might have a longer history to that land and area than any of the inhabitants. And the inhabitants, they’re there, but not always willingly; Mary claims she wouldn’t live there if she had known what it would be. And they’re there, but not necessarily permanently. Mark is shown as most integrated with the land, we see him outside chopping wood, walking through the forest, sifting through abandoned junk, sitting on the top of mountain surrounded by shale and memory, but he will only stay as long as god wants him to be, and might leave as soon as tomorrow.

Berlin asks and tries to answer the question “why would you live here?”   It’s a question creates a uncomfortable otherizing that continues over the course of this work. Their answer seems to be “you gotta be crazy” and they slowly destablize our view of the inhabitants, showing them to be progressively dysfunctional, extreme and self-righteous.

The piece is a story of failed community in some ways. But maybe not appropriately. The residents of Bonanza don’t drink the water, the land is so poisoned it can’t be.  They don’t dig in deep, but there is nothing down there anyway.  So maybe they aren’t there to share in the bounty of the land – a bounty that if it existed was exhausted long ago. Maybe they aren’t looking for paradise or even community. Maybe they are really there to be alone, to get by, to pass the days the ways they choose.  Perhaps it is not so different from living in a city and the anonymity of urban life.  Why wouldn’t having the social space to be yourself and to isolate yourself be as appealing in the Rockies as it is in New York?

(From Monica, of Mad King Thomas)

This past October, Antonya Nelson wrote the essay Living in a Ghost Town for the New York Times. Wikipedia purports the unnamed town in it is actually Bonanza.

Berlin’s Veritable Bonanza: a Documentary for Five Screens

Bonanza is the smallest official town in Colorado. Only five residents live there permanently, with another two residents cycling in and out, including a reputed witch, a mayor, a priest, “metaphysical coaches”, and a forest firefighter. Theater-film collective Berlin made their documentary about Bonanza as part of a larger project of documentaries, called the Holocene (the […]

Bonanza is the smallest official town in Colorado. Only five residents live there permanently, with another two residents cycling in and out, including a reputed witch, a mayor, a priest, “metaphysical coaches”, and a forest firefighter. Theater-film collective Berlin made their documentary about Bonanza as part of a larger project of documentaries, called the Holocene (the geological epoch in which we live) series. They documented a different city, annually, for the past 4 years: Jerusalem,  Iqaluit (in Nunavat, Canada), Bonanza, and Moscow. Bonanza: A Documentary for Five Screens runs in the McGuire Theater from Thursday, January 20—Saturday, January 22: week 3 of the Out There Fest.

Presented in conjuncture with the Film/Video Department’s Expanding the Frame Series, Bonanza is a film for five screens; you can get an idea of how it will be projected here.