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Walker Contemporaries: Gone British!

On one of the coldest nights of the year, a large gathering of the Contemporaries came to enjoy phenomenal fish and chips, specialty British drinks, and a private screening of the best television advertisements of the year from across the pond. Or as the Brits say it, ad-ver-tis-ments. In the US, we wait in anticipation […]

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On one of the coldest nights of the year, a large gathering of the Contemporaries came to enjoy phenomenal fish and chips, specialty British drinks, and a private screening of the best television advertisements of the year from across the pond. Or as the Brits say it, ad-ver-tis-ments.

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In the US, we wait in anticipation for the Super Bowl commercials, but the Brits aim for a spot in this beloved lineup of bronze, silver, and gold annual awards. So while there are many funny ads, it does not cater to a specific audience, and those with serious messages to sell are also competitors. The length of these commercials can be extended in comparison to the typical 30-second or minute ad one watches at home in the States. This again allows a complex or intense message to be fully addressed, not shortchanged for airtime. It also allows amusing stories to develop into absolutely hilarious ones.

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Contemporaries members Jon Engel and Brian Ness

Right off the bat everyone was laughing from a commercial by Orange (a phone service) which combined the practice of over-the-top airport-like security with a movie theater setting. It was ridiculous, with dogs running in the theaters, popcorn everywhere, and the movies being disrupted — which was the point — but it allowed us as Americans to have a good laugh about the serious matter of security. Kevin Bacon soon made several appearances — and by several I mean literally multiple Bacons in one room! One of them was even cooking bacon… of course, it was Ren McCormack. The little details in these ads are what make them award winners, like when Bacon the astronaut from Apollo 13 attempts to drink coffee with his helmet on, but it’s quickly passed by to return to Ren dancing to his walkman.

 

Some of the ads, however, are less than subtle. Fosters made an appearance, like always, full of Aussies and beer. Then there were the adorable ones like Wheetabix and IKEA that told charming stories of parents and children functioning on a great breakfast or with the right furniture to play on. The nice fuzzy feelings were also present in several John Lewis advertisements, featuring a time-distant romance that tugged on the heart-strings while highlighting the quality of the brand over a century.

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At times I was not quite sure what angle a company was going for, but perhaps I’m just the wrong audience for Axe advertisements. Maybe epic stories of boyfriends surviving “harrowing” social situations while a deep voice narrates the scene makes you want to run off and buy a body wash called “Cool Metal” or “Rise,” but I’m good without. On the opposite end, however, Guinness’ ad kept us confused while we watched a group of young men being carefully herded by a border collie, until the very end where we had a collective “aha!” moment and a good chuckle. Acer Incorporated’s take on Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer from 24 was also quite good, translating his passion on the clock to creating the best pastry possible.

Yet the stars of the evening were the PSAs, a serious and rather graphic addition to the lineup. Some became squeamish watching footage of shark cruelty and mutilation for shark fin soup, but everyone stopped breathing during Samusocial International’s interactive online ad for women’s shelters and website awomansnightmare.com. In this advocacy ad for homeless relief and safety, a woman asks for a cigarette on the street but ends up running for her life. If the viewer shares the video, it ends well, if not… Reality again is not spared in a PSA for first aid knowledge, comparing deaths by cancer to those of choking in a cinematic story of life and death. The ad of the year is empowering as it is difficult, showcasing British paralympic athletes as superhumans who have overcome life-altering accidents and abnormalities to redefine strength and what it is to be human.

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Walker Contemporaries Noah Keesecker and Jessica Shaykett

As Americans we often tire of a constant barrage of commercials and advertisements around every corner, but this hour of film is less about selling something and more about quality stories — and is not to be missed.

Cheers!

Art School: Design

“Ultimately, in order to communicate a design must first be noticed. It should stand out and be unique, compelling, interesting, funny, strange… anything except boring, predictable, and just like everything else.”  —CSA Design 2011 On December 8, the Walker’s Art School welcomed one of the most critically acclaimed graphic designers in the nation, Charles Anderson. […]

“Ultimately, in order to communicate a design must first be noticed. It should stand out and be unique, compelling, interesting, funny, strange… anything except boring, predictable, and just like everything else.”  —CSA Design 2011

Image: CSA Images Product Page

On December 8, the Walker’s Art School welcomed one of the most critically acclaimed graphic designers in the nation, Charles Anderson. The Walker is known for its passion for pursuing all art forms, especially the graphic arts. Our own graphic design studio  has been the recipient of a multitude of awards, including the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award for Corporate Achievement, in recognition for their innovative programming such as their annual Insights Design Lecture Series. Lead by Design Director Emmet Byrne, the Walker’s design department has continued to give spark and imagination to the entire art center.

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Emmet Byrne and Charles S. Anderson

 Many of our art school attendees had been previously introduced to the work of Charles S. Anderson Design Co., whether through publications like the New York Times or large-scale museum exhibitions such as the Walker’s touring show Graphic Design: Now in Production, created in conjunction with the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. Graphic Design: Now in Production was the Walker’s largest graphic design exhibition since Graphic Design in America: A Visual Language History in 1989 (the same year CSA Design was established).

Installation view of Graphic Design: Now in Production, 2011. Photo: Gene Pittman

But the connection between CSA Design and the Walker doesn’t end here. As a young student at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Anderson found a mentor in his instructor, Peter Seitz. Seitz lead an outstanding career, working with graphic arts greats all over the world – and eventually he was recruited to Minneapolis to be the Director of Design at the Walker. Anderson gained his first few years of experience working with Seitz at his design firm. He later moved on to the Duffy Design Group. But in 1998 Anderson formed CSA Design with the French Paper Company, narrowing his focus to “identity development, packaging, and product design.”

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Bryne with Jerry French and Anderson

Our eager students received a glimpse into the design-paper duo team of Anderson/French with the handy printed booklet produced by CSA Design for French Paper. The afternoon’s lecture then began with Emmet Byrne introducing Charles Anderson and his steadfast business partner, Jerry French, of French Paper. Through Byrne’s opening, the audience gained an understanding of CSA Design’s contributions to the world of art. Not only did CSA Design in partnership with French Paper Company create their own line of products in the Pop Ink Brand, but they’ve also exhibited in a multitude of museums, galleries, and have been reviewed in high-profile arts publications.

Pop Ink and CSA Images, 72 Button Set. Photo courtesy Charles S. Anderson Design

CSA Design’s fine art connections stem from a background in pop culture, instilled in Anderson at a young age. Growing up in a small town in Iowa, Anderson was fortunate to forge a friendship with graphic artist Clyde Lewis. Lewis’ work in advertising combined with his passion for 1960s and ’70s comic books and monster magazines led Anderson to seek an education in graphic arts, bringing him to Minneapolis and MCAD. Minneapolis is now considered to have the second most vibrant design community in the nation, second only to New York.

The business partnership between CSA Design and the French Paper Company — which is over 140 years old — reiterates CSA Design’s focus on commercial art and in a way, commodification. Just the idea of a paper company brings to mind rolling machinery producing endless rolls of paper. However it was within this cross of pop culture, mass-production, and commercialization that CSA Design discovered the Pop Art phenomenon, the philosophy most famously explored by artists such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Claes Oldenburg. Parallels can easily be drawn between these revolutionary artists and CSA Design’s own mission. The Walker’s current exhibition Claes Oldenburg: The Sixties (closes January 12, 2014) focuses on his developmental years as an artist. In the exhibition, one can see his intense interest in the small details around him, the everyday objects which are generally overlooked in the realm of art. Oldenburg is known for his “soft sculptures” in which he took those everyday objects, those commodities, and recreated them in unusual materials.

Claes Oldenburg, Shoestring Potatoes Spilling from a Bag, 1966 Collection Walker Art Center, Minneapolis Gift of the T. B. Walker Foundation, 1966

Similarly, CSA Design takes images many of us have become familiar with through commercialization and gives them a creative twist. Over the years, Anderson has taken on a momentous project in which he with his team created “one of the most extensive and well-respected archives of licensable artwork in existence” which can all be viewed on the online CSA Images Database.

Theater HORA in Minneapolis

Ten actors from Zürich-based Theater HORA came to Minneapolis in November to perform Jérôme Bel’s Disabled Theater at the Walker. They were excited to visit the Twin Cities after performing a seven-show run of Disabled Theater in New York City. When not rehearsing and performing at the Walker, they went shopping and bowling and had the chance […]

Ten actors from Zürich-based Theater HORA came to Minneapolis in November to perform Jérôme Bel’s Disabled Theater at the Walker. They were excited to visit the Twin Cities after performing a seven-show run of Disabled Theater in New York City. When not rehearsing and performing at the Walker, they went shopping and bowling and had the chance to meet some of the artists at Interact Center, a visual and performing arts organization for people with disabilities in the Twin Cities. The photos below are also on the Theater HORA blog, where they shared some of their observations and reflections (in Swiss German!) from their time in America.

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The Theater HORA company with Jérôme Bel in the Walker green room after a performance. All photos by Cornelia Marinucci.

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Sara, Miranda, and Tiziana from Theater HORA at the Interact Center art studios.

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Theater HORA actors with members of the Interact theater company.

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Theater HORA at the visual arts studios at Interact.

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In their free time, the Theater HORA company went bowling at Elsie’s.

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Theater HORA’s autographs on the signature wall, backstage at the Walker.

 

Walker Contemporaries: Visiting the Polsky Collection

It’s in the hallway, the spare room, the kitchen, the bathroom, the bedroom, the living room and more — there is no room in Alan Polsky’s condo without art. In addition to the beautiful view of downtown Minneapolis, every wall in the space boasts a unique and carefully selected image. Polsky, member of the Patron’s Circle […]

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It’s in the hallway, the spare room, the kitchen, the bathroom, the bedroom, the living room and more — there is no room in Alan Polsky’s condo without art. In addition to the beautiful view of downtown Minneapolis, every wall in the space boasts a unique and carefully selected image. Polsky, member of the Patron’s Circle and Collectors’ Council at the Walker and board chair of Midway Contemporary Art, recently welcomed the Contemporaries to his home to view this great collection and discuss how it came to be.

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Martin Michalowski and Molly Garvey look at one of Polsky’s paintings.

It all began with a missed opportunity — a gorgeous Louise Bourgeois painting at a modest price — that Polsky still seems to somewhat regret. In art collecting however, there will always be the one that got away. Yet Polsky explained that the learning curve in this endeavor is entirely personal: you learn what works for you as you view and collect the art. Each choice informs the next, each purchase helping you understand the previous. The decisions he has been least satisfied with are those which were focused on money. While he buys and resells some art, Polsky finds he is most satisfied with the art he buys when the focus is not on the cost or promise of future profit. The value of an artwork on the market can greatly increase in a short period of time, but how a person feels about it usually does not. This model of intuition over investment has proved successful for Polsky and he is pleased with his current collection.

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A Jay Heikes work purchased at the Midway Auction

Polsky’s collection is also one that is tailored to his location, with many local artists represented in his home. A Jay Heikes work over the fireplace should be familiar to many in Minneapolis: his work was featured in the recent Walker exhibition Painter Painter. Combined with the names of Ed Ruscha and Carl Andre, every work in the space is world-class. German artists are a theme, and paintings are most common, for reasons both aesthetic and practical. There is a reason sculpture is most often displayed in museums and parks, the literal size of it is quite a hindrance. Polsky expressed that he honestly wouldn’t know what to do with a sculpture if he acquired one.

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The perfect nook for an Aaron Spangler sculpture

The works hanging in Polsky’s condo are only a portion of his collection. With limited space, he chooses and places artwork in almost every corner but without doing any of them injustice. A condo is a place of domesticity and living compared with the more impersonal environment of a museum and over time, what hangs on the wall can be overlooked. So this year he had the works rearranged throughout the apartment with the help of John Rasmussen, Executive Director of Midway Contemporary Art. Other complications must be considered in hanging a personal collection, such as the color of the walls, fireplaces, and the steam created in a bathroom. Polsky’s walls are all white, although that isn’t a requirement. He does not use his fireplace, as the Heikes above it would surely become more contorted than the artist intended. These unusual considerations in a living space, however, are a reminder that art can and should exist in more intimate spaces than museums. Spaces like the Walker allow for the public to share in the fantastic history and present of modern and contemporary art, yet few people interact with an Ed Ruscha with such intimacy. Living with art in the home may currently be a luxury for most, but perhaps should be a necessity.

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Contemporaries gather around at Polsky’s

At the end of the evening, Polsky showed us the first work he ever bought: a simple and elegant set of three images, framed together in birch. Compared with some of the large and well-known paintings on his walls now, it seems a humble beginning — and a reminder that every collector starts somewhere.

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Alan Polsky

 

 

 

 

Opening Night Party: Album: Cinematheque Tangier, a project by Yto Barrada

On Thursday night, the multimedia exhibition Album: Cinematheque Tangier, a project by Yto Barrada opened in ­the Burnet gallery. Greeted with a large map of Tangier and hand-painted film posters, guests of all ages and backgrounds were invited to explore the work of Yto Barrada. DJ/rupture aka Jace Clayton enhanced the atmosphere with unique musical selections […]

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DJ / rupture spinning Maghrebi music in Cargill Lounge.

On Thursday night, the multimedia exhibition Album: Cinematheque Tangier, a project by Yto Barrada opened in ­the Burnet gallery. Greeted with a large map of Tangier and hand-painted film posters, guests of all ages and backgrounds were invited to explore the work of Yto Barrada. DJ/rupture aka Jace Clayton enhanced the atmosphere with unique musical selections and hip-hop–infused Moroccan music, accompanying attendees as they viewed the gallery.

Curator Clara Kim, aritst Yto Barrada, and film curator Sheryl Mousley

Curator Clara Kim, artist Yto Barrada, and Walker senior curator of film / video curator Sheryl Mousley

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Cinematheque Tangier

Cinematheque Tangier

Cinematheque Tangier

Sign painters Forrest Wozniak and Dan Madsen in front of the map of Tangier

Jérôme Bel Roundtable Lunch

Today over the lunch hour, Walker staff from all departments, along with artist-in-residence Fritz Haeg, Lucky Dragons, and J. Morgan Puett (who performed at the Walker last night) had a conversation with Jérôme Bel. Bel is in town for Disabled Theater, a collaboration with Theater HORA. This wide-ranging conversation, full of humor, stories, and “mistakes were made” confessions from Bel, […]

Today over the lunch hour, Walker staff from all departments, along with artist-in-residence Fritz HaegLucky Dragons, and J. Morgan Puett (who performed at the Walker last night) had a conversation with Jérôme Bel. Bel is in town for Disabled Theater, a collaboration with Theater HORA.

Performing Arts Curator Philip Bither, Jérôme Bel, Director of Education and Curator of Public Practice Sarah Schultz, and Executive Director Olga Viso

Performing Arts Curator Philip Bither, Jérôme Bel, Director of Education and Curator of Public Practice Sarah Schultz, and Executive Director Olga Viso

This wide-ranging conversation, full of humor, stories, and “mistakes were made” confessions from Bel, explored some of these questions—questions that are often top-of-mind at an interdisciplinary institution like the Walker:

  • Why use theater as a platform, when there are so many other forms of expression? What is so attractive about the “black box,” the lights going down, and people taking their seats?
  • How do visual arts folks experience theater differently than those grounded in the world of performance?
  • How can you collect dance, when it is so closely connected to the body of the dancer? And what happens when collectors want to own it, and monetize it?
  • Is bringing the performing arts into the museum gallery context just a trend?

Towards the end of the conversation, Viso remarked that, instead of trying to translate his existing work into the “white cube” of the museum,  perhaps the real question is “What can Bel produce within the context of the white cube?” After seeing his works in the theater and spending time him this afternoon, I’m fascinated to know how he might answer that question.

Steve McQueen Reception: The End of a Retrospective

Artists, filmmakers, producers, and art patrons turned out for a reception at the Walker following Steve McQueen’s dialogue with Museum of Modern Art curator Stuart Comer on November 9. The dialogue and reception marked the end of the Walker’s Steve McQueen retrospective, which also included the regional premier of McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave as well […]

Walker senior curator of film/video Sheryl Mousley, artist and filmmaker Steve McQueen, MoMA chief curator of media and performance Stuart Comer, 12 Years a Slave producer Bill Pohlad, and Walker executive director Olga Viso

Walker senior curator of film/video Sheryl Mousley, artist/filmmaker Steve McQueen, MoMA chief curator of media and performance Stuart Comer, 12 Years a Slave producer Bill Pohlad, and Walker executive director Olga Viso

Artists, filmmakers, producers, and art patrons turned out for a reception at the Walker following Steve McQueen’s dialogue with Museum of Modern Art curator Stuart Comer on November 9. The dialogue and reception marked the end of the Walker’s Steve McQueen retrospective, which also included the regional premier of McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave as well as screenings of two of his earlier films, Shame and Hunger. In addition to McQueen and Comer, VIPs in attendance included Olga Viso, Sheryl Mousley, Bill Pohlad, Hamza Walker, Nate Young, and Robert Byrd. Walker photographer Gene Pittman was there to document the event.

Steve McQueen talks with artist Nate Young

Steve McQueen talks with artist Nate Young

Sheryl Mousley with Stuart Comer, chief curator of media and performance at the Museum of Modern Art. Mousley curated Steve McQueen: A Dialogue and Retrospective at the Walker, and Comer facilitated the dialogue with McQueen about his creative process and influences.

Sheryl Mousley with Stuart Comer. Mousley curated Steve McQueen: A Dialogue and Retrospective at the Walker, and Comer facilitated the dialogue with McQueen about his creative process and influences.

Martine d’Anglejan-Chatillon, partner at the Thomas Dane Gallery, and TBD

Martine d’Anglejan-Chatillon, partner at the Thomas Dane Gallery, London, and Pamela Kramlich, member of the Walker’s National Advisory Board

Bill Pohlad and Hamza Walker. Pohlad was one of the producers of 12 Years a Slave, and Walker is associate curator at the University of Chicago's Renaissance Society.

Bill Pohlad and Hamza Walker. Pohlad was one of the producers of 12 Years a Slave, and Walker is associate curator at the University of Chicago’s Renaissance Society.

Artist Broc Blegen, "Third Rail" editor Jonathan Thomas, and photographer and MCAD professor David Goldies

Artist Broc Blegen, Third Rail editor Jonathan Thomas, and photographer and MCAD professor David Goldes

Clara Kim, Walker senior curator of visual arts, with Dean Otto, Walker assistant curator of film/video and program manager.

Clara Kim, Walker senior curator of visual arts, with Dean Otto, Walker assistant curator of film/video and program manager

Walker development director Christopher Stevens and Twin’s CEO Jim Pohlad.

Walker development director Christopher Stevens with Karen and Ken Heithoff

12 Years a Slave producer Bill Pohlad and Michelle Pohlad

Bill and Michelle Pohlad

Artist and filmmaker Steve McQueen with Robert Byrd, program director for the Jerome Foundation, which provides grants for nonprofit arts organizations and artists in Minnesota and New York City.

McQueen with Robert Byrd, program director for the Jerome Foundation, which provides grants for nonprofit arts organizations and artists in Minnesota and New York City

 

Opening Weekend: 9 Artists

On October 24, the much anticipated group show 9 Artists opened in the Target and Friedman galleries. The night brought with it some surprises and kicked off an extended weekend of events in and out of the Walker. Much of the excitement came in the reveal of the night’s surprise guest—Phùng Vo, father of artist […]

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Opening-night visitors in front of Natascha Sadr Haghighian’s I can’t work like this (2007). All photos by Gene Pittman

On October 24, the much anticipated group show 9 Artists opened in the Target and Friedman galleries. The night brought with it some surprises and kicked off an extended weekend of events in and out of the Walker. Much of the excitement came in the reveal of the night’s surprise guest—Phùng Vo, father of artist Danh Vo and the obvious subject of his piece Tombstone for Phùng Vo. Attendees had plenty to see, hear, and discuss amongst the wide array of installations from Vo, Yael Bartana, Liam Gillick, Natascha Sadr Haghighian, Renzo Martens, Bjarne Melgaard, Nástio Mosquito, and Hito Steyerl.

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Artist Danh Vo introduces his father, Phùng Vo, in the Walker Cinema.

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Jamie Stewart of Xiu Xiu playing while Phùng Vo’s calligraphy is projected on the screen

The projection of Phùng Vo's writing during the performance

Artist Danh Vo's father Phùng Vo and family

Artist Danh Vo’s father, Phùng Vo, and family

Renzo Martens and Liam Gillick in front of a part of Gillick's installation

Artists Renzo Martens and Liam Gillick in front of Gillick’s wall text, The State Itself Becomes a Super Commune (2006)

Artists Nástio Mosquito and Vic Pereiró in the gallery

Artists Nástio Mosquito and Vic Pereiró in the gallery

Visitors inspecting the new exhibition

Visitors discovering the many facets of the exhibition

Attendees sit and watch Bjarne Melgaard's _Untitled_ (Bjarne Melgaard interviews Leo Bersani) (2011)

Attendees watching Bjarne Melgaard’s Untitled (Bjarne Melgaard interviews Leo Bersani) (2011)

Artist Marie Karlberg in the gallery

Artist Marie Karlberg in the gallery

Artist Hito Steyerl with _9 Artists_ curator Bart Ryan

Artist Hito Steyerl with 9 Artists curator Bartholomew Ryan

Danh Vo and a portion of his massive _I M U U R 2_ installation

Danh Vo and a portion of his massive I M U U R 2 installation

Museum goers inspect the contents of Danh Vo's I M U U R 2

Museum-goers inspect the contents of Danh Vo’s I M U U R 2

Hito Steyerl's _Red Alert_ (2007) glows in the middle of the gallery

Hito Steyerl’s Red Alert (2007) glows in the middle of the gallery, Bjarne Melgaard’s video interview plays in the background

Natascha Sadr Haghighian with her piece _de paso_ (2011)—with part of Liam Gillick's installation in the background

Natascha Sadr Haghighian with her piece de paso (2011)

Trying to comprehend Natascha Sadr Haghighian's with _de paso_ (2011)

Visitors observe Natascha Sadr Haghighian’s de paso (2011)

9 Artists is on view through February 16, 2014. Are you a Walker member? Make sure to come to the next installment of the ongoing series Art School: What the %#@! is Contemporary Art?; Art School: Visual Arts focuses on 9 Artists on Sunday, November 10.

Walker Contemporaries: Haunted Basements, Biennials, and Spooky Speakeasies

Warning: spoiler alert. The weather this fall took a sudden turn in mid-October, leaving the brave Contemporaries attendees of our visit to The Haunted Basement at The Soap Factory rubbing their hands together from the cold, as well as nervous anticipation. We entered through the back of the building, where the music of a catchy, yet […]

Warning: spoiler alert.

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The weather this fall took a sudden turn in mid-October, leaving the brave Contemporaries attendees of our visit to The Haunted Basement at The Soap Factory rubbing their hands together from the cold, as well as nervous anticipation. We entered through the back of the building, where the music of a catchy, yet rather disturbing screaming baby sample was overlaid on blaring dubstep beats. For anyone not familiar with the reputation of The Haunted Basement, it was the first indication that this was no ordinary haunted house. The Soap Factory is known for this fact. The Haunted Basement now in its seventh year of production and sold out for the season, but Contemporaries members got exclusive access for the night. Every year is completely different, exploring a different concept through a major artistic installation and a cast of actors that aims to be the most exclusive Halloween experience of the year.

After a portion of the group went through the basement, second-year director Noah Bremer spoke about some of the elements specific to this year’s work.

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Contemporaries members relax in the Spooky Speakeasy.

The information page on The Soap Factory’s website lists that one may encounter insects, crawling, and sexual situations, which it seems many of the participants experienced. Expanding on those leads, Bremer highlighted the concept of mixing the human with the non-human, both through dehumanization and hybridization. I couldn’t help but think of Kafka when Bremer mentioned the incorporation of insects, and still wonder if it was meant to be a philosophical inclusion or just a correlation. In any case, he seemed strongly interested in pushing the boundaries of what a “haunted house” can be, even if that puts the definition of The Haunted Basement in question.

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Noah Bremer (in blue cap) answering questions about all the behind the scenes details of the Haunted Basement.

Recently, I sat down with current development and membership intern Kate Heller to discuss our shared experience from that night, as well as the current biennial exhibition “,,,” on show at The Soap Factory.

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Kate Heller emerging from the Haunted Basement.

KS: So, Kate, you went through the Haunted Basement and I did not. What was that experience like? I hear you had to don suits at the start.

KH: Well, the suits were needed to protect our clothing, but it really made the experience more intense. We had to wear these helmets, like the ones used for paintballing. The helmets inhibited my peripheral vision, which made me more nervous and uncomfortable. The limiting quality of the helmet on top of the fact that I couldn’t see in the dark really heightened the experience.

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Emma Berg and Kristoffer Knutson prepare to enter the Haunted Basement.

KS: But you didn’t come out with that on…?

KH: No, this bug prostitute woman took the helmet off in a creepy seductive way and the next thing I knew, I was shoved into a dressing room and the grim reaper was telling me to take off my clothes! I assumed he meant the suit, which I did and handed to another bug prostitute woman. I was surprised how scared I got because I was suddenly alone. In the beginning I was with Kate Tucker and The Haunted Basement felt more funny than anything else. But by the time I got to this part of the basement I was pretty terrified!

KS: You also didn’t come out with Kate Tucker, who I remember you going in with. What happened there?

KH: Once we were shoved into those dressing rooms, I never saw her again.

KS: So for you, how does this experience differ from other Halloween haunted house experiences?

KH: This experience was more focused on the whole performance. There was a distinct theme with talented actors. The installation itself was very artfully done. They didn’t use expensive special effects. Instead there were the different ideas of the makers at use. They used very atypical materials like pizza boxes and pantihose.

KS: Will you go again next year?

KH: Of course… if someone will go with me!

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John Marks and David Petersen, curators the biennial exhibition, discuss the show with the Contemporaries.

KH: Now let’s talk a bit about the curation of the Biennial and the artwork exhibited the other night. Would you like to elaborate a little on that?

KS: Well, I have not been to The Soap Factory before, and the first thing you notice about it in October is that it is not climate controlled! So as someone who knows about artwork, I realized that every work they showed had to be able to withstand the weather. And the other thing about really large rooms, tall ceilings – the work is uninhibited by the space it’s in, making for a great space for the biennial. I can’t think of any other spaces in Minneapolis which could host this type of show the same way.

KH: What was the artwork like in that space?

KS: So there are two galleries used for this show. We entered through the back door, which was apparently the last room of the exhibition. I remember it had larger than life cartoon characters (Broc Blegen, Allen Ruppersberg, Big Trouble) and huge pile of towels that was rather Robert Morris (RO/LU, Here There Then, Here There Now). I liked the feel of that room, things were similar colors and sizes – it all worked well and was aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Everything made sense with everything else but had enough space to give its own statement.

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But when I entered the larger of the two rooms, where the Spooky Speakeasy was hosted, something felt off. The room led in multiple directions, with several videos, the Spooky Speakeasy performers’ setup, a piece on the floor of boards laid out in a diagonal — which I couldn’t tell if it was an artwork or just covering up a hole in the floor. If it was an artwork it should have been indicated, but none of the other works had labels so it was difficult to tell. The room had a diverse spread, but the bar set up for the speakeasy disrupted the space, so many people did not make it over to see the last third of the room. It was more difficult to make sense of the art in that second room. Although it was not overcrowded, it was overwhelming.

The curators, David Petersen and John Marks, spoke about several bad critiques they got of the show. I admit the Hyperallergic one is pretty rough, although they have some good points. Calling a show a “biennial fail” in the title is a big statement to make!

KH: Yeah, they mentioned some bad critiques but they also had some valid defenses for the exhibition. Petersen and Marks created a gallery guide which explains the best way to approach the artwork and the path to take. Using the gallery guide makes the exhibition less overwhelming. Biennials are also known for having a lot of different artists with varying ideas, so having all their art together in one show and then on top of that under one roof, can make the experience confusing for the viewer. The curators also made sure to have artist talks, so to further explain the art more individually. Apparently, the bad critiques came from individuals who did not utilize the gallery guide or even attend the artists’ talks. I agree with your opinion of the show, but I also would have like to attend the artist talks and get a more thorough look at the gallery guide. I feel that my experience may have been different if I had.

KS: I agree. Our group that night also got a different experience than someone who might come when the speakeasy isn’t up, for example. The curators were going for a hands-off approach, which leads to no one shared experience by viewers, but can also lead to confusion by those not experienced with contemporary art.

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Both the basement and the biennial defy the assumed limitations of their definitions. Perhaps the basement is not truly a haunted house, but an interactive art installation. The biennial, rather than a perfectly crafted aesthetic experience, maybe is more of a do-it-yourself discovery project. But despite any contentions about their experiences, the evening mood was received well by everyone. Live accordion, violin, and theremin tunes provided a spooky setting for drinks and chatter late into the night.

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Johnny Michaels, cocktails guru, was on-site making drinks in the Spooky Speakeasy.

 

Artists Installing: 9 Artists

The Target and Friedman galleries have been full this past week as artists, their teams, and Walker staff prepare for the group show that is 9 Artists. Fortunately for attendees, the artists won’t be leaving once the show debuts tonight. The opening is only the beginning of a weekend of engaging talks and performances—one relying […]

Danh Vo installing his portion of the group exhibition9 Artists. Photo: Gene Pittman

Danh Vo installing his portion of the group exhibition 9 Artists. All photos by Gene Pittman

The Target and Friedman galleries have been full this past week as artists, their teams, and Walker staff prepare for the group show that is 9 Artists. Fortunately for attendees, the artists won’t be leaving once the show debuts tonight. The opening is only the beginning of a weekend of engaging talks and performances—one relying on audience participation. Renzo Martens already gave a lecture on gentrification, but the rest of the group—Bjarne Melgaard, Liam Gillick, Hito Steyerl, Danh Vo, Natascha Sadr Haghighian, and Nástio Mosquito—will be presenting in some fashion on October 24, 25, and 26. Walker photographer Gene Pittman captured these glimpses into the installation process of this international, multigenerational show.

Artist Peter Broda at the beginning of the installation process. Photo: Gene Pittman

Peter Broda, artist and friend of Danh Vo, at the beginning of a long process

Danh Vo getting some installation help from Peter Broda. Photo: Gene Pittman

Danh Vo getting some installation help from Peter Broda

Natascha Sadr Haghighian (center) discussing her installation with Curator Bartholomew Ryan and Curatorial Fellow Mia Lopez. Photo: Gene Pittman

Natascha Sadr Haghighian (center) discussing her installation with curator Bart Ryan and curatorial fellow Mia Lopez

Danh Vo looking over his sculpture _Tombstone for Phùng Vo_ (2010), with Exhibition Technician Doc Czypinski. Photo: Gene Pittman

Danh Vo looking over his sculpture Tombstone for Phùng Vo (2010), with exhibition technician Doc Czypinski

Photo: Gene Pittman

Artist Marie Karlberg, Tim Smith of Artist Resources Management, and the photographer Johannes Worsøe Berg watching Karlberg’s video after it was installed in the Bjarne Melgaard installation for the first time.

 

Artists Danh Vo and Liam Gillick look over the space while curator Bart Ryan takes a much needed sit. Photo: Gene Pittman

Artists Danh Vo and Liam Gillick look over the space while curator Bart Ryan takes a much needed sit

Liam Gillick putting on some finishing touches. Photo: Gene Pittman

Liam Gillick putting on some finishing touches

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