Archive for November, 2007

Pack Suitcase, Make Art

Monday, November 26th, 2007

Art Case

Photo by Lance Robotson — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

This week I found myself in one of those conversations about “what is art” and “who defines it”: the creator? the audience? the critic? This conversation was a bit different because it was wonderfully short, to the point, and with an amazing commercial photographer, Mark Mann. (Mark covers everything from the hip-hop world to sports.)

At the same time, I noted a festival, newly posted on the site, has found a way to combine the professional practice with amateur aesthetic to create really wonderful art - Latvia’s Bildes Festival.

Believe it or not, one of the best destinations on the festival circuit is Latvia. One can find some of the coolest festivals - all kinds of dance, music and theatre - as well as a vibrant tradition in the visual arts.

Bildes, which begins performances this week, is a festival of blues, jazz, and folk music, along with special events for children’s music. In the lead up to the festival, they invite the musicians as well as photographers, critics, journalists, the artists’ children, and even ambassadors stationed in Latvia to create visual art.

The festival is now in its fifteenth year and is one of the leading Latvian Fests for music and contemporary art. In the past, the musicians and artists-to-be have painted just about any surface around - tables, bottles, shirts; constructed installations with pieces of computers, chairs, pillows, blankets, and silverware; and, made art from buttons. This year, the object d’art theme is the suitcase.

What a perfect image of art bringing diverse communities together. Now, one can travel with their art.

Bildes organizes a “summer camp” (held this year in Austria) to start the visual art process. Ivars Mailitis, whose accomplishments include the 1981 work “C’est La Vie or Rats Jumping from a Sinking Ship - The Soviet Union” designs the exhibit. The artistic journey culminates in “The Suitcase Parade.”

What’s the point of art? Here is Latvian Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks:

For people these days, traveling means not only going on holiday trips but also on business missions, and staying in airports for hours on end. As numerous visits abroad are part of a foreign minister’s job, and a suitcase is one of his ‘tools of trade’, I am truly delighted that Latvian artists have resolved to make this object more glamorous and attractive, thus adding colour to our life.

An object seen in a new way, a song heard as a memory — that works pretty well for answering “what is art.”

And who defines this art? For Bildes, they are creating art, creating community, creating audience, creating artists — in other words, it is no one person’s judgment, but everyone’s participatory prerogative.

- Bill Reichblum

It’s My Party, and I’ll Culture If I Want To

Monday, November 19th, 2007


Photo by Andrew Becraft — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

Have you ever had the sneaking impression that cultural events are attractive to only one side of the political spectrum?

Well, now we know there is a built-in preference for culture based on an audience’s political philosophy.

As covered this week in Fest News, a recent five month poll in America sponsored by the Norman Lear Center at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School and conducted by the company Zogby International breaks down an audience’s culture choices based on their politics.

Conservatives avoid entertainment in “bad taste”; they are not fans of contemporary music, although they do listen to country and gospel; if they go to movies they are going to go to action-adventure flicks; and, they love American football and car racing.

Liberals like a lot of different types of entertainment, although they are not fans of reality and game shows on television; preference in movies is for comedies, although they like to have political themes in all of their entertainment; while they, too, love American football, they are also more likely to appreciate soccer (i.e. football everywhere else); and, they listen to all kinds of music, except country.

Moderates are fans of all types of television, especially reality and game shows, soap operas and police dramas. Rock music is their favorite kind of music. They try to avoid entertainment that is about politics or current events, but they do love self-help books.

Liberals are almost twice as likely as conservatives to read literary fiction, and they read more science fiction/fantasy than moderates. They are also the least likely to read self-help books. Moderates, though, read the most mysteries and thrillers.

Liberals are much more likely to go to theatre, museums and galleries, while Conservatives are more likely to choose a sporting event.

The poll’s audience sample had 39% conservative, 39% liberal, and 24% moderate participants.

Want to maximize an audience for live performance? You should know two things: Classical music works well across all political tastes; and, liberals are much more likely than conservatives to take in entertainment with which they philosophically disagree. This means that the biggest audience would be for a classical music work with strong conservative views — conservatives and liberals will all be there.

The winner is Wagner — performed in a football stadium.

- Bill Reichblum

Interview: Anne Tismer

Saturday, November 17th, 2007

Photo: Anne TismerAnne Tismer is a renowned German actress, who for many years has worked with directors such as Frank Castorf, Peter Stein, Luc Bondy, Dieter Giesing and Thomas Ostermeier. She has performed the leading roles in Euripides’ Medea, Saint Joan of the Stockyards by Brecht, Lulu by Wedekind, and A Doll’s House by Ibsen. For the latter performance, she received the “Actress of the Year” German critics’ award in 2003. Most recently, Anne has embarked upon a radically new artistic venture: together with performance artist Rahel Savoldelli, she has founded a new theater group, called “Gutes Tun”, in Berlin.

In this interview Anne addresses questions about the production of 20th of November, a study of the teenage killer in the German highschool tragedy in 2006. The script is based on the boy’s diary and was written and directed by Lars Norén. The production opens the 2007 edition of the Nordwind Festival, and its concept fits in well with the main task of “Gutes Tun”, which Anne also talks about.

 Interview: Anne Tismer [16:26m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

Cover Bands of Culture Dominate

Monday, November 12th, 2007

It Is Art

Photo by Steve Burke — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

Marcus Westbury, festival creator and now the host of Australia’s television show Not Quite Art on ABC, wonders why the “cover bands” of culture receive significantly more funding than the institutions and small organizations devoted to producing new work.

Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, and relayed on our daily Fest News, Westbury frames the cultural funding issue:

…no one seriously goes out of their way to suggest that covers bands are the most vital or important part of the music scene. Why then are covers bands — of the high-culture variety — receiving the bulk of arts funding?”

Westbury is writing about the established orchestras, opera and theatre companies that thrive on presenting classic works, and that receive the bulk of government funding.

As Westbury thrives on finding new work, the question is whether this disparity in funding is at the expense of creating new work: “reward innovation not preservation and vibrancy over bureaucracy.”

Of course, this is a story repeated all over the world — anywhere where prominent institutions of high art receive the funds, while the companies who experiment by introducing new work offer the future.

Still, the divide between the funds and the future isn’t that wide.

Of course government bureaucracies will always do what they do best and what is in their self interest: maintain the status quo.

At the same time, you inspire new work by providing the context of classical work; you inspire innovative work by confronting what was innovative in its own time.

Westbury’s piece should, though, keep the conversations going both in his homeland of Australia, and in yours.

Want a quick look at platforms for new work? Check out the current list of festivals featuring Original Work.

In the meantime, you can fund new work all by yourself: go buy a ticket to the next generation’s classic.

- Bill Reichblum

New Orleans Waits for Godot

Monday, November 5th, 2007

Waiting For Godot

Photo by Piero Fissore — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

We waited for Red Cross. We waited for George Bush. We waited for rescue. We waited for housing. We waited for FEMA… Waiting. I can tell you about waiting.

Posted from the Associated Press this week in Fest News, audience member Tyrone Grave perfectly captured the connection between a place and a performance.

Paul Chan, the digital media and video artist, is working with Creative Time, the Classical Theatre of Harlem, and director Christopher McElroen to produce Waiting for Godot, for free, outdoors in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward and Gentilly.

The production is part of a multi-faceted project including free art seminars, educational programs, theatre workshops, a book and film on the process, and partnerships with local universities, high schools, and community organizations.

What makes great plays timeless is that the experience of being in the audience can be so immediate.

Godot has been performed in prisons, in Sarajevo during the war, and in apartheid-era South Africa. (That SA production, produced by Baxter Theatre at University of Cape Town, directed by Donald Howarth and featuring Winston Ntshona and John Kani still ranks as one of the great performances of the play — as hysterically funny as it was searingly tragic.)

The work of Samuel Beckett might not be the most obvious choice to bring a community together. However, when you maintain the integrity of Beckett’s specific choices, and place the play in a context that reaches beyond the stage to become an event of resonance and insight, a community, such as NOLA’s, responds.

Out of a desolate landscape and a crushing sense of abandonment, Vladimir and Estragon come together to explore their world, find humor, and to believe.

The opening night crowd was too large to accommodate everyone who wanted to be there. Performances continue next weekend.

Nothing to be done, indeed.

- Bill Reichblum

Interview: Pippo Delbono (English Translation)

Saturday, November 3rd, 2007

Photo: Pippo DelbonoPippo Delbono is an Italian actor, playwright and director. He has worked with Pina Bausch, and with the Farfa group led by Nagel Rasmussen in Denmark, and has studied in Japan, Burma, and Bali. His two plays Il Silenzio (Silence) and Racconti di Giugno (Tales of June) were presented at the International Festival of Buenos Aires in September 2007.

In the first part of this interview, Pippo tells KadmusArts about his various theatrical experiences and how they influenced the way he conceives theater today. He talks about the sense of choreography of Silence, a play based on memories connected to the earthquake that devastated Gibellina in 1968; about how and why he included a former intern of a mental institution and a person with Down Syndrome in his plays; and how theater has become a bourgeois institution, and the problems this generates. In the second part of the interview, Delbono answers some critical comments from the public, and discusses the influence of masters like Dante, Pasolini and Fellini in his works. Finally, he tells us about his autobiographical play Tales of June, which deals with death, and how by forgetting about it we are actually forgetting about life itself.

 Interview: Pippo Delbono (English Translation) [26:31m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

Interview: Pippo Delbono (In Spanish)

Saturday, November 3rd, 2007

Photo: Pippo DelbonoPippo Delbono, actor, director y dramaturgo italiano, estudió en Japón, Birmania y Bali, entre otros lugares de Oriente, y ha trabajado con Pina Bausch, y con el Grupo Farfa dirigido por Nagel Rasmussen en Dinamarca. Sus dos obras El Silencio y Cuentos de Junio se presentaron en el Festival Internacional de Buenos Aires en Septiembre de 2007.

En la primera parte de la entrevista, Pippo nos cuenta sus distintas experiencias teatrales y cómo influenciaron su manera de concebir el teatro. También habla sobre el sentido coreográfico de El Silencio, una obra basada en recuerdos conectados con un terremoto que devastó Gibellina en 1968; sobre cómo y por qué decidió integrar a su trabajo a un ex interno de una institución psiquiátrica y a una persona con Síndrome de Down; y sobre cómo el teatro se ha convertido en un espacio burgués y los problemas que esto genera. En la segunda parte de la entrevista, Delbono responde a críticas del público, y comenta la influencia en sus trabajos de grandes artistas como Dante, Pasolini y Fellini. Finalmente, nos habla de su obra autobiográfica Cuentos de Junio, que trata sobre la muerte y cómo al olvidarla estamos en realidad olvidando la vida.

 Interview: Pippo Delbono (In Spanish) [37:18m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download