Friday, April 10, 2009

“Antiretrovirals and Water Refugees” at MIT

“Antiretrovirals and Water Refugees: A Living Newspaper on Haiti,” directed by MIT guest artist and puppeteer John Bell and produced by MIT’s Dramashop, deploys bunraku puppets, shadow theater, toy theater, video and live music. The performance is a kind of parable about Paul Farmer's Partners in Health’s fight against AIDS in Haiti. And in the middle is a didactic history of the Caribbean island nation. (Disclosure: I’m friends with Bell and a number of the other folks involved.)

“Antiretrovirals and Water Refugees: A Living Newspaper on Haiti” at MIT’s Kresge Little Theater, 48 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, at 8 p.m. April 9 to 11 and April 15 to 17. Tickets $8, students $ 6. Post-show discussions April 9, 10, 15, and 16. For advance tickets visit here.

Photos by The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research.

Awesome animation in Providence

From my preview of “Waltz with Bashir” art director David Polonsky’s talk at RISD and the Festival of Contemporary Animation at Rhode Island College:
There are moments when, by coincidence or an aligning of the stars, something amazing accidentally comes together. Here in Providence, next week is one of those times, as two complimentary events combine to create one of the finest showcases of contemporary animation that you'll find anywhere in North America this year. And it's all free.

David Polonsky, art director of the animated documentary “Waltz with Bashir,” will give a talk about the making of the film at the RISD Auditorium on April 13 at 6:30 pm. Rhode Island College then rounds up notable international and local cartoons for its Festival of Contemporary Animation on April 17 and 18 at Sapinsley Hall.

“Waltz with Bashir,” which won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language film in January and was nominated for the Academy Award in the same category, tells of director Ari Folman's efforts to recall his experiences as an Israeli soldier during the 1982 Lebanon War — and in particular the massacre by Israel-allied Lebanese Christian militias of thousands of civilians in a pair of Beirut refugee camps surrounded by Israeli troops. "The Israeli army almost knowingly allowed the Christian Phalangists to do that," Polonsky tells me. "Not enough was done to stop the massacre. It's a very sore spot in the Israeli consciousness.
Read the rest here.

David Polonsky, art director of the animated documentary "Waltz with Bashir," gives a talk about the making of the film at the RISD Auditorium, 17 Canal St., Providence, at 6:30 p.m. April 13.

Rhode Island College presents its Festival of Contemporary Animation on April 17 and 18 at Sapinsley Hall, 600 Mount Pleasant Ave.

Pictured above is Providence animator Lorelei Pepi's film in progress Happy and Gay. Pictured below are samples from two films expected to be screened at the animation fest: Takeshi Murata's "Untitled (Pink Dot)" and Laura Heit's "Look for Me." Watch more previews of festival films here.

Clark Art Institute cuts nine jobs

The North Adams Transcript reports that the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown has cut nine jobs due to the effects of our not-so-great depression, which has left the museum's endowment down about 25 percent.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

"Me" and the Miracle 5

In which your humble author tracks down his Facebook impersonator, thinks “deep” thoughts, and then reviews the impersonator’s show

A New England Journal of Aesthetic Research investigative report:
The e-mail from "Craig Cook" arrived on March 2. It directed me to a Facebook page pretending to be Greg Cook's, and a YouTube video. I was busy, so I watched only the beginning of the latter. [Note the screenshot above depicts the Webpage after its creator later added the word "fake."]

Someone had pasted some whacked-out photos of me onto an '80s Max Headroom video. A robot voice said it was responding to an essay I'd posted on my blog, the New England Journal of Aesthetic Research, and on the on-line arts journal Big Red & Shiny calling for local artists to have more do-it-yourself moxie. I'd suggested organizing shows in apartments, garages, on-line, in rented trucks parked on Harrison Avenue. "Someone should hack the ICA's Mediatheque computers — since the ICA isn't using them — and fill them with crazy digital art," I wrote.

The video focused on the part about the ICA. "I tried to hack the ICA Mediatheque lab computers but failed," the robot voice said before I shut it off and returned to more pressing matters.

I didn't think much about it until a friend living abroad e-mailed asking what was up with the video. Then a co-worker complimented me on it. A local gallerist said she'd been contacted to be my Facebook friend; she'd replied yes, the video had arrived, and now it refused to be deleted from her computer.

"Craig" started to seem creepy. As a critic, I'm fair game for satire and complaints. What bothered me was the identity-theft bit. And how Fake Greg Cook was messing with my personal and professional relationships. It didn't feel funny; it felt something like stalking. And I thought I knew who "Craig" was.
All is revealed in the stunning conclusion here.

Pictured: a couple versions of the Fake Greg Cook Facebook page – after the impostor changed the name to Gary Frye, and later after the impostor added the “fake” label to “clarify” things.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Caleb Neelon

From my February profile of Caleb Neelon of Cambridge:
When Caleb Neelon talks about how he got hooked on graffiti, he often recounts a trip he took to Germany with his mom in 1990. The Berlin Wall had fallen the previous November, and the then-13-year-old kid was captivated by the notorious landmark's graffiti-covered remains.

"It ran the whole spectrum," Neelon remembers. "It was toilet humor and cries for freedom, and dick and fart jokes." He was also taken by the power graffiti seemed to have: "[It] struck me as this acid that ate away [at the Wall] until it was open."

Returning home to Cambridge, where he still lives, Neelon took up graffiti himself. His work tends to be more folksy, less flashy than typical street art. In part, it's because he's drawn inspiration from traveling the world, and tends to use local paints — in places where spray paint is either terribly expensive or deficient or both. But it's also his imagery: jaunty polka-dot bulls, birds, clouds, and bejeweled psychedelic mountains. It resembles something from a child's homey patchwork quilt.

Gingko Press just published a survey of the 32-year-old Neelon's career: “Caleb Neelon's Book of Awesome: Murals, Gallery Installations & Street Paintings from All Over the Place.”
Read the rest here.

Neelon: Fairey’s arrest hurts Boston biz

Portrait of Caleb Neelon at top by The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research. Artworks below by Neelon are from top to bottom: "Animal Farm" mural at Kathmandu, Nepal, 2003; Kathmandu, Nepal, 2003; and "On the Hard," installation at Boston Center for the Arts, 2006. Photos by Caleb Neelon and Peter Tannenbaum. A slideshow of more of Neelon's work is here.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Neelon: Fairey's arrest hurts Boston biz

"We as a group need to spread the word to all who will hear it that this arrest[of Shepard Fairey] is destructive to the Massachusetts creative economy." -- Caleb Neelon

For some time now Caleb Neelon, a Cambridge steet and gallery artist and authority on street art, has been arguing that Boston officialdom's rejection of and criminalization of street art and street style is bad for the city -- for its art, its economy, and the community as a whole -- because it drives away business. At Boston's Instute of Contemporary Art on April 4, Neelon addressed these issues while speaking about Los Angeles street artist Shepard Fairey, whose work is on view at the ICA. He argued that Fairey's arrest by Boston police for vandalism perpetuates Boston's reputation as unwelcoming to creativity (and the dollars that follow it), perpetuates Boston's reputation as the square place that still bans art:
In 1882, on its [Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass"] publication, Boston authorities banned the book for indecency. They singled out the section I just quoted, presumably because of its veiled references to kissing a dude. Boston authorities would go on to ban Thomas Hardy's "Tess of the D'Urbervilles" in 1891. In the 20th Century, Boston authorities would go on to ban, or do their best to ban, works by H.L. Mencken, Aldous Huxley, Ernest Hemingway, and even Voltaire's "Candide," nearly two hundred years after its publication. Erich Maria Remarque's "All Quiet on the Western Front" was removed, successfully, as well.

These books were all banned because they were in violation of local law. Their works were removed from shelves because they were illegal.

Yet when you all were in grade school, you probably read some of these works in English class. What was once illegal and obscene became something teenagers have to write a book reports on.

So why am I giving you this little American Literature lesson? Because there's an elephant in the room today: Shepard Fairey will on April 14 again appear in Boston court on vandalism charges for works he allegedly installed in Boston streets. ...

After posing with none other than Boston Mayor Tom Menino under his banner at City Hall, at the public opening of this show, Shepard was arrested on his way into the [ICA] building. A small number of Boston police, at the urging of a small activist group from Boston's wealthiest neighborhood, dug up an eight year old bench warrant - given for putting a sticker on a sign pole - tailed him, and moved in. Shepard was made to fly back from his Los Angeles home to face an arraignment a week later. He is charged with 29 felony counts.

29 felony counts.

Neither Whitman, Hemingway, Hardy, or Remarque ever felt Boston police handcuffs.
Read Neelon's entire speech here.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Miracle 5 at Space 242

I've posted a slideshow here of "The Miracle 5 Present 'Holy GJYDhad!' By Yassy Goldie," which is on view at Space 242, 242 East Berkeley St., Boston, from March 27 to April 17, 2009.

Photos by The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research.