The View From 32


JULY 22, 2007   More below: DRUMS | RUN BACK HOME | SECOND LOOKS

Ingenuity, Day Four

Toni Dove and assistance on stage


Toni Dove and her assistant, onstage at the Palace Theater for a showing of Dove's Spectropia, were sometimes spectators, sometimes puppeteers.

At times they waved their hands in front of a camera to control motion and sound of the movie showing behind them. During other parts of the film they simply sat and watched.

The result was sometimes fascinating, frequently mystifying, but—I hate to say this again—too darn long. As with the Troika Ranch performance a couple of days ago, I often lost interest in this 90-minute movie.

The idea of combining live performance with a full length narrative film has great potential, but this one about ghosts and time travel is hard to follow to start with. The interactive segments, while the most interesting to watch, disrupted the narrative flow.

Computerized Sally RandIt's unclear to me whether the performers had any sense of their audience, a key part of live performance. There didn't seem to be any interplay between them, except for a single short segment when the house lights went up and Ms. Dove went into the audience with a microphone so that audience members could ask questions of her computerized alter ego, Sally Rand. Rand "answered" the questions with what sounded like a semi-random, semi-programmed response.

Rand appeared at the beginning and the end of the film as well, acting as a kind of on-screen narrator. The Q&A with the audience seemed to be an unnecessary interruption that didn't add anything to my understanding or appreciation of the movie.

The film itself combined beeping and buzzing techno-machines that were part Victorian, part space-age with 1930s settings and costumes. The acting and overall production values were very high. While I don't understand exactly how it was structured, frequent momentary pauses between scenes indicate that segments can be rearranged during the performance. Ms.Dove explained afterwards that it's possible to switch characters and viewpoints, speed up and slow down the action, etc., making each performance unique.

While I wasn't enthralled throughout (OK, I nodded off once or twice), this kind of experimentation in old/new media is exactly what we need, and what Ingenuity should be bringing to Cleveland.

More drums

African drummers and dancers on Main StageIf there's a musical theme to Ingenuity this year, it's drums. From the opening festivities to Beat the Donkey and today's Senegalese Assane M’Baye and his Tam Tam Magic Drum and Dance Ensemble, percussion has been the order of the day.

Unlike bluegrass or hip hop or classical, the primal appeal of drums seems to work for everyone: young and old, black and white, male and female. What better way to bring us together?

The gut-level appeal of drumming also provides good counterpoint to the more intellectual tech-driven installations and performances. After an hour and a half of mental wrestling with the themes of Toni Dove's Spectropia, drumming was what I needed.

Run Back Home

Sink with 3 video monitors and three faucets from Run Back Home

This installation by Xan Palay tells the story of three children using video and audio narration. An old-fashioned school sink is a metaphor of a fountain in a park.

The beautifully done piece clearly expresses the multiple perspectives of the children, but I found the small videos hard to see and follow.

More effective is the use of ultrasonic speakers hanging from the ceiling. These speakers project a narrow beam of sound with very little "bleed over" into other areas. Thus when you stand at one spot in front of the sink/fountain you hear one child's voice. Move a couple feet to the left or right and you hear the others.

On a technical and visual level, Run Back Home is a success. However, as with most interactive installations, it doesn't seem to connect on an emotional level nearly as well as a typical movie.

Interactive storytelling is going to come into its own someday, and work like this moves the day closer.

See for a description of the work and more photos.

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Second looks

Potato pancakes

Potato pancake on paper plate

On Friday night I tried a friend's potato pancakes from a vendor selling them along with pierogi and cabbage & noodles. Since I'm a sucker for ethnic food like this, I decided to get my own for supper on Sunday while at the festival.

Presentation aside (I hate paper plates and plastic fork/knives) they were pretty good. Tasty, slathered with sour cream and applesauce like mom used to serve them, but a little on the greasy side. Unfortunately the oil used for frying had a slightly bitter taste to it, spoiling the fresh potato flavor.

Still, as "county fair" style food goes, I give them a thumbs up.

Labor Camp

Labor Camp installation with red banners in background

Somehow in my description of Labor Camp Study Room a couple of days ago I managed to omit any reference to its prominent use of Communist-style imagery. As this picture shows, it was pretty hard to miss the Red China motif, but I didn't mention it. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here ya go.

I went again hoping to listen longer, but the "helpful" volunteer who insisted on explaining what the piece was about just about drove me nuts. She just wouldn't stop telling me what to do even when I told her I'd been there before.

On the one hand, having someone explain an installation like this probably makes many people more comfortable, and encourages the technophobes to give it a try. But on the other hand, it's about an individual experience with the piece, hard to do when someone's jabbering in your ear.

Noah's installation

View of Noah Hrbek's installation showing the kitchen

During the Grandmaster Flash show I ran into George and Stephanie, Noah's parents. After talking with them it sounded like I must have really misunderstood his bizarre but fanciful environment made out of household trash. I called it "funky" and "fascinating."

Apparently some of the faculty at the Art Institute, where he created it as his senior thesis, found it too bleak and hopeless.

Hmm...maybe it's that I didn't watch the videos, which from George's description were pretty bleak. So I went back, intending to watch more and try to grasp the "true" meaning of the work.

Video screen I tried both the one embedded in the bedroom wall, shown here, and the one in the living room window.

As I probably have mentioned, my attention span for art videos is pretty short. I watched each for a minute or two, during which time one appeared to be looping. Obviously there still may be a lot more that I haven't seen, but I'm not getting bleak and hopeless yet.

I'm just going to be satisfied with the idea that art can be interpreted differently by different people. I see too much energy and imagination in the work to make me feel hopeless.

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