“We Are Working All the Time!” Wants You

Dear Friends,

Hope this message finds you well.

If you have visited with the Empty Words (so that we can do our living) performance during the Northern Spark festival on June 4-5, chances are you have walked away with one of the “We Are Working All The Time!” posters. These posters were printed during the performance and distributed to the audience. I am writing to ask you a simple favor:

If you have that poster hanging somewhere, would you please take a quick photo of it in whatever environment it is, and send the image to me?

I started this simple site for this poster series, and my hope is to show the posters in various spaces, where people chose to hang them.


There are not too many images there yet, but with your help I am hoping to populate the site very soon!

Thank you for your help,

Piotr Szyhalski

If you know anyone else that has this poster, or if you saw one around, please forward this message to them!

Readings, storytelling, and lullabies at Northern Spark

Storytelling is a time-honored way to ward off the evil spirits at night – or just plain drowsiness. Laurie Hertzel has a nice blog post in On Books about the Bedtime Stories project, which is organized by the Rain Taxi Review of Books as part of the Walker Art Center’s Nightshift program for Northern Spark.

There are many other opportunities for storytelling at Northern Spark.

Piotr Szyhalski, Empty Words (so that we can do our living)

Piotr Szyhalski’s 9-hour performance is a participatory reading of John Cage’s “Empty Words” and is part of an ongoing series of works that examine the poetics and, particularly, the rhetoric of language. Empty Words attempts to “demilitarize language, by awakening its natural poetry and making it impossible for people to control one another through rhetoric. Hopefully some state government officials will be in attendance, but in any case come to Father Hennepin Bluffs Park on the east side of the Stone Arch Bridge and add your voice.

Skewed Visions, Please Remain Seated

Skewed Visions takes their storytelling on the free buses that will transport people from venue to venue in and between Saint Paul and Minneapolis. Sorry, no napping on the buses.

All My Relations Arts, Community Conversation

Hopefully no one will be sleep already at 5:30 pm – although this is Minnesota, so you never know for sure – but there will be a stimulating conversation between Rigo 23, Tom Poor Bear, Mona Smith, Bobby Wilson, Robert Two Bulls and Heid Erdrich about Rigo’s Oglala Oyate: Sister City for a Better Future, an 8-hour video, which he shot on the Pine Ridge Reservation last year.

Red76, Follow the Light, Let the Light be Your Guide.

On the steps of the Saint Paul Central Library, Red76 encourages you to bring a radical prophetic text, preferably of regional vintage, to declaim into the night. As more and more visions of the future are spoken aloud and shared, the darkened facade of the library will light, till there is a new dawn in the morning. At 5:28 am.

Works Progress, Mississippi Megalops – A Floating Chautauqua

While the free tickets are almost sold out for this river adventure orchestrated by Works Progress and Andy Sturdevant, there may be some left for the 5 am trip – the best time, in my opinion. Sparkling performances, illustrated presentations and other works of artistic and scientific expression will be presented aboard the Jonathan Padelford sternwheeler as it makes its way down the Mississippi River, illuminating the shores of Saint Paul. Featuring creative contributions from over a dozen artists, scientists and storytellers, who together will transform a common riverboat into a floating Chautauqua, a rollicking experience that will enrich the mind and delight the senses!

Springboard for the Arts, Two Story Love Story

Springboard presents a program of dialogue between staff, in their offices on the 2nd floor above Prince St., and visitors, on
street below.

Marcus Young and Grace Minnesota, The Lullaby Experiment

Ok, so you still can’t quite stay awake. Come back to the Walker and let Marcus Young and Grace Minnesota sing you gently to sleep.

Strange Fruit

Labor Camp Orchestra album: Songs From The Labor Camp. via NPR

Labor Camp Orchestra album: Songs From The Labor Camp. via NPR

It’s “old news” at this point, but still worth pointing out – and listening to.

Piotr Szyhalski’s Labor Camp Orchestra is an ongoing work that has been the site for much of his public artwork over the past several years, including two installations in at LABoral in Gijon, Spain for the exhibition FEEDFORWARD – Angel of History, which I co-curated with Christiane Paul.

As the website states, Labor Camp Orchestra is

“the Aural Branch of the Labor Camp. Since it’s gradual inception between 1998-1999 Labor Camp Orchestra remains committed to construction of auditory experiences, which follow no singular philosophy, process or idea.”

Back in June, the Labor Camp Orchestra was featured in an NPR story by Lara Pellegrinelli, “Evolution of a Song: Strange Fruit.” The words of the song were originally penned in 1936 under the name Lewis Allan by Bronx schoolteacher Abel Meeropol in reaction to a photograph of the 1930 lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith in Marion, Indiana.

Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith, August 7, 1930. via Wikipedia

Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith, August 7, 1930. via Wikipedia

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to listen to Billie Holiday’s memorable rendition of Strange Fruit the same again after viewing this photograph, which is part of the point of Szyhalski’s “cover” of it via Labor Camp Orchestra – to make visceral the Iraq war. To take us beyond the blaring headlines, patriotic jingoism, and national security fervor to a place that is literally unforgettable. According to Pellegrinelli,

“The group’s version of “Strange Fruit” passes for perky, tidy electronica on first listen. In reality, it emerged from a conceptual thread on events in Iraq and specifically addresses the execution of Saddam Hussein. Based solely on Meeropol’s poem, it juxtaposes his words with a woman reciting the names of fruits in Arabic. An archival recording from the Hussein execution and Koranic recitation plays in the background.”

Listen here.