Paris along the Mississippi?

MPR’s Chris Roberts interviews Northern Spark Artistic Director Steve Dietz. Chris did a great job of zeroing in on some of the key questions about why Northern Spark and why the Twin Cities? Ultimately, only the Festival itself can make the case, but listen here for some initial thoughts. And start “training” now to stay up all night on June 4.

Puppetry in slow motion

Puppetry seems to be everywhere these days, including rush hour traffic in LA.

“The show, called Superclogger after L.A.’s endlessly clogged freeways, was conceived with Joel Kyack’s friend Peter Fuller. Fueled by a determinedly low-tech aesthetic, it stars a cast that suggests a group of funky, grimy, homemade Muppets, acting out short vignettes on themes that might speak to people stuck in traffic. Coping with uncertain conditions, for instance, or the state of being controlled.”–via NPR

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.