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It’s almost official, summer arrives this week! I noticed last night the sky was still light at 9:15pm, the fire flies are out, bees are buzzing and I’m already well on my way to a summer tan. For me, I feel “reborn” every year at this time. There’s something about the onset of summer that’s stirs me unlike any other season, and that time is now. I’m getting itchy to leave the usual and do something “different.”
There are many summer festivals out there, but most of those either seem like going to the mall or just plain silly, and none of them really take me out of the day to day. Cochella is held in a beautiful environment, but it just feels like Brooklyn with lots of desert in place of asphalt; Bonnaroo has the vibe of one big farmers market, attended by everyone’s groovy uncle and everyone’s favorite eco-consumer brand available for purchase. And, do I really want to spend a few days with people who travel hundreds, if not thousands, of miles to attend events as mundane as a mosquito or cream cheese festival? No thanks.
Call me flighty, but I’m looking for something that will stir the soul and lift the mind, and also let loose a bit. I think I’m done with Burning Man. Done it enough, and now a chance to get tickets is so complicated that they’re scapled online for up to $1,000 each. If you haven’t been though, still a great escape from consumerism and yourself. Just be very ready for heat, sun, and incredible sandstorms, with no escape from the elements, whatsoever.
An alternative to Burning Man is Nowhere, held July 3-8 in the deserts of Spain. A lot smaller and ‘softer’ than its American counterpart, it’s a true summer getaway. Since its host country and the Continent in general are going to hell, it might be a good year to attend. Since I’m on the subject of Europe, a few people I know recently experienced the Pink Pop Festival in the Netherlands. It’s held every year somewhere between late May and mid-June. And while it’s too late to go this year, if massive live music extravaganzas with bands are your thing, this is the place to be. What’s different about Pink is the bands aren’t curtated through the lens of wonky U.S. or British hipster cognescenti, but rather by those with a Continental palate. This results is ten of thousands of people cheering wildy to bands whose names I have trouble pronouncing, never mind ever hearing from them before. A fresh perspective. Something new. A learning experience.
If you want a more dance-oriented festival there’s the Stop Making Sense Festival held August 2-6 in Croatia, right next to the warm waters of the Adriadic. Perhaps the best place in the world to dance. During your downtime you can take yoga classes or share a sailboat with others festival goers. Sounds too good to be true.
If you want something a bit more ‘cultured’ feel free to join me at the American Dance Festival (ADF) in Durham, NC held from June 14 through July 28. It’s the world’s leading venue for modern dance. Given that modern dance nowadays embodies not just dance, but also theater, performance art, multimedia, music and fashion, there’s a lot to the art. ADF also holds a six-week dance school during the festival, so enthusiastic young people abound in a small easy-going, but quickly emerging Southern city.
If studying urban environments in quiet contemplation is your thing, I recommend a week at Arcosanti. Since 1970, Arcosant is “an experimental desert town” under constant evolution in the Arizona desert led by Paolo Soleri. Each month they hold a one week seminar where you can be immersed in the history and nature of what the city calls “Arcology.” Or, you can just rent a room and roam around on your own. Nothing quite like the place.
While in Arizona you can take a road trip a bit east to New Mexico for the Santa Fe Opera Festival, held this year from June 29-August 25. While I’m no fan of the classical “fat lady in horns” opera (too much) I’m up for mingling with perhaps the most die-hard fan base out there. There’s no audience, including Euro football, that’s more rabid than an opera crowd. Besides, opera in a setting such as Santa Fe is a balanced affair, with its relaxed vibe. And the people you’ll meet out on the town will offer great lively discussion. Worth the adventure, I say.
Lots more too, but if you went to any two of the above I think you’ll have a summer you’ll never forget. So, even if it’s not this year, good planning for next year may make these events become a reality. Have fun!
A great new book out entitled “Pantone, The 20th Century in Color” incorporates beautiful color plates with accompanying narrative by authors Leatrice Eiseman and Keith Recker that describe the last 100 years in the evolution of the color spectrum through the lens of the groundbreaking 1963 Pantone color system developed by Lawrence Hebert of Pantone.
The system codified the color spectrum, so that a certain shade of a color can be uniformly agreed upon and unknowingly revolutionized the world of graphic design. One can think back to any decade of the past century and certain colors and hues are easily associated with each time period. Serving as more than a mere color index, the book succeeds in describing the evolution of colors’ social imprint on culture, illustrated through advertisments, product design, fashion and general day-to-day life across generations.
Just close your eyes and visualize the 50s, 60s, 70s or 80s–it’s easy. That’s what’s so great about this book. From a historical perspective, filtered through the nuance of aesthetics, we have each period literally ‘colored in’ for us. Beautiful and simple.
Ari Verslui and his creative partner Ellie Uyttenbro size people up the minute they meet them. They’re not judgmental per se, they’re just accustomed to categorizing people according to style and attitude.
You see, Verslui and Uyttenbro have been scanning the crowds for similar identities for years. This is all a part of their creative process for, “Exactitudes,” a photographic collection that explores the dress codes of various social groups. Their project is rooted in a basic theory: humans use clothing, behavior, and attitude to reflect originality and identity. Versluit and Uyttenbro both explore and demystify the concept of originality in their work by handpicking pedestrians who fit a specific identity to model their “look” in a studio photo shoot. Photos are then organized by social group and fit into a grid, defusing the appearance of individuality and originality. Photographed subjects represent such social groups as “teknohippies,” “bimbos,” and “gabberbitches.”
The fifth and most recent edition of “Exactitudes” features social identities culled from the Italian café scene. Photographic stills of sweater-frocked, prickly-bearded male “Americanos” and tight-lipped, fur-ensconced women of a certain age, a.k.a”Sciura Decaffeinatas” are featured. A compelling and interesting study in the incongruities between originality and conformity in style, this is a creative project to keep an eye on. Most importantly, Verslui and Uyttenbro dare to challenge the human quest for a special and unique identity. Their work invites everyone, even those who classify themselves as subcultural, to ask: “How original are we?”
The hour-long program charts recent and notable public pranks, from the political (a Russian performance group’s dedication to the KSB) to the silly (Mario Kart takes to the streets of France, banana peels in tow). There are as many motivations as there are pranksters, but they all seem to share an affinity for play.
They’ve also all made exceptional use of surprise. Some of the pranks, especially those that are intentionally provocative, can feel jarring or even threatening. But after the initial reactions wash back, they leave a residual thoughtfulness.
There’s nothing better than communication – whatever the intention, whatever the form – that turns expectations on its head and makes you reconsider. Check out Bansky’s video here.
Paying homage to Times Square’s roots and taking some chances with personal space, a Theater for One has opened in New York and is running through Sunday. What is it? A chance to be the sole member of the audience during a brief (5-10 minute) piece of drama. What’s the catch? The space is very small and intimate. In one of the pieces, the actor asks the audience member to hold his hand. In another, the actor speaks directly with the audience member and asks them to participate.
It looks quite intense as the usual distance an individual gets from a performer is shattered. Not only are you up close, but you lose your place in the group. There’s no hiding from the performance or the performer. If you’re in New York, it looks worth checking out, especially with an admission price of $0.
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An exhibit currently running at the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences presents an interesting – and illuminating – intersection of art and science.
Mirror neurons are neurons which fire signals to the brain not only when an animal acts, but also when it observes another animal’s actions. The implications are wide ranging – certain scientists have posited that these neurons provide a neurobiological basis for complex learning (think language) which is based on mimicry. For this reason, the discovery of mirror neurons is considered one of the more important recent discoveries in the realm of neuroscience.
Caron believes that the mirror neuron has particular bearing on artists like her. In her words, “…as a performer, emotional exchange is a big part of performance. I was interested to learn that there’s actually a neurobiological basis for this, and a function that’s not just purple fluffy stuff and feelings.” Caron feels that the emotional resonance that draws people to art and performance has its roots in the so-called “empathy neuron,” too.
She explores this idea in her installation, which is constituted of an elaborate construction of the brain’s internal architecture and an interactive performance in which Caron engages her audience in various ways to try and get their mirror neurons firing. If you’re interested in learning more about the exhibit, check out it’s site here.