In the ongoing fight for environmental rights, activists have tried the standard approaches of tree-hugging, leafletting and lobbying. These tactics get a little dull — and trees aren't exactly the cuddliest of beings — so the folks behind the Mysterious Rabbit Puppet Army (MRPA) have devised a new strategy: puppet theater!
Blending the key ingredients of humor, activism and puppetry, MRPA presents a new take on Don Quixote. Their unique adaptation provides a much-needed critique of the controversial concepts of “green technology” and “green capitalism,” exploring the possibilities and limitations of corporations' commitment to “environmental responsibility."
Co-sponsored by the radical Earth First Journal, this is puppetry with a purpose, a theatrical way of sparking dialogue about the aspects of environmental destruction hidden under layers of corporate jargon. As their mission statement explains, “Our goal in this tour is to use art to ... brainstorm with our audiences how we can fight back against the destruction of the planet.” Be part of the planet-saving tomorrow at Wooden Shoe Books (704 South St.). Free and open to earth-friendly people everywhere.
Beyond the scars and battle wounds, sour memories and recurring nightmares that often mark a soldier's return to civilian life, many servicemen and women choose to voluntarily mark themselves with another kind of physical reminder: a tattoo. Whether it's a memorial to a fallen friend or the insignia of a specific platoon, tats serve as a permanent reminder of service long after the battle has ended.
In his new book, documentary photographer Kyle Cassidy chronicles the stories of these inked veterans with full-color portraits and often surprising details about the meaning behind their tattoos. Following the long-standing tradition of donning war paint during battle, contemporary military life is full of image-filled ritual, providing vivid inspiration for bodily art. While the standard eagles and anchors abound, many soldiers have chosen to elaborate on existing scars or depict a specific scene or portrait from the frontlines. With 20-plus years of photography under his belt, Cassidy has shot everyone from goths and metalheads to scholars and politicians.
For those unfamiliar with his past work, War Paint: Tattoo Culture and the Armed Forces exemplifies Cassidy's continued commitment to unveiling facets of American Culture often misrepresented by the mainstream media. Join him tomorrow at Moonstone Arts Center (110A S. 13th St.) for a free discussion about the book.
PhilaMOCA, which we've been noting has gotten their shit seriously together over the last few years since they took the old mausoleum at 12th and Spring Garden over from Diplo, just announced the details of the big David Lynch celebration we mentioned in CP's summer guide a few weeks back:
On Friday, [July] 13, the Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art will host ERASERHOOD FOREVER, an art show/celebration held in honor of the building’s new Eraserhead mural (south-side exterior).
The neighborhood north of Center City that houses PhilaMOCA is often referred to by a variety of names: Callowhill, the Loft District, West Poplar. But for many Philadelphians it will always be known as the Eraserhood, an affectionate nod to the area’s presence in Eraserhead as well as the greater impact that the environment had on the career of director David Lynch. Disturbing yet humorous, dangerous yet comforting…these are the contradictory words often associated with Lynch’s work and are easily applied to PhilaMOCA as well.
There will also be live music and Lynch-themed burlesque and sketch comedy, which sound so weird that we'd probably even consider paying to see burlesque and sketch comedy. (j/k!)
Saturday, the Norris Square Neighborhood Project (NSNP) held its annual Festival de Bambulaé, a Puerto Rican celebration and fundraiser in the community's vibrant garden space. NSNP supports local Latino youth through areas such as the arts and community involvment. The neighborhood's inspirational effort permeated all aspects of the event, from the paper flowers to the pork roast to the homegrown mint in the mojitos.
The jogger's haven along the Manayunk canal known as the tow path will be graced for the next six weeks by a twisting mass of tubes, over 50 feet in total. The art installation Escaped Infrastructure at Canal View Park (4430 Main Street) was created by Lucy Begg and Robert Gay of the Austin-based design firm THOUGHTBARN and funded by the Manayunk Development Corporation and the Mural Arts Program. As people pass by, motion sensors activate a series of hidden pumps to send the waters of the canal through the tubes, which LED lights will set aglow by night, and splashing out the other end, adding some life and movement to the still (and occasionally sickly green) waters.
Though Philadelphia’s burgeoning gallery scene provides many opportunities to check out work from adult photographers around the world, rarely is the younger set given a chance to shine. Last week, Philadelphia Photo Arts Center (full disclosure: I used to volunteer there) unveiled its annual Teen Photo Exhibition, a two-week showcase for six up-and-coming local photographers. Every Wednesday afternoon since October, the teenage artists came in to take lessons, borrow equipment and learn from other photography exhibits around town. With a notable influence of street photography, the exhibition provides a valuable firsthand look into the lives of Philadelphia youth in 2012.
June 14-30, free. 1400 N. American St., Ste. 103, 215-232-5678, philaphotoarts.org.
Standing in front of a group of people and sharing a personal story is enough to make most people fidget and perspire, if not run straight out of the room. What makes Shot Tower's (542 Christian St.) monthly "Tell Me a Story" event so appealing is that it's decidedly a neighborhood jawn. Casual and supportive, Shot Tower's cozy-coffee-shop ambience works to lessen that desire to flee. This month's edition gets an added dose of chillout vibes with a collaboration from the 2012 So Low festival, a ten-day offering of mostly solo “low-stress and low-maintenence” experimental art.
Tomorrow's (7 p.m., free) storytelling will honor the festival's theme of "Down and Dirty," featuring a range of takes on down and/or dirty stories from local storytellers like Jaime Fountaine and Todd Marrone. As always, Hillary Rea hosts the show, bringing a loveable dose of humor to her conviction that storytelling isn't strictly for kids.
Philadelphians are, by now, used to the disrupting presence of outdoor art. Claes Oldenburg’s giant clothespin and the larger-than-life game pieces of Daniel Martinez, Renee Petropoulis and Roger White adorn the nucleus of Center City, and murals and mosaics pepper urban blocks in all directions.
The upcoming "Out of Bounds" exhibition at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education explores this fascination with open-air art, placing work originally meant for an indoor studio in an outdoor space.
Participating artist Ana B. Hernanadez hopes the installations will "provoke viewers to consider more closely spaces they may overlook in their everyday life," inviting a more diverse audience that includes those who may not seek art in traditional settings. Hernanadez's Wart is composed of over a hundred satin and rope modules that reference a foreign body rooting around a host, a concept of growth and colonization she believes would lose its humor and spontaneity in an indoor gallery.
Scott Pellet's Somerset highlights the themes of "post-industrial decay, reclamation of nature and the maintenance of the balance." The outdoor work highlights the dichotomy of nature and progress. Pellet notes his own work is about "seeing natural patterns and systems as metphors for our social and economic construction, our policies and ultimately the successes and failures within the 'eco-systems' we create."
The exhibition, a collaboration with the Center for Emerging Visual Artists, also features works by other current and past CFEVA Career Develoment Program fellows Susan Benarcik, Booke Hine, Darla Jackson, Mami Kato and Caleb Nussear. And best of all — just like the city's downtown public art — there is no entrance fee.
Through Sept. 2, free, Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, 8480 Hagys Mill Road, 215-482-7300, schuylkillcenter.org.
Christians have Christmas, veterans have Memorial Day and James Joyce fans have Bloomsday. If you're unfamiliar with the mid-June celebration, it's the day Leopold Bloom — the protagonist in Joyce's Ulysses — traversed Dublin on what was to be one of the more epic days ever recorded. Considered one of the first and most thorough examples of modernist literature, Ulysses gained widespread attention for its stream-of-consciousness format, employing puns, parodies and allusions to create 1,000 pages based on a single day in time. The revolutionary novel continues to inspire writers and lit-heads to this day, culminating in annual Bloomsday celebrations worldwide.
If you can't make it to his native Dublin, Philadelphia is a stelar second choice for where to spend the literary holiday: Our own Rosenbach Museum (2008-2010 Delancey Place) proudly holds the original Ulysses manuscript, making it the forerunner in regional Bloomsday festivities. Along with various Joyce-related tours and events happening all week, the museum is holding a all-day reading of Ulysses tomorrow from noon to 7 p.m. BBC host Frank Delaney is this year's featured reader, setting the proper tone for this completely free, fairly nerdy reading extravaganza. Bring your copy of the book, a good pair of reading glasses and join the universal throng of Joyce fans as they pay their respects to the father of modernist lit.
The glint of 23-karat gold immediately catches my eye.
Lining one of the first walls of the Fleisher Ollman Gallery (1616 Walnut Street, suite 100) is Kate Abercrombie's 20 Great American Films, a series of small canvases hinting at figures, some familiar and others more esoteric. Is that E.T.? Marilyn Monroe? Someone from some DVD cover lost in the folds of my memory?
This sense of almost-certainty pervades "A Complete Die, etc.," on view through August 14. The focal point, or "vortex," as curator Anthony Campuzano describes it, is the dice collection of Justin Mitchell. Several large cases in the center of the room contain seemingly infinite dies of all shapes, sizes and colors with symbols ranging from numbers to astrological signs to unfamiliar, rune-like marks.
Eight artists here respond to the "multiple components, fractured surfaces and formal elements" of Mitchell's dice collection, Campuzano explains. Mitchell also has a series of lambda prints, with colorful shapes that hover somewhere between the digital and the architectural. They seem at first to be buildings, or walls perhaps, but the more I look the uneasier I feel. What are they?
Moving through the gallery, the paintings, installations and mixed media pieces by John Finneran, Mark Mahosky, Zach Harris, Jessica Mein, Anissa Mack and Karen Kilimnik instill a similar feeling. These works combine mediums of ink, gouache, wood, sheet metal, birch plywood and even arrowheads, in the case of Mack's stark juxapositions of rock and bright acrylic.
Each artist considers color, symmetry and the collection in a manner that is disorienting but also quite enchanting. Like the thrill of anticipation in the moments just after releasing a die, before it is clear where it will settle.
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