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Slip ’n’ Slide Show

On a series of 20 slides, this is what was shown: An eyeless, mouthless, potato-shaped meathead traverses the American landscape, stopping at the graves of Poe and Whitman only to die with a bullet through his head in Iraq and vanish altogether in the ominous badlands of the West. He searches for his American identity but is, ultimately, “too lazy, too stupid and too damaged” to find it.

On the evening of July 23, at the University at Albany’s University Art Museum, Brian Cirmo had 400 seconds to explain this idea. Cirmo was the first of six artists selected from the 2009 Artists of the Mohawk Hudson Region Juried Exhibition (on view at the University Art Museum through Aug. 8) who had to, at once, try a new thing called “Pecha Kucha” and, simultaneously, exemplify it.

“It sounded so perfect,” said Naomi Lewis, the exhibition coordinator for the University Art Museum. Called FastTalk for this show, Pecha Kucha is a Japanese term that translates roughly to “chit-chat.” It allows each artist 20 slides to display their work and 20 seconds to talk about each slide. A friend told her about the format after putting on a similar show at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. “It seemed like it would work,” Lewis said.

If there’s something perverse about asking an artist to summarize their body of work in 6 minutes and 40 seconds, then there must be something uniquely perverse about the artists from the exhibit who seemed game to try. In addition to Cirmo, Sharon Bates, Kelly Jones, Richard Garrison, Doreen Quinn and Harold Lohner gave presentations.

“It forces the artist to ask, ‘What is important about this work?’ ” said Lewis. It was a question some found easier to answer than others.

To recap: Bates suffered a bit when a misplaced slide unexpectedly revealed her feminist frog-prince installation in the middle of a series of 20-foot-tall found-object sculptures. Garrison and Quinn made a good strong showing with an overview of their work. Lohner joked easily with the crowd as only a man running on three-hours sleep can do.

But it was Jones that seemed to show a real understanding of the format. She allowed the audience to see her work as it unfolded. Jones began with early drawings of ambiguous, lumped body parts that slowly evolved into cartoon shapes with ears and teeth; these were then layered on top of each other and illuminated in light boxes and projected onto cloth until they morphed into animations. The installation Jones prepared for the University Art Museum was a ceiling-high cloth hung with telephone cord, and onto it Jones projected a spidery collection of female limbs that crawled upward over and over.

Asked if she considered her work feminist art, she replied only, “Yes, I would.”

The night, however, was really about the audience, who seemed suspiciously eager to laugh at any and all opportunities. Buoyed by DJ Truemaster’s bass-heavy house music, free snacks and alcohol, attendees embraced the diversity of material, as interested in enjoying themselves as they were in seeing the artists’ work. It was a chance for newbs and art heads alike to mingle freely. It was cosmopolitanism at its most pleasant.

—Matthew Connolly


There’ll be people there Saturday night: Circa 1799 Barn in Ancramdale.

Art Beat

DANCE FOR TSL Time & Space Limited, that invaluable arts organization in Hudson, is having a big old Big Barn BBQ & Cajun Dance Party fundraiser this Saturday (Aug. 1) beginning at 6 PM. It’s not in Hudson, however. The festivities will be at the Spencer-Shimpkin Circa 1799 Barn in Ancramdale, which is about 20 miles southeast of Hudson, still in Columbia County. (Find out more about the restored barn at circa1799barn.com.) There will be barbecue, a cash bar, games for the kids and a raffle for one of those big TVs all the kids love these days. The main entertainment—and principle reason for dancing—is Cajun accordionist Jesse Legé. This sounds like a good time for a great cause: Time & Space Limited is deeply involved in the world around them, with kids programs and community workshops and assorted teach-in-like events; then there’s an array of entertainment they bring to Hudson, from comedians and singers to indie cinema and live simulcasts of the Metropolitan Opera. As if they were trying to remind me specifically why they’re great, next week they’re featuring the local premiere of The Beaches of Agnes, the new memory film by one of my favorite filmmakers, Agnés Varda. Anywho, for more info about the Big Barn BBQ, or to check out their schedule of films and upcoming performances, visit timeandspace.org or call 822-8448.

SPEAKING OF LOCAL MOVIE PREMIERES The GE Theatre at Proctors (432 State St., Schenectady), as part of their continuing indie film program, will be the first local movie house to screen this year’s winner of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Japan’s Departures will play Aug. 14-16; visit proctors.org for show times.

SITTING ON A FENCE As I’m pretty sure I wrote somewhere else in the paper today, time sure does fly—the summer’s half gone, the thoroughbred track has opened in Saratoga Springs, the New York City Ballet is gone and the Philadelphia Orchestra has come back. And it’s time again for the Fence Select 09 exhibit at the Arts Center of the Capital Region in beautiful downtown Troy. The opening festivities are timed, like everything else in the Collar City nowadays, to coincide with tomorrow’s (Friday, July 31) Troy Night Out. There will be stuff going on at the Arts Center from 5 to 10 PM, including free performances by the Nacre dance company in the Black Box Theater at 6, 7 and 8 PM; and the Fence Select 09 awards ceremony at 7:30 PM, featuring curator Sarah Cunningham. And that’s not all: Last year’s Fence Select winner, Michele Wright, is opening her show of recent drawings in the Arts Center’s President’s Gallery; she’s having an opening reception, too. For more info about all these groovy events, visit artscenter online.org or call 273-0552.

—Shawn Stone

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