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Joe Raiola: The Joy of Censorship

Who better to appreciate the value of the First Amendment than a writer for the original thumb-in-the-eye-of-propriety magazine, Mad? Joe Raiola, a comedian and Mad scribe, will present The Joy of Censorship, his take—OK, rant—on the glory of the First Amendment and the history of Mad this Saturday afternoon at the Berkshire Theatre Festival.

According to the good folks at BTF, Raiola’s program will be an “illuminating, offbeat and at times disturbing look at America’s most controversial First Amendment issues.” Sounds good to us.

Oh, and the guy is beloved of librarians. Anne Davis (Maine Library Association) said that Raiola is “the best speaker we’ve ever had,” and Lana Ferguson (Connecticut Library Association) said that he “drives home pertinent free speech points with grand humor.” And we know that librarians are among the last trustworthy people left.

The Joy of Censorship will be presented on Sunday (May 30) at 3 PM at the Berkshire Theatre Festival’s Main Stage (Main Street, Stockbridge, Mass.). Tickets are $40. For reservations and information, call (866) 811-4111.

GottaGetGon

Held since 1970, GottaGetGon is the first folk happening of the season and it’s a full family-oriented weekend of acoustic loveliness, potluck and camping as one big pickin’ & singin’ gatherin’. There’s loads of talent to be soaked up in the many performances and workshops from the likes of Scott Ainslie’s fierce pickin’; Sara Milonovich’s and Greg Anderson’s Celtic-infused roots music (pictured below); the seafaring songs the Johnson Girls revive with vocal harmonies; and the new-generation concert hosted by Paddy Kilrain tomorrow (Friday). There’s also a dance on Saturday night led by Dan Duggan, Peggy Lynn and Dan Berggren. Everyone is encouraged to camp out (weekend rates include the cost), to bring something comfy to sit on beneath the covered performance areas and not to worry about raindrops.

GottaGetGon takes place Memorial Day Weekend (May 28-31) at the Saratoga County Fairgrounds (Fairground Ave., Ballston Spa). For adults, tickets are $35 for the weekend or $18 per day; students (12-21) pay $16 for the weekend or $9 a day; kids under 12 free. For more information, call 872-0663 or visit www.pickingandsinging.org.

The Interventionists: Art in the Social Sphere

At this late date in art history, we’re all sophisticated enough to know that art isn’t just that which hangs above the sofa. Please, some of us even recognize the more notorious performance artists as artists, we’re that broad-minded (though, honestly, thinking about some of Ron Athey’s projects still makes us a little squeamish). So, how would we feel about, say, a work of art that trekked into our comfy living room, ambled up onto our divan and nailed itself into position? And what if, while so perched, it started to unsettle us with questions about the ramifications of genetically modified foodstuffs, or the invasive surveillance techniques utilized by municipalities in the name of domestic security? Would we engage, or race to replace it with The Beach at Trouville?

Those of you who think you might just appreciate such a visitor are likely to find something right up your alley at MASS MoCA’s new exhibit The Interventionists: Art in the Social Sphere. The artists and artists’ collectives participating in this show may stop short of breaking into your house, but they are explicitly interested in art as a means of social dialogue: The very point is to raise questions about the structures and enforced habits of society. For example, the work of Krzysztof Wodiczko, who projects slides onto monumental buildings as a “symbol-attack, a public, psychoanalyical séance,” in order to spur a reconsideration of the architecture influential in ordering our lives. Or, the work of the Institute for Applied Autonomy, whose stated mission is to fulfill the increasing needs of the “market of cultural insurrection.” Their products include Little Brother, a cute robot designed to distribute propaganda, and the Graffiti Writer, a retrofitted cargo van capable of spray-painting slogans hundreds of feet long.

If you sense a hint of protest in these works, you’re spot on; but the underlying spirit—though critical—is not unrelievedly earnest. These works are also informed by a quirky sensibility, and a sense of humor and the absurd. So, it’s fitting that the show’s opening be celebrated by an evening concert with Steve Earle, Odetta and Carl Hancock Rux. The program nicely sums up the spirit of the show by quoting the anarchist Emma Goldman: “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be in your revolution.”

The Interventionists opens Sunday (May 30), and runs through Spring 2005. Tickets for the 7:30 PM show by Steve Earle, Odetta and Carl Hancock Rux are $22 in advance, $26 at the door. For more information, call (413) 662-2111.


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