Monday, February 9, 2009

Art Shanty Project 2009: Some Art Really Is Crap

We go to see the Art Shanty Project!

It's held on a vast frozen lake in Plymouth, Minnesota. Twenty ice shanties stand a hundred yards from the shore: part art, part social experiment, part artist-in-residence. Each has been thematically designed by a group of artists as a means of making their art more accessible to the public. Or as accessible as art on an effing frozen lake, with 50 mph winds, in Minnesota, in February can be. See some photos to get a better idea.

We arrive just in time for the daily "BIcicle" Race. The races are "open to all riders and types of bicycles, tricycles, etc. There are no restrictions on tires, you can race studs, slicks, knobs, 650, 700, or fatty 29er . . . ." An ice track has been cleared around the shanty area, and the flag is waved. One guy has a giant papier mache elephant surrounding his bike, which makes for a wobbly start. The riders go not-quite-tearing around the track. A guy on a road bike rides carefully past. "Skinny tires rule!" yells a woman in the crowd. The pressure mounts as the finish nears, and a half dozen riders lose traction on the ice, sliding across the finish line.

After the race, we wander past the Art Cars that will parade around the track later. Each vehicle is decorated to the max, some with mosaics, others with paint, and still others with . . .

"Oh my God. It looks like a flea market threw up on that car," I exclaim.

We walk around it, awed. Every inch of the car is covered in random crap: mirrors, baby doll heads, ceramic figurines, buttons.

"There is no better way to describe it," the DNB says solemnly.

The shanties are fascinating, especially the one built like a chapel, where you can write anonymous confessions, PostSecret style. New confessions are stapled to the outside of the shanty each day. "I have probably tried to make out with you when drunk," one reads.

We notice a line outside one shanty, a black box theater. Intrigued (admittedly the DNB less than I), we wait outside for 15 minutes in the freezing wind to see the show. We and ten others are finally allowed to enter the dark interior, lit by three candles and warmed by a small wood-burning stove.

"Excuse me, I can't see," says a guy by the DNB. He makes the DNB squat on the damp floor.

A woman begins to sing into a giant can. She is horrible, "American Idol" audition reel horrible. A woman on an accordion accompanies her. She is also horrible. A third woman pops up from behind them. She is wearing some sort of fur outfit. A small green light glows on her shoulder.

"One," she says, and begins to read. She tells a story of a Lake, which is represented by the accordion player. Accordion Player is given a headband with white paper cutouts glued to it. It doesn't look the least bit lake-like. There are fish in the lake, Green Light continues. She hands a white paper fish cutout to Can Singer, who makes it swim through the air. "Blub, blub," she says. Green Light takes a second fish cutout and makes it also swim through the air. She makes a series of high-pitched sounds. I think her fish must have been in distress.

The story continues with a boy and his dog, who ice fish. The sound of his fishing is played by the Musician, who also happens to be Can Singer. She takes a small wooden stick and hits it against three wine glasses half-filled with water.

In a anthropomorphic twist, the boy falls in love with the Lake, and the scene culminates with a song by Can Singer in which she says "I do" to the Lake.

Then the boy throws three valentines into the icy water. At this point, Green Light removes three cards which have been hanging near the front of the stage. She holds them reverently, and hands them to people in the first row. The cards say things like, "Though I will grow old, I will never leave you."

Green Light continues with the story. The Lake sends a card back up to the boy. Can Singer and Accordion Player sing together again in no particular pitch and with no particular melody.

It's kind of like a musical version of "The Giving Tree."


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