From Paris to Polynesia: Paul Gauguin

Gauguin-Where do we come from

Despite his dependence on the Parisian art market and his active involvement in the artistic circles of the capital, Gauguin longed for a simpler environment where he could live free.

 

by Jennifer McComas

The celebrated French artist Paul Gauguin (1848–1903) left one of the most enduring legacies and fascinating bodies of work of any nineteenth-century artist. One of his final paintings, The Invocation of 1903, is currently on view at the IU Art Museum along with three prints by Gauguin from the museum’s permanent collection. A loan to the IU Art Museum from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., The Invocation offers the chance for Bloomington residents to consider a work that embodies Gauguin’s lifelong interests in stylistic experimentation, spirituality, and the “exotic.” And as a work that is inextricably linked to French colonialism, The Invocation also offers insight into Gauguin’s increasingly ambivalent attitude towards the colonial system at the end of his life.

Paul Gauguin was born in Paris in 1848, a year marked by revolutions across Europe. In the aftermath of the revolutions, Gauguin’s politically active parents sought refuge in Peru, his grandfather’s homeland, and Gauguin spent his first five years there. His early adulthood was also defined by travel. In 1865, at the age of 17, he joined the French merchant marines, sailing twice to Brazil. These events set the stage for the intense wanderlust and fascination with the exotic that characterized Gauguin’s life and art. Initially upon his return to civilian life in 1871, Gauguin attempted to settle into a bourgeois lifestyle, obtaining a position as a stockbroker in 1872 and marrying a Danish woman, Mette Gad, the following year. In 1873 he also took up painting as a hobby. By 1876, however, his work was accepted for exhibition at the Paris Salon and in 1878 he began collecting the work of the impressionists, with whom he exhibited four times.

The stock market crash of 1882 left Gauguin unemployed. At a crossroads, he took a risk on becoming a full-time artist. While this decision had detrimental effects on his family life—their decline in living standards led to a separation from his wife, who returned to Denmark with their children—it also marked the start of his most productive and artistically fertile years. The years 1886 to 1889 were defined by artistic experimentation and conceptual innovation, prompted by his travels to Pont-Aven in Brittany, to Arles in Provence, and further afield to Panama and Martinique.

At this time, working in a style that came to be known as “synthetism,” he began simplifying forms to their essential components and using pure colors in his work, applying pigment to canvas in large, flat planes separated by bold black lines. His imagery drew upon traditional Breton customs and Christian themes, and he portrayed his subjects in an enigmatic and dreamlike manner that was influenced by Symbolism. Symbolism, a French literary and artistic movement of the late nineteenth century, encouraged the rejection of realism, instead favoring dreamlike, intuitive, and spiritual imagery. The emphasis Symbolism placed on individual perception, interiority, and the spiritual world shaped Gauguin’s art for the rest of his life. So too did the rural, unindustrialized landscape and lifestyle he encountered in Brittany, where, partly to attract tourists, the local population had retained traditional dress and certain cultural practices. To Gauguin’s eyes, accustomed to the rapidly modernizing Parisian cityscape, Brittany appeared both “primitive” and culturally “authentic.”

Yet in 1890, having established himself as a leading Symbolist painter, Gauguin considered traveling further afield. Despite his dependence on the Parisian art market and his active involvement in the artistic circles of the capital, Gauguin longed for a simpler environment where he could finally live “free at last, with no money troubles,” allowing him to devote himself completely to his art. Inspired by his earlier travels in South America and the Caribbean and by Vincent van Gogh’s attempt to establish a “Studio of the South” in Arles, Gauguin now dreamed of setting up a “Studio of the Tropics.” Gauguin’s decision to move to Polynesia was likely inspired by popular travel literature, and confirmed by his visits to the 1889 Universal Exposition in Paris. Held to mark the centennial of the French Revolution, the exposition celebrated France’s artistic, scientific, and imperialist achievements of the past century. A colonial display within the exposition offered visitors the opportunity to visit pavilions devoted to the colonies, which by 1889 included such holdings as Algeria, Tunisia, Madagascar, Tonkin (Vietnam), Cambodia, and Java, as well as Tahiti and other islands in the South Pacific. The elaborately constructed colonial pavilions were akin to theatrical set pieces, offering visitors a pleasant illusion of colonial life that was part imperial propaganda and part romantic myth.

In the case of Tahiti, which became a French colony in 1880 and where Gauguin would move in 1891, a romantic mythology already predated the fair by more than a century. The perception of the island as an earthly paradise, whose people “breathe only rest and sensual pleasures,” had been established by the publication in 1771 of Voyage autour du monde (Voyage around the World) by the navigator Count Louis-Antoine de Bougainville, who visited Tahiti while circumnavigating the globe in 1767. Misunderstanding the welcome his crew had received in Tahiti—during which chiefs had offered young girls to the French sailors, likely in order to secure trading privileges with the foreigners or to capture supernatural powers they were perceived to hold—he named the island “New Cythera,” a reference to the island which, in ancient Greek mythology, was the birthplace of Aphrodite, goddess of love.

The reports following Captain James Cook’s voyages only strengthened this European perception of Tahiti. In Gauguin’s own lifetime, the French naval officer and popular author Pierre Loti (1850–1923) also offered a romanticized and sensual picture of a paradisiacal Tahiti in his 1880 book Le Mariage de Loti. By situating Tahiti as a paradise, Bougainville and Loti merely shifted the concept of a classical Arcadia or long-lost golden age—long a trope of European art—to the South Pacific, thus aligning it with an intensifying European interest in all things “exotic.” This romantic image of Tahiti as a land of abundance, easy living, and friendly inhabitants was skillfully co-opted by the organizers of the 1889 colonial exposition, who sought to encourage French immigration to the Pacific colonies. While the fair’s attractive presentation of the colonies undoubtedly sparked Gauguin’s interest in Tahiti as a potential location for his “Studio of the Tropics,” so too did the island’s status as a French colony, which would facilitate his move abroad and help him maintain contact with the Parisian art world.

In March 1891, Gauguin requested funding from the Ministry of Public Education and Fine Arts to “study and ultimately paint the customs and landscapes of Tahiti,” a proposition that undoubtedly interested the colonial administrators, who approved his request. The following month, he sailed for Tahiti, where he stayed for two years before returning temporarily to France. The paintings Gauguin produced in Tahiti are among his most iconic; they blend the synthetist style he had developed in Brittany with Christian iconography, motifs he saw in Polynesian, Maori, and Javanese art, and a sense of the spirit world that pervaded traditional Tahitian culture. Upon Gauguin’s return to Paris in 1893 he busied himself with the production of Noa Noa, a book of woodcuts that accompanied an exhibition of his work at the Durand-Ruel Gallery, and were meant to explain his Tahitian imagery to a European audience. Although the exhibition was fairly successful, resulting in the sale of forty paintings, and although Gauguin had found Oceania less arcadian and more expensive than he had imagined, he returned to Tahiti in the summer of 1895. He would never return to Europe. Gauguin’s final years were marked by financial distress, legal problems, severe depression, and ill health, including a diagnosis of syphilis. He also found himself increasingly disenchanted with the French colonial society in Papeete, Tahiti’s capital, and the transformation of traditional Tahitian culture by westernization. Throughout the 1890s, he struggled to reconcile Tahiti’s colonial reality with the paradise constructed by Bougainville, Loti, and the displays of the 1889 colonial exposition, and ultimately determined to travel to a less developed and more remote part of Polynesia. He was prevented from doing so only by his precarious financial situation.

In 1901, the opportunity to resettle in the Marquesas Islands, some 750 miles northeast of Tahiti, presented itself when the Parisian art dealer Ambroise Vollard offered Gauguin a monthly stipend in exchange for regular shipments of paintings. While this financial stability provided Gauguin with the means to make the move to the Marquesas, the arrangement also placed certain artistic restrictions on him. Gauguin needed to produce pictures that Vollard would be able to sell to Parisian collectors. Therefore, as the art historian Elizabeth C. Childs has noted, Gauguin’s most marketable Marquesan paintings tended to be pastoral landscapes that avoided any indication of colonial strife or European intervention.

Yet, despite these peaceful images, and Gauguin’s own perception that the Marquesas would be more “unspoiled” than Tahiti, they had in fact been greatly affected by their annexation by the French in 1842. In particular, its people had been decimated by western diseases, including venereal disease and influenza. When Gauguin arrived on the island of Hiva Oa in mid-September 1901, the Marquesan population stood at about 3,500, whereas it has been estimated at approximately 80,000 in the late eighteenth century. Indeed, it was during his two years in the village of Atuona on Hiva Oa that he began to question both the colonial system and the Catholic Church’s influence in Polynesia. While he did not necessarily find the more “authentic” Oceanic culture he had sought, Gauguin nevertheless enjoyed a less marginalized social position than he had in Tahiti, and he was able to form closer friendships with Pacific Islanders during his stay in the Marquesas.

Perhaps due to the personal relationships he formed there, he even became embroiled in conflicts with the French colonial administrators due to his advocacy on behalf of the indigenous people. This is not to say that Gauguin’s growing awareness of indigenous rights and colonial exploitation had a significant impact on his art. His own aesthetic concerns, combined with his need to consider the Parisian market, dictated the subject and style of his paintings. Audiences in France expected to see in Gauguin’s paintings the idyllic vision of Polynesia that had been established by Bougainville, Loti, and the 1889 colonial exposition.

The Invocation appears to offer viewers this idyllic vision, yet a closer look reveals a hint of Gauguin’s newly ambivalent attitudes towards French colonialism. The focus of The Invocation’s composition is a nude female figure who stands before a verdant, mountainous landscape—the environs of Atuona—with her arms stretched skywards. She is surrounded by four female figures, two seated and two standing. Three are semi-nude, while the fourth—the only one who looks at the praying figure—is dressed in a style of loose-fitting garment introduced by European missionaries. A cross visible in the upper left of the composition signals the location of a Catholic church and cemetery.

The Invocation is painted in Gauguin’s unique style, featuring a matte surface with a regular pattern of vertical brushstrokes, which almost impressionistically evoke the lushness of the landscape. By contrast, the bodies of the figures in the composition are flatly painted and heavily outlined, in the stylized manner he had developed in Brittany. Motifs and iconography from Gauguin’s Tahitian oeuvre frequently recur in his later, Marquesan works, and The Invocation is a prime example. Most strikingly, the pose of the central praying figure recalls that of the most prominent figure—the centrally placed woman who reaches up to pick a piece of fruit—in the mural-sized painting Gauguin himself considered to be his masterpiece, Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?, an 1897-98 meditation on the cycle of life

While the precise meaning of Gauguin’s Polynesian paintings is often elusive, many address the topic of spirituality. Spirituality was, in fact, one of the most persistent themes in Gauguin’s oeuvre. Traditional Christian iconography, as well as the depiction of a more esoteric, visionary Christianity, appears in Gauguin’s work around the time of his introduction in the 1880s to the circle of Symbolist artists and writers around the poet Stephané Mallarmé, who himself became one of Gauguin’s staunchest supporters.

In Tahiti, Gauguin’s paintings presented a hybrid vision of Christian and Polynesian spirituality (or at least his own understanding of it). The Invocation, on the other hand, alludes to the clash between Christianity and traditional Polynesian religion, which was characterized by a complex pantheon of spirits, gods, and ancestors. The Christianization that accompanied colonialism became particularly troubling to Gauguin in the Marquesas, where European religion had been introduced more recently. While English missionaries had arrived in Tahiti in 1797, and Christianity had become widely established on the island by 1820, it was not until the 1850s that Catholic missionaries began to make a significant impact in the Marquesas. For the intended European viewer of The Invocation, knowing little about Polynesian culture and religion, the specific nature of the prayer is enigmatic—who or what is being invoked and why? Yet, the praying nude figure offers a clear contrast and perhaps an antidote to the restrictions Christian missionaries imposed on the Marquesans—as represented by the dress and headscarf worn by the woman in the background as well as the cross dominating the distant landscape.

Shortly after completing The Invocation, Gauguin died on the Marquesan island of Hiva Oa on May 9, 1903, at the age of fifty-four, and his body was laid to rest in the cemetery of the Catholic church seen in the painting’s background. Produced at the end of Gauguin’s life, The Invocation occupies a unique place in the artist’s oeuvre, representing the culmination of his lifelong artistic experimentation, innovation, and total dedication to his art. In analyzing Gauguin’s Polynesian oeuvre, scholars in recent decades have often turned a critical eye towards Gauguin’s complicity with the exploitative colonial system. Yet while The Invocation indeed offered early-twentieth-century French audiences the colonial fantasy of a tropical paradise that they expected and desired, it also offers insight into Gauguin’s increasingly ambivalent and complicated attitude towards colonialism.

 

Jennifer McComas, class of 1949, is the Curator of European and American Art at the

IU Art Museum

TALKIN’ ABOUT ECOSEX—IN ART, THEORY, PRACTICE AND ACTIVISM

Annie and Beth

A conversation with Elizabeth Stephens, Annie Sprinkle and Kara Rooney

[editor’s note: Annie Sprinkle is an artist and a feminist adult film star with a PhD in human sexuality. She and her life partner and collaborator for 13 years, filmmaker Beth Stephens, came to Bloomington as guests of the Kinsey Institute for the fall show, “For Love or Money,” Kinsey. Some of Annie’s photographic artwork was included in the exhibition. Both Annie and Beth were featured guests at the Sex Salon and their film, Goodbye Gauley Mountain–An Ecosexual Love Story, was screened at IU.
“Our film is about the tragedy of mountain top removal mining,” Beth says, “and it is also a love story about the Appalachia Mountains and the people who live in them.” It has screened at international film festivals and major museums; it’s still making the festival rounds and soon it will be released for pay per view by the distributor, Kino Lorber. Sprinkle and Stephens are “so totally thrilled to show the film at IU.”Stephens’ family has worked in mining since the 1600’s beginning in Cornwall, England. Born in Montgomery, West Virginia, she says she was raised to marry into the coal business. Instead she moved to California, became an artist and professor at University of California, Santa Cruz, and married Annie. The two women produced, directed, and star in the film together.
Goodbye Gauley Mountain was three years in the making. This documentary introduces some surprising moments, such as a wedding to the Appalachian Mountains and the gals singing the state song to the police. Earth First Journal’s Russ McSpadden writes, “Without compare, this is the sexiest nature documentary and one of the most profound films to deal with the beauty and tragedy of the Appalachian Mountains in the age of King Coal.”

“Our goal,” say the filmmakers, “is to spread the word about serious environmental issues, and also to make the environmental movement a little more sexy, fun and diverse.”]

 

KARA: Lets start with one of your art projects. You two did a series of nineteen weddings as performance art in nine countries. How do you bring a very private or intimate experience such as a wedding ceremony and its associated connotations into the public sphere, and what was it like to share those encounters for the first time with an audience?

BETH: We started doing the weddings as a form of protest, because it pissed us off that we weren’t allowed to get legally married. Not that we wanted to. It just wasn’t fair.

ANNIE: We had both done a ton of work about sex, so we wanted to try being ‘radically traditional’ and explore ‘love’ in a non-Hallmarky way. Our weddings were big love fests, which were quite humorous and irreverent, of course.

BETH: We married the Earth and other nature entities; rocks, soil, the sea, the sky, a lake in Finland…. Our first wedding was at the Harmony Burlesque theater, which was a lap dancing place on Broadway just below Canal street.

ANNIE: We had about 120 people there. We started out small. We sent out invitations and asked for no material gifts but invited people to help co-create the weddings. We had a procession, then about 20 3-minute performances; then the vows, the rings, the kiss, recession, and a ‘reception’ with more performances. When we got to the part where the officiant says, “does anyone object to this marriage,” our friend Barbara Carrellas objected. She hates weddings and marriage. So every wedding there after always had a couple of people perform objections to the marriage. When we did the kiss at the first wedding, we activated a tesla coil.

BETH: We wanted to do our first wedding of the series in Manhattan, even though we were living in California at the time, because that’s where we met, and where we both started our art careers. It’s where a lot of our close friends and former lovers were. Annie did her first one-woman show at the Harmony Burlesque, so the theater had sentimental value. Plus, it was in 2003 and not that long after 9/11.

ANNIE: Our friend, artist Sheila Pepe, described that first wedding as, “Broadway meets Fluxus in a whorehouse.”

KARA: The first wedding took place relatively soon after 9/11. Was that a coincidence, or were these performances meant to act as group healing sessions in some regard?

ANNIE: When the war in Afghanistan broke out, we thought, “hell, we can get along, let’s just make a commitment to work things out if there’s conflict. If we as individuals can’t work things out, how do we expect countries to get along?” We felt the personal was political, and that we were going to set an example somehow. But it was also a call for love; it was about wanting to generate more love in the world. We definitely wanted to bring some love to Manhattan after 9/11.

BETH: There were three different impulses that came together to create the wedding performances. The first one was that Annie and I got hitched up in a domestic partner ceremony so that Annie could get some health insurance.. I had a job as a professor, with benefits, so it was like sharing health insurance. Then the war in Afghanistan broke out. We realized that the wedding ritual was a great platform for transmitting a message, a feeling, a performance, whatever. At our domestic partner ceremony the press was there and we spoke out against the war and we were on the news all over the USA. If you present something as a special ritual, people seem to pay more attention.

KARA: Would it be accurate then to say that these performances acted for each of you as a therapeutic vehicle, or was this curative element a byproduct of their production?

ANNIE: We have done seventeen of the big weddings and only three were about people, the rest were about marrying nature. So for me, I always wanted to feel more connected with nature. I grew up in LA, lived in Manhattan 22 years, then San Francisco… The ecosexual weddings definitely connected me with nature. We have a video that is ten minutes long that shows highlights from some of our weddings. You can watch it on this web page: http://gauleymountain.com at the bottom of the page.

BETH: That’s where we first became really involved in environmentalism. We thought if there were a way to heal the earth that incorporated the kinds of issues we are looking at, and if people are part of the earth (people are nature) – then we would like to heal that binary system that separates people from nature.

ANNIE: If you think about it, people really are made of water, minerals, even stardust! So if people are made of the stuff of the Earth, therefore they are Earth. So when we married the Earth, that shifted everything for us. We followed our muses and ended up exactly where we are supposed to be today: developing ecosex art, theory, practice and activism. We’re trying to make the environmental movement more sexy, fun, and diverse, and make it a place for queers, sex workers and weird performance artists to feel comfortable. Hey, we don’t all fit into the Sierra Club. We hope our film, Goodbye Gauley Mountain—An Ecosexual Love Story entices other people to love the earth more.

Beth: We started shooting our next film, which is about water issues in California. Working title is Water Makes Us Wet. There’s more info at www.theEcosexuals.org.

KARA: This question of who profits or who benefits has been at the heart of the feminist debate, especially around the sex industry, for quite some time. In opening the picture up, you’ve taken that binary way of looking at the system of exploitation versus empowerment, or oppression versus liberation, out of the equation. You’re moving the conversation beyond these poles, presenting something very different in that regard.

ANNIE: To a lot of Americans, sex is about what sex toys you have, what lingerie you wear, what porn you have. Some people think you can’t have great sex unless you have the right strap-on. As ecosexuals we want to send a post consumerist message. We’re even saying “Stop making and watching porn! Let’s bring back the live sex show! Porn watching is using up so much electricity.” To be honest, I still do love lingerie and strap-ons. But that’s not the be-all end-all. There’s a whole world out there!

KARA: Annie, what you were saying before about the sex industry and its commodified entrenchment, in many ways it can be argued that the technological models we utilize mirror our relationship and needs to art, that our contemporary comfort zones are now to a large degree located either behind or in front of the camera instead of face to face. In your opinion, how does the sensibility of this mediated interface effect the consumption of erotica, porn, art, and other spheres of aesthetic or sexual interest?

ANNIE: From a historical perspective, human sexuality changes and goes through phases and has popular and unpopular styles. I believe everyone is at the right place at the right time. With the Internet, we are definitely exploring and discovering really interesting new territory. Who is to judge what’s better or worse, having computers or not? Now I’ll contradict myself. I’d argue that its important to keep making porn, because is it’s kind of an historical record. If you look at porn from the 1800s or the 1920s, sex was different then. Even blow job techniques change. Each person is an erotic universe unto themselves. We all have more to learn, and we all have something to teach. That’s what is so great about sex as subject matter, its endless, and there’s more to discover and create.

KARA: So this mediated interface does not affect the way that you approach your work or the consumption and reception of it? Whether it’s face-to-face or encountered via the television screen or the computer monitor, it’s –

ANNIE: It’s definitely best to experience our work live, in a group, to actually come with us for a weekend ecosex workshop and camp out and participate and interact with nature.

BETH: But ecosex includes technology too. We do love our social networking interfaces.
There is something ecosexy about computers, and ecosexy about cities too.

KARA: Annie, can you speak to how your prior experiences in the sex industry and the way that technology might have been used in those settings is different or is similar to the way that it’s used in the art world now? Perhaps not in your performances per se, but in other performances that you’ve been a part of, or that you’ve been witness to.

ANNIE: I totally loved combination of having sex and at the same time, shooting a film. It’s a great combo. Sex and creativity are so linked, They are one and the same impulse. With sex, and with creativity, or technology, some days are better than others, some days you just don’t go very far. Sometimes you’re a lead balloon going nowhere, and sometimes you fly. In our last theater piece, Earthy; an Ecosex Bootcamp, we use technology, video, lighting, and computers, to give the impression we are out in nature! That’s crazy. After we did that show, we redid it, we got another director and took it outside and made An Ecosexual Walking Tour which we just performed in June and will do in Central Park on September 16th. Much nicer to do a show about nature outside,

KARA: In terms of the way that you’re engaging with nature, especially in regards to your more recent work, there seems to be an invocation of the goddess in the texts that you’re employing and your physical presentation of self —

ANNIE: If anything, we think of the Earth as transgendered, actually multigendered – we’re not so into “lesbian” either. The word and concept of “lesbian” and “goddess” seems old fashioned, sort of quaint and nostalgic.

BETH: We’re definitely going with more of a punk rock edge these days.

ANNIE: The idea of having making love only with people seems really limiting, when you can make love with a tree, a rock, the ocean… So even this idea of “heterosexual” or “lesbian” or even “bisexual” – bisexual? Why only two? It all seems very limiting compared to what we imagine, which is a transgendered ginormous Universe with, gazillions of erotic and sensual possibilities.

BETH: It’s not just transgender, it’s transgenital.

ANNIE: Yeah, its totally beyond genital sex! But it includes genital sex of course. We love genital sex too. All sex is really ecosex!

BETH: I think a lot of strategies and tactics towards different kinds of political liberation have been viewed as having a narrow horizon – the horizons have narrowed for certain things, and I think with ecosexuality we’re really opening up the spaces of hopefulness that something else could move in a different way because we’re politically very clear about what we’re trying to do. We’re really trying to shift this metaphor around the Earth from ‘Earth as mother’ to ‘Earth as lover,’ to get people to engage in a more mutual way of being in and thinking about the world. But we’re not punitive, you know? We’re not “you’re either with us, or against us”. You can still maintain your heterosexuality and be ecosexual, or gayness, or your bisexuality and be ecosexual – it’s not an exclusive sexuality. It’s also not an exclusive viewpoint of the world. We hope our kind of ecosex engenders more passion, empathy and intimacy with nature, but also a wider vision as opposed to a narrow, gathered vision.

KARA: You’re not requiring people to identify with one state of being in the world; you’re actively challenging those codified norms.

BETH: Yeah, it’s really a campaign of attraction; if you want to be part of it then hey,
everybody’s welcome, but if you don’t, that’s fine too, bye bye.

* Kara Rooney is an artist and critic based in New York, where she currently serves as the Managing Art Editor for The Brooklyn Rail.

Lotus Festival 2015: A Global Block-Party

tUnE-yArDs will perform at this year's Lotus Fest.

 – by Paul Sturm & LuAnne Holladay

 

“You don’t know about me but I’ll bet you want to; Everything will be alright if we just keep dancing like we’re 22.”  -Taylor Swift

Over the course of four fast-flying days (September 24-27), the 22nd annual Lotus World Music & Arts Festival will fill our downtown streets and B-town hearts with fab musics from across the globe.
For the uninitiated, the annual Lotus World Music & Arts Festival is an outrageously enjoyable music festival; one of our nation’s oldest and best-known world music gatherings. Artists from literally all over the world vie each year for a spot on the festival itinerary, so the talent is always impressive and performances are consistently inspiring.
This global shindig commingles a dizzying variety of world cultures presented through a broad range of sounds and musical styles. Lotus has booming party music, thoughtful chamber music, rowdy street bands, intimate solo and duo performers, emerging artists and experienced masters, acoustic groups and totally-wired amplified acts to enliven even the most aloof listener’s inner booty-shaker.

Festival performances are staged within a network of outdoor tents and indoor venues selected for their close-knit proximity. Which means that Lotus also delivers an exuberant, nomadic street scene with sidewalk food vendors, corner buskers, impromptu aesthetic experiences, and the perfect setting for endless social hookups and ‘BF’ hobnobbery.
Music is the main fare, but visual art and participatory activities abound for those who crave multiple ways to celebrate internationalism. Beginning August 28, the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center Galleries will once again devote exhibit space to a Lotus-related exhibition of festival textiles (on view Aug.28-Sep.26, free & open to the public). Athena boutique (on Walnut) will host its usual hand-drum jam sessions in front of the shop.
On September 24, launching the 4-day festival is the annual Thursday night “Kick-Off Concert” at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater, this year featuring Baltic Crossing and Sierra Maestra: two of the strongest ensembles in the Lotus-22 lineup. Admission is $15 advance, $20 day of show. Closing the festival on Sunday afternoon is the traditional “World Spirit Concert” at the BCT, featuring Maarja Nuut and Şirin Pancaroğlu, both making their Lotus premiere. Admission is the $5 Lotus pin (a cool keepsake!).

The Lotus Arts Village is moving from 6th Street to Kirkwood Avenue on the south side of the square (in front of Fountain Square Mall). The Village’s usual visual art displays and interactive play spaces will be accompanied by an assortment of food trucks providing delectable street munchies on Friday and Saturday. And fans of public revelry will delight in the return of a Lotus parade on Saturday night led by the members of Fanfaraï, giving our human caravan a lively North African flavor.
More free fun can be had at the annual “Lotus in the Park” family friendly fête on Saturday afternoon at Waldron/Hill/Buskirk Park (aka 3rd Street Park). Concerts, workshops and ‘make-it-&-take-it’ craft tents will be joined this year by four craft artists appearing as part of a partnership with Traditional Arts Indiana and its Indiana Bicentennial arts series. The artists – members of TAI’s Rotating Exhibit Network – provide demonstrations of their traditional craft alongside a free-standing 3×7-foot panel that features engaging photos and info describing the folklife practice. Also joining the Lotus Park action on Saturday will be Bloomington’s Ryan Academy of Irish Dance and a Filipino dance group from Indianapolis, both offering demonstrations.
Looking at the Friday-Saturday Artist Showcase nights, the ‘talent-nova’ will blow your mind and elevate your aesthetic ch’i. Ireland’s all-star Brock McGuire Band returns to provide that dash of Celtic music no Lo-fest would be complete without. The renowned Heritage Blues Orchestra will be in town for one night (Friday) in a set that will irrefutably affirm the power of the blues. On the opposite end of the size-spectrum, Korean duo Su:m will absolutely thrill those who love expressive chamber music performed on traditional acoustic instruments.

Lotus has booming party music, thoughtful chamber music, rowdy street bands, intimate solo and duo performers, emerging artists and experienced masters, acoustic groups and totally-wired amplified acts to enliven even the most aloof listener’s inner booty-shaker.

This year’s festival includes two performers who use electronics with spectacular musical results: Maarja Nuut and tUnE-yArDs demonstrate masterful digital looping technique, and tUnE-yArDs also offers a hefty dose of superb old-skool synth work. Where Maarja’s soundscapes are lushly harmonious, tUnE-yArDs’ loop-jams are lively and invigorating. If you seek unforgettably wonderful musical memories, these two acts are on the must-see list.
Lovers of rich polyphonic choral music will want to see Zedashe from the Republic of Georgia. Their close harmonies and pronounced vocal techniques are the stuff of sonic beauty. The emotional power of great singing also will resonate in many solo and ‘feature’ vocal performers: Bhi Bhiman, Ester Rada, Jessica Fichot, Karolina Cicha & Bart Pałyga, Lula Pena, Martha Redbone, and Nano Stern.
All in all, this year’s Lotus Festival includes 24 different musical acts, with only 6 returning bands; so it’s a perfect year to purchase a 2-night Festival Pass…there’s just that much brand new and superb musical talent to be heard and seen. And only a third of the performers are booked for single sets, which increases your odds of catching every artist by juggling performance venues and artist rosters across two nights of stone-cold sonic bliss.
Lotus Festival tickets for all admission-based events can be purchased in person at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater Box Office, by phone at 812-323-3020, or online at bctboxoffice.com.

Complete artist profiles follow:

Aziz Sahmaoui & University of Gnawa (Morocco, Senegal, France)
Moroccan Aziz Sahmaoui’s musical passions are rock, fusion, and Gnawa, the trance music of Northern Africa. His voice, swinging between the inflexions of bluesman, muezzin, and crooner, pulls the audience into his poetic universe where jubilation is the order of the day. With his talented squad of musicians – his ‘University of Gnawa’ – Aziz will funk your junk with hot tunes, rousing choruses, and an unstoppable beat to drive your feet. Pulsing Gnawan rhythms act as groundwork for inspiring musical improvisation by the high-flying instrumentalists of the University. As Aziz says: “The groove, you’ve either got it or you haven’t.” Ain’t that the truth!
Lotus premiere

Baltic Crossing (England, Finland, Denmark)
The soaring, joyous music of Baltic Crossing comes from the folk scenes of England and Scandinavia. This young quintet’s musical prowess and love of old dance traditions make for brilliant sets of jigs, polskas, waltzes, schottisches, and other tunes. Ian Stephenson (guitar) and Andy May (Northumbrian bagpipes & piano) hail from England; the Scandinavian side is represented by Danish musician Kristian Bugge (violin), and Esko Järvelä (violin) and Antti Järvelä (mandolin & double bass) from Finland. Baltic Crossing’s repertoire is mostly instrumental, often playful, and always tuneful. Fans of Frigg will recognize brothers Esko & Antti, and will find a lot to love in Baltic Crossing.
Lotus premiere

Bhi Bhiman (USA)
American singer-songwriter Bhi Bhiman is known for his fine guitar playing, his clever and edgy lyrics, and a remarkable voice that has earned comparisons to such artists as Nina Simone and Bill Withers. His most recent album, Rhythm & Reason, explores the immigrant experience and the politics of race. The American-born son of Sri Lankan parents, he says that “My sense of place was, is, not limited to my county or my state or my country. It’s…an international feeling of community.” His stylish covers of classic songs make excellent companions to his original material, and Bhi is equally comfortable performing at Bonnaroo, Carnegie Hall, or on a Lotus stage.
Lotus premiere; ONE SHOW ONLY

Brock McGuire Band (Ireland)
Last seen at Lotus in 2011, the Brock McGuire Band returns to town performing Irish music with passion and precision. Founding members Paul Brock (button accordion & melodeon) and Manus McGuire (fiddle) now live in County Clare, and both are award-winning masters of Irish traditional music. The band also includes Dublin-based Garry O’Meara on banjo, mandolin, & vocals, and Limerick-based composer and arranger Denis Carey on piano. Their repertoire emphasizes Irish music; but don’t be surprised if they toss in a few arrangements of American old-time, bluegrass, French-Canadian, and other Celtic tunes. Discover why the Irish American News calls them the Instrumental Band of the Decade.

Delhi 2 Dublin (Canada)
A Delhi 2 Dublin set is possibly the only place you’ll see a fiddle player rocking out with a kilt-wearing Korean, flanked by two Bhangra percussionists and a vocalist who looks like he would be at home in a Bollywood music video. The group began in 2006 as a one-off performance in a Vancouver club, and they’ve been at it ever since, throwing Bhangra, Celtic, dub, reggae, and electronica into a musical blender. Match that multiculti fearlessness with electrifying live performances and you have a perfect Lo-fab dance storm. They brought the funk, the sweat, and a hard-rocking tent scene at their solitary Lotus show back in 2012; this year, make D2D your last-call party stop on Friday and Saturday to find out why one reviewer called them “the United Nations of rock and roll.”

Ester Rada (Israel, Ethiopia)
Ester Rada was born in Israel to Ethiopian parents, and her cross-cultural sound builds on that dual heritage. Her band’s instrumentation and arrangements reflect Israeli music, the influence of Ethiopian jazz, strong rhythmic drive, and a multicultural sensibility. Listen to her powerful, confident vocals and solid grooves, and it’s also easy to trace Ester’s influences to divas of classic and contemporary soul and R&B: Aretha Franklin, Pattie LaBelle, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott. Members of the band come from Yemen, Poland, Morocco, Iraq, and Israel. Ester’s musical melting pot serves up a delicious stew of sonic delights.
Lotus premiere

Fanfaraï (France, Algeria, Morocco)
Fanfaraï fuses a cultural mix of 14 musicians for a colorful explosion of North African music. The Paris-based group grew in 2005 out of a smaller Algerian street band, adding musicians from France, Morocco, and India who share a passion for what they call “the traditions of festive wanderings.” Brassy horns and booming percussion blend with Arab, Berber, Afro-Cuban, and Latin influences to create big, bold street music. Fanfaraï draws on popular brass-band repertoire, salsa, jazz, and funk, as well as the heritage of Idbalen and Zernadjia – itinerant street musicians who have animated Algerian rituals and feasts since the turn of the 20th century. Fanfaraï’s music embodies an energetic, cheerful diversity – as lively and varied as the musicians themselves.
Lotus premiere

Heritage Blues Orchestra (USA)
The grit of low-down country and urban blues mixed with the bold brass of New Orleans; the hand-clapping fervor of gospel punctuated with fiery postmodern, jazz-infused horn arrangements; the haunting cries of work songs and pulsating drums that reach back to musical roots centuries old. You’ll journey across the Middle Passage, be driven down Highway 49 from Clarksdale to New Orleans, go from chain gangs and juke joints to orchestra pits, church pews, and even back porches. The celebrated Heritage Blues Orchestra’s music is a testament to the enduring power, possibilities, and boundless beauty of African-American music. “Heritage Blues Orchestra may be a blues version of what Wynton Marsalis and his Jazz at Lincoln Center cohorts regularly do—namely, apply historical research and practical experience to different traditional styles, and finally (and not easily) to create something that is at once new and timeless” (Wall Street Journal).
Lotus premiere; ONE SHOW ONLY

Jaron Freeman-Fox & the Opposite of Everything (Canada)
Canadian violinist and composer Jaron Freeman-Fox straddles the shifting border between tradition and innovation. The name of his band – the Opposite of Everything – hints at what he likes to call the general lunacy and creative drive of his music. His musical roots are in Celtic and bluegrass fiddling, but Jaron’s further study of Indian classical music and jazz has helped to push his music further into genre-defying realms. He’s even collaborated with a troupe of Rajasthani nomads. You could call this restless energy and boisterous enthusiasm “The New Ruckus” (the title of a track on Jaron’s first CD), or you could just take it from the Ottawa International Jazz Festival folks, who dubbed Jaron “the Jimi Hendrix of the violin.”
Lotus premiere

Jayme Stone’s Lomax Project (Canada, USA)
Focusing on songs collected by legendary folklorist and field recording pioneer Alan Lomax, this ‘collaboratory’ led by Canadian banjo player Jayme Stone brings together some of North America’s most distinctive and creative roots musicians to revive, recycle, and re-imagine traditional music. The song list includes Bahamian sea chanties, African-American a cappella singing from the Georgia Sea Islands, ancient Appalachian ballads, fiddle tunes, and work songs collected from both well-known musicians and everyday folk: sea captains, cowhands, fishermen, prisoners, and homemakers. This was and is music of the people. Lomax Project album collaborators are many; those likely to be on hand for Lotus include Jayme on banjo, Grammy Award winner Tim O’Brien on fiddle, Margaret Glaspy on guitar, and Moira Smiley on accordion. The Lomax Project is this year’s Lotus Dickey Artist, honoring that late, great Indiana old-time musician and song writer.
Lotus premiere

Jessica Fichot (USA)
Los Angeles-based chanteuse, songwriter, and accordionist Jessica Fichot is a lot like her hometown of Paris: French at heart, but with a soul that’s truly international. Drawing from a French, Chinese, and American upbringing, her music fuses styles and languages, taking the listener on a journey out of the French chanson tradition and into the realms of gypsy jazz, 1940s Chinese swing, international folk, and her own imagination. Jessica visited Lotusland for the first time back in 2010; she returns to Bloomington with a new album sung in Mandarin: Dear Shanghai. Armed with accordion, toy piano, and multilingual vocals, Fichot has toured the world with her quartet of like-minded multi-culturalists. Préparer pour la béatitude musicale, dear Francophiles.

Kardemimmit (Finland)
The four young women of Kardemimmit sing and play the Finnish national instrument – the kantele. If you’re new to the kantele, think zither or dulcimer: the quartet has mastered both the 15-stringed and 38-stringed varieties. The distinctive sound of this plucked acoustic instrument and their delicate, tight vocal harmonies in a style of singing known as reki make Kardemimmit a standout contemporary Nordic ensemble. Maija Pokela, Jutta Rahmel, Anna Wegelius and Leeni Wegelius perform traditional Finnish songs as well as their own modern, original folk music – adding to a long and dynamic musical tradition. This quartet racked up an enthusiast following of B-town fans when they played Lotus two years ago; their live performances are simply divine.

Karolina Cicha & Bart Pałyga (Poland)
Karolina Cicha’s impassioned, compelling interpretations of the old songs of the Kresy (the Polish Eastern Borderlands) mix folk tradition, rock and pop, and performance art. Karolina sings in the languages of the Kresy: Polish, Belorussian, Ukrainian, Russian, Lithuanian, Tatar, Romani, Yiddish, and even Esperanto — and while her primary instrument is the accordion, she is a self-taught multi-instrumentalist. A student of Poland’s diverse cultural traditions, Karolina honed her art at the renowned Gardzienice Academy for Theatre Practices. With cellist and vocalist Bart Pałyga, Karolina brings a new boldness and energy to old songs of Poland’s multi-ethnic cultural landscape.
Lotus premiere

Lotus Dickey Song Workshop (USA)
Bloomington folk music maestro, Grey Larsen, will once again recruit a cadre of his pals to lead a workshop on the songs of Hoosier singer/songwriter Lotus Dickey (1911-1989). Lotus was a Hoosier treasure; his curious, humble, gentle spirit inspired everyone who knew him. The workshop is an occasion to celebrate Lotus Dickey’s contributions to the art and life of Indiana and to enjoy the power of voices united in song.
ONE SHOW ONLY

Lula Pena (Portugal)
Fado, the signature musical tradition of Portugal, is embodied in the voice and music of Lula Pena. Elements of Portuguese folk music, French chanson, Cape Verdean morna, and Brazilian bossa nova color Lula’s music, but its heart is in fado. Her deep, sensitive voice and spare guitar work communicate the feeling of powerful longing, or saudade, essential to the genre. Thoughtful, emotional, poetic, stark, mesmerizing: all apply to her unforgettable performances. Lula has rarely toured outside Portugal, and Lotus is proud to present her at this year’s festival.
Lotus premiere

Maarja Nuut (Estonia)
Lyrical, trippy, trancelike, transcendent: fiddler Maarja Nuut creates remarkable soundscapes from the traditional dance tunes, songs, and stories of her native Virumaa in Northern Estonia. Using electronics, she often builds from a single violin motif, deftly looping it and adding harmonic layers with voices and violin improvisations. An Estonian loopmaster in the Andrew Bird/Robert Fripp mode, Maarja spins inventive and beautiful sounds from simple musical origins. Her performances are unforgettable: deeply folkloric, yet thoroughly modern. Her premiere at Lotus is not to be missed.
Lotus premiere

Martha Redbone Roots Project (USA)
Martha Redbone is an Independent Music Award-winning musician of Cherokee, Choctaw, Shawnee, and African-American descent. Martha explores traditional and modern variations of folk, roots, blues, tribal, and soul music. She launched the Martha Redbone Roots Project in 2012 with release of The Garden of Love – Songs of William Blake, a collection of 18th-century poems set to the music of Appalachia. Her latest project, Bone Hill, is an interdisciplinary theater work that brings to light the post-slavery history of people of color working the coal mines of Appalachia amid Jim Crow laws. The music is radically wide-ranging – from traditional Cherokee chants and lullabies to bluegrass, blues, gospel, jazz, rock and roll, R&B, and funk – all powered by her magnificent voice. In the words of collaborator Roberta Uno, “Martha’s music is ancestral, soul-shaking, and elevating.”
Lotus premiere

Nano Stern (Chile)
Chilean singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and musical activist Nano Stern serenades audiences with nothing but a guitar and his voice, bringing listeners to the edge of their seat – and to their feet – to move, laugh, weep, and revel in heartfelt songs of Chile. The grandson of Jewish refugees, Stern has created a sound that incorporates the mid-century folk reverberations of his homeland with rock attitude, classical craft, and jazz techniques. He explores the complexities of the personal and political, and finds new ways to play with Chile’s long-repressed roots music. It’s a mix that also captures the indigenous, African, and European elements that define Latin music. “It’s an enormous gift we received from the people of the past, from the tradition itself,” he says. “Yet…I think it should be open to all kinds of promiscuity, to every sound getting together with everything else. That’s when things get truly beautiful.”
Lotus premiere; ONE SHOW ONLY

Sierra Maestra (Cuba)
Featuring many stars of Cuban music since the group’s formation in the late 1970s, Sierra Maestra was the first of the modern-era Cuban bands to play in the old-style son line-up: tres (3-string Cuban guitar), guitar, trumpet, percussion (bongo & güiro), and vocals. The arrangement reflects the song style’s golden age of the 1920s and ‘30s. Five of the original nine members remain in the band, which has pioneered the son revival for new generations. The band’s name is a tribute to the mountain range in eastern Cuba that is considered the birthplace of son. With our Cuban détente, and Carnival Cruise Lines announcing trips to Cuba, it’s a perfect year to bring la cultura cubana back to Bloomington via Sierra Maestra: the heartbeat of Cuban soul. Fun Lotus fact: Sierra Maestra was last in town for Lotus 1997, gracing the ‘stage’ of the old Indiana Theater before it was transformed into the Buskirk-Chumley. They’re in for a treat…and so are we.
ONE SHOW ONLY

Şirin Pancaroğlu (Turkey)
Her work in unearthing the historical Turco-Ottoman harp called the çeng has earned Şirin Pancaroğlu a unique place in Turkish music and folklore. While she is trained in classical music (with a Master’s degree from the IU Jacobs School of Music), her eclectic influences include Turkish traditional music, improvisation, electronic music, and tango. Şirin’s efforts to re-introduce the harp to wider audiences in her native Turkey led her to active concertizing and to founding the Association for the Art of the Harp. Once a symbol of mysticism among Turkish poets and writers, the çeng has reemerged in contemporary Turkish folk music, thanks largely to Şirin and her music-making.
Lotus premiere; ONE SHOW ONLY

숨[suːm] (South Korea)
숨[suːm] was formed in 2007 by a pair of Korean musicians trained in traditional instruments. They had an ambitious goal: to start a new era of Korean folk music grounded in the experience of modern life. The band’s name (pronounced “soom”) means “breath.” They compose and perform original work on traditional instruments: Jiha Park plays the piri (bamboo oboe), saenghwang (24-pipe mouth organ), and yanggeum (dulcimer), while Jungmin Seo performs on both the 25-string and steel-string gayageum (zither). This is a rare opportunity to hear exceptional music of an instrumental discipline and tradition rife with gorgeous sounds.
Lotus premiere

Trio Brasileiro (Brazil)
This young trio’s stunning virtuosity is matched with a deep devotion to the language of music – specifically choro, a traditional Brazilian genre marked by intricate, lively rhythms, gorgeous melodies, and improvisation. Trio Brasileiro includes Dudu Maia, one of Brazil’s finest players of the bandolim (a kind of mandolin); the celebrated Douglas Lora on violão 7 cordes (7-string guitar); and the amazing percussionist, Alexandre Lora (brother of Douglas) who plays the pandeiro (a kind of tambourine). Trio Brasileiro is dedicated to performing the great traditional choro music of Brazil as well as their own compositions, which are modern reflections of that great traditional musical form. Their sets at Lotus 2012 were popular and packed; if you missed them then, catch them now.
ONE SHOW ONLY

tUnE-yArDs (USA)
tUnE-yArDs is fresh, avant-garde, experimental, groovy, poppy, funky — pick a word to describe Merrill Garbus’s band and a reviewer somewhere in the world has already used it. In addition to writing the music, Merrill (on lead vocals, percussion, ukulele, and a wide assortment of samplers & electronics) and her collaborator (and Bloomington native), Nate Brenner on bass & synthesizers, are joined by an ever-changing array of bandmates to create a post-modern sonic stew; “a lovably scrappy, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink aesthetic that is distinctly their own” (SPIN). Named the top looping artist by BaebleMusic, tUnE-yArDs has a unique sound driven by a relentless hippy-shake groove that comes from Merrill’s love of percussive hooks, pop chords, and singsong melodies. One of the greatest bands I know, tUnE-yArDs is a must-see act.
Lotus premiere; ONE SHOW ONLY

Zedashe (Republic of Georgia)
Zedashe’s repertoire is grounded in ancient polyphonic chants from Orthodox Christian liturgy as well as folk songs and dances from the Kiziqian and Svanetia regions of the Republic of Georgia. Field songs, love songs, historical ballads, war dances, ritual circle dances: these traditional pieces have been passed down through generations of musicians and song masters. The close vocal harmonies are often accompanied by the shunner (Svan lute), pander (Kiziq lute), chonguri (Gurian lute), doll (drum), chibonie (goat-skin bagpipes), and accordion. In the music and song of Zedashe, rich folk traditions that trace back to Pagan and early Christian periods come to life and revitalize the soul.
Lotus premiere

 

 

113 Days of Art

IU is hosting dozens of performances and exhibits throughout the summer ◆ by Hannah Waltz

This summer, the Indiana University Art Museum will host dozens of exhibits from artists all over the world as part of Bloomington’s 113 Days of Art. Among the not-to-be-missed events is a Midsummer Night on June 21st, an evening of art and live music to welcome in the official beginning of summer. From 7-9:30 p.m. guests can stroll through the three permanent collection galleries and gawk at night-themed art, including works by Picasso. Inspired by the wonders of the night, guests are encouraged to enjoy a drink on the Sculpture Terrace and listen to live music beneath the stars by The Dynamics, performing r&b, funk, and blues classics by artists such as Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and Parliament Funkadelic.

An evening of jazz is scheduled for July 26th, during which the museum will host the Urban Jazz Coalition, which will spotlight Diane Pelrine’s gallery talk about the important relationship between African textiles and American jazz, from 5:30-8:30 p.m. in the Raymond and Laura Wielgus Gallery of the Arts of Africa, the South Pacific, and the Americas.

The Kinsey Institute’s Annual Juried Art Show is one of the most anticipated exhibitions of Bloomington’s 113 Days of Art. The eighth annual show will be held in the Grunwald Gallery and runs through July 13th. The exhibit will show pieces of various mediums that investigate issues like sexuality, the politics of sex and gender, and romantic relationships among many more.

For Betsy Stirratt, the Grunwald Gallery director, the Kinsey Institute’s exhibition is at the top of her recommendation list. “The Kinsey Institute Juried Exhibit is always an interesting show,” Stirratt said. “It allows us to show a lot of great artists from all over the world and quality pieces.”
This show is a thought-provoking break from the societal norm. “It portrays sexuality in a way people don’t normally think about,” Stirratt said. “People tend to think of it as a certain type of show, like an erotic art show, but it really isn’t that. It’s not a typical perspective, and that’s really important.”

On July 19th the Grunwald Gallery will hold the opening reception for the Bloomington Photography Club Juried Exhibition from 6-8 p.m., which can be viewed through the 27th of July. “It’s our community show,” Stirratt said. “It’s an important contribution to the Bloomington community.”

The Lilly Library will also serve as a venue for this year’s 113 Days of Art, as it shows off its exhibition entitled “The Grolier Hundred,” which showcases one hundred of the most famous works of English literature. “It’s some of the most valuable books that we have in our collections,” said Rebecca Baumann, the reference associate at the Lilly. “There are lots of titles and authors that people will recognize as some of the high points of English literature.”

The exhibition was first opened over one hundred years ago in 1903 in New York City as one of the most significant rare book collections of the century. The Lilly Library in Bloomington became home to ninety-nine of the Grolier Hundred works in the mid 1950’s when J.K. Lilly, Jr. began gathering as many pieces from the collection as he could. The writings represent a wide range of literary genres, including history, law, science, fiction, poetry and drama.

One of the most prized pieces of the collection, Shakespeare’s First Folio, also known as Mr. William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies, which was published in 1603, will also be on display. “If festival-goers are interested in great literature, this is a must-see,” Baumann said.

The Mathers Museum of World Cultures will host several exhibitions that will stimulate any viewer’s creative juices. Keeping those Indiana roots alive, the exhibit titled “The Day in Its Color: A Hoosier Photographer’s Journey Through Midcentury America” will showcase through June 23rd some of Indiana-native Charles Cushman’s 14,500 photographs. Other anticipated exhibits include “In the Kitchen Around the World,” which will display food-processing objects from different countries, “Time As We Keep It,” which explores the phenomenon that we call time, and “Footsteps of a Stranger: Shoes from cultures around the world,” among others.

Additionally, Folklorist and Director of Traditional Arts Indiana John Kay will give a lecture on “Southern Indiana Gravestones and Their Makers” on June 14th at noon in which Kay will speak about his research and Hoosier gravestones.

Music

Don’t forget about the audible arts this summer at the Indiana University Musical Arts Center (MAC). Packed with performances by world-renown musicians, this season will offer an abundance of opportunities to bring music to your ears. Although nearly every week in June and July is full of concerts, a few notable performances should be noted. On Monday, July 8th at 7 p.m. William Harvey will deliver a lecture called “Teaching Music in Afghanistan.” Harvey is the Orchestra Director at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) where he also teaches violin and viola. After attaining degrees from both Julliard and Indiana University, Harvey founded the Afghan Youth Orchestra as well as Cultures in Harmony. The latter is a non-profit that advocates for cultural understanding through music. Harvey will speak in Sweeney Hall.
On Wednesday July 10th, the opening ceremony for the USA International Harp Competition will be held in Auer Hall, beginning at 4 p.m. Founded in 1989, the competition is held every three years in Bloomington. The finals will be held July 20th at 7 p.m. on the MAC Stage.

Film & Theater

Film and theatrical arts in Bloomington are not hard to come by, especially during summer’s 113 Days of Art. The IU Cinema and the Indiana Festival Theatre will be hosting various films and live performances respectively from different genres and time periods. This year for the first time the Cinema will host the Slapsticon Film Festival from June 27-30th, a national comedy film festival that spotlights silent and early sound films with Chaplin, Keaton, and more. Other summer film showings include the 2013 film The Reluctant Fundamentalist about a Pakistani man and his post-9/11 struggles, screening May 24-26th, and Bayou Blue, a film that explores the “decay of a community” in Louisiana that screens with live music on May 30th at 7 p.m.

The Ryder

Dido and Aeneas

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by Kristen Strandberg

Shifting between pleasant consonant sounds and stunningly beautiful dissonance, Henry Purcell’s 1689 Dido and Aeneas is still regarded as one of the most significant musical works of the seventeenth century. It is a rare treat to hear such a work performed, and while it is certainly a product of its time, the music is still emotionally striking and relevant over three hundred years later. Indiana University’s Summer Festival Chorus will perform an un-staged version of the work on June 25, under the direction of Dominick DiOrio.

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While Dido and Aeneas has remained popular within early music circles, little is known about the circumstances of its composition. The first known performance took place at a boarding school for young women in the London suburb of Chelsea in 1689, although some evidence suggests it may have been written for the coronation of King William and Queen Mary earlier that year. Very few operas were written in seventeenth-century England, largely due to a lack of patronage and royal support. Yet, Dido and Aeneas’s composer, Henry Purcell, and librettist, Nahum Tate, both had royal connections- Purcell was an organist at the Chapel Royal, and Tate would soon be named court poet.

Historians have suggested that the text for the opera’s prologue (the music for which has been lost) may allegorically reference the union of William and Mary. Additionally, the earliest surviving musical score includes male vocal parts in low ranges, which could not have been sung by the young female students. Still, no record of a court performance exists, so we can only speculate as to whether Dido and Aeneas was a court-sponsored work, and there is no other documented performance of the work during Purcell’s lifetime.

The opera’s plot is based on the fourth book of Virgil’s Aeneid. Dido, the queen of Carthage, is in love with the visiting Aeneas, who will eventually establish Rome. A sorceress intervenes and destroys the budding romance, leaving Dido to die of a broken heart. Just before dying, Dido sings her famous and heart-wrenchingly beautiful lament. Purcell borrowed the concept of a musical lament from earlier Italian operas, and retains the genre’s trademark repeated bass line. While laments traditionally included a repeated bass line of four descending notes, Purcell adds chromatic half steps to create a six-note descending pattern. The lament’s smooth lyricism combined with dissonant harmonies gives it a tragic, yet unique and strikingly beautiful sound.

The opera involves a small orchestra of strings and harpsichord, and eight sung characters, plus a chorus. Purcell’s chorus fulfills various functions throughout the work, acting as groups of background characters to provide commentary on the narrative.
IU’s production will consist of Jacobs School of Music students participating in the annual Summer Festival, including the Summer Festival Chorus, directed by Choral Conducting Professor Dominick DiOrio. The performance will take place on Tuesday, June 25 at 8pm in Auer Hall in the Simon Music Center.

The Ryder

Teaching Music in Afghanistan

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The Afghan Youth Orchestra’s repertoire includes everything from Afghan patriotic songs to the Four Seasons ◆ by William Harvey

The last time I visited my alma mater, Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, was in June 2009, nine months before I moved to Afghanistan. This summer, I will return to Bloomington to teach and perform at the IU String Academy. So what have I been doing for 4 years?

My job title at Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM), founded by Dr. Ahmad Sarmast, barely begins to describe my duties. I am the Violin and Viola Teacher, but I also teach cello and double bass, instruments I do not play, whenever we do not have a teacher for those instruments. I have conducted the Afghan Youth Orchestra in gala concerts in Kabul, on television, over half a dozen times for President Karzai, and at sold-out concerts in Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center. I teach some music academic classes and coordinate concert activities at the school.

It would be impossible to summarize the joys and heartaches of my life in Afghanistan in one brief article, but I am looking forward to returning to Bloomington this summer so that I will have the opportunity to share with a home state audience some of the transformative experience of making music in Afghanistan while nostalgically reconnecting with aspects of my years in Bloomington.

My first performance will be on June 28 alongside Erin Aldridge, Tzeying Wu, and Csaba Onczay in Don Freund’s Summersongs for String Quartet. I studied composition with Freund from 2002 to 2003. Although I was almost as much a composer as a violinist until I moved to Afghanistan, since 2010 I spend more time arranging music than composing. The Afghan Youth Orchestra is the only one in the world combining Afghan and Western instruments. Since Beethoven mysteriously neglected to include ghichak in any of his symphonies, I arrange our repertoire, from Afghan patriotic songs to the Four Seasons, which, with a few Afghan melodies and rhythms sprinkled in, became “The Four Seasons of Afghanistan.” I’m grateful for the composition training I received at IU from both Don Freund and Sven-David Sandstrom, even if these days, I apply it mostly towards the challenges presented by arranging the music of others (such as when to introduce the tanbur in Ravel’s Bolero).

For those who would like to learn about my work in Afghanistan, on July 8 I will deliver a lecture in Sweeney Hall. The next day, July 9, my recital with Cory Smythe in Auer Hall will relate the experience in musical terms. When Mimi Zweig, my beloved former teacher, informed me that many concerts this summer would focus on contemporary music, I wanted to create a recital program that would ask the question: what does contemporary music mean from an Afghan standpoint? Parts of this recital resemble the recitals I gave or attended while at IU, and other parts resemble the concerts I perform in Kabul.

The recital starts with “Bia ke birim ba Mazar,” the most famous Afghan song. I have played it on the street at the command of the Afghan national police, for conservative Pashtun men whose home I entered by mistake, and on national TV when I was a guest judge on “Afghan Star” (the popular television show similar to American Idol).

The song’s elegiac character connects nicely to the first movement of Bach’s C Minor Sonata, the last movement of which features a rhythmic technique similar to tihai, found in Indian and Afghan music. Next, I’ll play the 4 Lauds by Elliott Carter. When Carter passed away in 2012, I keenly felt how far I was from home when I realized that I might be the only person in Afghanistan mourning his passing. The complexity of his music contrasts well with a different kind of complexity at work in a piece using the Indian raga Marwa composed by Ehsan Arfan, the sitar teacher at ANIM.

The second half opens with Remix, a piece by my Juilliard classmate Ryan Francis. If the influence of minimalism is not far from the surface, then it’s also important to recall the influence of Indian classical music on the minimalist composers; that same influence has dominated Afghan classical music for centuries.

Since I do not want my Afghan students to neglect their culture while learning Western music, I have arranged 24 Afghan songs each for violin and viola and am working on an anthology for bass. These anthologies are available at the ANIM website, and Cory and I will play four at my recital.

Closing the recital with Schubert has a special resonance. Erin played it brilliantly when I was in Bloomington in 2009. Each time I play or listen to Schubert in Afghanistan, it soars above the stresses and dust of my life: I feel like someone who, after returning from a long cold journey to a distant planet, returns to a beautiful mountain here on Earth, breathes the clean air, and drinks from a spring of pure water.

During my 2009 visit to Bloomington, Erin Aldridge and I gave the premiere of “Dialogue,” my composition for two violins that deals with the perils and promise of dialogue between Muslims and non-Muslims. I based the piece on my experiences leading cultural diplomacy projects in Muslim countries with my non-profit organization, Cultures in Harmony, which I founded in 2005 as a response to the tragedy of September 11, 2001. I am delighted to reprise “Dialogue” with Erin on July 15 of this summer, but were I to compose such a piece now, it would be very different. The ending is optimistic; it might not be so optimistic now.

In spite of the challenges I face there, Afghanistan has given me more than I could possibly give it. So has Bloomington. Every day that I teach violin in Kabul, I use principles and techniques I learned from Mimi Zweig. This summer, through teaching students at the String Academy and performing in the Summer Festival, I will do what I can to give back.

[William Harvey is the Afghan Youth Orchestra Conductor and the Artistic Manager of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music.]

The Ryder

FILM: Wait ‘Til Your Father Gets Home

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Movies to Watch on Father’s Day ◆ by Craig J. Clark

On television, fathers may think they know best, but at the movies they aren’t always so sure-footed. Whether they like to admit it or not, they can’t all be Atticus Finch.  As portrayed by Oscar winner Gregory Peck and brought to the screen by Robert Mulligan,  Atticus is the father to the impressionable young Scout and her brother Jem in To Kill a Mockingbird.  He is the preeminent upright father figure, but few of his peers can ever hope to measure up to him.

 Not that they don’t try their best, of course. In Terrence Malick’s Palme d’Or-winning The Tree of Life, Brad Pitt attempts to instill his values in his three sons, but the eldest (who grows up to be emotionally distant architect Sean Penn) chafes against his authoritarian stance. The same goes for Burl Ives as Big Daddy in Richard Brooks’s adaptation of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Based on the play by Tennessee Williams, which lost some of its subtext in the transition, Cat finds Ives struggling to relate to his grown son Brick (Paul Newman) and mostly failing, but they eventually reach a kind of mutual understanding.

Finding a way to relate to his family is also foremost on the mind of Gene Hackman in Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums. Long absent from the scene, he has his work cut out for him with his adult children (financial wiz Ben Stiller, moody playwright Gwyneth Paltrow, tennis pro Luke Wilson) who all blame him for the ways they’ve faltered in their lives. It’s hard to get more estranged, though, than Jack Lemmon is from his son in Costa-Gavras’s gripping political drama Missing. Another winner at Cannes, taking home the Palme d’Or and Best Actor for Lemmon, it’s a true story set in the aftermath of Chile’s 1973 coup and sees the deeply conservative Lemmon coming to a political awakening as he tries to find his activist son, who has disappeared without a trace.

Albert Brooks has a bit more luck as an animated clownfish in Pixar’s Finding Nemo, which turns a parent’s worst nightmare – a child being snatched away right in front of their eyes – into a thrilling and frequently hilarious adventure. That’s definitely a far cry from the work of writer/director Lodge Kerrigan. In his debut, Clean, Shaven, newly released mental patient Peter Greene attempts to track down his daughter in his own unhinged fashion, and his later film Keane follows a desperate Damian Lewis obsessed with finding his young daughter, who was abducted from New York City’s Port Authority Bus Terminal. The way Kerrigan gets inside his characters’ heads, you feel for them almost as much as you fear for their dwindling sanity (and realize that even if they found their children that might not be the best thing for either of them).

A kidnapping is also central to the plot of Akira Kurosawa’s High and Low, only this time the twist is that instead of the son of industrialist Toshiro Mifune, the perpetrators take his chauffeur’s son instead – and then insist that he still pay the ransom. There’s a great deal of tension in the first half of the film as Mifune debates whether he’s willing to ruin himself financially for the sake of another man’s son, but when his chauffeur pleads with him, one father to another, he knows he can’t refuse.

A father’s desire to protect his offspring is the driving force behind Orson Welles’s Mr. Arkadin as well, but it manifests itself in a completely different way. In addition to writing and directing, Welles also plays the title character, a filthy rich man of the world with a murky past who hires a private detective to dig up whatever dirt can be found on him – largely so his daughter (Paola Mori) will never hear about it. On the other side of the fence, Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone knows all about his father’s dirty dealings in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather, but Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) tries to keep him out of the family business anyway (and we all know how that works out).

For some fathers, protecting their children is their way of atoning for past mistakes. In Firestarter, based on the Stephen King novel, David Keith is on the run from a sinister government agency that is really after his pyrokinetic daughter (Drew Barrymore). Of course, she would have been a completely normal little girl if Keith and his wife hadn’t taken part in a government experiment in college that left them with residual (but weak) psychic powers. Little did they know what they would be passing on to the next generation.

A similar situation is found in David Cronenberg’s Scanners, although in that case the mutation was the unexpected side effect of a pregnancy drug developed by scientist Patrick McGoohan, who subsequently withdraws himself from the lives of his two sons. That they grow up to be bitter rivals, battling for control of his legacy, is something he never could have foreseen, but at least McGoohan makes it up to the young brother (protagonist Stephen Lack) in his own way. Elder brother Michael Ironside, on the other hand, is a lot less forgiving.

Continuing the theme, it’s never explicitly stated where pint-sized Danny Torrance gets his telepathic power from in Stephen King’s The Shining, memorably brought to the big screen by Stanley Kubrick, but it’s intimated that his father Jack (a scenery-chewing Jack Nicholson) also has a touch of it. Instead of leading to father-son bonding, though, it merely leaves Nicholson more open to the malevolent influence of the Overlook Hotel, which eventually drives him to try to murder his wife and son, echoing the actions of a previous caretaker.

Jack Torrance may not be a candidate for Father of the Year, but at least he can blame his crack-up on a combination of cabin fever and supernatural forces beyond his control. In contrast, John Meillon, who plays the father in Nicolas Roeg’s Walkabout, has no such excuses, and we never do find out what prompts him to drive to the Australian outback with his two children (a teenaged Jenny Agutter and Roeg’s own son, billed as Lucien John) and try to shoot them before turning the gun on himself. This also causes their car to go up in flames, stranding Agutter and John, so it’s a good thing they’re soon befriended by an Aboriginal youth (David Gulpilil) on walkabout who guides them back to civilization.

A car accident of a different sort is what precipitates the action in Georges Franju’s Eyes Without a Face, in which an outwardly noble surgeon (Pierre Brasseur) kidnaps young women in an effort to restore his daughter’s beauty since he feels responsible for her disfigurement. Shocking in its day for its graphic face-transplant scene, the film also manages to get under the skin with its chillingly poetic imagery thanks to Edith Scob’s performance as the daughter, who glides through most of the film in a featureless mask. Brasseur gets points for his dedication to her, but what he really needed was to find another, less destructive, outlet for it.

Knowing when to let go can be hard, but one of the most important things a father can do in the movies is give his daughter away to another man, as widower Chishu Ryu demonstrates in Yasujiro Ozu’s Late Spring and An Autumn Afternoon. Made 13 years apart, the films bookend the final stretch of Ozu’s long career and find Ryu playing characters that comes to realize their adult daughter needs to be married off before they’re consigned to the life of an old maid. Don’t think their plots are identical, though. Ozu may have been fond of remaking his own films and reusing certain plot devices, but he always knew how to spin them in such a way that they always felt novel.

Things are a bit more lighthearted in both versions of Father of the Bride, which were made four decades apart. In the first, directed by Vincente Minnelli, Spencer Tracy is the doting dad overwhelmed by the hectic arrangements surrounding the wedding of his darling daughter (Elizabeth Taylor). In the second, directed by Charles Shyer, Steve Martin takes over the role, which means the emphasis is placed more on his physical comedy. At the end of the day, though, all he wants is to make sure his daughter’s big day goes off without a hitch (and doesn’t bankrupt him). You can’t ask for a better wedding present than that.

The Ryder

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