A little of the local, a little of the global, from grungecore to visionary art, DVDs to old-time blues, art shows to Garrison Keillor’s (possibly) most incriminating moment, when you ask Walker friends and staff to come up with their top-10 lists for the year 2006, they deliver.
In relieved farewell to the year that was, we invited a few guests to share their favorites.
Thanks to them for taking time to share their thoughts, and to you for stopping by to read us the last 12 months.
Top Ten Concerts of 2006 by Walker Film/Video assistant Joe Beres
Ten Best Dance Performances of 2006 by choreographer/dancer Penelope Freeh
Best of Everything by painter Frank Gaard
Top Ten Art Blogs by Modern Art Notes‘ Tyler Green
Best World Music Releases of 2006 by Walker publicist Rachel Joyce
15 Things I Didn’t Realize I’d Miss About Minneapolis (With Only One Slander of Garrison Keillor) by Fimoculous‘ Rex Sorgatz
A Relatively Random List of Things Recalled by Paul Schmelzer
The Five Best Books by Paul Schumacher, book buyer for the Walker Shop
Ten Best DVDs of 2006 by Walker Film/Video intern Kathie Smith
Best of Art and Culture by Alec Soth, photographer
TOP TEN CONCERTS OF 2006
Joe Beres, Film/Video assistant
I was looking forward to this one from the moment Diana in Performing Arts mentioned it was a possibility, and it far exceeded my high hopes. Boris offered every aspect of their multi-faceted style, and Sunn created the most physical manifestation of music I have ever experienced. This one quickly moved to the top of my all-time favorites list.
2. The Dickies, Triple Rock Social Club, MPLS
To think, I almost skipped this show. What a mistake that would have been. After nearly 20 years, they still put on one of the best live shows in the business – inflatable dolls, scuba gear, and a large penis puppet named Stewart – what’s not to love?
3. Keiji Haino, Walker Art Center, MPLS
And I thought the NY show was good (see #5). This is the most captivating solo show I have ever seen – incredible guitar work and a haunting vocal performance. I only wish it was longer.
4. Flaming Lips/Sonic Youth, Minnesota State Fair, St. Paul
After a full day at the fair, two of the summer’s biggest rainstorms, a near cancellation of the show, and shoes full of water came an incredible evening. I didn’t think SY would work in such a big setting, but they were marvelous and sounded perfect. The Lips, though not my favorite band, are old-school showmen. The streamers, confetti, Wayne Coyne’s desire to entertain every person there, and the surprise Sabbath cover at the end made this a truly memorable night.
5. Gorilla Biscuits, Triple Rock Social Club, MPLS
It was as if I was 15 again. Bidip-Bo!
6. Keiji Haino/Melvins, Symphony Space, NYC
I was lucky a NYC trip coincided with this live scoring of Cameron Jamie’s Trilogy. The first ever collaboration, live or otherwise, of the Melvins and Keiji Haino was truly a sight/sound to behold.
7. John Zorn/Electric Masada, Walker Art Center, MPLS
Finally, my chance to see Zorn – it did not disappoint. The Electric Masada group was unbelievably tight and Music for Films set got me to look at some familiar films in a new way and gave me a first look at a few I had wanted to see for years.
8. EndTimes Festival, Turf Club, St. Paul
Three remarkable days of music that were surprisingly well-organized and arranged. Some of my favorites included, Yellow Swans, Oxbow, Nate Denver’s Neck, Smegma, and the trance inducing closing set by the Boredoms.
9. High on Fire, Turf Club, St. Paul
A relentless and sweaty set by Oakland’s finest. Their live shows are not to be missed.
10. The Ex, Triple Rock Social Club, MPLS
It’s hard to believe that this is their first show in the Twin Cities in their 25 year history. They are still relevant and evolving, and sound better than ever.
The Melvins: I can’t believe I saw them 4 times this year. Seeing them at the Soo Visual Art Center was great, but so was the two drummer, three vocal set at the Fine Line.
Mono at Triple Rock, MPLS: It was a great year to see Japanese band in Minneapolis. Hearing their delicate/beautiful meets heavy/intense sound live was fantastic. Pelican was lucky to have played before them that night.
Growing/Thrones at The Syrup Room, NYC: The music was great, but the experience of hopping on a the L-train to a deserted industrial area in Williamsburg to find a clandestine club in a former canning factory really added to the encounter.
Zebulon Pike at Triple Rock, MPLS: Or anywhere for that matter. ZP is probably my favorite local band, and is comprised of some of the Cities most talented musicians. Their brand of prog doom-metal is mind-blowing live.
TEN BEST DANCE PERFORMANCES OF 2006
1. Schoenberg Serenade by James Sewell. February 15. James Sewell Ballet Studio, Minneapolis. This is the first assembly of dancers, musicians (St. Paul Chamber Orchestra), and costumes. Against the stark studio, this neoclassical dance is set in relief, finally coming to life expressing perfect symmetry of formal structure and formless experimentation. [photo]
2. She Captains by Shawn McConneloug. June 17. Thorp Building, Minneapolis. While text-heavy, the use of elements (water, air, earth) is vivid and immediate. There are images so beautiful they hurt, like when high heels belatedly fall off a hanging body covered in a long skirt.
3. Tiny Town by Karen Sherman. July 23. Walker Art Center/Southern Theater’s Momentum. Southern Theater. Sherman’s singular choreographic voice rings clearer than ever in this at once playful and serious post-modern musing on her past. The final duet is naively erotic as only a coming-of-age experience can be.
4. Dirty by Chris Schlichting. August 12. Fringe Festival. Southern Theater, Minneapolis. Compelling from the strawberry-and-clothesline get-go, the sometimes deadpan, sometimes virtuosic movement vocabulary within the modest drama soars.
5. Broadway Bound….and Gagged by Justin Leaf and Brooke Murphy. August 27. Bryant Lake Bowl Theater, Minneapolis. This original dance/musical borrowing songs from a wide spectrum of pre-existing shows is magnificent in its homemade and bawdy earnestness.
6. Brahms Duet by Sally Rousse with Mariusz Olszewski. October 12-15. James Sewell Ballet. Guthrie McGuire Theater, Minneapolis. Watching from the wings, I am enfolded in this dance, welcomed into the delicate then rough-and-tumble sound and movement scores reflecting on love and loss.
7. The Moor’s Pavane by Jose Limon. November 4. Minnesota Dance Theatre. Ritz Theater, Minneapolis. Beautifully executed, this historically significant masterpiece blows me away. Portraying the drama of Othello, it continues to hold its own as a brillant demonstration of abbreviated, essential storytelling.
8. Dirty the Bones: On Being White and Other Lies by Ellen Marie Hinchcliffe. November 10. Naked Stages. Intermedia Arts. This touching and brave one-woman performance art piece contains a dance sequence unparalleled by anyone other than perhaps Napoleon Dynamite.
9. The Magician’s Wife by Cathy Young. November 18. Zenon Dance Company. Southern Theater. Witty, evocative, and ultimately bitter, this dance-theater quartet is a costume drama on its ear.
10. Veneers by Uri Sands. November 19. TU Dance. O’Shaughnessy Auditorium. The riveting gestures and movement vocabulary are established early and developed masterfully throughout this compelling new work. The pas de deux and final self-flagellating with bouquets of flowers are passages that continue to electrify and haunt.
Honorable Mention: James Sewell’s spontaneous and improvised solo. December 3. James Sewell Ballet cast party. The home of James Sewell and Sally Rousse. Winding down after ten shows in five days, the company relaxes by…dancing more! Accompanied by the Tiger Lillies, James treats us to his elegant brilliance, reminding us of the vitality, the need, the importance, of dancing in one’s socks down the stairs and across the wood floor.
FRANK GAARD’S BEST OF EVERYTHING
1. Best painting in exhibition: A work by Florentine Piero di Cosimo in the collection lent to the MIA by the Wadsworth Athenaeum. I visited the picture 5 or 6 times, and every time I felt it was greater and more profound.
2. Best exhibition: Heart of Darkness, a truly contemporary and futuristic experience. Kai Althoff is a sad new star in the heavens we name art. Finally the thrift shop and the porn shop arrived at Archie Walker’s Palace of Pleasure.
3. As far as music goes, my tastes are odd. I listened to the Libertine’s self-titled record many times and began to wonder if the Brits have completely taken rock away from us hillbillies? The new Sonic Youth CD was very good, but it was also the same old riffs. I guess I like those riffs and Kim Gordon is sort of a rock god, non?
4. Best art book: The catalogue for the huge Dada show at MoMA and in Paris at the Pompidou, some of the detail in the book is spell binding, and the photos of all our heroes of the days of dada are priceless (ha!).
5. Best novel: Veronica by Mary Gaitskill. Not her best book, but Veronica is soulful in the way it takes us back to those terrible days when so many people were infected with HIV and their wasn’t much to help them. I saw her read from the book; it’s curious to see a writer becoming older and having written in many ways a first novel, a history even of Veronica and of a time a particular time when we all were younger. And it’s good to remember how difficult and dark those times were; it reminded me a bit of Nan Goldin’s photos of that time. Gaitskill has an incredible descriptive gift and the courage to deploy it.
6. Best gallery show by someone in the neighborhood: Far and away, I felt Alexa Horochowski‘s exhibit at MIA’s new Minnesota Galleries was the best and most beautiful show in town. The distance she’s traveled as a painter, the expressive envelope of her sensibility, make this a show a show to remember. It’s a shame it wasn’t at the Walker instead of hidden amidst the glitz of more galleries full of the same old stuff (as opposed to the former MAEP gallery which celebrated neighborhood art by putting right in the front of the building). Where it was looked like a Walker show because it had that chic white space (with a window), c’est la vie.
7. Best movie: I like detective movies and though I know The Black Dahlia wasn’t a masterwork, it was hugely entertaining, and yes I love LA, I love the ambience of Los Angeles after the war. And it is pretty hot to see Ms. Swank and Ms. Johanson taking turns with with that young actor from (again) our neighborhood, forgot his name. Sure, it seemed like Dick Tracy at times, but it reminds you that the rich are smarter because they have money!
8. Best talk at Walker: I gotta say Mike Kelley, most especially when he told the audience he was a Marxist. And I’m not just saying this cuz I got a free dinner with Mike in the 20.21 Club. No, when Mike gets rolling his speech is a thing to hear, and the content is always surprising and it’s like listening to history speak.
9. Best bookstore in Minneapolis: The used Booksmart shop near Uptown Theater. If you can’t find something in there you aren’t trying. Really an amazing place to find books, great art section and great poetry sections, it’s a bookstore after the heart of those of us who love book shops and good prices.
10. Best café: Jasmine Deli. Thanks to my Pollock-Krasner grant I’ve been eating at the Jasmine rather frequently with my fiancee. Sure do love those spicy pork sandwiches, and, boy, where else would you see Phillipe Vergne and Kinji Akagawa or any of the other sheiks of Nicollet Avenue.
TOP TEN ART BLOGS
Tyler Green, Modern Art Notes
In no particular order, these are the ten art blogs I most look forward to reading.
1. Alec Soth: The Minnesota-based photographer started blogging in 2006. Connects photography and art to the world around it in creative, thoughtful ways.
2. Edward Winkleman. A New York City gallery owner by day, a writer by night. Posts smartly on lots of art-related issues, but Winkleman’s musings on the art market are especially insightful. If only the NYT wrote about the art market this intelligently.
3. On the Cusp: A regional art blog that has earned itself a national audience. Good mix of news and opinion. Broke the story of Max Anderson’s hiring as director of the Indianapolis Museum of Art (a scoop that the local media cowardly failed to credit).
4. Hankblog: In 2006 many arts institutions started art blogs as a way to communicate with their communities. The best of the new bunch is Hankblog, the Henry Art Gallery’s (get it?) blog which doesn’t just look inward, but smartly places the Henry in a national context.
5. PORT: The undisputed champ of the regional art blogs. Some writers I know bitch and moan about how their cities are ignored by the art press. Others, such as Jeff Jahn, find a way to make themselves impossible to overlook.
6. AFC: Paddy Johnson’s NYC-based blog has a childish title, but if you can ignore it the site is whip-smart.
7. Exhibitionist: The Geoff Edgers-penned Boston Globe art blog covers more than the visual arts, but so what? Unlike many (most?) MSM-types, Edgers has an eye for quirky-smart items that are perfect for a blog.
8. Modern Art Obsession: Even though its real obsession sometimes appears to be the use of all caps and strikethroughs, this NYC blog hits lots of New York-based high points – and does it with a terrific, over-the-top sense of humor.
9. Contemporary/Pulitzer: Two neighboring St. Louis arts institutions have teamed up on this blog, which includes behind-the-scenes info, first-offer tickets for events, and fabulous pictures of everything they do.
10. Walker blogs: No, this isn’t a kiss-up. Most art museums are filled with creative folks who don’t curate shows. The Walker has found a fun way to harness their energy to present something entertaining to its public.
BEST WORLD MUSIC RELEASES OF 2006
Rachel Joyce, Walker publicist and cohost of KFAI’s “Shake & Bake”
1. Lura-Di Korpu Ku Alma [reissue]: Cape Verdian singer Lura’s third album is a smoldering blend of Creole lyrics that range from whispers to raspy roars over seductive indigenous, Latin, and R&B rhythms.
2. Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars, Living Like A Refugee“: At it’s heart an infectious up-tempo reggae record, “Living Like a Refugee” brings highlife and zoukous to the party as well. The lyrical content (in English) is hefty stuff-the trauma of refugee camp relocation, hunger, war-but steeped in buoyant optimism set over catchy rhythms and hooks that keeps the record from wallowing in despondency.
3. Various artists, The Rough Guide to West African Gold:
Ain’t we lucky we got’em-good times! African jazz-soul-funkin’ good times.
4. Cheikh L, Lamp Fall
5. Cheb I Sabbah-La Ghriba, La Kahena Remixed-Six Degrees: Dance floor killers from the master DJs/producers of North Africa and the Asian Underground. “Now with 50% more Moroccan Break Beats!” “Fortified with Xtreme Gnawa Flavor” “A complete source of North African dub & house daily intake”
6. Various, Blues Around the World: The stellar compilation of variations of American blues from around the globe proves blues is in the heart. Never seen a holler? Never heard the coal train rumblin’ by or lost your good man to a St. Louie gal? No guitar? Never you mind. A tabla or a kora will do ya just fine. The discs Tuarreg/Chicago, Mississippi/Zanzibar, Piedmont/Barcelona mash-ups demonstrate the enduring influence of early blues masters and modern gospel & folk/blues artists.
7. Idan Raichel, The Idan Raichel Project: Usually this cross-cultural-understanding-through-music-we-are-the-friggiin’-world -crap makes me choke on my spring rolls and Tusker, but home fries gets it right on this disc. Idan is an Israeli composer/keyboardist who brings traditional Jewish music together with the musical forms of Israel’s growing Ethiopian and Arab communities. And he punctuates it with Caribbean, African, and hip hop vibes to great affect. And if the sales charts are correct, the headz are noddin’ to this project from Tel Aviv to the West Bank.
8. Various, African Rebel Music: A standout compilation of dance hall and reggae from its source-Africa. With the exception of Bongo from Tanzania and a smattering of Francophone reggae/hip-hop acts, this music is hard to come by if you do not have a connection to bootlegs or pay hefty import costs. Intriguing sounds from a generation raised at the alter of Alpha Blondy, Lucky Dube, and, of course, Marley.
9. Various Artists, REPUBLICAFROBEAT 2: Funk, disco and soul with prominent African rhythms. DJ Floro picked a bunch of the best but my favorites are Bukky Leo’s (former Fela band member) version of Timmy Thomas’ soul classic ‘Why Can’t we Live Together?’ and the Bwana Mix of Al Green’s “Love Ritual.”
10. Sergio Mendes, Timeless: A strong collection of neo-soul and hip hop acts rework the classics of Sergio Mendes without any of the schmaltz that usually seeps into these efforts. Caution: anyone recovering from the Black Eyed Peas’ “My Humps” get ready for a relapse after you hear “That Heat.”
15 THINGS I DIDN’T REALIZE I’D MISS ABOUT MINNEAPOLIS (WITH ONLY ONE SLANDER OF GARRISON KEILLOR)
Rex Sorgatz, founder of MNSpeak and Fimoculous and recent transplant to Seattle
15. How the turning of the seasons is determined by Scott Seekins’ wardrobe.
14. 1:30 AM, shivering and drunk, desperately searching for the Manny’s under 35W, so that I can fall asleep with a cheese torta in my tummy.
13. Next morning hangover cure: the Rustler from Lucé. Delivered by dude with serious septum damage.
12. Replacements folklore.
11. How not everyone you know is a project manager. (Seattle is the land of 10,000 PMs.)
10. “After bar at Gretchen’s.”
9. Not the snow. But maybe the icicles.
8. Bad red wine in plastic cups at gallery openings in Northeast.
7. The freaks at Shinder’s.
6. That Ashbery poem that runs along the top of the Walker bridge. Showing it to a girl on a first date is pure gold.
5. Hating on Block E.
4. How the discount on ice cream at Sebastian Joe’s increases as the temperature decreases.
3. Warehouse parties where lithe girls dance to forgotten techno.
2. How everyone has a side project.
1. Running into Keillor at the Double Deuce.
A RELATIVELY RANDOM LIST OF THINGS RECALLED
Paul Schmelzer, managing editor, Walker magazine
Best use of visionary art in a marketing piece: Art Directors Club Call for Entry, with art by Norbert Kox.
There’s not much competition in this category, but I’m glad the honor goes to an old friend. Green Bay’s Norb Kox has a remarkable bio: born the day the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, he served in the military, became an Outlaw biker, and eventually found Jesus and spent nine years in the woods near Siren, WI, developing a personal spirituality that arose from intense study of scriptures. While a clever payoff for ADC‘s “Final Call for Entries” concept, his “apocalyptic visual parables” have so much more detail and depth.
Best Walker exhibition on tour: House of Oracles: A Huang Yong Ping Retrospective
Huang Yong Ping makes contemporary art that doesn’t seem temporary. His sculptures feel more like artifacts than art at times, like relics unearthed in a dig. I found his art to be profoundly moving, occasionally creepy (the bats!), often funny, and deeply arresting. Tour schedule here.
Best museum publication: Studio
While I’m partial to our own Walker magazine, the Studio Museum’s quarterly has qualities (and a budget!) I wish we could emulate. It’s packed with interviews, the voices of artists and curators, photo spreads, and features of interest to its Harlem neighbors. I especially liked a 2005 photo-essay on Frank Gaskin’s series of murals on security gates along 125th Avenue.
Top ten to remember: We lost many great creators in ’06. Let’s not forget them: artist Nam June Paik, reggae/ska legend Desmond Dekker, Egyptian novelist/Nobel prizewinner Mahfouz Naguib, filmmaker Robert Altman, Aeron chair designer Bill Stumpf, installation artist Jason Rhoades, and playwright Wendy Wasserstein.
Favorite Walker acquisition: Dr. Lakra’s flash art
Actually acquired in 2005, I learned of our acquisition of seven works on paper by Mexican artist Dr. Lakra from Tyler Green’s blog. Amid our excellent collection of Minimalist works, our wonderful cache of Beuys multiples, and every one of Matthew Barney’s Cremaster films, it’s great to see the earthy, carnivalesque work of this Mexico City-based artist.
Favorite single artwork: Thomas Hirschhorn’s Cavemanman
When I met Hirschhorn during the installation of our show Heart of Darkness, I had the gall to tell him I didn’t get his work, especially the huge Swiss Army knife made of cardboard, tape, aluminum foil, and cellophane he showed here in 1998. But walking through the shiny and claustrophobic tunnels of Cavemanman, I was moved by the over-the-top-ness of it and the germaneness of it to current events. Discussing the project with him only underscored my change of, ahem, heart.
Favorite bumpersticker: “Think About Honking If You (Heart) Conceptual Art”
Favorite Walker photo: Flagging Patriotism
Cameron Wittig’s staged image of a flag feebly fluttering next to a plastic fan beautifully illustrated the kind of trumped-up patriotism artists Bill T. Jones and Sekou Sundiata discussed in a March essay for Walker.
Favorite midwestern photographer(s): Since Alec Soth gets props elsewhere, I’ll make this one a tossup between Chicago’s Brian Ulrich, whose documentation of consumers in thrift shops and megastores teeter between religious devotion and blunt critique, and Minneapolis’ Paul Shambroom, who offers clinical and compelling portraits of Homeland Security-era America.
Under-reported story of the year: Darfur
If we all agree there’s genocide going on in Sudan, why isn’t more being done?
Bonus: Blogs You Should be Reading
THE FIVE BEST BOOKS OF 2006
Paul Schumacher, book buyer at the Walker Shop
1. Banksy: Wall and Piece: The most complete overview of witty and humorous politically charged street artist who uses stencil graffiti to cause controversy.
2. Robert Polidori: After the Flood: The oversize photography of Polidori captures a horrific tragedy in New Orleans that he makes this wreckage intriguing and beautiful to look at.
3. Worldchanging: A User’s Guide for the 21st Century: This Sagemeister-designed volume by the people behind the blog Worldchanging is packed with good ideas about everything from microfinance to non-toxic homebuilding, humanitarian architecture to citizen media.
4. Janet Cardiff: The Walk Book: A unique artist book that makes you feel like you’re on a Cardiff audio Walk seeing the urban environment of Paris, London and New York.
5. Painting People: Figure Painting Today: This collection of paintings by established and emerging artists creates an amazing representation of the unique ability within the last six years of capturing people.
TEN BEST DVDS OF 2006
Kathie Smith, Film/Video intern
Inevitably, the best DVD releases of the year are not going to be the “ special editions” of the films that played in theaters last year. The hidden gems in any given year will always be the result of where distributors choose to wave their magic wand on the huge backlog of films that have never gotten a domestic release in the US. The news is good, but not great. Film fans still have to rely on international DVDs to fill in the gaps, but things aren’t so bad here: we still have the likes of arthouse workhorse Criterion doing things the fancy-pants way, as well as a plethora of smaller distributors stepping up to the plate and taking some chances on films no one else will. I’ve tried to highlight a little of both, in what I feel are some of the best releases of the year.
Michael Haneke’s The Seventh Continent and Benny’s Video (1989/1992): Long overdue, these first two films from Haneke are a tour de force combo that have been virtually nonexistent anywhere in the world. Desperate fans spent top dollar on a VHS copy of The Seventh Continent from Facets, and then coughed up money for a worthless copy of Benny’s Video floating around on eBay.
Ishiro Honda’s Gojira aka Godzilla (1954): It turns out there was a good reason why the dubbed Raymond Burr Godzilla seemed so cheesy and stupid: because it was! The original, however, is a much more somber contemplation of post-war Japan with anti-American sentiments securely intact. The set contains the original and the 1956 re-cut US version.
Greenaway – The Early Films (1969-80): Settle in with a full pot of coffee and this two-disc set! Greenaway might be best known for his film The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover and such, but that’s not the whole story. Containing seven shorts and his epic film The Falls, these early films are the quintessence of Greenaway’s analytical meditative visual eloquence.
Seijun Suzuki’s Taisho Trilogy (Zigeunerweisen 1980, Kagero-za 1981, Yumeji 1991): After the Nikkatsu studio kicked his butt to the curb for Branded to Kill, Seijun Suzuki spent over a decade in filmmaking exile. The Taisho Trilogy (referring to the era in which they take place, 1912-1926) represents his triumphant return to film. All these films are rarely screened and rarely seen in the West.
Jane Campion’s Sweetie (1989): If you haven’t seen Sweetie, now’s the perfect time with this VIP DVD treatment from Criterion. If you have seen Sweetie, this edition offers up special features to make the second viewing even more rewarding: commentary with Campion, DoP Sally Bonger and screenwriter Gerald Lee, a “ making of” that includes a conversation between two leads Genevieve Lemon and Karen Colston, three early shorts from Campion, and 1989 conversation between Campion and critic Peter Thompson.
Béla Tarr’s Satantango (1994): For the love of God! Release this film! The DVD for this enigmatic seven-hour film was due out at the end of November, but alas, it has been postponed. I feel like I’m being punished. Let’s just pretend it came out, and let’s just pretend we can go rent it at the video store.
Peter Watkins’ La Commune/Edvard Munch/The War Game/Culloden (2001/1976/1965/1964): Fortunately Peter Watkins’ films are finding their way out of the vacuum. I find his blend of docu-drama filmmaking style utterly engaging and unique. La Commune (aka Paris Commune) is probably the best of the four released this year, but all are worth a look.
The Pinky Violence Collection: Far from canonical films, but this boxset contains some fantastic examples of the “ pinky violence” genre of Japanese films that can be best described as softcore with female protagonists. The titles in this set tells it all: Delinquent Girl Boss: Worthless to Confess (1972), Girl Boss Guerilla (1972), Terrifying Girls High School: Lynch Law Classroom (1973), and Criminal Woman: Killing Melody (1973). These are sexploitation films, for sure, and not everyone’s cup of tea, but I found these bad-girl films incredibly fun and an excellent contrast to all the yakuza dude films out there.
Nicolas Winding Refn’s Pusher Trilogy (1996/2004/2005): Hailing from Denmark, these films could have disappeared into nowhere. They are all three solid, gritty crime films that deserve a wider audience.
And finally, on my Christmas list, 50 Years of Janus Films. Fifty years, fifty films, 650 bucks. Mail to: Kathie Smith c/o Walker Art Center.
BEST OF ART AND CULTURE 2006
Alec Soth, photographer
1. Photography (book): My Life in Politics by Tim Davis
Davis is too smart to be a photographer. But his eye is too good to be anything else. A great book.
2. Photography (exhibition): Peter Hujar at PS1
One of my favorite photographers at one of my favorite places to look at art–does it get any better? Actually, yes. Stephen Shore’s American Surfaces was exhibited across the hall.
3. Photography (editorial): Taryn Simon, New York Times Magazine
Sometimes I come across work that is so good that it makes me downright jealous. This happened with the recent New York Times Magazine portfolio of new images by Taryn Simon from her project, An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar
4. Photography (website): Conscientious
Why does an astrophysicist in Pittsburgh have the most comprehensive information on new photography? Assuming astrophysics is more demanding than being a Starbucks barista, where does Jörg Colberg get the time?
5. Photography (single picture): Todd Heisler, Reno Airport
Heisler’s picture of a Marine being removed from a commercial plane beneath the gaze of fellow passengers was published in 2005 but not seen by most until 2006 when his project, Final Salute, won the Pulitzer Prize. This remarkable image is perhaps the best portrait of America in 2006 – the year we finally looked out the window (and in the mirror).
6. Painting: David Bates
In a year when dozens of fine-art photographers exhibited work from Katrina, the best art to come out of the disaster was made by a painter.
7. Radio: The David Johansen Mansion of Fun Show on Sirius Radio.
I do a lot of driving. I listen to a lot of radio. The former New York Dolls singer David Johansen is the best DJ ever.
8. Film: Sweet Land
Over the last year I only saw one movie in a theater… but it was a really good one. After 16 years of preparation, the Minnesota writer/director Ali Selim shot this film in 24 days. Unafraid of sentimentality with a real-life pace, this is a film to be savored.
9. Music: Solomon Burke, Nashville
Is Burke’s voice a moan, a wail, or a croon? Whichever it is, I understand why he sings in Valley of Tears, “ People stand in line just to hear me cry.”
10. Fiction: The Road by Cormac McCarthy
This year I listened to two audiobooks by Cormac McCarthy: The Road (2006) and No Country for Old Men (2005). In both books McCarthy takes the thriller’ and strips it to the bone. The raw and urgent writing (along with the gravely voice of Tom Stechschulte) drives the listener into an almost subterranean universe. I don’t think I’ll ever get The Road out of my system.