Best Intimate Venue
Califone frontman Tim Rutili arrived in the Twin Cities last May via a quietly publicized Living Room Concert tour. The chosen “living room” was a place of business on Lake Street, moonlighting as a music venue. Haunting, minimal and impeccably delivered, Rutili’s repetitive and rustic guitar-based works were well-suited to the casual venue. Alternative spaces and crowd-funded performance have been on everyone’s lips. Nonetheless, there is something wonderful about a musician who shies away from grandiose tours and definable genres to create something uniquely pleasing for his devoted following.
The New Yorker recently called Jonathan Richman an “old-fashioned troubadour,” and it’s also an apt description of his charming, world-weary yet carefree appearance at the Cedar Cultural Center in November. Richman’s eclectic and forthright oeuvre feels refreshing to ears accustomed to, but perhaps bored by, highly produced and postmodern pop tunes. Richman sang of how much he loathed cell phones, joyfully danced around stage, and was accompanied by his long-time collaborator, Tommy Larkins, who was decked out for the occasion in a sequined blazer.
This summer, a trip to New York’s Governor’s Island Art Fair proved a surprising and multifarious art experience. My fellow revelers picked a house; we walked in past groaning performance artists on the porch, only to be confronted with a naked man gyrating to trance music inside. (It was a performance apparently meant to evoke cult and ritual behavior.) On the island, former military barracks were thus transformed into experimental and wildly-curated art spaces, featuring work that truly ran the gamut — from naked performance pieces to delicate works on paper.
Best Big Bang
Station to Station roared into St. Paul this September and made people talk about concepts we usually face only in museums: issues to do with art and context, how setting affects interaction with the work on view. The expanding definition of a traveling show, a “pop-up,” raised questions of heritage (why do we still so admire and engage with trains and the myth of American exploration?), sharing (what is shared experience? Is it a hashtag?), and artist intent (why are these artists here?). Patti Smith was the reigning queen of the evening, using her transient platform to urge people to stay ever-engaged and politically aware.
Best Swan Song
Franklin Art Works’ last exhibition at their Franklin Avenue address last summer came in the form of a highly personal painting show, Njideka Akunyili’s I Still Face You. Dense, layered and engrossing, Akunyili’s work deals with African heritage, diaspora and alienation. Each work contains layer upon layer of collage, paint and pattern. These colorful works make the viewer feel privy to something inside the artist’s world, all the while keeping plenty of secrets hidden behind the ciphers of Akunyili’s collection of found images.
Best Small Film
Remarkably fresh and clever, Pierre Étaix’s recently restored Yoyo (1965) defied the expectations one has of a near-silent film. The film conveys a simultaneous longing for artistic authenticity and financial success that still feels timely — it’s a push-and-pull that is ever-relevant for those working in creative fields. The melancholy, loss and self-discovery in Yoyo are classic themes, and the intimate Trylon Microcinema, where the film was shown this August, was nicely filled with the odd soundtrack of noises and delightful sound effects.
Chloe Nelson is the program assistant for mnartists.org.