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Colleen Sheehy, Published January 30 2013

NxNW: An eclectic mix of stimulating art experiences

I’m still in a retrospective state of mind. Maybe it’s winter. When my sense stimulation gets muted, I relish memories of intense experiences that have stimulated my senses and mind.

What unites these very different projects is a strong conceptual framework that lifts the immediate physical experience into something lasting. I hope these examples inspire readers to seek out artistic experiences that may tide you through the winter – and, well, through life.

• “The Clock” by Christian Marclay, Lincoln Center, New York City.

This 24-hour video installation is made up of thousands of microsecond samples from Hollywood films. Each scene features a clock or watch that shows the exact minute it is in the real time that viewers are experiencing. So when the clock strikes noon in the video, it’s noon in the theater. The film moves minute-by-minute through a 24-hour cycle. It is mesmerizing, and you recognize lots of films and film stars – for just a few seconds.

• “The Murder of Crows” by Janet Cardiff at the Park Avenue Armory, New York City.

In this cavernous space, a historical armory built in the 19th century, this Canadian sound artist created an intriguing environment filled with a sound collage, part suggestive storytelling dreamscape, part soundscape, part musical concert. A hundred speakers were hung from the 100-foot-high ceiling and set on speaker stands throughout the space. A small huddle of folding chairs brought visitors to a central, dimly lit space, where they could sit and listen or wander around the darkened border lands.

• Multiple artists, International Orange, San Francisco.

To celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge, For-Site, an organization devoted to art about place, invited 17 artists to respond to the bridge. Their installations were created in the evocative setting of Fort Pointe, a historic fort at the western end of the Golden Gate Bridge, which is painted in its iconic International Orange color.

• Closer to home, the Northern Spark Festival in Minneapolis came back for its second year, the brain child of digital artist and arts leader Steve Dietz.

For an entire night in early June, dozens of artists and arts organizations throughout Minneapolis staged outdoor performances – parades, music, film and more – that lit up the entire night, from 8 p.m. until 6 a.m.

Spark encourages art using light. Northern Spark is a fantastic example of how artists enliven our city life and public spaces. Everything is free and fun.

• Christine Baeumler, Rooftop Bog, Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

Baeumler’s miniature landscape was assembled on the canopy at the main entrance to this art school. Looking like a green roof, the bog features an important ecosystem in Minnesota, the tamarck bog. It draws attention to art as a living system and as a way to enlighten people about environmental issues. The bog remains in place through this summer, changing through all the seasons.

• Andy Ducett, “Why We Do This” at The Soap Factory, Minneapolis.

This young artist mounted the most ambitious, multifarious, delightful solo exhibition in the Twin Cities.

Taking three years for preparation, the artist created funky environments throughout the sprawling warehouse spaces of The Soap Factory, located on the north side of the Mississippi River near the Pillsbury A Mill.

The environments ranged from a working thrift store to a row of airplane seats with blue skies seen out the windows to a house where a party is going on inside. The best environment was a small library whose shelves held thousands of National Geographic magazines, making the entire space glow with its signature yellow.

• Michael Strand’s installation at Plains Art Museum, “The Misfit Cup Liberation Project,” was a simple idea elegantly executed. Strand offered visitors the opportunity to take one of his beautifully made Japanese ceramic cups, but they had to exchange it with a cup of their own.

These social and material exchanges evoked delight as well as strong emotions from people who attended the opening event. Fargo was the first iteration of Strand’s project, and now he is mounting new versions in Estonia and other U.S. cities.

• Marjorie Schlossman: Symphony of Color at Plains Art Museum was sublime in idea, execution and installation. It’s a stirring plunge into this artist’s body of work, as stimulating as a dive into a cool lake at dawn.

• Moritz Goetze at The Rourke Art Museum. How invigorating to see the bold work of this German artist in his debut exhibition in the U.S. His fresh take on figurative work was pop art but more elegant, complete with a new installation piece taking off on Emmanuel Leutze’s famous painting of Washington crossing the Delaware. Installed throughout the Museum, the Goetze show was a breath of fresh air and a brave move.

• Mara Morken and collaborators, Yarn Bombs for Downtown Fargo. Bravo to these generous and intrepid artists who have clothed our lamp posts with inventive, colorful sweaters. Not to be deterred by vandals, they put their work up again after some were damaged, with the help of Fargo Commissioner Mike Williams.

• Finally, one art event that I did not have the pleasure of attending but experienced via media: the Cat Video Festival at Walker Art Center. Cats and kittens caught doing adorable, funny things are among the most popular videos on YouTube. Staff at Walker Art Center organized the first ever Internet Cat Video Festival, with the best ones screened outdoors on a late summer evening. To their surprise, 10,000 people showed up.


Colleen Sheehy is the director and CEO of Plains Art Museum