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I Didn't Ask for Sunshine
Secrets of the City
January 27, 2009


I think it goes without saying that a gallery opening isn't necessarily the best environment in which to actually view art. However, it is a great way to feel part of some kind of community, even if the group of people doesn't change much from one event to the next.
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Seeds of Change?
Secrets of the City
September 20, 2008


The first few times I attended the Minnesota State Fair as a kid I found it disappointing. It seemed a little run-down, old-fashioned, and the rides were more rickety (and scary) than all the shiny new stuff at Valleyfair. Plus, I have never liked crowds. Somehow, though, that changed when I became a teenager. Maybe it was just more fun to go with friends than family, but I think the real key was a major discovery: ironic enjoyment.
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My Own Private Audio
Secrets of the City
August 17, 2008


I walked into the third annual Headphone Festival at the Rochester Art Center after it had begun and was immediately aware of the strange social space this event creates. The first floor atrium was divided in two, columns in the middle of the space wrapped in chic black plastic, separating the performance space from the galleries. On the other side of the plastic the room was dim and silent as dozens of people arrayed in chairs and couches, their headphones all plugged into jacks at their tables, their gaze transfixed by images on a video screen behind the tables where the performers were set up. The silence led me to think, momentarily, that I wasn't late at all, and that the performances had yet to begin. Of course, it didn't take long to remember that the event was only happening for those who were plugged in.
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A Cultural Complaint
Secrets of the City
July 13, 2008


One of my favorite recurring complaints regards the visual arts coverage in the Twin Cities. Or, rather, the near complete lack of it. Our local media seem quite happy to repeat, ad nauseam, that we have a strong arts scene, or that the Twin Cities are somehow supportive of the arts. Well, this may or may not be true, but there is a difference between supporting "The Arts" and having any sort of meaningful or engaging discussion of any specific art. This is especially troubling as visual art thrives on discourse and withers in its absence. In some ways the difference between a piece of art and any other object is that the art object is a locus for discourse, an attempt to embody, however tenuously, some kind of idea or meaning, and to engage in some way with the history of those ideas. This means, in turn, that works of art are always contingent objects, and require community and context for their very existence.
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The Monarch of the Glen
SuperNaturale
November 12, 2009


Above the doorway of the main entrance to the Black Forest Inn, a German Restaurant in Minneapolis, hangs a painting of a stag. Apparently a symbol of Teutonic pride, the stag stands filling most of the frame of the painting, with a misty, mountainous landscape behind it. The image is profoundly romantic, with its evocation of the power of nature, the untamed freedom of the wild and suggestion of nationalist associations with landscape. It fits well with the dark wood and rosemaling of the bar, yet is so familiar as to be kitsch. The painting was made in 1984, by Twin Cities artist and set designer Jack Birkla, to be hung in the Black Forest’s sister restaurant, Lorelei. It is a copy of “The Monarch of the Glen,” a nineteenth century oil painting by Sir Edwin Landseer. How did this image get to be so familiar, and how did a painting of a Scottish scene by an English painter come to represent a romantic view of Germany?
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