Smile Politely

Five things in arts this month: October 2019

In this month of tricks and treats our local arts scene is dishing up plenty of the latter. With everything from art which incorporates techncology as both subject and method, fresh takes on timeless theatrical gems, to live performances highlighting the noble and endangers tiger and art that forces our gaze towards environment threats, the October arts calendar promises both sweet delights and thought-provoking experiences. Herein are five of my “must-see” picks for the month. 

Jessica Gondek: Enterprising Machines

For those who create art in 2019, the range of technological tools has never been broader.  And as for all of us who incorporate smart machines into our lives and our homes, the adaptation of technology as a process soon leads to larger questions about self, work, and the human-machine divide. 

This fascinating territory is the subject of Chicago-based artist Jessica Gondek new solo exhibition of works on paper “Enterprising Machines,” which is now open at the Giertz Gallery at Parkland College.

Jessica Gondek “incorporates current technology using both hand and mechanical approaches to develop her work. Stemming from an interest in geometry, machine aesthetics, architecture, and nature, her recent body of work is sparked by machines from the early part of the twentieth-century, old trade catalogues, domestic utilitarian objects, Da Vinci’s inventions and war machines, Duchamp, and contemporary art movements. Marrying both traditional media and digitally mediated computer approaches to the work, she blurs the line of distinction between the hand and the machine.”

Don’t miss the chance to meet Gondek this Thursday at 6:30 p.m., and hear her talk about her process and the larger implications of technology. And if you’re free, check out Gondek’s lecture earlier that day at 1:15 p.m. in lecture hall L111.

Jessica Gondek: Enterprising Machines
Giertz Gallery
Parkland College
2400 W Bradley Ave, Champaign
September 30th through November 2nd
Opening reception: October 3rd, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., free and open to the public

Image from Facebook event page

Farinelli and the King

Claire van Kampen’s Farinelli and the King is a “whimsical and imaginative play is based on the real life encounter between King Philippe V and the celebrated castrato Farinelli (Carlos Broschi). And while I love theatre and music from this period, what really sealed the deal was the play’s focus on music’s ability to heal the mind and the heart. As King Phillipe V grows increasingly unwell, his Queen, Isabella, hopes that Farinelli’s voice can make him whole again.

In my years on this planet, music has continually provided powerful source of joy and solace.  And if it has been for you, which I suspect it has, you won’t want to miss this opportunity to experience and examine that power live  Director Tania Arazi Coambs said the 18th century conflicts depicted in the play will resonate with a contemporary audience. “The choice between personal vs. societal, wellbeing vs. responsibility, and self vs. community is universal and relevant to human nature,” Coambs said.

The production features male soprano James Hevel, who recently earned a master’s degree in vocal performance from the University of Illinois, and who’s take on Carlo is inspired and inspiring. “I spent the first 11 years of my singing life as a tenor. It was with the encouragement of my voice teacher, Professor Cynthia Haymon, that I was able to embrace my true soprano self!” Hevel said. “Carlo found a new love of singing during his time with Phillipe and Isabella, much like I have with the people who surround me now. He discovered a true love of his art in the same way I have,” he said. Farinelli and the King also features pianist Chia-Ying Chan, who holds a PhD in Musical Arts from the University of Illinois.

Farinelli and the King
The Celebration Company of the Station Theatre
223 N Broadway Ave, Urbana
October 3rd through October 19th
Get tickets online

Photo from Facebook event page

Unreliable Bestiary – TIGER

If you’ve been a fan of Deke Weaver’s The Unreliable Bestiary MONKEY, ELEPHANT, WOLF, and BEAR, you won’t want to miss TIGER.  

“More intimate than it’s sprawling older brothers,” TIGER promises to be part “travelogue, séance, Parisian salon, part Spalding Gray, part Laurie Anderson” featuring “dark thoughtful humor for the anthropocene.”

Written, performed, and codirected by Deke Weaver, TIGER’s award-winning collaborators include codirector/dramaturg Jayne Wenger, costume designer Susan Becker, sound designer Jacob Ross, and vis-ual artist Melissa Pokorny. Each of TIGER’s peformances takes the participant to a new locale and thus a highly unique experience. 

The following is excerpted from TIGER’s backstory which Weaver was gracious enough to share. 

TIGER has grown at the edges of environmental conservation, advertis-ing/public-relations, and climate collapse, juxtaposing ecotourism with the villagers who are forced to compete with endangered predators for diminishing resources.  I spent time in central India’s Pench National Park, one of India’s last sanctuaries for wild tigers. To the south and east of Pench lies a differ-ent kind of tiger habitat.  Perched on the edge of the Bay of Bengal, straddling the border of India and Bangladesh at the mouth of the Ganges River Delta, the Sundarbans is the largest mangrove forest in the world. The Ganges starts in the glaciers of the Himalayas flowing south and east for 1600 miles. These glaciers are on track to be completely melted away by 2050. At 2.5 meters above sea level the Sundarbans (and most of Bangladesh) is highly vulnerable to rising seas. So, at one end of the river, the ocean is rising. At the other end, the ice is melting. In between, throughout the Ganges River Basin, lives nearly ten percent of the world’s human population.

Unreliable Bestiary – TIGER

Allerton Park and Retreat Center
515 Old Timber Rd, Monticello
October 5th, 7 to 9 p.m.

Get tickets online
Find out about the November 7th performance of TIGER at Krannert Art Museum

August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean

This Illinois Theatre production of Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean takes the timeless question of how we own and release our sins and explores it in anew with the addition of movement. One of the two most challenging of my list, Gem of the Ocean promises to bring us KCPA at it’s most collaborative, innovative, and bravely deep-diving. And it couldn’t be more timely.  I’ll be seeing it and reporting back to you in this space, so stay tuned for a full reivew.

Part of August Wilson’s celebrated Pittsburgh Cycle, Illinois Theatre’s production is directed by long-time Wilson collaborator Chuck Smith and features a newly choreographed and composed City of Bones section in collaboration with Dance at Illinois. This production contains adult content. 

August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean
Krannert Center for the Performing Arts
500 S Goodwin Ave, Urbana
October 17th through 27th
Get tickets online

Hot Spots: Radioactivity and the Landscape

It is often the artists who shine the brightest, most illuminating lights on some of the darkest moments of crisis in our world.  This couldn’t be truer than in “Hot Spots,” which opens at Krannert Art Museum mid-October. 

“Hot Spots” “scrutinizes the nuclear industry, including its everyday functions and long-term impact, with an emphasis on issues surrounding radioactive waste. The artists in “Hot Spots “examine this expansive subject through themes that include rendering the invisible visible, art as a tool of information disclosure and disruption, and developing the complex language necessary to communicate thousands of years into the future.”

With an installation worthy of its significant subject, “Hot Spots” offers public gallery tours with exhibition curators, visiting artists, and an reading/research area. Make the time to check out this important exhibition. 

Hot Spots: Radioactivity and the Landscape
Krannert Art Museum
500 E Peabody Dr, Champaign
October 17th to March 21st

Photo of Will Wilson, AIR,: Confulence of 3 Generations, 2015, from the KAM website

Arts Editor

Related Articles