I think there’s no better time to reflect on Seattle’s 2011 Bumbershoot®: Seattle’s Music & Arts Festival, which I had a three-day pass to, than exactly four weeks after the start of the festival. Instead of writing detailed reviews for everything I saw, I decided to break it into what I thoroughly enjoyed, what I didn’t love and what I wished I saw.
I thoroughly enjoyed:
- The Improvised Shakespeare Company
- MarchFourth Marching Band
- YACHT (music)
- The Trey McIntyre Project (dance)
- Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue
- Dan Savage and Terry Miller: It Gets Better (words and ideas panel)
- Manos: The Hands of Felt by Puppet This
- 1 Reel Film Festival - Frankly Female films: Election Day, Worn, 0507
I didn’t love:
- Why Censorship? Why Revolution? Why Now? (words and ideas panel)
- Kristin Hersh: Paradoxical Undressing (music/monologue one-woman show)
- 1 Reel Film Festival – Frankly Female film: Connect To
- Visual art: The Magic Show, Skaters Gauntlet, Bumber by Number
I wish I saw:
- Spectrum Dance Theater
- Vendetta Red
- Lots of 1 Reel Film Festival: Best of SIFF 2011 Jury Award Winners, Best of SIFF Audience Award Winners, Around the World in 50 Minutes
Image taken without permission from official Bumbershoot site.
Everyone’s favorite artist-activist has been making a second news cycle of headlines recently, following the first cycle of hard news on his release from jail. My favorites reads are from the Wall Street Journal, which provides a handy photo guide to Chinese dissidents, and The New Yorker, which covers the ugly potential beliefs of Ai Weiwei’s interrogators.
Highlights of the news cycle, almost entirely from last Friday, August 12:
- Ai Weiwei’s Google+ profile: +艾未未
- Reuters: Ai Weiwei endured “immense pressure” in detention: source
- Telegraph: Ai Weiwei was subject to ‘immense psychological pressure’ in jail
- TIME Global Spin: A Glimpse into Ai Weiwei’s 81 Days of Detention
- New York Times: Conditions of Chinese Artist Ai Weiwei’s Detention Emerge
- The New Yorker: Ai Weiwei: “We Want to Shame You”
- Wall Street Journal: Ai Weiwei Resumes His Defiance of Beijing
- The Economist: Ai Weiwei: In and out of jail
- Slate: Ai Weiwei Describes “Mental Torture” of Chinese Imprisonment
It is especially interesting to me as a media professional how news sources are all jumping on this news cycle because it’s such a hot story, though it’s difficult to come up with anything new when Ai Weiwei technically can’t do interviews. I’m curious to see which direction this news takes and how Ai Weiwei chooses to continue to speak out publicly through social media, art and banned interviews.
I realized while watching Rat City Roller Girls two Saturdays ago that a nice added bonus to both these bouts and Seattle Storm games is the great live entertainment. Below are a few of my favorite artists I’ve seen at Key Arena:
DJ Soda Pop – The Rat City DJ. Great party music.
Dance Belt – How do I always end up mentioning Lady GaGa on my blog? At the most recent roller derby bout, these Capitol Hill dance teachers performed an awesome medley of GaGa music video dance moves.
In honor of Lady GaGa’s 25th birthday, I’ve embedded her Google Goes GaGa interview and written up my favorite quotes from it. I’ve also embedded the performance of hers that was the tipping point in my belief that’s she has genuine charisma and talent as a live performer instead of just as an artistic director and composer.
Google Goes GaGa: same video on YouTube and Youku
Favorite quotes from this interview:
“The most important thing I think with creativity is that you honor your creativity and that you don’t ever ignore it or go against what that creative image is telling you because of what society is projecting on you.”
“My whole life is a performance piece, so I don’t need to have my picture taken to feel that I’m in a moment of art.”
“Honesty and the truth is always what will set you free.”
“If the artist is constantly molding ourselves and changing, abridging what we do for the machine, then the artist becomes part of the machine. I don’t want to be part of the machine. I want the machine to be part of me.”
“I do believe that women in pop music have a very bad rap, and I think people have learned to expect very little of us, and I think it’s unfair. It’s very prejudiced.”
“I worship my fans, is what I’m trying to say. They are my religion.”
Speechless on The Ellen DeGeneres Show: same video on YouTube and Youku
As a background on my Lady GaGa fandom, she is not my favorite celebrity or pop star – that would be Adam Lambert – but I love her music, and she is one of my idols. She is my age, and I find her passion and drive to succeed in her career as well as her willingness to be controversial in order to live up to her potential inspiring. She was the only celebrity I blogged about in 2010, and she was the go-to celebrity example I used in my classes in China.
Last night, as part of my ticket to Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Contemporary 4 dress rehearsal, I got to see a lecture that consisted of artistic director Peter Boal interviewing acclaimed choreographer Alexai Ratmansky, who choreographed Contemporary 4′s closing ballet, DSCH.
Snippets from Alexai’s answers that I found most interesting:
• He says Russian dancers made a lot more effort to learn from the West until pretty recently. He thinks this new trend in discouraging Western influence is rooted in the field’s influentials’ fear that this leads to loss of Russian artistic and cultural identity.
• He tries to use a new group of dancers for each ballet he choreographs.
• When given free reign for choreography inspiration, music is his main source, not literature or dancers. He can remember at what point in his youth he started imagining choreography whenever he listened to music.
• The personalities of dancers who he works with when choreographing a new ballet influence the ballet’s story aspect.
• As part of traditional Russian ballet training, he began a comprehensive performing arts education at age 10 that included academic history lessons. To this day he is still passionate about studying ballet history.
• He pays attention to contemporary-style barefoot choreography because he admires certain choreographers in this field but prefers to choreograph in the classical point style.
• He says he could talk for a long time about differences between Western and Russian ballet, but one of the main differences is that Russian ballet’s center of movement is the shoulders, whereas with Western ballet it’s the feet.
In terms of my review of Contemporary 4 itself, I thought its variety as well as interesting concepts and themes were so entertaining that I’ve been encouraging others to see it.
Pacific Northwest Ballet’s website’s wonderful Contemporary 4 multimedia page of course contains nothing from DSCH, but includes this rehearsal video of for Place a Chill’s tutting, a dance style I personally really enjoy watching and therefore loved last night:
At the March First Thursday Art Walk in Pioneer Square, I discovered Seattle artist Weng Chen of Studio Wonn, who is originally from China. I really like her visual aesthetic, and her work is quite inexpensive.
Her work at her studio during First Thursday was primarily Giclée prints and watercolors. On display at her studio is an explanation of her Giclée creation process, which always starts with hand-drawing on paper.
Correction: Picasso in Seattle did not contain Musée Picasso’s complete works, only 150 of them.
I recently caught the tail end of “Picasso in Seattle”, a documentary by local PBS station KCTS 9. Before watching, I assumed that the exhibition was like the Pacific Science Center‘s Harry Potter: The Exhibition in that it was worth paying more than usual to go see but not unique to Seattle. I was wrong. Seattle is the first American city to show the Musée Picasso‘s complete works, which are travelling the world while the gallery undergoes renovations.
It seems that most of the documentary is a general biography of Picasso focusing on how his life, especially love life, influenced his art. However, the most fascinating part to me is on why Musée Picasso chose the Seattle Art Museum over other hosts, quoting the Musée Picasso’s director that she chose Seattle because it has a “new brand” as a city. It just so happens that KCTS 9 uses this segment as the documentary preview video on their site:
One of the most exciting aspects of watching this documentary is the obvious public relations participation by the Seattle Art Museum required to make the documentary’s production happen. I’ve admired the museum’s public relations efforts ever since its reopening and simultaneous re-branding driven by Pyramid Communications.
I recently saw “Aftershock (唐山大地震)” at Seattle’s Uptown Theater on Queen Anne, thanks to reading about it in MusicDish*China. The film is China’s highest grossing domestic movie of all time, the first commercial entertainment film made outside the United States for IMAX, and apparently the 83rd Academy Awards’ Chinese nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.
“Aftershock” deserves its popularity and critical acclaim for several reasons, including its special effects, acting, dramatic narrative, and tastefully placed humor. One of the film’s most controversial aspects is, predictibly, that it takes the Chinese federal government propaganda standpoint on depicting the poorly handled tragedy and resulting history. I have very little problem with this, though, as it enabled the film’s expensive budget and wide distribution. Jeremiah Jenne’s post “Aftershock and the legacy of the 1976 Tangshan Earthquake” on Granite Studio sums up my opinions of the movie pretty well.
As a Millennial who recently lived in China as a foreign national, one of the aspects of the film that touched me most was its realistic depiction of huge differences in priorities and lifestyles among Chinese generations since 1976 due to rapid political and economic changes tied to urbanization.
Take, for example, my friend my age who I spent Chinese New Year with this past year. His father’s parents are farmers in a village with basically no running water and electricity. They speak only the local language, so I had a very hard time communicating with them. My friend’s father is a wealthy, college-educated entrepreneur in the closest major city Kunming where he and his wife live an extravagant lifestyle and speak the same local language plus Mandarin. My friend spent four years in Australia, teaches English in Beijing where he buys real Apple products and Ray Ban sunglasses, and struggles to hide his homosexuality from his family even though he is out to most of his Beijing friends. “Aftershock” contains similarly wide generational differences within the family at the center of the story.
Have you seen “Aftershock”? What aspects of it did you like and dislike the most? I look forward to your comments.
Saturday night was my first time going to a concert at any Hard Rock Cafe, let alone the Seattle one. I thought the concert was going to be in the restaurant, but there’s an entire upstairs concert venue with a capacity of 477 that’s mostly a stage and bar with sparse seating.
The three bands were Late Night Transit, Aury Moore Band, and Afraid of Figs. This was apparently one of only two nights in the venue’s history that it sold out, and it doubled as Late Night Transit’s CD release party.
Of the three bands, Late Night Transit was the only band I’d recommend pretty much anyone see live, though their CD was a bit of a letdown, often the case with indie bands with cheaply produced albums. Live, they displayed a combination of musical talent, humor, and charisma. They sang their album’s lead track “Pretty” to my friend who was attending the concert for her birthday party, which was hilarious because the first line of the main chorus was “I’m the only one who thinks you’re pretty.”
I wouldn’t recommend seeing Aury Moore Band, mostly because Aury Moore herself had pitch problems for their entire set even though the rest of the band seemed like good musicians. The crowd sadly visibly thinned throughout their set.
Afraid of Figs, the headliner, were good musicians but not particularly my taste because comedy was front and center in their lyrics and performance. Their songs include lines like “I ate a vegan” and “I don’t want to be your Facebook friend.” If Weird Al Yankovic and Jim Carrey formed a good ska band, they would probably sound a lot like Afraid of Figs.
Overall, I think I got my money’s worth at ten dollars. Hard Rock Cafe seemed like a decent venue at that price, not particularly crowded or hot and with okay sound. However, knowing that this is one of only two concerts to sell out there worries me that most bands who perform there are not as good as Late Night Transit, who alone sold half the tickets.
Note: I sadly can’t find a Web site — even an active MySpace page — for Late Night Transit. Let me know if there are any out there.
Update 9/28/2010: Thanks to Emily, the birthday girl mentioned in this post, I now have a link to Late Night Transit’s Web site.
This is an oldish video of a VIP view of back-to-back quintessentially Chinese field shows as part of the opening ceremony for my employer Beijing Geely University’s hosting two track and field competitions, one university-wide and one city-wide. These are perfect examples of tons and tons of people doing the exact same dance in perfect synchronization, what performances at Chinese ceremonies are known for. I missed the beginning of the female students’ dance because it took me a second to realize I absolutely needed to be filming. The boys’ dance is done to the theme song of the university.
Apologies for poor camera quality. You can’t really see or hear details but the view of the massive synchronization is still there.
And yes, I was wearing one of those white hats that many people sitting in front of me were. Someone handed them out to everyone sitting in my area, and they have the Geely University logo on the front.
Watch the same video on YouTube here.