If you’re sad, and like beer, I’m your lady.

So says beer baroness Lady Port-Huntley in Guy Maddin’s off-kilter masterpiece The Saddest Music in the World. Maddin’s 2003 film showcases his hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba in the sad, strange, and funny story of a world-wide contest to find the saddest piece of music in existence. Lady Port-Huntley (played by Isabella Rosellini) launches the odd contest after Winnipeg is named the “Sorrow Capital of the World” for the fourth consecutive year. Musicians descend upon Winnipeg for their chance to win the $25,000 first prize. The event draws eccentric contestants from across the globe but ultimately boils down to competition within one family: a patriotic Canadian father and his two sons, one representing the United States, and the other representing Serbia.

Like many of Maddin’s films, this sort-of musical utilizes a lo-fi look and sound, reminiscent of the silent movies and early talkies of 1920 and 1930s, an aesthetic similar to this year’s runaway hit and Academy Award winner for Best Picture, The Artist (directed by Michel Hazanavicius). The Saddest Music in the World is filmed mostly in grainy black and white and with slightly out-of-sync sound. In an interview with hobo magazine, Maddin explains, “The 1920s have always seemed eternally modern to me, but they’re really the primitive days of cinema, technologically speaking…And there was something about the vocabulary of film in that decade, when it still could’ve gone off in any number of directions; that excited me. It reminded me of a child learning to talk.”

The Saddest Music in the World is presented in conjunction with Oh, Canada (MASS MoCA’s survey of contemporary Canadian art on view through April 2013). Maddin frequently collaborates with other film and performance artists. Most notably, Canadian artist Noam Gonick, whose video installation Wildflowers of Manitoba is on view in Oh Canada, directed the documentary Waiting for Twilight, which depicts the enigmatic Maddin’s daily life and work and is narrated by Tom Waits.

Whether you’re a long-time fan of Canadian cinema, an interested film lover, or this is your first time dipping your toes into the Canadian art pool, Guy Maddin’s work is sure to charm you. The Saddest Music in the World is a comedy that “can serve as an introduction to the work of Canada’s most original filmmaker or as a culmination of everything he’s done before,” cites Newsday.

If this weekend’s film forecast includes a few too many big budget Hollywood flicks for your taste (Taken 2, really?), catch The Saddest Music in the World  in MASS MoCA’s Club B-10 on Saturday, October 27 at 4 PM. Tickets are $5. Call the Box Office at 413.662.2111 or purchase online.

Posted October 25, 2012 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Film, Oh Canada
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Artist Spotlight: Jerry Gretzinger

Long before Minecraft and Sim City, there was Jerry Gretzinger

Marketing/Public Relations intern Elizabeth sits down with Jerry Gretzinger to discuss the evolution of his monumental mapping project and his exhibition at MASS MoCA (Oct 5-14 in the Hunter Center).

This must be really exciting for you. The whole map is going to be laid out for the first time, all together.

It is exciting! The first time in 30 years.  When it was last laid out, because it’s always growing, it was only 578 panels. Now we’re going to do almost 2,700 (panels). It’s five times as big.

How do you hope visitors will experience the map? Is there anything they should look for?

They’re going to have several options. They’re going to see the object itself; they’re going to see me working on it. With a camera Greg (Whitmore, the director of a documentary about Jerry) has set up, they’ll be able to see close up what I’m doing. And then, Greg has an elaborate plan for hands-on manipulation of the details, projected on a big screen. Everyone’s fascinated with the random card process so we’ll have some of the cards up on the screen.

I wanted to ask you about the cards. How did that process develop? When did you decide you wanted to have structure and rules to govern this world?

Before the cards, I had a stack of panels and I would go through the stack one panel at a time and work on every single one. That became unwieldy and started taking me way too long to get through the stack. I wanted a way of just randomly jumping ahead. A deck of playing cards was a simple solution. A Jack is 11; I would go down 11 panels.

Does a card or direction ever come up and you’re a little bit sad to see the change that has to be made? Do you ever feel attachment to one of the panels that looks particularly interesting?

You know about the Void (The Void card covers a panel with white paper, blocking out whatever was previously on it). When that comes up, if it’s just any old panel, that’s fine. But when it’s a major city, which happened recently, that makes me nervous. I wish it didn’t happen. But I stick to the rules.

Each panel itself is a work of art. The panels are so richly detailed with many different materials.  I think I spotted a cereal box and a crossword puzzle on one? How did you choose collage with found objects?

The first step, leading into where I am now, was to take old pattern pieces. My wife and I had a business of making women’s clothing and we had leftover patterns. Pattern paper is stiff and it’s manila colored on one side and green on the other. I started cutting up old patterns. That led me to using the cereal boxes, beer cartons, pretzels… You’ll see lots of Snyder’s pretzels!

Recently, in the process of moving from New York to upstate Michigan, we were going through boxes in our attic.  I found letters that I wrote in the 1960s.

How great! Will those make an appearance soon?

Yeah. I’m slitting them. There are strips of old letters and envelopes. I’m putting them on the blank panels, the ones I start painting on. I’m hoping I’ll get to them while I’m still here (at MASS MoCA). They’re in the middle of a big stack of blanks; I don’t know when I’ll get to them. That’s one of those things that keeps me going!

 The artist’s materials. Can you spot the Future Predictor card deck?

How did you find out you had a sort of “cult” following among the gaming community? Are you into those worlds at all?

No, not at all. I did, years ago, play the old Sim City. I played it a few times and had fun with it but I never even owned a version of it. But on my blog, I can see the sources of the hits. I saw the Reddit thread come up. I read and I thought, “Holy cow! Wow.”

Then there was reference to the Jerry’s Map mod (or modification) of Minecraft. I didn’t know what Minecraft was but my young cousin, who’s eleven, showed me Minecraft last year. And he’s building things, blocks are flying around… Which is what prompted me recently to write a segment on the blog called “Slow Map.” I know you guys are all into things happening instantaneously and (my map) is something that just creeps along.

It’s true. Yet even though your project is so different than virtual world-building, both reflect an innate human desire to build and construct. It’s like Legos and Lincoln Logs when you’re little but on a much, much larger scale. Can you speak at all to the pleasure in creating your own world?

I’ve met other map-makers in this process and I’ve heard them say… it’s an escape to create something, to build something. I’m a big time gardener when I’m out at the farm. And that’s the same process. Put a seed in the ground, water it, watch it grow. That’s so human, I think. It’s been built into us through the millennia.

We encourage visitors to take pictures of the exhibit! Share your best shots with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (massmoca). #JerrysMap #MASS MoCA

Jerry’s Map will be on display, Oct. 5-14, in the Hunter Center at MASS MoCA. Admission is $5 and FREE for members. 

Posted October 5, 2012 by MASS MoCA
Filed under Artist Spotlight, BLOG, Exhibitions, Interns
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Did you love Beer Garden last year? Look what is in store this summer!

We hope you had the pleasure of visiting The Chalet: a bar/art installation by Dean Baldwin over the Oh, Canada opening weekend.  Dean built and outfitted a fantastic A-frame inside our Building 8 and served drinks to Canadians and Americans alike last Friday and Saturday. As was the case last year when our dear friends from Bureau for Open Culture  ran the Beer Garden, it proved to be a popular spot for socializing.

We’re delighted to announce that the tradition continues. Starting June 21, The Chalet will be open every Thursday from 6 – 9  PM (with special appearances by Dean himself, on occasion!). A full bar will be available and you’ll be able to sit under the trees along the river to enjoy your beverage of choice.

Please stop by for the kick off on Thursday, June 21.

We start summer gallery hours then too, so you can visit the galleries until 6 and then relax at the bar before attending Here Lies Love in the Hunter Center.

See you there eh?

Posted June 5, 2012 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Here Lies Love, Oh Canada, Parties, Secrets of MASS MoCA

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Local Sourdough Bread made for us by Canadian Eryn Foster!

We were delighted to spend some time recently with Eryn Foster who’s here as part of Oh, Canada. This short video explains her very local art project: YouTube Preview Image

Posted May 24, 2012 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Canada, Exhibitions, North Adams

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Artist Spotlight: Chatting with Victoria Palermo

In honor of the opening of the Bus Stand on Main Street in North Adams,  Kidspace sat down to chat with the artist, Victoria Palermo. Palermo’s work will be installed in mid-June 2012… But make sure to check out the festivities and the ribbon cutting with Mayor Alcombright on June 28 at 6 PM.

Kidspace: You have exhibited in museums and galleries (including Kidspace!) in the past, but your Bus Stand is a public work of art designed to be a permanent installation on Main Street in North Adams. Do you approach a project differently depending on the different audiences? If so, how?

VP: In a public work of art, the artist has the chance to catch the viewer by surprise.  Go to a museum, you expect to see art.  Wait for a bus, expect transportation.  In this case I hope to transport bus patrons in an additional way—as if they had entered a three-dimensional painting.  Looking out from inside the shelter, familiar streetscapes will appear in blocks of color.

I love the idea that someone might have an aesthetic experience while engaging in a mundane necessity of life—waiting for a bus.  I think that color has a tremendous impact on state of mind.   We are a secular society, but people used to spend more time in cathedrals, churches, and got a spiritual uplift from seeing the colored light streaming through stained glass windows.  If sitting in the bus shelter gives someone an emotional lift, makes the day a little bit better, I’ll be happy.

Kidspace: Do you have a preference for which kind of project you would rather do?

VP: I think the idea of communicating to a large diverse audience is the most exciting, but also the most scary.  I think of it as a reality check.  Hopefully people will respond on a fundamental level.  The work is about visual perception; appreciation requires eyes, not a knowledge of art theory.  I love it when small children, in particular, respond positively to my work.

There are practical considerations to be considered in a project like this; I am very mindful that the shelter must function from a practical point of view.  I hope that North Adams folks will see it as a gift that belongs to them; something to be taken care of and preserved.  Within a museum or gallery, the artist has certain assurances that the work will be protected.  In the case of a public work, all bets are off.

Kidspace: As I understand it, the inspiration for the Bus Stand project started with a residency you did with North Adams public school students in spring of 2010. How did working with these kids influence your decision to start this project, or the evolution of the project design itself?

VP: Kids respond in such a genuine way.  Again—terrifying—because they are savages and feel no compulsion to respond politely. Yet, they came to the project with open minds with no negative preconceptions.  I had already been working with the idea of creating an “art” shelter that could have a practical application.   I worked with several groups of junior high students during their last week of school.  I was afraid that they would rather be playing outside, but they were great and made an array of structures that could function in a public arena.  Their energy and responses were very confirming.

Kidspace: As a professional artist, what do you gain from doing a residency project in the schools?

VP: It’s good practice to learn to communicate ideas in the most direct  (no bull—-) way.  Students respond to authenticity.  They’re not worried—“is it art?”, but react on a gut level.  There’s no tougher audience.    This is my second residency project with Kidspace; both have been very energizing, confirming experiences.  One could say—a blast.

Kidspace: How do you think artist residencies influence students?

VP: Hopefully, the students begin to see the experience of art as a part of life, not just an isolated experience. I think also that students come to realize that artists are not so very different from them, and that important work may be achieved through a sense of play.

Kidspace: What’s next on the horizon for you, after the Bus Stand?

VP: Perhaps more public works in a similar vein?  I have ideas and models.


More about Victoria Palermo:

Victoria Palermo, a sculptor residing in Queensbury, New York, holds a Bacehlor of Science degree in Art from Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York, and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Bennington College, Bennington, Vermont. She is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Art at Skidmore College and previously was a scenic painter and art department director for Adirondack Scenic, Inc., in Glens Falls, New York. In addition to Kidspace at MASS MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts, her work has been in solo and group shows in such galleries and museums as: Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, Massachusetts; The Arts Center in Troy, New York; The Tang Museum at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York; Pierogi 2000, Brooklyn, New York; ART/OMI Sculpture Park, Ghent, New York; and Galerie Du Tableau, Marseilles, France. She is represented by the John Davis Gallery, Hudson, New York. 


Posted May 17, 2012 by MASS MoCA
Filed under Artist Spotlight, BLOG, Exhibitions, Kidspace, Museum Education, North Adams, Openings
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Artist Spotlight: Getting to Know Miha Štrukelj

Miha Štrukelj, who represented Slovenia at the 53rd Venice Biennale, created a two-story site-specific charcoal wall drawing for the exhibition Invisible Cities. Entitled “Melting Pot,” Strukelj’s piece combines several images of urban landscapes into one work. His ghostly, fleeting impressions leave viewers to fill in the rest, exploring both how the image and the city are constructed and perceived. We sat down to chat with him about his work for the show and his sources of inspiration.

How has it been working at MASS MoCA?

So far so good! I like it a lot actually. When I came to North Adams for the first time, I was really impressed by the museum. I really liked it and I thought “wow,” because I like these old abandoned infrastructures and old factories, and I think this museum works perfectly. I said to myself, “Oh I would really love to work in such a museum” but I thought “I’m so far from that, I’ll never come here.” And then just one year later, I got an email from Susan [curator at MASS MoCA] asking if I would want to do a project and I said, “of course!” You never know. I’ll just keep saying that to myself from now on.

And you got your start in painting and drawing, is that right?

Yeah, I’m actually primarily a painter. I finished my studies specializing in painting. In Slovenia, our academy has more traditional training, so the drawing is very much part of it. After school, when I was very much into painting after the academy, drawing became more and more an important part of my painting. For example I did a painting in a few layers, and the first part of the process was just a grid on the canvas and the outline of the image—pretty much the same process as it is in the site-specific works with the wall drawings. I use the grid as a base and then the outline of the image for basically every work.

How has your style evolved and how did you become interested in urban planning and architecture?

Immediately when I finished academy I started working with self-portraits, and they were made from CT scans. So I took the CT scans and used them as a reference for paintings, and I titled them as self-portraits. And then when I was more involved in this high-tech digital imaging, I combined images from computer games simulating wars, and actual photographs of smart bombs bombarding places like Iraq or Belgrade. But the reason I’m saying this is because it’s always about this grid system, and the outline of the image—it’s always the same process. And then I came to cityscapes, so I was using my own photographs I had taken in different cities, and I would discard the colors and put them in low resolution, and then make a simple black and white print, draw a grid on it, and use them as references for paintings. So this is how I came to the cityscapes. These first steps of paintings became more and more structured—much more information, much more detail. When I was drawing the first layer, when I finished it I always thought “this looks nice,” and I would leave it in its first stage.  That’s how I came to drawing, and then did drawing separately from painting. So it started with pencil and paper, then the next stage was drawing on tracing paper—several layers to get this illusion of perspective and 3-D space, and then in the last stage I came to wall drawings. I was a bit fed up with just installing paintings on the wall, I thought, “I have to do something with the space as well,” and this was one option. So I usually do exhibitions with everything together, because there’s so much connected—paintings, drawings and wall drawings; it works as a whole, as one complete work.

I noticed you included the physical cables from the room in this drawing, and I was wondering, has the architecture of the museum or the room changed your initial ideas for the piece?

It did to some extent, for sure. When Susan showed me this space for the firs time, I immediately noticed the ceiling structure and thought this would be great to work with. I use a lot of masking tape in the wall drawing, and the wooden structures usually work very well with the masking tape and kind of continues into the ceiling. And I was pretty sure I would use string, and attach some strings to the ceiling structure. But I didn’t know that I would actually try to simulate cables coming out from the wall and attach them to the ceiling structure as I did here. This came about during the process, with kind of me improvising. And I really like it, because I think that this structure is even more involved in the artwork. And the shadows [from the cables], they also came into the actual work afterwards—they’re so much present and luckily they work so well. So for now, everything is kind of in the right place.

What new ideas or projects are you excited about going forward?

Well, I always get new ideas with each site-specific work. There’s not another upcoming project as big as this one for now, but I’m sure it will come. I’m a city person; I’m interested in this human position within the cities, within the architecture, which is always there even though it’s changing.  The people are constantly moving; moving in and out.

Kind of like a museum.

Exactly.  This is also why on the wall drawing, it’s strictly architectural and there are some empty areas within it, which are written as dislocated humans. So the idea is to create some possible spaces where humans could be, where they could actually exist—or where they actually were in the original photograph. I didn’t include them so I just leave the empty spaces. And I usually put the humans on some smaller objects and put them outside the wall drawing.

Did you base this cityscape on any particular city, or is it largely from your imagination?

The final cityscape is imaginary, but it’s imaginary because it’s from different cities and different locations throughout the world. So I kind of created my own cityscape. And it varies from New York, to my hometown in Slovenia, to Dublin and Vienna and Manama in Bahrain. But when putting the photographs together on the computer, sometimes it works so well you couldn’t believe it. It’s a lot of fun.


By Cora Sugarman

Posted April 12, 2012 by MASS MoCA
Filed under Artist Spotlight, BLOG, Exhibitions, Invisible Cities
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