“What does it mean to see?” --Jillian Walker
Speculative Histories was a Dr. Martin Luther King Day Jr. event sponsored by University Musical Society as part of its No Safety Net festival. Hosted at the Ann Arbor District Library's downtown branch, award-winning playwright and UMS Research Residency artist Jillian Walker led a workshop that invited participants to engage with history in a way that may be new to them.
“I’m going to have my own experience of whatever writing is.” --Rebecca Biber
On Saturday, Jan. 13, at Bookbound Bookstore, Rebecca Biber read from debut poetry collection, Technical Solace. Her longtime friend Roy Sexton emceed the event. They know each other mostly through theater, where Biber often performs musical accompaniment for local shows. Sexton introduced her, listing some of Biber's accomplishments, but lingering over her musical talents. This was a fitting way to begin since Biber’s relationship to music is the first doorway into her work.
On Friday, Jan. 12, the Brooklyn-based dance company Urban Bush Women performed Hair and Other Stories at the Power Center courtesy of University Musical Society. The show uses black women’s relationship to their hair to explore larger truths about the society we live in. I am neither particularly fluent in the world of dance performance, nor am I deeply entrenched in the dance world. I am most accurately described as an enthusiastically casual appreciator.
I am, however, well versed in black hair culture.
This is probably why I should have known that the audience would be expected somehow to participate in the experience.
Black hair is a contact sport.
Local Americana band Corndaddy celebrated its 20th anniversary at The Ark on Thursday in a birthday party that perfectly showcased some of the reasons for its longevity.
The well-paced show highlighted the different sides of the band’s musical personality, starting with a rock-oriented set, followed by a more country-flavored interlude; a purely acoustic, no-drums set; and a fitting finale wrapping everything together. Old songs met new songs, dedications were made, and tributes were paid. And the band sounded great throughout.
A well-done opening set from another longtime local favorite, Paul’s Big Radio, perfectly set the stage for the headliners -- partly because talented bass player Jerry Hancock anchors the sound of both bands.
The list below is a collection of books, music, movies, and more that made an impression on our eyes and ears in 2017.
Matisse Drawings: Curated by Ellsworth Kelly at the University of Michigan Museum of Art’s spacious second-story A. Alfred Taubman Gallery is proof that less is more when it comes to art.
Principally managed by the UMMA’s Assistant Curator for Western Art, Lehti Mairike Keelmann -- herself working from the late-Ellsworth Kelly’s instructions -- this exhibit of 45 Matisse drawings (with an additional nine Kelly lithographs) from the Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation Collection cuts an artful swath across this French master’s career.
“This exhibit reflects the imaginative artistic rapport of two celebrated artists through lyrical line and efficiency of gesture," Keelmann said in a recent interview. "But how they get to the place where they intersect is the subtle underpinning of this deceptively complex exhibition.”
"This is for all you strutters out there," announced Jay Frydenlund midway through [https://www.chirpband.com|Chirp]’s headlining set at the Blind Pig on Saturday. On cue, the Ypsi-based quartet of fusion rockers launched into a swaggering, deep-pocket jam ("Dickerville") that sent an obvious ripple through the crowd as folks remembered what they came for and got their boogie on.
The University of Michigan Gilbert and Sullivan Society ([http://umgass.org/|UMGASS]) is one of campus's most venerable and long-lived community arts organizations, and they can be counted on to produce two excellent classic operettas each year. This term, they've taken on Princess Ida, or Castle Adamant; not one of Gilbert & Sullivan's most popular works, but just as delightful and witty as ever. Directed by David Andrews, a cast of UMGASS regulars and some campus rising stars come together this weekend to stage this story of betrothal, education, evolution, the military, tenure, cross-dressing, and generally singing "hoity-toity" a lot.
On Dec. 7 at Literati, Richard Retyi read from his new book, The Book of Ann Arbor: An Extremely Serious History, which tells 41 townie tales in a humorous, accessible fashion. But Retyi didn't originally set out to write a book. His project began as a podcast, [http://www.aadl.org/annarborstories|Ann Arbor Stories], which Retyi produces with Brian Peters in partnership with the Ann Arbor District Library. (Retyi recently became the marketing and communications manager at AADL.) The podcast was modeled after another audio show, [http://thememorypalace.us|Memory Palace].
The last time I asked myself, “Was it what I was wearing?” was last Friday. I had been eating my dinner at the bar of a local restaurant when a man struck up a conversation with me. Eventually, he made a joke to the bartender about bringing me a “roofie colada.” The bartender responded disapprovingly. Then, the man doubled-down on his joke, adding, “Don’t worry; she won’t remember a thing.” As the evening went on, I couldn’t quite shake that joke. [https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/powerful-art-exhibit-powerfully-an…|What Were You Wearing?] is a pop-up installation that sets out to challenge the idea that sexual assault is somehow about clothing choice. On Monday, Dec. 4, this exhibit was at the University of Michigan Museum of Art, brought there in partnership with the [http://www.heforshe.org/en|HeForShe] student organization.