Dear starry eyed-freshman:
Do you like music? Movies? How about burlesque dancers strutting their stuff on the Slope? If so, you’re in luck. The Pussycat Dolls may not strike Ithaca every year (thank god), but there’s plenty else to keep your eyes, ears and mind entertained on campus and around town. To get a taste, check out these review excerpts from last year — everyone from Girl Talk to Junot Diaz to Don Giovanni was in town, and we were there to get you the story. Appetite sufficiently whetted? Get ready for the likes of Ani DiFranco and Built to Spill this fall, and check out the concert on the Arts Quad on Aug. 29 (artist to be announced). It’ll be the start of another great year in Ithaca arts culture. And homework and tests and all that other boring stuff. Whatever.
Ann Lui & Ted Hamilton
Arts & Entertainment Editors
Stars at the State
Storming the florally adorned set of the State Theatre Friday evening, Toronto-based indie pop group Stars immediately brought four-fifths of the crowd to their feet. Building a swirling hurricane with golden organ and tin-laced percussion, the velvety vocal of Amy Millan weaved the band’s inaugural track. Reminiscent of the baroque style chamber pop that propelled The Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible onto countless “Best of 2007” manifestos, Stars’ esoteric instrumentation melted with deep harmonies, creating an explosive, reverberating fortress of sound.
— Henry Hauser, Feb. 9, 2009
RJD2 + Arts Quad
Though RJD2 has seen his star fall to mash-up sensation Girl Talk and rising Brooklyn duo Ratatat, the well traveled D.J. hasn’t lost a beat, tapping the famed “Ghostwriter” remix to whip the largely skeptical Ivy League audience of freshmen, stragglers and music snobs into an absolute frenzy. Leading with an ambient / electronic blend of stiff piano and fuzzy bass, RJ wastes no time in forcing trailblazing hipsters into a mesmerizing pattering of head-bobbing and heel-pumping.
— Henry Hauser, Sept. 2, 2008
Girl Talk at Barton
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Sun: This is kind of a sketchy dressing room.
G.G.: I like it, man. This whole back area thing. Nah, all these back stage rooms at colleges are sketchy. This isn’t beyond anything. Like, this is just a normal level of sketch.
Sun: How do you feel about being billed with GZA?
G.G.: Fucking awesome. Yeah, I’m pumped. I haven’t really done many college shows with another artist or group … The other night I played at this college in D.C. and it was just me, it was pretty normal. I mean, I love GZA, I’ve been into Wu-Tang forever, it’s cool. Because I’m a huge fan, I feel like having my photo on the sign with him, [I’m] embarrassed.
— Ted Hamilton, Apr. 7, 2009
Bill Maher ’78 Opines
Sun: Was it at Cornell that you’re personal philosophy — whether about politics or religion or whatever — was really cemented? Did it happen earlier or later that you grew into the views you’re expressing through your work?
B.M.: I think it’s always going on. It’s an evolution. It should be. I think one of the great things about not being a politician is that you’re allowed to change your mind throughout your life, whereas when you’re a politician you have to think the same thing when you’re 60 as you did when you were 18 or you’re flip-flopping. So I’m always evolving, but I will say this about Cornell. I never really [laughs] thought it was a great place for a social life; but, man, did I get a great education. Of course, I was not trying to turn my Cornell years into something that was going to make me money after I graduated, so I was just free to take the courses I wanted. ’Cuz, honestly, what courses can you take if you want to be a comedian? But I do remember just having so many fabulous educational epiphanies up there, and for that I’ll always be grateful.
— Julie Block & Peter Finnochiaro, Sept. 23, 2008
Ludacris and Shawna
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Ludacris played a tight, 70-minute set to a nearly sold-out crowd at Barton Hall on Saturday night. Jam-packed with familiar hits and recent singles off his latest record Theatre of the Mind, Luda stuck to his strengths by remaining faithful to the song’s verses, never wavering into the rampant, nonsensical interludes many rappers feel compelled to include during live performances, particularly at Cornell (I’m looking at you, T.I.). Even when Luda chose to a take a moment to address the crowd of nearly 4,800, he moved briskly, fully aware that the masses were there to hear him rap, not monologue.
— Greg Bodenlos, Mar. 2, 2009
Interview with Junot Diaz
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Sun: Coming back here after all your recent success, has your perspective changed?
J.D.: I haven’t had a second to look around. The school looks uglier. They’ve built like a lot uglier buildings. That’s one thing. It sucks. ’Cause this is an incredibly beautiful school.
— Molly O’Toole, Feb. 23, 2009
Marc Swanson at the Johnson Museum
“Hurry on Sundown,” an exhibit of Marc Swanson’s recent multimedia work at the Johnson Museum through Oct. 19, makes apt and ironic use of the tension in the media of dioramas by foregrounding fabulously artificial, fantastically constructed objects within illusionistic and naturalized framing devices. During an artist talk, Swanson regaled the audience with an anecdote about a recent diorama exhibit, since changed, in which a lioness was portrayed protecting cubs while the lion hunted game. Since this goes against the biological facts, it shows how easily we project distorted human gender stereotypes onto the natural world.
Even as Swanson’s work raises questions about the personal values we project onto nature, his work also seeks to regain a sense of the primitive nobility of the indigenous experience, in spite of an awareness that such experience could be a mythical backformation. This longing to hear a preternatural call of the wild may be nothing more than a historical fiction, yet Swanson’s work argues that such a fiction may well be necessary for understanding our own identities.
— Will Cordeiro, Sept. 23, 2008
Art on the Arts Quad
There is a question that plagues architects: “Is the building in the drawing or the built work?” Since much of architecture happens on paper and in scale models, architects have had to confront the issue of scale again and again. Architecture students rarely build their assignments in life-scale, rather opting for more wieldy sizes. A handful of professional architects are as famous for their works on paper as they are for their built works — Lebbeus Woods, notably, as well as L.A.-based firm Morphosis.
Three international visiting critics in the department of architecture have taken this issue to task with their massive installation on the Arts Quad, “Field,” which was put up on Saturday and goes down today. Rather than leaving their ideas on paper, “Field” was an inhabitable, interactive and human scale intervention. Comprised of 2,800 red sacks diligently filled with hay and staked into the turf by the critics and students, “Field” highlighted the rolling topography of the Arts Quad.
The installation was timed to honor the fortieth anniversary of the Earth Art exhibition that was curated by Willoughby Sharp at the Andrew Dickson White Museum of Art. The Earthworks exhibition featured outdoor installations and works by artists who would later be hailed as visionaries, such as Walter de Maria, Robert Smithson and Gordon Matta-Clark.
— Ann Lui, Apr. 14, 2009
Dancers whirled together simultaneously with a frightening vigor — producing a dizzying juxtaposition of chaos and order. Neo-classical balletic movements jostled with modern dance techniques for a place in a piece where life and death are intimately intertwined.
Even though the dancers sashayed, strutted and tangoed in pointes across the stage with larger-than-life stage grins in other pieces, they came into Suber’s piece stripped of the theatricality that was characteristic of the earlier pieces on show.
In contrast to classical ballet, which dictates that dancers present themselves in one direction (usually towards the audience), the Cunningham school of dance rethought the concept of the dancer’s “front,” directing the dancer simply to move where they were moving, and adopt multiple “fronts.”
Cunningham-esque in its irreverent treatment of the neoclassical and explicit rejection of the manifestly theatrical, Suber’s piece had a deeply psychological texture and historical cadence.
In the first movement, set to the prelude of Bach’s “Solo Cello Suite No. 1”, eight dancers moved through the stage space. Collapsing their backs, they took on the posture of weepers. Lifting their black skirts up and releasing them, each dancer appeared like a mourner scattering the ashes of a beloved.
— Dawn Lim, Mar. 3, 2009
Brendan Canty, Diretor of Ashes of American Flags
Sun: How did you go about filming all the different concerts?
B.C.: We shot all those concerts – we have plenty of footage – and it was really just after shooting 10 days straight we just had to make a set list that worked and kept people from getting bludgeoned or burnt out before the hour and a half. It’s a tricky thing; there’s a real skill to creating a set list. We tried to show songs that actually grew – the writing is such that the songs themselves, and the shows themselves, have these little miniature arcs to them or feeling in terms of the way they built their songs. We knew we were going to shoot full songs and if you’re going to do that you really have to look for the song to say more than one thing.
Sun: With six albums, [Wilco] has a tremendous back catalogue. How did you decide which songs to include in the film?
B.C.: Well there are a lot of factors: how well we shot it, how well they played it, how well they sang it, how good the lights were, so that stuff got worked out pretty quick. If the whole song is really good but the lights were off we just can’t use that. There are lots of factors; they could play it great and the lights could work and we just don’t cover it right, we didn’t shoot it well. We have these moments where we’re like zombies, we all shoot crap for a minute and wind up with no coverage.
— Jared Kraminitz, Apr. 16, 2009
Old School Don Giovanni
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The performance of Don Giovanni included period instruments, a re-edited score and ornamentation, frilly costumes with periwigs and powdered faces, as well as meticulously researched stage-directions derived from 18th century source material …[T]he production succeeded by engaging not Mozart’s audience but its own; whatever had been lost — or simply lost on untrained ears — was more than compensated for by the uncanny familiarity with which the baroque performance practice and gestural acting style was carried out; the performance seemed as witty and aware as any going today …
— Will Cordeiro, Nov. 18, 2008
Animator Brent Green
In fact, Green plays several roles in his work. He writes, directs and narrates his animations. He also handcrafts his figures, uses found objects as props and creates the backdrops for his works. His subject matter is drawn from his life, but the biographical nature of his work does not give off the impression of excessive self-indulgence. Every detail of his animations is sensitively and carefully composed. This makes it possible for his material to be simultaneously intimate and transcendent. The fact that Green is self-taught is a testament to his originality and strength as an artist.
The visual complexity of Green’s animations makes it easy to overlook their narration and soundtrack. Like Green’s animation, they are deceptive in their simplicity but in fact are richly textured.
— Mary Thomas, Sept. 26, 2008