Author Archives: katesierz

Phantoms, Shadows, and Phenomena Kennedy Lecture Series

On Wednesday April 13th, Adam Putnam gave the first in a series of three artist lectures relating to the Kennedy Museum’s current exhibit: Phantoms, Shadows, and Phenomena.  Putnam’s talk, Threshold Spaces and Landscapes, explored his most recent work, while giving the audience a peak into his influences and obsessions. Putnam’s talk was as sporadic as his work, which included a multitude of digressions and tangents, creating a composite of his artistic past and present.  Putnam explained that his work comes together as he gives into his urges, an explanation for the multitude of mediums that he constantly experimenting with and improving.

Untitled (Portrait), 2009

Courtesy of Meridith Monk

Although Putnam’s work shifts as influences expand and mediums inspire, reoccurring themes and objects seem to nestle themselves within much of his diverse work.  Mirrors, bursts of light, infinite regress, and dark doorways permeate his collection of work that stems from the dark and unknown.  Threshold was circled back to time and time again, as one of Putnam’s obsessions revolves around the idea of inside and outside space.  An example of this confusion between inside and outside is reflected in much of the artist M.C. Escher’s work, which revolves around mind-twisting images combining real and imaginary city and landscapes.  These works relate back to Putnam’s own work which he described as “trying to force things together that don’t belong, or shouldn’t”.

Example of M.C. Escher’s work shown by Putnam

Courtesy of

The selection of Putnam’s work displayed at the Kennedy is a series of strange short films that depict the paranormal.  Many of Putnam’s favorite objects are included in the series, as one contains mirrors positioned to form an infinite regress, star bursts of light twinkle eerily in another, and the artist himself is seen facing the camera in a bondage that covers the entirety of his face.  These are the same videos that were the backdrop to Aaron Butler’s performance during “Phantom” by the New Music Ensemble, and have an entirely different feel when they are displayed without accompanying music.  The Kennedy is the first vessel for these films, which Putnam admits to experimenting with far away from his own artistic environment to see how they will be perceived.

Two artists will follow Putnam’s talk, as Victor Vazquez speaks about his work in Mitchell Auditorium on Tuesday May 10th at 6:30 p.m., and Corinne Botz about her own on Thursday May 26th at the Ridges Auditorium at 6:30 p.m.


“Phantom” by the New Music Ensemble

This Thursday, students, community members and faculty gathered at the Kennedy Museum for “Phantom,” an experiment in musical performance by Ohio University’s New Music Ensemble.  The event took place within the exhibit “Phantoms, Shadows, and Phenomena,” the visual backdrop for an immersive multi-media experience.

Musicians placed themselves sporadically throughout the gallery, some even facing the walls to achieve a sound that filled the three-room space.  The audience was invited to walk amongst the musicians, who normally would be unobtainable because of a stage, were closer than an arms distance away and seemed almost vulnerable.

The experience seemed almost as much of a social experiment as musical one as the musicians were equally unaware as the audience as to how the process would work or occur organically. Movement was scarce until gradually members of the audience became confident enough to approach the musicians and circulate past the artwork.  The audience, which was at first scared of the invitation for movement, became controlled by the sound as walking began to take a zombie-like quality that increased speed with volume and stopped completely when the audience intuitively felt the end of the first piece. The music seemed to dictate the behavior of those within the space.

The mood that director Dr. Andrew Trachsel desired for the performance was one in which the audience was just as much apart of the performance as those actually performing. This worked well within the first piece but seemed to diminish as the performances became more dependent on specific areas of the exhibit.

Within one of these stationary pieces, Aaron Butler, a graduate student in percussion, experimented with four triangles in a dark room lit only by projections of eerie short footage depicting paranormal behavior. Pedals were used to control different parameters of the software as Butler placed a microphone closely to the triangles he softly struck.

“The piece is basically an exploitation and exploration of the sound of a triangle. Triangles tend be thought of as a pretty little pointillist accents, but if you get in real close the overtones go on for a really long time and some of the coolest sounds of the triangle are the hardest to hear,” said Butler.

Audience participation was again instated during, “Waiting Room,” in which the musicians were separated from normal sheet music and instead given documentation in the form of circles and dots, which indicated what the musician should do.  Breath was incorporated as well, as the musicians followed the rhythm of their own to keep a pace throughout the piece. Keys, shoes, and even The Post were all used towards the overall composition, as they were shaken, smacked, and ripped.  In the spirit of musical inventiveness an audience member even joined in by playing the unattended gong featured in the center of the room.

In case you missed this musical experiment, come see the Nobrow Music Collective, which features members from the New Music Ensemble, Symphony Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, and Percussion Ensemble. The event will be free and tonight from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Arts/West.

Symphonic Metamorphosis

This Thursday I took my first escape into the soul styling’s of the Ohio University Wind Ensemble.  Unfamiliar with most concert performance, I expected exactly what the name provided, assuming a cast of purely wind instruments.  To my surprise (or rather correction of assumption) a smattering of percussion was also in attendance and a banjo provided additional surprise.  I didn’t notice this out-of-place instrument immediately, due to as my eyes’ constant attempt to connect each instrument’s sounds to my visual plane.  However, upon noticing its presence, I was still unable to place its sound (which may have been because it was electric).

Before the beginning of each new piece, I was entranced by the customary warm-up.  The melding of instruments sent deep twinges of childhood nostalgia through my veins, although from a point I could not place (most likely too many viewings of Fantasia).  The entire concert was extremely engaging, but I constantly found my gaze shifting to the perimeters of the stage.  It was towards the far reaches that the percussion instruments danced between players as roles continuously shifted for each song.  The xylophone was one of my favorite percussion instruments of the night, and watching the rhythmic movements restored my faith that one of these days I want to learn how to play, or merely twinkle on its keys.

All intricacies of the concert were beautiful, although the most entertaining songs for me were ones featuring the entire ensemble.  I enjoyed being able to visualize all of the musicians at once, instead of just a few gathered at a time.  If you missed the Wind Ensemble on Thursday or perhaps want to experience your own unfamiliar senses of nostalgia, come by the School of Music’s Recital Hall tomorrow to see “Jazz Spoken Here” at 7:30.

Ecosexuals in Love

Former porn star and feminist performance art queen, Annie Sprinkle, arrived in town this weekend with her partner in art and love, Beth Stephens, to spread the word of Sexecology.  The couple started off their weekend in Athens with a visiting artist lecture to give an overview of the sequence of events that connected their lives as well as led to their strong belief in the marriage of sexuality and ecology.

Due to the commodification of love by the tyrant Hallmark, Sprinkle and Stephen’s aim is to create art that expresses the true emotion of love instead of masking it with blatant references to sex or cliché metaphors.  One example of this thesis in action is their project, Extreme Kiss.  The goal is to display affection by a 2-3 hour long kiss that ranges from just Sprinkle and Stephens to encorporating an entire room of active participants.

In addition to this love of love, both women love and lust towards Mother Nature.  On Saturday the two married each other as well as the Appalachian Mountains to form a commitment to environmental protection as a part of their seven-year/seven-chakra art project.  Guests were instructed to wear purple as they bore witness to the union of Sprinkle and Stephens to the surrounding mountains.

(Stephens and Sparkle taken from

Unsure of what to expect from such an unorthodox union, I poured over the program to try and detect hints of what events were to transpire during the two-hour event.  What I concocted in my mind, or at least tried to fathom could not prepare me for the interpretive dances pieces and musical numbers put on by both local members of the community and individuals who traveled from as far as California to be with Sparkle and Stephens during their Purple Wedding. The performers, including a band made up of a lion, duck, and elephant, were just as interesting to admire as the audience.  Guests ranged from mildly accented with hues of violet to extravagantly painted faces and elaborate monochromatic costumes.

Breathing exercises conducted by several members of the wedding helped to relax the mind so it could easily interact with the chapel which was decorated organically with natural elements including branches and an assortment of purple-coated pinecones.

Although the ceremony was infused with an air of hilarity and sensual passion, all pieces related to mountain top removal which is continuously destroying our backyard Appalachian Mountains.  Larry Gibson, the concluding speaker and “Keeper of the Mountains” gave an unrehearsed and emotional speech detailing his own feelings relating to the devastation.

Sparkle and Stephens performances could only be seen this weekend however their Sexecology Exhibit filled with their wedding pieces and “eco-erotic” images will be on display at the Kennedy from now untill late January.

Hallowpalooza III: The Hills are Alive!

Wednesday night inside Memorial Auditorium, was the School of Music’s third annual Halloween concert which presence created an enormous line that curved through College Green with a composite of eager students, faculty, residents, and young fairies and monsters decked out for the Halloween-themed occasion.

Due to the massive turnout, the concert was pushed back about 15 minutes, but started with a bang as the curtain opened on the entire OU Orchestra with vocal accompaniment from the Chorale situated in the audience to sing “O Fortuna.”  Steven Huang conducted this piece completely disguised as a nun.

This costume was the first of many as Huang stripped from his habit to reveal a Julie Andrews inspired get-up for the Sound of Music medley which followed the opening act.  Each conductor that followed had a theme for their attire and on-stage persona which matched the song that they were conducting.  “Pirates of the Caribbean” even featured a sword fight between the conductor and a rogue pirate that appeared from offstage.

Although the costumes of the conductors and musicians on stage (the entire strings section were buzzing bees) was very entertaining, my favorite part of the entire concert was “Toccata and Fugue in De Minor” in which the organ narrated a dance that seemed a bit nontraditional.  The performer moved methodically and with a ballerina-like grace as she interacted with her light-up hoola hoop that provided the only illumination on stage.  Although an activity not necessarily attributed with Halloween or classical music, the glowing hoop created an eerie silhouette that gave both a breath-taking and goolish effect.

Hallowpalooza did not forget our other favorite performers as Marching 110 provided the final piece, “Sweeney Todd” with an energy that resonated out of every piece of brass and percussion that lined the aisles of the auditorium.

Visiting Artist Lecture: Christopher Pain

Christopher Pain, photographer of the current exhibit “Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals,” presented a lecture on his collection of work last Thursday night at the Kennedy Museum. While walking into the lecture, which was appropriately held in a disconnected theater originally built for the patients of the Ridges, I was filled with an eerie stillness that was instigated by the distant sounds of the Marching 110’s Halloween scores.

The vivid colors and breathless portrayal of a life that has since passed, were my key excitements in attending Pain’s on site lecture. Therefore, I was a bit disappointed when much of his lecture was reserved for the history of the asylums, instead of his artistic process.  The history I soon learned however, was one of the biggest contributions to the initial birth of his six year project.  By learning the intricate floor plans and organized system of sustainable living comprising each asylum, Pain was able to grasp what aspects should be photographed in order to preserve the images in their correct historic context.

(posted from the artist’s website)

The entire lecture was not completely composed of history as Pain did provide details of other inspirations for his large-scale photographs.  I was enthralled specifically by his personal feelings towards the emotional impressions of each asylum he visited.  Many view these historic buildings with limited association, often connecting them to “nightmare, squalor, and abused,” explained Pain.  Through his selected photographs he hopes to shed a positive light on the structures that once were a haven to many in grave mental states. This is explained in more detail in Pain’s project statement that reads,

“Few Americans, however, realize these institutions were once monuments of civic pride, built with noble intentions by leading architects and physicians, who envisioned the asylums as places of refuge, therapy, and healing.”

Pain understands the past of asylums as few others in our current society do.  His final statements within the lecture reflected a call to action as he showed the audience his strong feelings towards the preservation of the buildings that once were meccas for thriving civilian life.

Note: Although Pain’s perspective on the asylums contrasted those of an eerie or unnatural feel, his lecture still seemed to inspire anticipation for the haunting instincts that give one joy in feelings of fright around the Halloween season.  If your desiring a little of the same spirit, come see the third annual Hallowpalooza this Wednesday at 7:30 in Templeton Blackburn Memorial Auditorium.

“Well” by Lisa Kron

Due to an unfortunate behind-my-back-collaboration of my professors to all ironically schedule mid-terms a week after the middle of the term, I was not able to catch the first week of “Well” by Lisa Kron.  Therefore it was tonight that I chose to stroll to the RTV building for the 2nd week premiere, tonight that the ticketing system crashed, and tonight that the lobby of the Forum theater was should to shoulder with eager theater goers.

After a 57 person waiting list and a Price is Right style call into the theater, I was finally seated for the show that’s anticipation only heightened my speculation of its inherent quality.  To be frank, the show sets itself up for attention failure.  The audience is introduced to a set with quarter of a kitschy living room, an older woman asleep on the prominently displayed lazy-boy, and premonitions that the entirety of the play will be a one woman monologue with occasional grunts from the aforementioned older woman stationed in her over sized chair.

My doubts continued further as this play turned into one that I am at best tolerant of: an interactive play.  The main character, Lisa Kron, jabbed at the audience for feedback as the woman in the chair, her mother Ann Kron, attempted to engage the audience with off-handed stories.  I was ready for an hour and 45 minutes of awkward armrest hockey with my fellow seat partners when the interaction turned to tossing mini bags of chips into the now captive audience.

Although cliché to admit that the play took a turn at this early juncture, it was the defining moment where the audience was given the silent que that they could in fact laugh with, and at the characters that were being portrayed on stage.  It is also at this point that other actors were given a role in the story, giving Lisa some interaction, and Ann some entertainment from her perch in the corner of the stage.

The play accelerated uphill as the character’s dynamics began to capture the audience individually as well as melt into each other with a certain odd harmony.  Although there were some heavy topics covered (this production is in fact centered on the idea of wellness and integration) this was mostly done in conjunction with humor that exemplified the subject matter as well as allowed some air of relief to touchy areas.

This “theatrical exploration” as referred to by Lisa, was unlike any play I have seen.  This unconventional experiment gave alternative layers to the actors on stage as they took on multiple roles layered together to skew the line between actor and onstage character.  The best way to describe the sometimes confusing process is to compare it to a conscious dream.  The characters were aware that they were participating in a play just like sometimes you are aware that you are actually confined to the limitations of a dream.

I was thrilled that the play exceeded my expectations as emotions were tugged just as often as laughter was encouraged.  “Well” will play again this Thursday and Friday night at 8pm in the Forum theatre located just a staircase down from the main entrance.  Get there early to avoid the wait list (although the dramatic name calling was worth the extra 10 minute wait).