Arts & Entertainment News

2010 MPMF Reveal Showcase at the CAC this Friday

This Friday night marks the return of all things MidPoint to Cincinnati’s urban core. It seems hard to believe that the 2009 version of MidPoint Music Festival is already seven months behind us, but it is. It also seems like just yesterday that bands like The Heartless Bastards and Chairlift were filling the tent in the parking lot at Grammer’s, and that acts were packing smaller venues like the Havana Martini Club and Mainstay throughout the course of a rainy September weekend. In any case, while the 2010 version of MPMF is a full five months away, MidPoint organizer Dan McCabe and his team have been very busy getting everything organized.

One such event upcoming is the 2010 Reveal Showcase being held at the Black Box at the Contemporary Arts Center in downtown Cincinnati. Tickets to the showcase starting at 8pm will cost $10 (tickets also available at the door). The event will feature three up-and-coming bands: The Buried Wires, Cincinnati’s own Pomegranates, and Aloha which will be headlining the event.

McCabe has been most proud about how MPMF has brought such a positive music experience to all of the attendees. Since 2008 attendance has increased at the music festival a whopping 27%. And while last year’s festival was widely publicized for the programming debacle at Cadillac Ranch, at the end of the festival, McCabe pointed out how in the year that historic Over-the-Rhine was dubiously listed as America’s most dangerous neighborhood, MPMF went off without incident. He attributed this to a close relationship with businesses, a great crowd that is there to experience the music and a strong working relationship with District One of the Cincinnati Police Department.

With the biggest stage right in the heart of OTR at Grammer’s, many music lovers walked from the historic neighborhood to the Central Business District and vice versa. Without question, MPMF has had a positive impact on the community and the perception many concert goers may have had about OTR prior to visiting. Instead of reading the headlines and being scared away, everyone enjoyed themselves safely even if they had to dodge a few raindrops over the course of the weekend.

Instrument [LEFT] and The Sleeping Sea [RIGHT] perform at the 2009 Midpoint Music Festival – photos by Dave Rolfes.

While some businesses stayed open longer hours during 2009, the hope from MPMF organizers is that all of downtown will benefit from the music lovers roaming the streets for three consecutive days and even more businesses will find a way to partake this year through extended hours, specials or by partnering with the music festival in some way.

This year’s festival will include even more bands than last year’s record of 270. The success of last year’s expansion has given MPMF increased credibility which McCabe has described as being “embraced by the industry.”

2010 is currently shaping up to be the biggest year in the festival’s history with a hope of bringing in 350 acts. So far this year, submissions are about on pace with last year’s where roughly 1,000 different acts submitted material for consideration. It is fully expected that 2010 will also push, if not exceed, the same number by the time the deadline comes around Friday, May 14.

For the immediate future though, this Friday’s Reveal Showcase will offer up an opportunity for those interested to learn more about all things MidPoint. Aside from the show, there will be announcements regarding some of the acts already confirmed for MPMF 2010, an unveiling of the venues for the festival this fall, the new MPMF website will be launched and the full line-up will be revealed for the PNC MidPoint Indie Summer Series on Fountain Square.

Contemporary Arts Center photography by Jeremy Mosher.


Pecha Kucha Cincinnati comes full circle at CAC

The visionary presentation format that is Pecha Kucha (pronounced “peh-chak-cha”) is back with its fifth evening of Cincinnati area speakers that have something to say. Friday, March 19th, PK Volume 5 will be held at the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) from 6pm to midnight. Pecha Kucha, Japanese for “chit-chat,” is a format of sharing ideas designed to move the speaker along at a quick page and get their message across in a succinct and interesting way.

Each speaker gets 6 minutes and 20 seconds to present their information. They show a series of 20 slides, and get 20 seconds to speak about each particular slide. This style prevents the presenter from getting stuck on one point, and allows the audience to remain interested and engaged throughout.

Pecha Kucha is an international movement dating back to 2002, but the Cincinnati chapter is just over a year old. Its inaugural event was held at the Contemporary Arts Center in February 2009, and has since hosted events at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, the Cincinnati Art Museum, and most recently a breakfast meeting for professionals at the METS Center in Northern Kentucky. The upcoming event at the CAC has PK Cincinnati founder Greg Lewis excited.

“We’ve got a pretty good representation from students and faculty at both the Art Academy and University of Cincinnati,” said Lewis. “One stand out presentation I’m really looking forward to is Jim Rauth, who has written a book about mannequins from all over the world.”

So far the majority of PK presenters have been architects and design professionals, but the reality is that anyone can be a presenter. “We’re really trying to diversify outside of architecture and design. We are trying to reach into science, medicine and philosophy,” explained Lewis who emphasized that the point is to have an interesting story to share, and from there, the presentation topics are limitless.

Pecha Kucha Night Volume 5 is Friday, March 19 at the Contemporary Arts Center in downtown Cincinnati (map). Tickets are $8 for CAC members and $12 for non-members. You can order tickets online or at the door. The doors and art galleries open at 6pm, presentations run from 7.45pm to 9.30pm, and the after party is from 9.30pm to 12am.

CAC Pecha Kucha photograph by Scott Beseler.


Shepard Fairey Retrospective Review

You can be certain that fans of ABC’s Lost will be found in front of their televisions on May 23rd, as the labyrinthine TV fantasy/sci-fi/adventure show wraps up its six-seasons-long narrative. Lost diehards are desperate for a conclusion that will bring closure to and make sense of countless loose ends that have frayed into an ever-more-complex knot of high-minded mysticism and philosophical allusion; anything less than an airtight explanation might suggest that the previous six years of their lives could have been better spent.

Personally, I hope that creators Damon Lindeloff and Carlton Cuse have both the stomach and sense of humor to play a practical joke of epic proportions by tying everything up in a neat little package with a card that reads “It was all a dream.”

Locally, the ongoing Shepard Fairey retrospective at the Contemporary Arts Center has made a splash with its own cocktail of ambitious subtexts, and I had the chance to follow the buzz and visit the show on Sunday of its opening weekend, with free admission offered as part of the Fine Arts Fund Sampler Weekend. I admired the boldness and the commitment of the artist to his purpose, as well as much of his technique, particularly in his large-scale murals: weathered textures and patchwork patterns abound.

The vast majority of the work in the two-floor exhibition belonged to Fairey’s on-going “Obey Giant“ project, done in service of one goal: to create a complex art-you-live aesthetic that changes the way audiences look at the rest of the world. Lofty stuff… yet, I could never shake the suspicion that there was far less going on intellectually than Fairey would have us believe.

Crowds outside the CAC for the Shepard Fairey opening night party – photos by Jeremy Mosher.

Premised on a head-scratching concept — that a sticker of Andre the Giant that doesn’t appear to sell anything will make the public question the images around them — Fairey has subsequently cited existential philosophy (in this case, Phenomenology) as the underpinning of his work, essentially evading explanation instead of offering clarification. As with Lost, rather than resolving tenuous connections between images or occurrences, we’re told to just keep digging deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole: the truth is there, have faith. What truth? And why not share it here? For that matter, when is Shepard Fairey? Well, you got me. But, if the meaning of a statement is elusive, it doesn’t necessarily make the statement meaningful.

No, by invoking the terms “propaganda” and “dissent,” by using an Orwellian poli-speak in posters and incorporating an ever-widening range of historical and philosophical allusions, the Fairey retrospective merely trades in Big Ideas without really committing to any. It’s all sizzle, and the promise that maybe there is a steak in there if you look hard enough and can talk yourself into it. Ultimately, the work on display is far less nuanced than the politically- or commercially-charged imagery Fairey wants to call into question: neither as sneaky nor as clever as proper propaganda. “In lesser gods we trust?” Puke.

The line to get into the CAC wrapped around the block along Walnut Street – photos by Jeremy Mosher.

Still, if Fairey’s work is reductive and far less subversive than it aims to be, it remains extremely topical, and I’m thrilled to see the CAC book such a timely and interesting show: it’s the artist like Fairey that can move the arts into the fore of a city’s consciousness. Afforded the chance to see these much-talked-about, widely-popular works from our own day, I can’t recommend strongly enough that Cincinnatians take a visit to see what all the fuss is about.

But once you’re there… don’t believe the hype. If you look too hard for a satisfying explanation for the island, the jumps through time, and whatever else happened after I gave up on a game that couldn’t be bothered to come up with any set rules, you might just make your head hurt.


The Dynamic Relationship Between Art & Life


Michael Fried reviews Sala at the CAC tonight

At 6:30 this evening, the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) will host world-famous art critic Michael Fried as he analyzes Anri Sala’s piece Long Sorrow using his unique methodology. The event is free, but donations are requested.

The international art community simultaneously lauds and criticizes Fried for his method of critiquing art. Fried approaches art with an eye toward modernism and realism, and the phenomenon of the everyday.

CAC hosts Long Sorrow as part of Sala’s exhibit “Purchase not by Moonlight.” The exhibit features videos, films and photographs carefully calibrated with the architecture of CAC’s Rosenthal Center to present a spatial and time-based multimedia experience.

Photo Credit – Johns Hoppkins University