It’s been years since I was awake early enough to catch any Saturday morning cartoons. But I threw a couple spoonfuls of sugar into my all-natural, healthy-tasting cereal and headed off to the sanctuary of the Earth House Collective to catch an Indy Film Fest’s program featuring an eclectic sampling of animated shorts.
First up was Cadaver, which was the cutesy story of a dead man’s last wish to show his widow how he loved her. With the help of a plucky, bespectacled med student, he road trips his Neil-Young-loving heart to his old doorstep and ends up learning a few things. Aside from its happy ending and rhyming dialogue, the piece’s most striking feature is its animation: the characters are rendered with great detail, capturing the whole project’s off-color vibe in the crazy hairs of the old guy’s eyebrows.
Next was the cosmically abstract Caldera, which looks like it came form the same world as Portal 2 with its computer-generated animation’s clean lines and bright white focus on the industrial parts of the world. Its protagonist, a young woman struggling with medication and a bleak worldview, essays a trippy, silent exploration of the world outside her world that left me reeling after the last frame.
Keeping the train of thought rolling was Little Boat, another single character exploration sans dialogue, except this time of a little sail boat that drifts through several clean and beautiful backgrounds, taking some damage along the way and then finding its way back home with a little help from it surroundings. It avoided being too cute and resonated almost as an answer to the bleakness in Caldera.
Then, the program’s tone shifted as (notes on) Biology bridged the gap between make-'em-think endings and the absurdist farce that has traditionally been the province of cartoons. Following the flipbook animation of a middle school biology student’s class notes, the story within the late-for-class slacker’s story is of a robot elephant seeking high-grade artillery revenge on a human species keen on wiping out its way of life. The moral that doesn’t match the profundity of Caldera or Little Boat but still stuck with me. Here it is:
The funniest short on the bill was Pound Dogs, a post-Ren and Stimpy story of two canines with questionable morals. Featuring some high-grade voice talent (Andy Merrill of Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Space Ghost: Coast to Coast fame), the piece is basically a buddy picture about two idiot dogs, one of whom is trying to find an adoptive home before 6 p.m. to avoid mandatory euthanasia at the hands of the alcoholic kennel worker (voiced by Merrill). Despite its morbid themes, the punchy dialogue between the two dogs keeps the piece moving.
A short called Girlie Jar, which seemed like a film student’s fist experiment with CGI didn’t deliver big laughs but showed some promise. Things got serious then with The Hunter, the tale of a boy who ran with the wolves near his snow-covered town, done in a style reminiscent of cave paintings.
The serious tone lasted through the last short, The Maker a beautifully realized (and again verbally silent) piece about a stuffed rabbit with an ugly mask racing against a draining hourglass to propagate his family tree. With the subtle grotesquerie of the world of Bioshock, the piece examines themes of creation and lineage with resonance. Without any speech to clutter the piece’s soundtrack, the animation of the piece is allowed to speak for itself (much like in Caldera and Little Boat). The images of the rabbit puppet’s attempts at creation present an idiosyncratic view of what you might call an artistic process.
This year’s batch of shorts delivered some cartoonish laughs but didn’t constrict itself to comedic ends, opting instead to use the animated form to explore some interesting angles of life, love and art. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to buy some cereal with marshmallows for next time.
Indy Film Fest 2012 Opening Night (Slideshow)
Indy Film Fest celebrated its opening night Thursday with the Indy premiered of 'The Oranges', a 2011 Toronto Film Festival selection, screened at the IMA's Toby Theater. Just Pop In! presented the event, providing a swanky popcorn bar at the after-party at Sun King Brewery. Sun King beer and music from DJ OhBeOne set the mood for a very successful first night. Indy Film Fest continues through July 29.
Art is flourishing at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility in Carlisle, Ind., where inmates are creating as a means of self-expression and self-investigation. And if inmates and supporters have their way, it will continue to flourish. But they'll need a little help from the community to keep on keeping on.
Unchained Art, an exhibition of drawings by inmates opening July 13 at the Greenfield Creative Arts and Events Center, is one such opportunity to donate to the cause. All proceeds collected during the show will be used to buy much needed supplies for inmates and create an art class at the correctional facility.
“Our goal is to help them and other people see themselves as artists and not just criminals behind bars,” Stacey Poe, a dance teacher who helped to facilitate the exhibition.
The initiative was the brainchild of Poe’s friend, an inmate and artist who will remain nameless here at Poe's request. Mike Miller, the Wabash Facility Recreation Coordinator, was also instrumental in putting together the show.
This is art stripped to its barest essentials; there are no canvases, no paints, no fancy charcoals. Almost all of the work is on 8 by 11 inch pieces of paper, with colored pencil and pen being the only materials.
“Due to cutbacks, the inmates don’t have the opportunity to take an art class,” Poe says. “All they have is natural talent.”
This will be the second exhibition of art by Wabash Valley inmates at the Greenfield Creative Arts and Events Center. In May and June, the center's gallery featured a series of black and white landscapes. These paintings had been judged by the Artists’ Guild in Carlisle, and exceptional pieces were given ribbons accordingly. (The portraits featured in Unchained Art have yet to be evaluated.)
From 6-9 p.m. on July 13, the gallery will host a small reception with special guests Richard Brown, the superintendent of the Wabash facility, and Miller.
Beyond the practical applications of proceeds from the exhibition, Poe has higher hopes.
“We want to get as much word out as possible so as many people can see it as possible,” she says, also expressing the wish that other galleries will pick up the works.
This exhibition serves as a symbol of the community's financial and emotional support of inmates. But more than that, the artists hope to give something back.
“I believe that my imprisonment has a purpose,” says the artist who began the initiative. “Creating something meaningful and worthwhile stimulates the mind and leads to positive changes in behavior.”
Green will take home $10,000 for winning the National Author prize, awarded to a writer with Indiana ties whose work is known and read throughout the country.
Shoup gets $7,500 as the Regional Author winner, which recognizes a writer who is well-known and respected throughout the state.
Wakefield, who relocated to Indianapolis this year, will be given the first Lifetime Achievement Award, in recognition of his achievement over several decades. As part of the award, he'll designated a $2,500 grant to the public library of his choice.
Finalists were announced for the Regional Author Award, given to a writer who has published no more than two books during her or his lifetime. Christopher Coake, Sherri Wood Emmons and Douglas Light are this year's finalists; the winner will be announced at the award ceremony.
Vonnegut, who was born on Armistice Day, was in Dresden as a prisoner-of-war when the city was fire-bombed, an experience he wrote about in Slaughterhouse-Five. Beyond showcasing Vonnegut's work, the library has made Vonnegut's social, artistic and political concerns part of its purview in terms of programming.
The event remains open to sponsors; for more information contact Julie Whitehead, executive director of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, at email@example.com or call 317-652-1954
Days of the Dead 2012 [Slideshow]
Creepy-crawlies, steampunk and horror intersected at the Wyndham West over the weekend. Take a look at our slideshow and find out if "Human Centipede 2" star Laurence Harvey's eyes really do bug out that terrifyingly in real life.
Katrina Murray lost her son in war, and her new series of paintings is a record of her struggle to come to terms with this loss. She does so through deeply metaphorical work portraying the natural world. “I wish I could be cool in the sun” shows a desert landscape complete with prickly pear rendered in cool shades of blue and green. In Murray’s paintings there are no vast horizons: she prefers to focus in tightly on a piece of earth of her own imagining. Blues and greens predominate in her compositions so much that when you see a brush stroke of red it almost startles you.
“I wish I could make air” focuses in on a group of flowering plants. There is a delicate balance achieved in the composition between the whites and blues of the sky, and the flowering plants and tree branches that get their nourishment from — and in turn nourish — the air. Accordingly, you can see patches of blue sky, through the branches, all the way down to the bottom of the canvas.
Using oil and graphite on muslin-covered panels, Murray paints, then lets the paint dry, paints again, sands down and paints again. Expressionistic touches are visible throughout this body of painting as fits her aggressive and vigorous process. Be sure to read the seven-lined poem that goes along with this work. Each of the lines of said poem, that starts with the line “I wish I could burrow into the ground” and ends with “I wish I could fly” is in itself a title of a painting in this series. You might see this body of work as a poetic/painterly analog to the Kübler-Ross model of the five stages of grief. Or it might just lift you off the ground. Through July 28 at Wug Laku's Studio and Garage
I spent the weekend of July 6-8 at InConJunction, a sci-fi/fantasy convention put on by the local fan club Circle of Janus. This was InCon's 32nd running, and it looks the Circle of Janus know what it's doing at this point, given the sheer amount of programming on offer. From a Doctor Who room to writing and literary panels to gaming to filk (I'll explain what that is later) and more, InConJunction had something for everyone even remotely interested in sci-fi and fantasy.
When I got to the convention, I headed for the Dealer's Room, sort of the InConjunction's gift shop. Among other things, I bought an anthology of short sci-fi/fantasy stories set in Indy called Unreal City and published Das Krakenhaus (a local sci-fi/fantasy publishing company) and an album by Wild Mercy, a local Celtic filk band that was the musical guest of honor at the con.
Filk is any sort of music (typically folk with a sci-fi/fantasy twist, particularly in the lyrics. Many songs are inspired by specific fairytale characters or characters from books like The Chronicles of Narnia or TV shows like Firefly. Others take a more general tact, discussing zombies or potential scenarios in outer space in a post-apocalyptic future. The latter example is the driving force behind Wild Mercy's album Dream of a Far Light.
I loved Open Filk (an open mic for filkers, natch), as well as full-on filk concerts by established groups such as Wild Mercy, Jen Midkiff, Wax Chaotic, Cheshire Moon and Herculean Cheese Storm (Star Trek-specific band Five Year Mission also performed, but I couldn't attend.) If someone didn't bring an instrument to Open Filk but wanted to play, that was fine; other members of the filk circle were happy to lend theirs. It was a warm and welcoming environment, and probably my favorite part of the con.
I also walked in on the preview for "Going... Going... Gone," an IndyFringe play about an auction house's last day that involves extensive audience participation. The short segment of the preview that I caught was hilarious.
I caught up with Wild Mercy guitarist and bassist Barry Childs-Helton during the Con to talk more about all things filk.
NUVO: Wild Mercy is obviously well-known in the filk community, but not as much in the rest of Indianapolis. Can you give me a bit of background on the band, like how you guys got started?
Barry Childs-Helton: Debbie Gates, our keyboard player, and I work for Wiley and Sons Publishers.. So we knew each other, and she and Jen had been playing in town as a Celtic duo that went by the name of Wild Mercy, and they decided in the summer of 2002 that they wanted a rhythm section, so they asked me if I could fill in on electric bass and if my wife would be so kind as to contribute percussion. As it happens, my wife Sally had been learning the bodhran, the Irish frame drum, so it was a natural move. It wasn't terribly long before the we became aware that all four of us were rabid science fiction and fantasy readers, and had been since day one. So in 2004, when Sally and I were invited to be Music Guests of Honor at InConJunction, we asked the con committee if they wouldn't mind having a whole band, and they said, "Sure," so that was Jen and Deb's entree into fandom.
NUVO: Since the theme of the convention is "End of the World," I have a feeling you guys will be playing a lot from your album Dream of a Far Light. For those who don't know, can you tell me about the overarching story concept behind the album?
Childs-Helton: Part of ... Far Light involves the industrialization of space because we have to. Essentially, the planet is trashed, and the only other resources available to us are in the solar system. So the lightships begin as a way of economically gathering resources from the asteroid belt and farther afield, but also as a way of maintaining a high-tech culture while at the same time maintaining authoritarian control. So it all starts with a kind of dystopic beginning; essentially, the culture wars writ large.
NUVO: You yourself wrote the words and most of the music for the entire album. What inspired you to come up with it?
Childs-Helton: I've had a lifelong interest in space flight. More on the "what if?" side of things, the idea that space travel is a watershed point in human history. That after that point, it's like nothing we've ever seen before, and I don't think we'll ever be the same again if we manage to continue doing it. I was 20 years old when Apollo 11 landed. There was this incredible thing going on where science fiction had started to come through the membrane that separates fantasy from reality. And there it was: people were actually on the moon.
NUVO: Any idea what's next, album-wise, for Wild Mercy?
Childs-Helton: We have one in mind. I think it's going to be a collection along the lines of our first two CDs, and sampling from a number of different traditions; there'll be some Celtic things, there'll be some filk, that's for sure, because there are so many talented writers in the filk community, and so much of their repertoire has found its way into our repertoire. And there will also be filkish tropes on traditional tunes; one of which was largely composed for this "End of the World" concert. It's essentially us singing about the end of the world as if it were a good, rollicking bar tune!
Matt Sommers contacted NUVO last night with this communique: "If you attended Primary Colours' Installation Nation 2012 show in Indianapolis this summer, you probably got sucked into the second container on the left. The shiny one that sounded like it was going to blow up. With people in hazmat suits showing small children how to make a centrifuge go. You were likely handed a clipboard and told the story of how this unidentified shipping container had crash landed here, full of strange foreign objects that had been decontaminated and now needed your creative help. Well, plenty of you took the challenge, and applied your imagination to the identification of the twelve artifacts that were on display. And we're so glad that you did. We present to you, the Civilian Conjecture Database. Hundreds of hypotheses from the minds of young and old, sober and otherwise. Take a look at what your fellow local art supporters dreamt up."
These events have been canceled:
July 5, 7 p.m., Pops Series at the Garfield Park MacAllister Amphitheater featuring The Indianapolis Symphonic Band
July 6, 8 p.m., Celebrate the Greats Concert Series featuring American English: A Beatles Celebration Band
July 7, 4 p.m., Windsor Village Summer Jams
[A+E] Classical Music
[A+E] Film + TV
[A+E] Theater + Dance
[A+E] Film + TV
[A+E] Theater + Dance, Comedy