Each year, Walker Art Center performing arts curator Philip Bither travels the globe in search of artists who are sufficiently “out there” to merit an invitation to Minneapolis in January. This year, Bither concentrated his efforts on Europe, which, artistically speaking, is going through a fervent period of cross-pollination, with artists breaking down barriers between disciplines—melding theater, film, puppetry, dance, visual art, installation, and music in forms no one has seen before.
Four representatives from the new European performance scene will appear at the Walker in four successive weeks, January 6–29. Here’s a quick rundown of this year’s Out There performers: Betontanc/Umka.lv: Show Your Face! Everyone in Minnesota has a snowsuit, but not one that’s alive. In Show Your Face!, part two of the Walker’s Adventures in New Puppetry series, seven actor/puppeteers from Latvia turn an empty snowsuit into a tragicomic character with expressions, feelings, and an eerie, child-like sense of vulnerability. Backed by the pop-electronic band Silence from Slovenia, the snowsuit becomes a faceless wanderer through the disillusionment of the 20th century, where hope and magic are hard to come by—except onstage. Jan. 6–8.
Gob Squad: Kitchen (You’ve Never Had It So Good) Last seen at the Walker in 2007, this performance troupe loves to mix fantasy and reality with several doses of silliness and a sly sense of theatrical gamesmanship. Riffing off of Andy Warhol’s little-seen film Kitchen, Gob Squad loosely recreates the look and feel of Warhol’s film in a film of its own. At least it looks like a film, until actors start walking out of it and standing onstage, and audience members become actors in the “film” onscreen—then it becomes a curious piece of performance art that asks interesting questions about the nature of fact, fiction, reality, and 1960s New York. Jan. 13–15.
Berlin: Bonanza: A Documentary for Five Screens Bonanza is a real town in Colorado with a population of seven. Somehow the Belgian multimedia group Berlin found out about it and filmed a documentary of the town’s inhabitants, one that includes fights, gossip, a lawsuit, and even a murder. The innovative part is that the documentary is projected on five screens (one for each household), and is presented with a large-scale model of the town, which adds a theatrical dimension to a show Bither calls a “fascinating portrait of a city.” Jan. 20–22.
Phillippe Quesne/Vivarium Studio: L’effet de Serge In perhaps the strangest offering of this year’s Out There series, French performance artist Philippe Quesne plays a character, Serge, who invites friends over to his apartment on Sundays to watch him produce art out of such everyday household items as a Pringles can, tennis balls, and an odd assortment of toys. The charm is in Serge’s surprising inventiveness with these objects and the playful, humorous ways in which he devises his tricks. It’s small-scale theater with large ideas, wrapped in an appealingly French package of innocuous absurdity. Jan. 27–29.