If you could send a message to outer space about the state of human existence right now, what would you include? A new exhibition at the Weisman Art Museum explores that question, with a collection of work from a diverse group of artists from around the world. Meanwhile, there’s lots of theater happening around town. Read below about shows at Open Eye, The Fitzgerald Theater, and Ten Thousand Things. At the Amsterdam, dance company Rhythmically Speaking explores the jazz tones of Radiohead, and at the Q.arma Building, two children honor the creative spirit of their father, Ron Mosman.
Message From Our Planet: Digital Art From the Thoma Collection
Nineteen top-notch American and international artists play with sound, tech, and video in a new exhibition at the Weisman Art Museum highlighting ways that digital and electronic art engages with contemporary issues facing our world. The title gets its inspiration from the interstellar time-space Voyager 1, launched by NASA in 1977. It contained a record of human culture. That impulse to share what humans are all about at this moment in time was at the heart of curator Jason Foumberg’s thoughts in putting the exhibition together.
Take in French artist Tabita Rezaire, currently based in French Guyana, whose space-based 2015 video “Sorry for the Real” investigates the urgent need for reparations and healing. Or “Astronaut (Pat on pastel double lines),” a 2018 piece by Los Angeles-based artist Brian Bess, who depicts a figure dressed in an astronaut costume drawing absurdist scenes from “inside” of a TV window. There’s also “Minhocão,” a video made in 2006 by Brazilian artist Lia Chaia, where the artist pulls photographs of a congested, polluted São Paulo’s transportation development from her mouth. Beijing-based photographer Hong Hao, meanwhile, has been collecting and photographing every object he owns and has used in his daily life during a period of 12 years. “My Things No. 1,” a photograph from 2001, shows hundreds of these objects crammed together in an examination of materialism in our world. In the exhibition, you’ll see 3D sculptures of imagined artifacts, 3D animation works, LED sculptures, bio art and more.
Plus, Lady Gaga appears in one of the works, “LADY GAGA: Mademoiselle Caroline Rivière,” by Robert Wilson, with music by Michael Galasso. The opening party for the exhibition takes place Thursday, Feb. 9 from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. at the Weisman ($20) with the exhibition running through May 21 (free during regular museum hours). More information here.
Sad Song Sing-A-Long
Open Eye Theatre co-founder Michael Sommers returns for a new solo performance that will have the audience singing along. A marionette puppet named Darren guides the singing adventures in this work that incorporates elements from Sommers’ past work, plus new surprises. Infuse a dose of melancholy fun into your weekend in an evening of puppets, music, playfully dark humor, and visual magic. Thursday, Feb. 9 through Tuesday, Feb. 14 at 7:30 p.m. at Open Eye Theatre ($18, $10 economic accessibility). More information here.
A Soldier’s Play
For the first time in 20 years, The Ordway is presenting a work at the Fitzgerald Theater, when the touring production of “A Soldier’s Play” comes to town for seven performances. Tony Award winner Kenny Leon directs the play, written by Charles Fuller and first produced by the Negro Ensemble Company in 1982. That production, which boasted Denzel Washington amongst the cast, won the Pulitzer Prize and was later adapted into a film. It’s a searing drama, murder mystery, and confrontation of racism in America all at once. Norm Lewis, who recently starred in Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods,” and in the FX series “Pose” stars in the play as Captain Richard Davenport. Tarik Lowe plays Denzel Washington’s part, Private First-Class Melvin Peterson. It opened Feb. 8 and runs through Saturday, Feb. 12 with remaining performances at 7:30 p.m. each night and an additional 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday ($42-$97). More information here.
RadioBody: Radiohead Danced and Played in Jazz
The British band Radiohead is usually characterized as a rock band, but a new dance event organized by Rhythmically Speaking explores the jazz roots of the group as well as its relationship to a jazz sound. Radiohead have spoken about being highly influenced by Miles Davis, Charles Mingus and Alice Coltrane. Their music is also often covered by jazz musicians, including Robert Glasper and The Bad Plus. In “RadioBody,” Rhythmically Speaking combines live and recorded dance — both choreographed and improvised, to Radiohead tunes played by a live jazz band made up of local musicians. Friday, Feb. 10 at 7:30, Saturday, Feb. 11 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at the Amsterdam Bar & Hall ($20 in advance, $20 door, pay as you can for the matinee). More information here.
The ghost of a mighty elephant named Mlima (portrayed by actor Brian Rose) haunts the play “Mlima’s Tale,” by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Lynn Nottage. The play, being presented by Ten Thousand Things Theater Company, addresses the ivory trade’s intersections with capitalism and its impact on the environment. Ansa Akyea, who recently appeared as an actor in a different Nottage play, “Sweat,” at the Guthrie Theater, directs the piece, his first time in that role with TTT. Dameun Strange has created music for the production. Community performances begin this week on Saturday, Feb. 11 at 2 p.m. at St. Paul Opportunity Center, then Sunday, Feb., 12 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. at Project Success. Ticketed performances run February 16 through March 9th, Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 4 p.m. at Open Book (pay what you can, $15 minimum). More information here.
LIFE IS ART: A retrospective of the works of Ron Mosman
Twin Cities DJ, filmmaker and creative person Miki Mosman invites you to ponder the soul of an artist in an exhibition she curated featuring the work created by her father, Ron Mosman. Miki recalls her father’s words: “I don’t paint or create things because I like to do it. It actually hurts me, but I paint and I create because I have to do it. I have to get it out of me.” Mosman’s children knew their father had always painted, but were surprised by the sheer number of works they discovered after his death. The body of work that will be shown in the exhibition reveals the bursting creative energy of someone who felt he had no choice but to create art. The works are colorful, expressive, and inquisitive. You can see them in person on Saturday, Feb. 11 starting at 6 p.m. at the Q.arma Building (free). More information here.
Beyond the Blue
The Square Lake Film Festival in Stillwater comes to the Cedar Cultural Center for a collaboration with indie-folk singer-songwriter, producer and instrumentalist Pieta Brown and bassist Liz Draper, who have curated an evening of eclectic sounds juxtaposed with video art. Films will be shown in the lobby and videos will be projected on stage along with light installations throughout the evening of experimental music. A highlight will be pieces from composer-improvisor Sara Pajunen’s project “Mine Songs,” which reflects on the Iron Range through layers of environmental sounds, violin, images and archival materials. Chama Devora, featuring Draper and Crystal Myslajek, will perform as part of the evening, as will Brown’s new instrumental project Sylvee and The Sea. Plus, you’ll hear music by Iranian American singer-songwriter Aida Shahghasemi. Saturday, Feb. 11 at 8 p.m. at the Cedar ($23 in advance, $28 day of show). More information here.