CULTURE KLASH: Other Worldly

By on September 28, 2016

How to broaden your proverbial horizons this week.

From an open studio and ponderings on our increasingly digital lives to Pulitzer Prize poets, a cornucopia of culture and art events happens this week.

From an open studio and ponderings on our increasingly digital lives to Pulitzer Prize poets, a cornucopia of culture and art events happens this week.

JACKSON HOLE, WY – The arts and cultural events on offer this week are like hiking up Josie’s Ridge in the fall. Dried stalks of balsam root rustle next to still-blooming purple asters, while golden aspen leaves clap as you traipse up the dry trail in bright sun. Across the valley, a skein of snow lies on the mountaintops, and a mile off a thundercloud builds. Three seasons packed into a few short weeks—summer, fall, and winter. If you are nimble on your feet and pack the right layers, you can enjoy them all.

The same principle holds for a week in which a Pulitzer prize-winning poet reads, a futuristic artist takes main stage, a young British sculptor shows her work, and Amazonian jungle inhabitants appear on film. All serve as a Whitman-esque reminder that we, like the world, are large and contain multitudes.

Go West, young Brit!

Tonight (Wednesday) is open studio night at Teton Artlab, where British sculptor Phoebe Baines is in residence. Educated at the Wimbeldon College of Art and the Royal College of Art, Baines normally hangs out in London, where she lives full time. But this month she’s been in residence at the Artlab, working on sculpture, drawings and paintings based on her interpretations of the local landscape.

“I have a much better understanding now of the impact of mountains,” Baines said. “I was starting to make work in London about large, monumental environments. Being here has changed my understanding completely. It’s more sinister now, in a good way.”

Baines said hiking in Paintbrush Canyon made her think about London. She found herself wondering if humans build huge architecture as a way of emulating natural towering rocks. “There is a strange similarity,” she said.

For the open studio, she will show wall drawings and sculpture that reference the night sky as well as Western wildlife. “For me, this landscape is so unusual that it feels alien,” she said. She hopes her outsider-looking-in perspective might offer locals a way to see familiar surroundings in new ways.

Open studio with Phoebe Baines, 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Teton Artlab.

Self-determination in the jungle

On Thursday, folks from The Manú Project, including local photographer Lina Collado, featured in this week’s cover story (page 9), present slides and a short teaser from their documentary expedition into the highly protected Manú National Park, a UNESCO recognized Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage site. The park is home to indigenous communities that have little contact with the outside world and who have little say in how the park is governed. Manu Project representatives hope that by telling the tribes’ stories they can influence park officials to include the indigenous people in decision-making about their home turf.

The team traveled more than 300 miles through the Amazon, visiting communities that live along the border of a zone with no outside contact. As civilization encroaches, youth from these communities often seek outside influences or move away.

The Manu Project slideshow presentation is 6 p.m. Thursday, September 29 at Teton County Library. Free.

Art altered reality

On Sunday, October 2, Los Angeles-based artist Zenka gives a TEDx talk exploring the question, “Will virtual and augmented reality move us into the knowledge age?”

What the heck is augmented reality (AR), you ask? Zenka says, simply, “AR is the ability to look through a smart phone or goggles to see three-dimensional objects superimposed on top of the real world.”

Perhaps the most popular and timely example of AR is Pokemon Go, which enables users to run around catching “Pidgeys” as opposed to anachronistic birdwatchers sighting of old-fashioned, real-life pigeons.

Zenka is in town as a visiting artist with the Jackson Hole Wild Festival. Her art exhibit, Zenka: Augmented Reality Interventions, is on display at the Center for the Arts Theater Gallery. Visitors are invited to install a free phone app, and then make noises to cause 3D objects to move out of Zenka’s lino prints.

As part of her residency, Zenka worked with local high school students to create AR self-portraits. Using the Aurasma app, visitors will be able to see what is in the heads of each student.

Finally, Zenka will exhibit three virtual reality headsets that trace the design evolution of the GameFace Virtual Reality android headset. Fired using an ancient Japanese technique called, raku, the ceramic heads reminded this reviewer of Wallace (from the British clay animation Wallace & Gromit) gone steampunk.

Zenka presents at TEDx Sunday, October 2 at the Center. Other speakers include sex therapist Dr. Laurie Betito, neuroscientist Erin David Bigler, and women’s rights activist Dr. Willie Parker. The event is sold-out but there will be a concurrent screening in the lobby. Zenka’s art exhibit hangs in the Center Theater Gallery through October 31, with an artist reception October 7. She offers a professional development workshop on October 6.

Personal, and political

On Monday, Brooklyn-based poet Gregory Pardlo reads from his work and offers a free writing workshop. Pardlo won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for his collection, Digest. His memoir about his father, Air Traffic, comes out this fall.

According to The New York Times, Pardlo “writes intensely personal poems—with scenes that describe shopping for groceries with his daughter or unpack his anxieties about fatherhood—and delivers funny and poignant dispatches from the front lines of gentrifying Brooklyn.”

During his workshop, Pardlo will ask participants to consider various forms of cliché, like cultural assumptions, stereotypical depictions, and flat, easily anticipated turns of phrase. He will help the group devise strategies for uncovering the unique and lively thinking buried inside the cliché.

The library’s adult programming coordinator, Leah Schlacter, a poet herself, admires the many layers of Pardlo’s poetry. “I like how his work piles on images, pushing the boundaries between language and information, history and modernity, the personal and the external,” she said.

Schlacter has brought a number of notable writers of color to the library, including Pardlo and Claudia Rankine, in attempt to broaden the literary taste of the community, she said. “Writers of color give us the narratives that have been previously left out of American literature and history.” PJH

Gregory Pardlo reads from his work 6 p.m., Monday, October 3 at Teton County Library’s Ordway Auditorium. A writing workshop with Pardlo is 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Monday. Free.

About Meg Daly

Meg Daly is a freelance writer and arts instigator. She grew up in Jackson in the 1970s and 80s, when there were fewer fences, but less culture. Follow Meg on Twitter @MegDaly1

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