As always, this list is both utterly subjective and painfully incomplete. It's also just a little bit ridiculous, of course, to even make such a list. Part of me has always despised this sort of thing. That isn't going to stop me from spewing out my picks, though. At the very least, I'm convinced that all of the following artsy litsy events and artifacts deserve extremely high praise. So here are my picks in no particular order. My apologies to the dozens of worthy performers, artists and writers who I inevitably left out. This doesn't mean I don't love you.
1) Akhe Russian Engineering Theatre, UNM's Rodey Theatre—This amazing troupe came all the way from St. Petersberg to perform as part of the Tricklock Company's ever evolving Revolutions International Theatre Festival. Truth be told, the entire festival deserves to be put in the top 10. Of all the Revolutions acts I saw this year, though, this one was by far the most intoxicating. This strange but alluring multimedia performance was like watching a moving painting. A truly extraordinary theatrical experience that I will never ever forget.
2) Illustrious, 516 Magnífico Artspace—Due to crappy finances, Magnífico had to give up its luxurious exhibit space at 516 Central SW. The organization is apparently still functioning, though. I hope it finds some way to host its annual exhibit of text-based art. This year's installment was one of the best with local artists like Michael Alford, Julie Anard, Rex Barron, Mary Bennett, Cynthia Cook, Abby Donovan, Aniz Duran, Jim Elek, Julie James-Griego, James Jimenez, Jim Kraft, David Leigh, David Lobdell, Kimberly Murak and others showing us in the most vivid ways why the written word is so damn beautiful.
3) Taming of the Shrew, Cell Theatre—The Fusion Theatre Company put up several fantastic theatrical productions this year. The best of the bunch was probably this accessible, hilarious show directed by Fred Franklin. Franklin's decision to place Shakespeare's comedy in '50s America, with inspired cameos from Superman and Elvis, was nothing short of brilliant. The cast, led by Vic Browder and Jacqueline Reid, delivered some of the best stage performances of the year.
4) Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror, Richard C. Clarke—With an opening chapter that puts even the best Hollywood summer action flicks to shame, Clarke wrote the book that, in a more rational world, should have sent George W. Bush packing. Sure, it was a great read, but it wasn't the trash talking partisan hack job Clarke's critics claimed it to be. Against All Enemies offered a detailed survey of the history leading up to 9-11. It also presents thoughtful advice on how to protect our country that, unlike Bush's bomb-at-random strategy, might actually have some chance of succeeding.
5) Shenoah Allen's Karmic Debt, Tricklock Performance Space—One half of the lunatic comedy duo Sabotage, Allen made up his own lunatic comedy routine for Karmic Debt, a show mixing elements of standup comedy with experimental physical theater. This performance was weird, puzzling and highly inventive, but best of all it made me laugh so hard I left a stain on my chair.
6) Capture the Moment, Albuquerque Museum—This exhibit of Pulitzer Prize winning photographs tore me to pieces. If I was still naïve enough to have happy, rosy impressions of the 20th century, this show went a long way to setting me straight. History told through a series of excruciatingly graphic and often violent pictures.
7) Macbett, Tricklock Performance Space—The Tricklockers put up several great shows this year, as they do every year, but this production of Eugene Ionesco's absurdist classic resonated most with these troubling times. Directed by Joe Feldman, the play was a funny, cynical examination of the will to political power.
8) Chronicles: Volume One, Bob Dylan—He of the Big Nose put out the first volume of his memoirs a couple months ago, and most people, myself included, were astonished by how readable and fascinating it turned out to be. Dylan has always had a penchant for evasion. In this book, he's more honest and open than ever.
9) Corridos Sin Fronteras, National Hispanic Cultural Center—This multimedia exhibit about the Hispanic ballad tradition was unmissable. More about listening than seeing, the exhibit was also accompanied by two excellent CDs.
10) Plan of Attack, Bob Woodward—With astonishing access to the president and his inner circle, Woodward managed to create the definitive account of how and why we got embroiled in a war with a country that posed no threat to us. God help the United States of America.