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 Dec 28 - Jan 3, 2018 
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Culture Shock

A Year in Review

Resonances of theater, art, installation and dance in 2017

By
Aesculapius
Steve Barry, Aesculapius
Steve Barry and Sanitary Tortilla Factory

It felt trite to be saying it once again, but there I was, cupping a drink in my hand at a bar, surrounded by friends and still bundled up from the cold outside, through my scarf commenting on the approaching year's end, astutely noting that time goes by too fast. 2017 had raced by, whole months coming and going before I was sure I'd seen them at all and soon I'd be really old, I said, probably saying the same thing, but speaking about life more in the past tense.

Working at a weekly paper, the year is measured in 7 day intervals, remembered, at least a little bit, as 52 articles. Passage after passage, 50-some interviews, hundreds of conversations, lots of comps (thank you!), millions of words and investigating the nuance of the subsurface—who makes “art,” why, all this interiority put out into the world. Our attraction to certain pieces is as personal and subjective as anything. For that reason, this feels like a diary entry—what I loved is the end result of my particular and circumstantial view on the world.

Trying to catalog the last year of this column underscores all the more the scary fast flow of time as I ask myself—was that yesterday? A week ago? Last month? Inventorying like that is a trial—what I remember, I suppose, is what moved me, though it invokes a certain sadness, too, over the strangers who passed through and the stories I'll never learn. But it's nice that the allowance of winter is more time spent in the dark, hopefully sleeping, but also reflecting on the time that has passed before saying the old invocations of a new year.

Of those weeks and months gone, I strongly remember sitting down in Tricklock Company's small theater for two pieces, performed seasons apart—Hands Up: 7 Playwrights, 7 Testaments and Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. Each of these felt so important and so timely, that their performances felt like more of a public service than a piece of theater, but perhaps that is one of the highest functions of art—to offer education at important moments. Following up these performances at Tricklock was a more escapist outing—that's necessary, too—at Vortex Theatre in the shape of She Kills Monsters. This piece brought us poignantly into the world of Dungeons & Dragons, using humor and fantasy to move forward the search for a loved one. There was a lot of great theater in Albuquerque this year, at a dozen venues, brought to bear by so much local talent.

In-between weekend theater performances, I made it to the UNM Museum of Art several times for knock-out, nationally performing shows like Frida Kahlo: Her Photos and Long Environmentalism in the Near North. The exhibition of photos from Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera's personal collection—a traveling show whose origins, of course, are at Casa Azul in Mexico City—was extremely well trafficked, and rightfully so. The gallery was painted in that brilliant shade of blue that visitors to Kahlo's home no doubt remember, and the carefully curated glimpse into the life of an artist turned cultural icon proved fascinating. To similar effect, Subhankhar Banerjee (who you may have heard recently on Democracy Now!) displayed a collection of work that included essays and photographs that illustrate the realities of climate change and the importance of environmentalism, as it can so powerfully be observed in the north, where the changes of the world are so readily discernible.

Downtown, interior wonders surfaced in installation work at Sanitary Tortilla Factory during local sculptor Steve Barry's exhibition, Wave. Here, Barry used repetitive imagery and modern machinery to bring us closer to ourselves—sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively. Heading south from Sanitary Tortilla to GRAFT in Barelas, another group show had the power to simultaneously put us squarely in our bodies and take us out of them—Near Death Experience. Culturally, it seems that we shy away from discussion of death, but for a month-long run, death was at the forefront in this group show curated by the GRAFT Collective and Adri De La Cruz. Cozy coffins, performance art, paintings on the floor, audio pieces and more all vitally led visitors to the important admittance: We're all going to die, and acknowledging that can be serious, funny, thought- and conversation-provoking.

There are always too many things to do on the weekends in Albuquerque—but precious weekend hours were well spent at ABQ Zine Fest Seven, perhaps the most expansive zine fest to-date. Founder and organizer Marya Errin Jones along with organizer Liza Bley coordinated dozens of zinesters tabling their wares and facilitating workshops. Visitors included Tomas Moniz and Ariel Gore. I picked up Gore's latest at the fest, We Were Witches, which wound up also being one of the best books I read over the course of 2017. There was also the opening of Red Planet Books & Comics, New Mexico's only shop prioritizing Native voices and those of People of Color, which hosted dozens of events throughout the year and made Albuquerque's Downtown corridor all the cooler.

A whole different experience was had at the 2017 Festival Flamenco hosted by the National Institute of Flamenco. Over the course of 10 days, we were treated to world-class performances by a host of masters from afar, as well as workshops, classes and other experiences that are unheard of in other cities. A standout came in the shape of Compañía Jesús Carmona's Impetu—a powerhouse of a performance that made flamenco resonate as contemporary and singularly alive.

Looking to another year—measured in 52 weeks, which never feels like much when you're living them—we can expect no less than those weeks to be full of events, performances, art openings and readings. They'll go by fast, but in the meantime, taking in all the art that Albuquerque has to offer gives the year texture, making space for contemplation, excitement, and thought.


 
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