Here are some more shots of Obsessions. Also make sure to check out the review by Kurt Shaw in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. CLICK HERE
Tag Archives: Tom Sarver
In 2005, The Three Rivers Arts Festival had a visual arts curator who crafted the festival’s annual show and selected artists from around the country for large-scale projects. The annual show was held at the galleries at 937 Liberty Avenue, a beautiful space that had been purchased and renovated (and then sadly lost) by the Associated Artist of Pittsburgh. I was excited to be invited, by curator Katherine Talkcott, to create a storefront installation for the festival in the first floor space. Previous Arts Festival exhibitions were held in outdoor temporary pavilions and had reminded me of school exhibitions at shopping malls. The move to the gallery space gave the show a professional look.
I came across these installation images today and thought about how the world has changed over the past nine years. To create Talking About the Weather, I walked around Downtown Pittsburgh listening for conversation. I overheard conversations of all types. I chatted with people at bus stops, street corners and crosswalks. Business people were on their phones during the day. Late at night, a wild and sometimes unsavory crowd roamed the shadowy sidewalks. I often encountered these characters, as I had obtained keys to enter the gallery and work at night.
After recording bits of conversation in my sketchbook, I would then create a cartoon, doodle or puppet character of the person (with speech bubble) to add to the installation in the gallery. The installation consisted of a wooden framework, with moving parts to mimic the movement of the city. As I added more and more characters, people began gathering to see the growing installation.
Since I made this piece, I don’t encounter people (especially strangers) talking in public places as much. People who are waiting alone immediately pull out their portable electronics. Small talk, an art in itself, is becoming a thing of the past.
On January 16th, I presented a new show with collaborator Michael Cuccaro at the Carnegie Museum of Art, as part of their Culture Club programming for the 2013 Carnegie International. The fifteen-minute, Dada-inspired show was performed toy theatre-style in the Museum Café with a cast of newly crafted puppet characters including Hugo Ball, Emmy Hennings, Tristan Tzara and a drone. Sets for the production included a battlefield scene, the interior of the Cabaret Voltaire, Zurich, Switzerland, 1916 and Hugo Ball’s bedroom. The Carnegie Café was transformed into an installation for the International, making it an interesting venue for the event. Also performed that evening was Museum Piece: For Margo Lovelace, a puppetry performance by Paulina Olowska, performed by Kristen Barca and Joann Kielar.
In the fall of 2012, I met Polish artist Paulina Olowska. She was visiting to plan her 2013 Carnegie International installation for the Carnegie Café. We talked about the beginnings of the Dada movement at the Cabaret Voltaire and her plans to transform the museum café into a cabaret atmosphere. When Olowska later invited me to work on the performance piece for her project (and exhibit a collection of my puppets), I began thinking about creating a show about the ideals of early Dada artists.
It’s difficult to think about the trauma experienced by European artists living during World War I. What were artists to do at a time when humanity was pushed to the edge? The reality of war and suffering permeated everyday life. New, more efficient weapons, tanks and gasses were implemented. What were artists to do in this time of trauma? The Cabaret Voltaire was an outlet for artists and intellectuals to express their disgust, their needs and their aim to redefine art.
Today, wars are often managed by drones controlled from locations far from the battlefield. We watch football, go to the movies and get into arguments at the supermarket as wars are being waged halfway around the world. In developing this new puppet show, I thought about the iconic figure Hugo Ball, dressed in a shiny cone-shaped bishop’s outfit. I wondered what Ball, his wife Emmy Hennings and other Zurich Dadaists of 1916 would think about the world and warfare today.
The puppet show, Flight Out of Time (after Ball’s diaries), recreates the scene of The Cabaret Voltaire. A fantastical ending suggests a prophetic element in Ball’s prose. The show includes an adaptation of Tristan Tzara’s Dada Manifesto as well as a reenactment of Hugo Ball’s sound poetry.
For ten years of my life, I was involved with the South Side Pittsburgh arts organization known as the Brew House. My memories of the place include incredibly creative moments of collaboration and individual discovery, but also extreme chaos and anxiety. I saw the Black Sheep Puppet Festival come and go. The theater presented great jazz and bluegrass shows. Rock shows included Icelandic group múm, Mates of State, The Fall, Quintron, David Thomas, and Girl Talk. Eventually I had to put my efforts into other projects.
After about five years since my BH membership, I’ll be returning for a group show organized by artist Jaci Rice. The reception will take place on Friday, February 15th. I’ll be showing a selection of new collage and assemblage works. For more info, check out the show BLOG.
I’ve been working on drawings, collage pieces and some puppetry ideas to start off 2013. I recently had a drawing titled Good and Plenty in a group show at Pittsburgh Center for The Arts. The show, titled Small Step, Giant Leap, was a presentation of Keystone West, a small collective that formed a couple years ago in Pittsburgh. More drawings like this are on the way!