I’m a big fan of my adoptive home in the Pacific Northwest and a big fan of local artists who use their work to refract the way the synthesis of culture and landscape in this region forms a palpable energy, a mood. I love Matt McCormick’s films, Daniel Peterson’s photoblog, M. Ward’s music and Bruce Conkle’s funny, surprising sculptural installations, his “Sasquatch Feng Shui.” I love the way Marne Lucas advertises her bartending gigs with the same casual enthusiasm with which she advertises her photography exhibitions. It’s so Portland, where the term busser/rockstar can be used with only slight irony and self-made men are everywhere, racing to build the most spectacular temple for contemporary art or wandering around dreaming up new ways to convince us that every bloody thing we do is art. The spirit of expansion, initiated with the “God-given”mandate of Manifest Destiny (Mission Accomplished), is alive here with all its invigorating sense of promise and inevitable, messy mistakes.
Lucas and Conkle went out on a limb with this puppet show.
I give it a great big E. In the area where BlingLab’s principals are experienced, visual art, the show was awesome. What was lacking was clear, expertly paced storytelling to give the humor a little more structural support. I hope they try puppet theater again with a bigger team including members with backgrounds in storytelling and stage direction. I’d also like to see them create an expansive installation using some of the elements from this show–the humanoid props, the slight, awkward movements and the prerecorded audio–to form a quasi-historical display. If it weren’t on the other side of the country, I would encourage Lucas and Conkle to visit one of the artistic highlights of my birth home: the Discover Lancaster County History Wax Museum. Here, a waxen Lincoln endlessly repeats one of his eloquent speeches, his literally shifting eyes exponentially compounding the creepiness somehow inherent in all representations of our 16th president. Here, Tony Ourstler’s technique of projecting blown-up, talking faces onto stuffed life-sized rag dolls is put to good use clearing up some of the public’s misperceptions about the Amish. History truly comes alive, or at the very least, comes undead.
BlingLab is halfway to making something revelatory. It’s a good time for cracked out, irreverent reinterpretations of western imperialism and macho entitlement. It’s a good time for puppetry to “grow up,.” to become a vital cultural force. Change is already stirring in the many excellent puppeteers who’ve cropped up recently and in puppetry’s role in protests against the War in Iraq. Pass the peacepipe, BlingLab, and take up your puppets anew.
Jessica Bromer