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Making the World Strange Through Opera: An Introduction to Vidas Perfectas

1 Jul 2014

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Sigue leyendo en español

Before the Texas/Mexico premieres of Vidas Perfectas – an all new Spanish-language version of Robert Ashley’s Perfect Lives – in El Paso, Ciudad Juárez, and Marfa, we wanted to present you with a quick primer on some of the important aspects of the piece. The new work, directed by Alex Waterman, has been in development since 2009 and replaces not only the language but the location of the original work, moving from the American Midwest to the Far West Texas desert.

Vidas Perfectas is presented by Ballroom Marfa in conjunction with the El Paso Opera, Whitney Museum of American Art, ISSUE Project Room and Irondale Brooklyn.

Vidas is the realization of years of hard work, rehearsal, and research by the cast and crew, and will be an exciting tribute to Ashley, who passed away earlier this year.

Waterman, who is a founding member of the Plus Minus Ensemble and performs with the Either/Or Ensemble, has been engaging with Ashley and his work for over a decade. He is currently co-writing a book on the composer’s notational scores entitled Robert Ashley: Yes, But is it Edible? and working on his PhD in musicology.

Vidas Perfectas will premiere in El Paso on July 12 and then move to Juaréz (July 13) and Marfa (July 18-19). All the details are on the Vidas Perfectas page.

Who was Robert Ashley?

The Old Cowboy and Penelope Cruz: n+1 on El Paso

10 Jun 2013

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We’re just getting around to Debbie Nathan‘s excellent essay for n+1 on the evolution of El Paso, Ballroom’s Far West Texas neighbor — and at 200 miles away, still the nearest source for bahn mi sandwiches if Fat Lyle’s is closed. She discusses development in the city from the ’70s to the present, considering the toll of cartel violence, constrictions in cross-border exchange and shifting political allegiances, and then adds deep context with personal stories of trips to Juárez, neighborhood skateboarders and door-to-door fruit vendors. It’s essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the unique landscape of this often overlooked corner of the Southwest. An excerpt:

“Of course, there was already entertainment and shopping in downtown El Paso—the mom-and-pops with their steady customers, the embattled and often comical Border Patrol and ATF agents. But this was not what the pols had in mind. The businesspeople hired a focus group firm to go around asking people: If you could retool the city of El Paso into a person or persons, who would those people be? The answer, according to the firm’s report: Matthew McConaughey and Penelope Cruz. And who, the focus group interviewers also asked, did the current, unrehabbed El Paso seem like? The report visually depicted the response as an anonymous Mexican geezer, a dead ringer for the elderly men in Stetsons over at the placita. The report labeled him “The Old Cowboy,” describing him as “dirty,” “lazy,” “uneducated,” and Spanish speaking.

The Old Cowboy could not have been more downscale and contemptible. The problem, however, was that he looked just like many El Pasoans’ beloved papás y abuelitos. Indignant, many people began organizing against the downtown renewal plan. It eventually died, after courts outlawed use of eminent domain to tear down private buildings in the Old Cowboy’s stomping grounds.”

Keep reading at n+1.

(via RAM)

Speaking of LEDs

6 Mar 2013

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If you’re jonesing for some LED-based art projects but you did’t make it to San Francisco for the unveiling of Leo Villareal’s massive Bay Lights installation, you’re still in luck if you can get to El Paso this Thursday. As Glasstire reports …

On March 7, Douglas Steel, founder of the iE Collective, will be lecturing at UT El Paso’s Rubin Center on the use of LED lighting as “an artistic approach to studying the human brain,” pointing out how “overreliance on the scientific method” had hindered the development of new drugs to treat mental illness. He’s going to demonstate some new lighitng technologies that might be of use to artists.

Get all the event specifics at ArtReach website. The iE Collective also stages monthly light installations around the Sugarhouse Business District of Salt Lake City, UT as a part of the monthly Sugarhouse Art Walk.