Bleed&Burn: Burning flags while we can at the Soap Factory

“Tyranny is good for art, bad for artists,” I heard Grant Hart say at the closing of the Land Speed Record show at The Walker.  The next four years should be good for art and creation has already started. Last night the Soap Factory opened Bleed&Burn, Catalytic Flag Making.

They had 13 artists create 12 flags that will be on display until January 21. After that each artist will burn their flag at a location of the artist’s choosing. The idea is fantastic and will be the subject of an upcoming book.

Each flag, as you might imagine, was different. One had two heads, one with eyes and one with a mouth. Both open. Another read “Apathetic TORPOR” against the backdrop of mountains and a huge buck. Several looked like they would burn well. The meaning for some might become clearer in the burning process.

For the opening night there was also a performance element. Poet Paul Dickinson brought his St Paul sensibilities and humor across the River. His poetry always has a there-but-for-the-grace element that played well in the room and includes keen observations on capriciousness of life.

Writer Jordan Thomas read about being black. He chronicled the death of a nephew, the untimely and irrational death of so many black men and ensuing the fear of not coming home – if not his own fear, his partner’s fear for him.

Performer Gay Henry did a lip synch to a montage of scenes about the internal and external conflict inherent in being different. It was fascinating to watch him capture the tone and emotion of each voice in rapid succession.

Next week we will see the change of guard in the US Administration. Again, a good time for art. I am hoping to attend Another Voice: Political Illustration of the Late Twentieth Century at MCAD, an exhibition of more than 100 artworks by many of the nation’s leading editorial illustrators. A reminder that we’ve been through change before and perhaps an opportunity to learn about art and politics from our past. (The show runs from January 17 to March 5.)

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