(NORTH ADAMS, Mass.) – Art, music, and comedy fans will be well-served this fall season at MASS MoCA with a two-concert “50 Song Memoir” of new songs by Magnetic Fields, the return of 1990s power-grunge outfit Dinosaur Jr., Mercury Prize-winner Benjamin Clementine, and a massive, site-specific installation by artist Nick Cave in MASS MoCA’s football field-sized gallery in Building 5. MASS MoCA’s annual Benefit in New York City on Tuesday, October 25, featuring a performance by Lava.
Nick Cave’s “Until” opens with a members’ reception on Saturday, October 15, at 5:30pm. The exhibition signals a new phase of the storied artist’s career. The immersive exhibition consists of thousands of found objects, millions of beads, and crystal clouds, effectively turning the space into a dense, dazzling, and provocative sculptural field. “Until” — a double play on the phrase “innocent until proven guilty,” or, as Cave’s work might suggest, “guilty until proven innocent” — addresses issues of violence, gun policies, race relations, and gender politics in America today. In the final hours of a contentious election in which issues of race and gun violence dominate social and political agendas, this is truly work made for our time. (More on Cave’s “Until” below).
Cave’s “Until” functions as set design as much as exhibition, and performances will take place with “Until” as the setting. Helga Davis is the first performer to take on the transformed space with her solo performance on Friday, October 28. Sarah Crowner, another artist whose works serve as a stage, together with Carolyn Schoerner and James Hoff, presents Post Tree, a performance of live dance and music set within the Crowner galleries, on Saturday, October 22.
An 8pm performance by Mercury Prize-winner Benjamin Clementine, selected by Nick Cave, culminates the Saturday, October 15 opening of “Until.” Clementine, of London, and often compared to Rufus Wainwright, is esteemed for his lyrics that are as political as they are personal and heartbreaking, largely inspired by his painful childhood and rendered poetically in an otherworldly mashup of soul, poetry, classical piano, and pop. He has received career support from both Paul McCartney and David Byrne.
On November 18 and 19, the Magnetic Fields celebrates its master songsmith Stephin Merritt’s half-century mark with a two-day, 50-song world premiere and tour kickoff of its new album, “50 Song Memoir,” featuring 50 instruments and an expanded band.
The December 3 showing of “JUÁREZ: A Documentary Mythology” uncovers the violent history of two neighboring border towns: El Paso, Texas, and Juárez, Mexico. The riveting documentary features Theater Mitu’s company in a live performance, and Juárez-born artistic director Rubén Polendo.
Amherst, Mass.-based Dinosaur Jr. closes out the season on December 10. Frontman and grunge rock hero J Mascis journeys over the mountain with his screaming guitar and bandmates to show that the band’s garage-rock grind is as powerful as ever.
This season’s residency programs feature new blood and an old favorite. On October 22, John Kelly presents a mixed-media, multi-platform performance using dance, spoken word, and projections to discuss gender, culture, and queer history. Kelly uses his personal, 1980s-era-East Village diary entries as inspiration for his work.
In its annual visit, Sundance Theatre Lab presents a work-in-progress performance on December 9 that stars young professionals itching to make it big. The ink may still be wet on the page — and that provides for an unpredictable night of high-quality, see-it-before-it’s-in-lights theater.
Up in the Club
On October 8, Peter Salett, well known for the songs he wrote for feature films Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Role Models, and Keeping the Faith (featuring his famous song, “Heart of Mine”), takes the stage with “Suite for Summer Rain.” Salett plays a hypnotic, ambient set suggestive of the sounds of nature, while Michael Arthur live-sketches delicate imagery — projected behind Salett — for a pacific marriage of sound and image.
Big Thief steals away from Brooklyn for the band’s Saturday, November 5 MASS MoCA debut. The indie-folk-rock up-and-comers have caught props from major venues and outlets, topping NPR Music’s “Best New Acts of 2016” list. Rolling Stone says: “[Big Thief’s] songs cut from memories too deep to shake, too hard to live with and too pure to simply fold away in some dank corner and ignore.”
Eisa Davis — whom audiences will recognize from her appearances on the Netflix series House of Cards — assumes the stage on November 12 and hits the audience with just a piano and her unbreakable voice — the music is raw, and her multi-hyphenate talent is undeniable.
The MASS MoCA Benefit in New York City falls on Tuesday, October 25, on a Tribeca rooftop. Celebrate this 12th annual event with dinner, drinks, music, and a live art auction. Nick Cave, Bob Faust, Sarah Crowner, Alex Da Corte, and Andrew & Christine Hall co-chair this festive night in support of museum programming. Bessie Award-winning troupe Lava performs.
More on Nick Cave’s “Until”
Nick Cave uses MASS MoCA’s signature football field-sized space to create his largest installation to date, made up of thousands of found objects and millions of beads, which will make viewers feel as if they have entered a rich sensory tapestry, like stepping directly inside the belly of one of his iconic Soundsuits.
The exhibition will also be used as a performance space. Conceived as a one-year concatenation of community events, music, theater, and art, Until incorporates special appearances by dancers, singer-songwriters, pop artists, poets, and composers, together with panel discussions, community forums, and other forms of creative public debate and engagement.
Often seen as celebrations of movement and material, the first Soundsuit, made out of twigs, was a direct response to the Rodney King beating, a visual image about social justice that was both brutal and energizing. Just as the violence of the Rodney King beating was the impetus to Cave’s early work, the death of men such as Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, and Michael Brown drive his new imagery. For Cave’s new MASS MoCA installation, Until — a double play on the phrase “innocent until proven guilty” or in this case, perhaps, “guilty until proven innocent” — Cave addresses issues of gun violence, gun control policy, and race relations in America today.
Until begins with a dense sculptural field of metallic lawn ornaments leading to a crystal cloud topped by a private garden populated with birds, flowers, and black-face lawn jockeys, finally coming to rest before a cliff wall constructed of millions of plastic pony beads. This is an active space where alluring kinetics and a sumptuous materiality are suddenly punctuated by images of guns, bullets, and targets, positioning us all as culpable, vulnerable, and potentially under attack. The aim of this is pointed, sparking discussion about important issues in a space that is at once dazzling, provocative, and — ultimately — optimistic. Cave believes in humanity, celebrating possibility while also creating a forum for sharp debate and critical discussion.
“I view this work as a theater set, or an elaborate community forum, as much as a work of sculpture,” he notes.
A members-only tour, “From Mill to Museum” is offered on October 1, in which members travel back in time with a historical tour of MASS MoCA’s campus. The free event ends with a coffee social in the galleries.
Tickets for all events are available through the MASS MoCA box office located on Marshall Street in North Adams. The box office is open 10am to 6pm every day, with extended evening hours to 7pm on Thursdays through Saturdays. Beginning September 6, the box office is open 11am to 5pm every day except Tuesdays. Tickets can also be charged by phone by calling 413.662.2111 x1 during box office hours or purchased online at MASS MoCA. All events are held rain or shine.
About MASS MoCA
MASS MoCA is one of the world’s liveliest (and largest) centers for making and enjoying today’s most important art, music, dance, theater, film, and video. Hundreds of works of visual and performing art have been created on its 19th-century factory campus during fabrication and rehearsal residencies, making MASS MoCA among the most productive sites in the country for the creation and presentation of new art. More platform than box, MASS MoCA strives to bring to its audiences art experiences that are fresh, engaging, and transformative.