Stay inside and get outside through the MCA’s ‘The Great Outdoors’ performance piece this weekend

For the New Eastside News

(Published March 20, 2019)

The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago will present “The Great Outdoors,” a performance by writer-director Annie Dorsen that takes place within an inflatable dome on the theater stage where the public can stretch out on mats for a journey through ‘inner space.’

A lone performer, Kaija Matiss, reads aloud comments culled from internet discussion boards 4chan and Reddit in the past 24 hours, giving voice to the thoughts of countless individuals tapping away at their keyboards in isolation. With a unique stellar star show designed by Dorsen in collaboration with Ryan Holsopples, “The Great Outdoors” connects ideas of infinity and the unknown to today’s networked, hyper-connected technologies, and reflects on the cosmic nature of the internet. The Great Outdoors takes place at the MCA from Thursday to Saturday, March 21-23, at 7:30 p.m., with an additional 2 pm show on Sunday, March 24.

“The Great Outdoors” is a performance that changes each time it takes place, using a stream of that day’s internet comments that are fed through an algorithm produced by Dorsen herself. The algorithm sorts messages by their density, and operates independently of human intervention, delivering a flood of personal and collective thoughts that the artist calls the ‘internet’s id’ – a projection of ourselves unrestrained by ego, and protected by anonymity.

The Great Outdoors” invites audiences to consider the internet as both ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ space, at once a digital reflection of personal life and a connection to the world beyond the body and its physical location. Dorsen describes the internet as “a new Romantic landscape where we can go exploring, as explorers did in the nineteenth century.” As audiences imagine the internet’s infinite possibilities, musician Sébastien Roux mixes a live score on stage, experimenting with electronic and ambient sounds inspired by the theory that the universe is always expanding.

“The Great Outdoors”takes place in the Edlis Neeson Theater at the MCA and seating is limited. Tickets are $30 and can be reserved at www.mcachicago.org or by calling the box office at 312-397-4010.


MCA exhibit offers up Midwestern sensibility in Western setting

By Jesse Wright | Staff Writer

In November, the Museum of Contemporary Art opened a new exhibition, “West by Midwest,” showing works by a collection of artists from the Midwest who migrated West in order to develop their artistic vision.

The art in the collection spans much of the middle part of the 20th century and the early parts of this century, and the media varies from sculpture and photography to painting and knitting. In total, the exhibition includes 80 pieces from artists like Billy Al Bengston, Andrea Bowers, Judy Chicago, Anna Halprin, David Hammons, Mike Kelley, Senga Nengudi, Laura Owens, Sterling Ruby and Ed Ruscha.

This exhibit represents a diverse crowd creating over a long period of time, and Charlotte Ickes, a post-doctoral student and MAC Curatorial Fellow for the exhibit, explained that viewers should avoid being reductivist in looking for common themes when visiting the collection.

“[The exhibition] can mean many different things because it’s many different artists,” she said. Not only did the artists work in different media across different times, but some were expressly political, and even that political emphasis shifted throughout the decades.

Ickes said the only real connective through-line in the exhibition is the constant attempts by each artists to do innovative work in whatever medium they’re working in.

“Those are the shared concerns you’ll see throughout the show,” she said.

Rather than emphasizing any sense of shared aesthetics or point of view of the Midwestern artists, the collective exhibition illustrates how regional artists impacted the national art scene—or at least the California scene in response to their individual concerns and aesthetics.

For a deeper dive, don’t miss a talk on Dec. 9 led by artist Barbara Kasten. Kasten will lead a walkthrough of the exhibition with Ickes and will talk about her work, as well as the work of her favorite fellow artists. This begins at 2 p.m. and it is free with museum admission.

The exhibition is on display now through Jan. 27, 2019 at the MCA. The MCA is located at 22 E. Chicago Avenue and is open Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.,Wednesday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., on Friday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The museum is closed Christmas and New Year’s Day.