Originally posted on The Speakeasy:

I heard beforehand that The Speakeasy was going to be more dynamic than the typical art show, but still I was surprised by the number of events and the breadth of the subjects covered. Except for the food and beer served from behind the counter by people in red striped aprons, there was nothing static about the show at all.

The list of events that transpired over the 6 weeks of the show is exhausting just to consider: scrounged architecture, foraged food, socially conscious art, art as craft, a BBQ cook off, live music ranging from rock to techno to industrial, poetry, and a series of dialogues tackling knotty problems as balancing day jobs with artistic careers, getting grants and working unpaid to support ‘artists for name your cause.’

Most exhibits are tightly bound by time and space, but for this show each event was like an individual piece at…

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9 lbs coffee (170 cups of Joe) pour over only

25 lbs of Alex pope meat

Evolving Howard

3 visiting Artists in Residence

Loaves of 6 rye, 1 sem, 60 buns, 6 w hires

Orange marmalade

700  + visitors

5 kegs

4 ea schmaltz, porter, pilsner, hamms

2 bourbon, 2 gin

Case of h20

Case of Real Coke

125 lbs of BBQ

Airstream trailer

prints 50

Cartwheel

50 posters

Napkins screen printed  500

Conversations/exchange 8

Web hits 8500 hits

8 bands

3 videos + unique hits.

Dance Test

Narcissism

one outstanding tab

2 years of research

The ultimate Insider joke: 2 art master’s thesis

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We Are Furious Yellow: Reflections on the Speakeasy by m.o.i.

We Are Furious Yellow: Reflections on the Speakeasy

by m.o.i.

“Those are not worms. They are only maggots.”[1]

There is a raft of coveted demographics adrift and in search of authentic experiences. I do not mean a basil gimlet or a bracing Collins topped with a blood orange slice. A stiff drink can be refreshing but its success largely hinges on quality ingredients, distinct proportions, and the company it keeps. One would think that if the masses were eager for a dram of satisfaction, then art world gravitas would manufacture smiles, dreams, and cultural relevance.  Well, two out of three isn’t bad. So try as they might to find artist investment opportunities, frequently the public are left to console themselves with empathy while the artist sulks suspiciously in the corner.

“Lord, help me to remember, that nothing is going to happen to me today.”[2]

Although chance encounters in a queue are unlikely to foster a cultural revolution they can lead to compelling conversations; proximity breeds acquaintance. Lines for toast and coffee at the Speakeasy were typically shorter than at the grocery or post office but the dialogue quicker, more engaging, and the opportunity for cultural renaissance closer at hand.  Because of that, the (at times) lukewarm coffee can be forgiven.

“Massive civil disobedience is a strategy for social change which is at least as forceful as an ambulance with its siren on full.”[3]

We have led ourselves to believe that culture is a prix fixe, no substitution allowed, four-course dinner. Gratuity, but not beverage, included. Would we recognize hope or change if it camped in the park adjacent to our office for 99 straight days? Perhaps. Would we first need a full report? Here are some Speakeasy numbers: 6 dozen rolls, 8 loaves of bread, and a jar of orange marmalade. Seventy-five grilled sandwiches. Nine pounds of coffee, a hundred weight of b-b-que’d argument, 25 pounds of Alex Pope’s meat, 5 kegs (plus 20 cases) of beer. Two 2 bottles of bourbon, 1 of gin, and several gallons of mineral water. Fifteen hand-painted signs, 150 posters, 500 silk-screened napkins, 7500 web hits, and one portfolio. Eight bands, 250 artists, 6 critics, and 3 or 4 trailers.  Sum all the numbers, multiply by the paid admissions, and you can begin to estimate the project’s scope. Yet eight conversational exchanges of varying dimensions, intensity, and intrigue remain the most important Speakeasy outcome.  If a revolution was to be had there, it lay in the understanding that dialogue between artist and consumer should be art’s most valued transaction. This precious and vital principle, as abstract as money, is often just as difficult to obtain with any degree of regularity. Please tip your server accordingly.


[1] Battleship Potemkin, 1925, directed by Sergei Eisenstein and shown with a new score by The People’s Liberation Big Band, International Worker’s Day, 2012.
[2]Jordan Stempleman, reading at the Speakeasy from his poem, Sunday that appears in No. Not Today, Magic Helicopter Press, 2012
[3]Martin Luther King, 1967, The Trumpet of Conscience, Harper and Row. In the installation “Flash Mob Re-enactments “ by Jamie Warren as part of Beating the Bounds, Paragraph, Kansas City, MO.
 
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m.o.i. aka The Minister of Information @ Warrior Ant Press Worldwide Anthill Headquarters in Kansas City, MO, USA examines artistic, cultural, social, and political practices in a consumer society.
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Nutbread Land – Speakeasy! by David Anderson

I heard beforehand that The Speakeasy was going to be more dynamic than the typical art show, but still I was surprised by the number of events and the breadth of the subjects covered. Except for the food and beer served from behind the counter by people in red striped aprons, there was nothing static about the show at all.

The list of events that transpired over the 6 weeks of the show is exhausting just to consider: scrounged architecture, foraged food, socially conscious art, art as craft, a BBQ cook off, live music ranging from rock to techno to industrial, poetry, and a series of dialogues tackling knotty problems as balancing day jobs with artistic careers, getting grants and working unpaid to support ‘artists for name your cause.’

Most exhibits are tightly bound by time and space, but for this show each event was like an individual piece at a traditional show so in order to ‘see’ The Speakeasy it was necessary to see as many of the events as possible and so I decided to do this. I missed a few events due to scheduling conflicts and I must confess I deliberately skipped the ‘stitch and bitch’ out of fear that it would bring back bad memories of interminable waits at the fabric store when my wife was buying materials for KC Art Institute projects.

The Speakeasy was a surprisingly ambitious project to be put on by a tiny crew of people and almost no money. It doesn’t fit in with my past view of Kansas City which was largely in agreement with an essay published in Harper’s magazine in 1987 by Richard Rhodes entitled “Cupcake Land – Requiem for the Midwest in the key of vanilla.”

In his essay Rhodes traced the descent of Kansas City from a vibrant city in his childhood to a soulless expanse suburbia of where a bland pleasantness is the prevailing attitude and “a through search of an expensive well furnished house turns up not one serious book.” For the visual arts Cupcake culture is epitomized by the statue of Winston and Clementine Churchill on the Plaza which was blown up to life size from a small piece of kitsch designed for a coffee table.

Rhodes describes his adult years in Kansas City as being “stuck” due to an ex-wife with custody of his children. He made due by living in a small vibrant enclave which he call “Nutbread Land”, a spirited neighborhood with “people of all sizes and shapes and colors walking real sidewalks, some of them talking to themselves.” Of course, he is talking about 43rd Street and the area around the Kansas City Art Institute.

While there is still plenty of Cupcake culture in Kansas City, I think that his portrait has been outdated for a few years now. Basically, Nutbread Land has grown quiet a bit both geographically and culturally. It has expanded into the River Market, the Crossroads (thanks to pioneers like David Ford) and now the West Bottoms and Troost. The big institutional arts organizations have all vastly improved from where they were in 1987. More importantly there are more artists getting together doing more things. The activities of the Charlotte Street are a prime example.

I see The Speakeasy as a good sized brick that has gone into the construction of a Greater Nutbread Land in Kansas City. I don’t think that you need to feel ‘stuck’ in Kansas City as a creative person any longer. But we need people like Bread KC, Charlotte Street and others to be constantly working on building up Nutbread Land or it may well get sucked up again by the surrounding Cupcake Culture.

Of course, if I strip away all the analytical superstructure that I have built, the actual experience of The Speakeasy is what remains. I have to admit I am not a martyr for Nutbread Land. If the events at The Speakeasy had been annoying I would have dropped the whole thing more quickly that I would exit a room full of Thomas Hart Benton paintings if I happened to stumble into such a room). No The Speakeasy was never a bore – always a pleasure.

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Dialogue & Dance at The Speakeasy Tonight!

Dance!

Dance!

Dance!

Dance!

Dance!

Dialogue!

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Dialogue and Dance!

We would like to invite you to the closing reception of The Speakeasy this coming Friday, May 11 at 8pm. Naturally, and as always, we will be serving food, drinks, and conversation to all comers.

The night is going to start out with a group discussion on the Speakeasy exhibit and project as a whole. This will be your chance to share with us directly what you thought about the project as a whole. Feel free to offer challenging criticisms, personal anecdotes relating to you experiences there, informal reviews, or just offer straight flattery. We’ll take it all! We want to know what you thought, and we’d like to discuss where this could go, how this can operate as a model, and how it could be better.

Following the discussion, it will be TIME TO D.A.N.C.E! With our friend DJ Fat Sal spinning some super funkee records. While everyone is getting their groove on Field Trip Publishing will be there with some very special guest to pick out some audience members to participate in the DANCE TEST later that evening. Lavish prizes will be given to those who are judged the best dancers of the night!

Saturday at Noon is How To Be Narcissistic Workshop!

Fri-Sat-Sun, YARD SALE, All items must go! Buy our furniture and last chance to buy our goods. http://kansascity.craigslist.org/gms/3006373590.html

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May 12th, 12-3 PM, How To Be Narcissistic Workshop!

How To Be Narcissistic: A Workshop and Performance lead by Paul Shortt and Rhiannon Birdsall

“Your Narcissism is Medicore” -Timothy “Speed” Levitch, The Cruise

We spend so much time these days thinking about our online persona’s on sites like Facebook and Twitter, but what about how we present ourselves in our everyday life? Artist Paul Shortt and Rhiannon Birdsall will work with a group of volunteer participants to explore performative ways of presenting your authentic self and indulging in your own narcissism. Through a 3 hour work shop participants will explore through, writing, drawing, and performing ways in which one can truly call themselves narcissistic.

To Participate Please Call (217)-419-1472 or email pauledwardshortt@gmail.com 

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