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No ordinary art

By KAY DAHLKE

January 2005

A sculptural layering of John Koethe’s poem "North Point North."


It’s commonly believed that trends begin on the coasts and work their way to Milwaukee months, even years later. A collaboration between several Milwaukee institutions might be just the project that bucks that trend.

Wild Space Dance Co. will introduce "Art of the Ordinary" at the Milwaukee Art Museum in January. The first large-scale visual art and performance production in the Calatrava-designed Windhover Hall, the exhibit is a collaboration among Wild Space artistic director Deb Loewen, UW-Milwaukee professor and poet John Koethe and artist Jill Sebastian, merging dance, visual art, music, poetry and video. The production is inspired by Koethe’s poem, "North Point North," a profound reflection on identity, the power of the ordinary and how art is often an unrealized element in life.

"Milwaukee is a place where people can work, with not a lot of distraction," says Loewen. "Jill and I both like John’s work immensely. We’re working with a known entity, rather than outside of ourselves. John told us up front, ‘I don’t want to write for you; I write poetry, not performance.’ His biggest gift to us was saying we could do with his poetry what we want."

The duo used the Institute of Visual Arts as a research site. Sebastian reinvented the space into a 40-by-24-foot installation.

Loewen has developed choreography that reflects the poem, while influencing and incorporating Sebastian’s work. During the performance, dancers will move through, in and about the installation, interacting with the space, objects and video projections.

"In many ways we have found that ‘Art of the Ordinary’ celebrates our choice to spend our lives making work in Milwaukee, and to find inspiration from the elements that make the city unique," says Loewen.

Performances are set for 7 and 9 p.m. Jan. 22 and 23. Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for students and seniors and are available at the Wild Space box office, (414) 271-0712.