File puptcrit/puptcrit.0806, message 84

Date: Wed, 11 Jun 2008 11:21:24 -0400
To: <>
Subject: Re: [Puptcrit] Rose marionettes seen as art or not?

Dear Puptcrit Colleagues,
  I hope Alan Cook's posting about "The Puppet Show" exhibition at the
Santa Monica Museum of Art will inspire Los Angeles-area folks to check
out the exhibit for themselves during its run (now through August 9).  I
realize the exhibition is quite controversial because rather than
focusing primarily on contemporary works of puppet theater, curators
Ingrid Schaffner and Karen Cuoni have chosen sculptures, photographs,
videos, and other artworks that respond to the nature of puppetry.
  Some of the pieces in the exhibition are documents of actual puppet
shows: Handspring Theater's "Ubu and the Truth Commission"; Mike Smith
and Doug Skinner's handpuppet shows; the "Don't Trust Anyone over 30"
puppet opera featuring Phillip Huber and the group Japanther; Pierre
Huyghe's puppet show about LeCorbusier and Harvard; and, perhaps most
importantly, Kara Walker's intense shadow theater meditation on the
history of racism in our country.  I believe all of these shows have
been discussed in the past few years on puptcrit.
  Other pieces in the exhibition are, as Alan points out, not puppets or
evidence of puppet shows at all: enigmatic and evocative sculptures by
Louise Bourgeois, Kiki Smith, Maurizio Cattellan, and Nayland Blake; and
similarly fascinating photographs by Laurie Simmons, Charlie White, and
Mike Kelly.  These artists might not be familiar to many puppeteers, but
they are well known in the world community of art, and the fact that
they draw great inspiration from puppet traditions should be of interest
to us puppeteers-let us welcome them to explore the worlds of puppetry
  Still other elements of the show are challenging: videos by Paul
McCarthy, Matt Mullican, and Bruce Naumann use the rough-and-tumble
aesthetics of the worlds of Punch, Petrushka, Semar, and Ubu in
vignettes featuring humans instead of puppets.  These are in some cases
disturbing, but point out strongly the ways that puppetry, with its
eternal connections to politics, religion, sex, and violence, has always
dealt with the important issues a society faces.
  The "Puppet Storage" section of the exhibit was specifically inspired
by the rough "backstage" environment of the "puppet storage" section of
the Center for Puppetry Arts museum in Atlanta, and serves the same
function-an initial experience of the unguarded, non-theatrical
existence of puppets when they are not performing.  The works here
include puppets by such artists as Tony Sarg, Bil Baird, Rufus and Margo
Rose, Marjorie Batchelder McPharlin, Charles Ludlam, Peter Schumann,
Frank Ballard, Andy Warhol, and Margo Lovelace (many are from our
Ballard Institute collections).  The unadorned nature of the "Puppet
Storage" milieu, while it de-romanticizes the puppets, also allows the
spectacular artistry of these works of art to be seen.  (Don't miss
Marjorie Batchelder McPharlin's amazing rod puppet animals made in the
1960s with colored plastic sheeting!)
  I will be giving a gallery tour of "The Puppet Show" this Thursday,
June 12, at 7p.m., and hope anyone interested in the show will feel free
to come along.  It's part of an amazing array of performances by LA
puppeteers and other presentations that the Santa Monica Museum of Art
has organized during the run (see, as Alan points out).
  What's exciting about "The Puppet Show" is the way it challenges our
conceptions of the definitions and functions of puppet theater, which is
of course what the past 110 years of puppet history has done, since the
time that Alfred Jarry's Ubu Roi first appeared onstage.

Dr. John T. Bell
Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry
University of Connecticut
6 Bourn Place Unit 5212
Storrs, Connecticut  06269-5212
office: 860 486 0806
cell: 617 599 3250

-----Original Message-----
[] On Behalf Of Alan Cook
Sent: Monday, June 09, 2008 5:18 PM
Subject: [Puptcrit] Rose marionettes seen as art or not?

I agree with Terri that The Rose Marionettes are more than  a

Saturday I visited the Santa Monica Museum of Art in Los Angeles County,
to see the exhibit from Pennsylvania, "THE PUPPET SHOW" and was dismayed
to see the Roses' magnificent Gepetto and Pinocchio and an ant
marionette consigned to an area referred to as "Puppet Storage". This
was supposed to be equivalent to a "backstage view" but could also be
seen as a broom closet for puppets---hardly the best way to exhibit them
in an art gallery setting. Some other significant puppets in "Storage"
are placed so high, they are hard to enjoy fully.

For me this was an example of misplaced values, and unfortunately
eminates from a sector of the Arts Community which if informed might
know better.

Well, it does illustrate that many artists have much to learn.

The question is "how can you teach them?"

For half a century I've worked on puppet exhibits with artist friends,
and none of them would treat such puppets with this sort of disdain.

When titling an exhibit "THE PUPPET SHOW", and then stating in the
printed Gallery Notes that "This is not a show of Puppet Theater" but  a
look "at the imagery of puppets in contemporary art" we are left with
some disappointments that the link with puppets was not stronger
with several "modern art works" selected for this exhibit.

I guess we need more puppetry evangelism in the art world.

Well, at least SMMoA has added L.A. -produced shadow puppets to a
gallery wall and scheduled puppet shows July 26 & August 2 at 6-8 p.m.
That is definitely to the credit of the Santa Monica facility.


Alan Cook

-----Original Message-----
From: Klingelhoefer, Terri Sue
Sent: Monday, June 9, 2008 1:19 PM
Subject: [Puptcrit] Puppets as instruments

Actually, I have long felt that the marionette is a visual instrument.
The music is there to see rather than hear.

The same precision of fingering, rhythm, dynamics of intensity and
subtlety of nuance can be present in the marionette performance as in a
violin recital. The same struggle of the beginner and the prowess of the
virtuoso can be observed in the performer or player of the instrument.
The marionette can be created as a precision instrument truly worthy for
its craftsmanship to rest with other quality instruments.  The argument
that marionettes are toys is truly spurious, as toys of musical
instruments- from violins to pianos to synthesizers- abound. To say all
musical instruments are toys, and all marionettes are as well, is akin
to portraying a Stradivarius as a novelty doorstop and a Rose marionette
as a fly catcher.

Making the marionettes produce sound as well is intriguing, but could be
distracting, if it is not in tune to the music that is already there.

Best wishes!
Terri Klingelhoefer
Stuck in an ivory tower to avoid the floods in the midwest.
Primary Player
Klingel-Engle Puppets
7251 West State Rd 46
Ellettsville IN 47429
812-876-3540 land line
812-325-9326 cell
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