-- Long before the Blue Man Group took over the Fisher
Theatre on May 1st, 2012 for its current run til May 13th, 2012,
gracing Detroit's Art Deco masterpiece with their Dadaist antics,
we had a work of art from another time, WWI, Otto Dix's “Self-Portrait
with Carnation” at the Detroit Institute of Arts, probably
the most important work of art ever present in Michigan. The work
shows the youthful courage of an artist who fought for his native
Germany in WWI and whose art Hitler displayed in a degenerate
art show after his rise to power in 1933, a show replicated in
Chicago back in the 90s – as a way to expose the absurd
stupidity of censoring art – that I took Amtrak to go see.
(Mitt, if you get elected, you better keep Amtrak, too; or I will
talk trash to your wives about you!) Dix wanted to do right by
his country and fought for it– little did that matter to
the insane ingrate and wannabe artist Adolph who would probably
have killed Dix during WWII had Otto not promised to only paint
nice landscapes – a promise he did not keep. Bad Otto –
bad, bad! LOL!
European artists fought for their respective nations in WWI, too,
and many died in No Man's Land – the land between the trenches.
Some fled to neutral Switzerland and formed the Dada art movement
in Zurich, highlighting the absurdity of Modern Man, and his penchant
for war. They gave live art performances at the Cabaret Voltaire,
named after the French author of Candide, a timeless
classic of world literature. Read it between updates of your status
message. You can thank me later.
Duchamp is probably the most famous Dada artist. He was the one
who moved to New York City and displayed an upside down urinal
as a work of art. The work of art caused ripples of shock and
dismay across the art world, causing fundamental change in what
was considered art. Duchamp's “Fountain” has inspired
many artists of Duchamp's posterity, including myself. Duchamp
once said, "Artists of all times are like gamblers of
Monte Carlo, and this blind lottery allows some to succeed and
ruins others . . . Everything happens through pure luck. Posterity
is a real bitch who cheats some, reinstates others . . . and reserves
the right to change her mind every fifty years.”
Dadaism, there could be no Blue Man Group. Unlike the Blue Man
Group, Dada performances did not go viral. They did not hire performers
to stand in their stead and do Dallas (Super Bowl XLV), Detroit,
Dresden, Dunkirk, Dubai, Denver, Dubuque, Dover, Dushanbe, Durban,
and Dakar. Dada's influence has been acknowledged by Otto Dix,
David Bowie, Devo, Symbolism, Surrealism, The Ultra-Renaissance,
and countless other artists and art movements.
are masters of mimed comedic timing, as well as the timing of
their drumsticks. They also skillfully incorporate the crowd's
energy and spontaneous attempts at humor with the aplomb of Charlie
Chaplin, making them all the more adorable. Detroit drank them
up like a tall glass of iced limeade. I wanted to resist and harken
back to the days of Tristan Tzara peeing on the stage of the Cabaret
Voltaire, but the dazzling colors and polished performances of
the entire Group was flawless. Perfect like a cold can of Classic
a good time, and I highly recommend the experience, despite it
being a bit canned, standardized like a can of President Obama's
favorite food: Suharto's Poodle Noodle Soup.
started off with three electric banner display signs telling the
audience to pee now or forever hold your bladder and to yell on
cue. Cute, but canned. I don't like being told what to do. Part
of being the son of a Detroit police officer, I think. But most
of the audience was yelling on cue as happily as Porky Pig wallowing
in the mud, so I guess I am way off base there. So, shoot me.
Man Group referenced a few dead white artists like Yves Klein,
the creator of a blue pigment called International Klein Blue
(IKB). In fact, the three Blue Men who executed the show were
very close to IKB in color. In one skit, a Blue Man vacuumed Christina
off the landscape of Andrew Wyeth's American masterpiece “Christina's
World; it was funny, but also a bit eerily apropos. The real Christina
had polio, I just learned, by the way, while researching this
review. She was Mr. Wyeth's neighbor in Maine. That was why she
was not on her feet in the painting.
I am glad
the Blue Man Franchise is providing a good source of income for
the three founders – much like Hilton Hotels provides income
for Paris, who can live the good life – and it provides
employment for a lot of people who would otherwise probably lead
rather mundane lives, devoid of neon blues, groovy greens, and
rapturous reds – candy for the cones of their eyes and our
welcoming eyes, to boot. The joy the Blues brought to Detroit
was real, don't get me wrong. Dostoyevsky once said the definition
of Man is that he has two legs and is ungrateful. I just want
to point out the Group's limitations so other artists do not fall
into the same trap; so art lovers will realize that though the
Blue Man Group is definitely something to be experienced and enjoyed,
there is such a thing as art that does not come in a can –
albeit a beautifully-packaged performance – whose players
are virtually interchangeable and can occur simultaneously in
Detroit, Las Vegas, New York City, and Derby.
Man Group does not have a Brandon Inge whose plays at third base
cannot be made by any other mortal, or a Hugo Ball, the Dada artist
who wrote a book called Flight Out of Time: A Dada Diary.
But they do have giant blue balls they let the audience play with
-- that come with the canned jokes that are implicit with balls.
An Andy Warhol will never rise out of this Group.
them for what they are, but demand more of yourself when it comes
to performance and fine art. Go see Otto Dix at the DIA. Go see
“Starry Night” and “Christina's
World” at MOMA when you are in NYC and Van Gogh's self-portraits
and Grand Wood's “American Gothic” when you
are in Chicago.
Man Group is dazzling and fun, but they are not a destination;
they are a stop along the way. You will feel revived after you
see them – the three blue stooges of mime, percussion, and
IKB; and, after a bowl of poodle, ah, I mean, chicken noodle soup
when you get home, you might even be inspired to read a book.
Might I suggest something by Hugo Ball....or the 1924 Dadaist
play “Handkerchief of Clouds” by Tristan
Tzara, a great artist who went on to fight for the French Resistance.
prices for the Detroit engagement of BLUE MAN GROUP range from
$39-$89 (includes parking and facility fees) and are now on sale
at the Fisher Theatre box office and all Ticketmaster locations.
Tickets are also available for purchase online at www.ticketmaster.com
and by calling Ticketmaster at 1-800-982-2787.
'Beauty and the Beast' is entertaining at Detroit's Fisher Theatre