A golden view (& a little history of Minneapolis)

A golden view
A golden view

So I’ve been a pretty good boy while here in Minneapolis, and have left my camera back at the B&B every day, focusing instead on important things like course prep. Yesterday, though, I gave myself one day of photography, focusing on St. Anthony Falls, the Mill District, the Mill City Museum, and the Guthrie Theater.

While I was in the Guthrie I made my first trip up to the 9th floor where the Dowling Studio is. The 8th and 9th floors are mostly for education and cutting edge work, and the architect felt that this called for yellow windows to ensure that the people working there always had a "sunny" view. I’m not sure I buy that argument, but I must say that they provide a really amazing view of the city, including this shot back across to the old Mill District and the great Gold Medal Flour sign. So the weird colors here aren’t my doing, and nothing in Photoshop, but are the result of shooting through several inches of yellow-tinted glass.

If you’ve been to the Guthrie, but never been up to the 9th floor, I definitely recommend it. To get there you have to catch an elevator at either the 4th or 5th floor (only staff can use that elevator to go to the 1st floor) and head up to the 9th floor. It’s totally cool to go there, because that’s how you get to the Dowling Studio, which is the third and much smaller theater at the Guthrie. I was there in the mid-to-late-afternoon, and the light was really interesting, but I suspect that it changes quite a lot all through the day.

In all my wandering around I also learned a ton about the origin of Minneapolis (which I’d known almost nothing about). I’d always assumed the Cities were here primarily because of the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers, but no! Minneapolis is all about the water power of St. Anthony Falls, the only waterfall of note on the entire Mississippi River. This initially powered sawmills which sliced up the northern forests into planks, and then drove the amazing flour milling industry that for 50 years made Minneapolis the largest producer of flour in the world.

Most of the old mills are gone, but there’s are bits of a few, including this old General Mills grain elevator and the shell of the adjacent mill that now houses the Mill City Museum.

Fascinating stuff, and a really fun day of taking photos.

Conveniently yesterday’s prompt from The Daily Shoot was

Make a photograph that features a sign of some sort today. Maybe a stop sign. Maybe an information sign. Or an advert.

Hey, I took a lot of photos of signs (many, in fact, of this wonderful Gold Medal Flower sign), so here you are.

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What can dance tell us about intellectual property? A lot, it turns out

How a casebolt and smith dance performance has a lot to say about intellectual property and re-appropriation.

As mentioned earlier, one of the really excellent performances we saw at the Minnesota Fringe Festival was casebolt and smith’s O(h).

While it’s really hard to describe and summarize such a complex performance, a section I particularly loved had them doing a somewhat traditional dance to a large chunk of the audio from the video below. The video is of an art installation by Nate Harrison where the viewer listens to the audio on an LP, where Harrison discusses how a drum break from the The Winston’s 1969 B-side “Amen, brother” (often referred to now as the “Amen break”) has been sampled, re-used, and deconstructed in hip-hop and commercial advertising. Harrison’s discussion is a really nice piece of cultural history and analysis, although I confess it was perhaps more compelling with casebolt and smith dancing at the same time.

It would have been interesting in its own right if casebolt and smith had simply danced with Harrison’s commentary. They took it up a notch, however, by following it up with a really interesting dance/discussion of how dancers use and re-appropriate moves and steps they learn in classes and see in performance, effectively “sampling” movements much like a hip-hop artist samples beats. She demonstrated various moves and styles, and he then grilled her about where she learned the moves, and on the appropriateness of re-using these moves without credit or payment. This quickly borders on the absurd, which is of course the point. The courts have allowed labels to charge for re-use of tiny fragments of recordings, where there are no such expectations in dance. Presumably a key piece of this is the ability to record (either on paper or as an audio recording) and distribute music, where dance can’t be recorded and copied in the same way.

In short, it was a cool, funny, intelligent performance. We had a great time, and highly recommend the show.

I found it really interesting to find that the YouTube version of the video above was in fact lifted from Harrison’s web site without his permission, although he says in the comments that he doesn’t care (search for “nkhstudio” in the full comments). So you have Harrison making a commentary on copyright and intellectual property, which is then appropriated by someone else and turned into a YouTube video. Then casebolt and smith use it in their performance, without ever telling us where that audio comes from, as a starting point for a great conversation about intellectual property. And while it’s possible they knew about the Harrison piece before it showed up on YouTube (Harrison was a friend from college for all I know), the odds favor them discovering the piece via YouTube, where it has over 2 million views.


  • Now I’ve listened to “Amen, brother” (a song I’d never heard of)
  • because of a dance performance
  • borrowing parts of an audio track
  • which I was able to find via Google
  • as a YouTube video
  • generated (without permission) from a video by a performance artist commenting on intellectual property and copyright
  • using as a springboard the extended and repeated use of a 6 second drum break from The Winston’s “Amen, brother” in hip-hop and advertising

What a wonderful example of how re-appropriation can enrich the world, especially if we worry less about profit and more about gain.

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