Wander, explore, illuminate together at this year’s Northern Spark


Northern Spark, the magical night each June when sections of the Twin Cities urban landscapes become the canvas(es) for large-scale, often interactive, ephemeral, and community-based art, is celebrating its 5th birthday this month. I am delighted to report that after hours of researching this years’ exhibits and acts, watching project videos, reading artist statements, etc, I have found very little in this years’ offerings that is not somehow captivating, compelling, and/or curious. If ever there was a summer night that justified an all-nighter for any adventurers or art-lovers, Northern Spark is it.


I couldn’t possibly say that some of these events will be better than others, nor am I interested in doing so. This is my own personal curated vision of what sounds especially delightful and resonates with my own interests. My best suggestion, in light of Northern Spark’s ability to break down traditional notions of art and the way we typically curate, interact with, and view art, is to read my suggestions (if you like) and then forget them entirely and find your own wandering way through your night at Northern Spark this year. This is a night for wandering and adventure and connecting; leave your structured time-oriented ways of being at home for one night and experience the fluidity of presence and being that we so infrequently allow ourselves. Consider not even picking up a guide, and just letting yourself be surprised and delighted by what you may find.


Here are my picks… in no particular order. Enjoy exploring!


1.Osama Esid, Still/Life/Syra (Mill Ruins Park, all night): Be sure to take a few moments to spend with Esid’s work, which will be projected onto Mill City Ruins’ crumbling walls, a visceral reminder of the frailty and temporal state of even our sturdiest stone structures. Esid’s work documents Syrian folks with honesty and nuance in a way that disrupts the simplistic, two-dimensional portrayals of refugees and “overseas conflicts” that we are constantly fed in the news media.

2. Julian McFaul and Mark Safford, The Night Library (Mill Ruins Park, all night): a temporary interactive maze library created with cardboard(!) is your own choose-your-own-adventure book in real life! Arming participants with only a book and flashlight, you will be tasked with saving the night from book censorship. This stop will surely be fertile grounds for adventure.

3. Dreamland Faces, Epics of the Toilers: Working Class Silent Films (Mill City): Dreamland Faces has long been a favorite act of mine, and their melancholy, dreamy and slightly unsettling sound feels like the perfect accompaniment to an evening of wandering art adventures.

4. Body Cartography, CLOSER, Park 1 (Mpls Convention Center): An interactive dance experience that pushes personal boundaries, socialized niceties and conventional ways of interacting, experience an opportunity to lean into discomfort with another human body. Nothing is required of you except to show up and experience. No dance experience required. 😉

5. Niko Kubota, Jon Reynolds, & Micah Roth, mini_polis (Mpls Convention Center, unveiled at opening): The small-scale model of the city of Minneapolis will be revealed at the opening of this years’ Northern Spark festival. Primarily created through community build workshops over the past few months, this is a special model, designed “by the people” and imbued, literally and figuratively, with the hopes and dreams of model participants for their city’s future.

6. Luke Savisky, E/x MN (W River Parkway, Gold Medal Silos, all night): an interactive projection project of epic proportions, this is not to be missed, either as viewer or participant. Explore notions of spatiality, self-perception, confinement, etc, as your face and body are projected onto silos in larger-than-life ephemerality over the Minneapolis night skyline.

7. Sumunar Gamelan, and Dance Ensembles, Klenengan, All-Night Gamelan Performance (Northrop, all night): An all-night music performance of traditional and contemporary Javanese Gamelan music, this sounds to be something close to an all-night jam session, Sumunar Gamelan style. Stop in any time and add your energy to the mix as an active audience member.

8. Jenny Schmid and Ali Momeni, Gutless Warrior (WAC, 9p-3a): You probably want to check this out. Green screens, masks, projections, audience participation, and archetypes are all active conceptual pieces being questioned and prodded in this project.

9. Witt Siasoco, Pop Collab Lab (WAC, 9p-12a): Another interactive, hands-on event, that involves projections! (You may be noticing my penchant for project/ors/ions…) Get inspired by Warhol and Basquiat’s collaborative pieces and jump into the art-making with Siasoco.

10. Mark Estlund, Shannon Estlund, Scott Hochhalter, and Nathan Lewis, Midnight Shadows (MCAD): the description of this event makes me feel even less clear and more curious about what it is. Referring to extra-dimensions, repressed memories, and looping dream/nightmare scapes, this one sounds like an enticingly full-sensory experience.

11. Revolver, The Dark Room (MCAD): The ultimate literary version of the Exquisite Corpse game. Tread bravely into the darkened exhibit and follow meandering stories collaboratively written by over 100 writers across the walls; the story lines are only illuminated by the black light flashlights you will be given at the door.

12. Tamsie Ringler, River of Iron: Pouring the MIssissippi (WAM lawn, throughout the night): Working through the night, one tributary at a time, Ringler will be doing a live iron pour that models the Mississippi river and all of its tributaries. Bringing attention to the critical importance of our water systems, Ringler draws the parallel of the importance of iron to our blood systems, as water is to our community.

13. Mary Ellen Childs, Ear and Nose (Northrop, Conference Room 106, all night): Childs’ unusual pairing of music and smells promises to be a unique sensory experience. Stop in here when your eyes are getting weary from overstimulation, and treat yourself to a sensory experience that lets your eyes relax into a back seat role

Northern Spark takes place in Minneapolis on Saturday, June 13th from 9pm until 5:26am (sunrise). Get plenty of rest and we’ll see you there!

For more information go to northernspark.org