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Review: Tank Drama and Who is Pulling the Strings?

D. Eric Bookhardt on two shows at the Contemporary Arts Center



No one needs to be reminded that Hurricane Katrina still haunts us. Like an uninvited guest that never really leaves, telltale traces of its presence continue to crop up. In the art world, there are the inevitable Katrina shows, but the good news is that the nature of these expos has gone from grim to whimsical over the years as the healing process continues. Tank Drama: Deliberations from The Wet Grave sounds morbid but features a wide array of art and artists with some of the freshest perspectives coming from some of the lesser-known names. Babette Beaullieu's Sacred Trails installation (pictured) employs storm refuse refashioned into an altarlike structure housing ghostly objects. Framed in white petticoats, it serves as a backdrop for shimmering projections of spectral dancers that arise and vanish like charged memories. This ties together a very miscellaneous show that ranges from Kristen Struebing-Beazley's Katrina's Closet: A Floating Funerary Repository of Calaverian Vanities to the Bureau of Change's Here/Home, described as a "menagerie of objects selected from cultural centers" that signify different area ethnic groups' localized identification with place. Although diffuse, the show itself is really about just that, how our sense of self is rooted in our sense of home.

  On a lighter note, the piquant joys of childhood are evoked in ways that adults can appreciate in the Who is Pulling the Strings? show featuring the puppetry art of locally active troupes including Calliope Puppets, Mudlark Puppeteers, Scary Toesies and Red String Wayang Theatre. But the star of the ground-floor extravaganza is puppeteer Panacea Theriac (aka Miss Pussycat), who appears daily in person as part of a residency during which she is creating 100 puppets besides the ones on display. In her workshop, she recreates the world of human foibles that puppets embody, and we can only wish that our own human foibles were as deftly and expertly managed. — D. ERIC BOOKHARDT

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