Thurston Moore and KURT During Art Basel Miami Beach 2012

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Photo by Ian Witlen
Thurston Moore reading a poem "with Kurt in mind."
No one wrote "Kurt Smells Like Teen Spirit" on the wall.

Still, the Olympia Theater at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts reeked, ever-so-slightly and not-so-literally, of sweaty punk armpits, greasy faded flannel, and the sweet stink of grunge.

Last night, KURT, "a multi-discipline exhibition and study of the late Kurt Cobain," crept into the 86-year-old ex-movie palace for a short intense evening of film, dance, talk, poetry, and music from multidisciplinary contemporary artist Adarsha Benjamin, bad boy choreographer Ryan Heffington, and L.A. musician Guy Blakeslee, as well as actual friend-of-Cobain and indie icon Thurston Moore.

See also
-Thurston Moore Headlining KURT, a Multi-Discipline Exhibition, During Art Basel
-Fifteen Best Concerts During Art Basel Miami Beach 2012
-KURT with Thurston Moore: The 30-Photo Slideshow


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Courtesy of Adarsha Benjamin
A still from Adarsha Benjamin's short film KURT.

Like some kind of dream of a dream, KURT began with KURT, a beautifully elegiac 12-minute movie by Benjamin starring a Cobain look-alike who stumbles through a grainy Super-8 world, tearing up musical instruments in a musty basement while the cold, grey Pacific Ocean relentlessly crashes against the shores of the Northwest.

There were flashes of unwashed blonde hair, crooked smiles, dirty shoes, shadowy unknowns, and scrawled messages on stained drywall.

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Photo by Ian Witlen

Suddenly, with KURT ending, the screen was snuffed black as if the projector were being blocked by a human body. Then the movie screen silently retracted into the ceiling like a dark curtain, revealing five grunge kids in a heap at center stage. Maybe dead. Or maybe junk drunk.

This was Heffington's work, a strange and expansive dance adaptation of the "Smells Like Teen Spirit" video, starring five longhaired negative creeps, flannel-clad and squeezed into filthy torn tights or long thermal underwear.

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Photo by Ian Witlen

Heffington's dancers rose from the dead, only to be trapped in a dank, pitch-black, fake smoke-filled, unfurnished space. Like the set of Bertolt Brecht play about Gen X. Or yeah, the gym from Nirvana's "Teen Spirit" clip.

They were four brown-haired creeps. And an ambiguously gendered blonde, who woke up, spazzed out, and unbraided a rope of hair dangling through the middle of his/her totally unknowable face.

Together, like weirdo cheerleaders trapped under the bleachers, they twitched through finely choreographed seizures of angst and deep heroin nods while wracked with existential spasms, wrestling schizo demons to a soundtrack of ominous booms, gasps, moans, grunts, and guttural exhalations.

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Photo by Ian Witlen

That's when a shaft of light sliced through the darkness. And Blakeslee appeared, illuminated with his guitar.

He tore into a delicately distorted solo guitar piece, entrancing the grunge kid creeps. And after a few minutes of hypnotic riffage, he segued into a cacophony of looped axe samples, which slowly calmed and quieted, before bleeding through to a pair of hymn-like dirges as his vocals swerved between sarcastic sneer and operatic warble.

His final tune: "Prayer for Death."

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Photo by Ian Witlen

A drum kit was dragged out. The amps were shoved toward the edge of the stage. A sheet music stand was plopped down beside the microphone. And after a short intermission, Thurston Moore straggled toward the mike to introduce himself.

Tall and gangly and smiling with a guitar slung around his neck, he said, smirkingly: "Hey, I'm Thurston and I was born at the Coral Gables hospital in 1958."

He kept talking for about 15 minutes, delivering an informal and funny stream-of-consciousness spoken-word performance about growing up in Miami, meeting dirty hippie dudes in Coconut Grove as a kid, and getting his mouth violently washed out with soap by a gang of nuns.

"This is turning into a Henry Rollins kinda thing," Thurston snickered.

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Photo by Ian Witlen

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Gusman Center for the Performing Arts

174 E. Flagler St., Miami, FL

Category: General

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