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Minnesota author Tim O'Brien looks back at making of PBS's 'The Vietnam War'

Don Shelby (left), Lynn Novick and Tim O'Brien/photo courtesy of TPT

"The Vietnam War," the 18-hour documentary about the divisive conflict, concludes with an excerpt from Minnesota author Tim O'Brien's collection of short stories, "The Things They Carried," a decision that one key player fought against.

"I hate watching myself on television," said O'Brien, who appeared Wednesday night at his alma mater, Macalester College, along with "War" co-director Lynn Novick, for a public forum hosted by former WCCO anchor Don Shelby.

Novick, who partnered with Ken Burns, said the Worthington-raised veteran was a key reason the film resonated with the millions of viewers that helped make it one of the most viewed programs in PBS history.

"I didn't think about this until just now, but Tim was the first person we talked to when starting with the project," she said backstage, shortly before the panel discussion. "Ending it with him seems very fitting."

Despite his reservations about being on camera, O'Brien said he was honored to be among the roughly 100 people interviewed for the project. He praised Novick and Burns for doing their homework before chatting with veterans from both sides of the war.

"I took classes at Harvard, and talking to Lynn and Ken was like taking an advanced seminar," he said.

O'Brien also participated in a discussion on campus Thursday with Macalester professor and Booker Prize winner Marlon James.

Twin Cities' 5 must-see art shows this weekend

Above: Edgar Heap of Birds’ “Nuance of Sky #1, Neuf series”

CLOSING THIS WEEKEND

Edgar Heap of Birds

Bockley Gallery  (2123 W 21st Street, Mpls 55405)

Closes Oct 21

When artist Edgar Heap of Birds arrives to a new city for an exhibition, he thinks about how he can honor the place and the indigenous people who live there. In his newest self-titled solo exhibition at Minneapolis’ Bockley Gallery, Heap of Birds showcases art spanning his long career, from text-based conceptual pieces produced in the 1980s and ’90s, to abstract paintings from his colorful 2012 Neuf series. Then there’s the new signage series titled “Native Hosts for Minnesota” (2017). “Native Hosts” incorporates three large-scale signs, each with white background and light blue letters. One spells out: “ATOSENNIM” (that’s Minnesota spelled backward) with smaller text below that reads: “TODAY YOUR HOST IS BDE MAKA SKA,” a reference to the renaming of Lake Calhoun. Read more about Edgar Heap of Birds’ exhibition here: http://www.startribune.com/new-bockley-gallery-show-reflects-history-of-american-indians-in-south-minneapolis/446483793/

"Revival Field" by Mel Chin. Photo: Public Art Saint Paul.

ARTIST LECTURE

Mel Chin: “Revival Field Revisited”

University of St. Thomas (O’Shaughnessy Education Center Auditorium, 2115 Summit Ave., St. Paul)

Thurs., Oct 19 at 7 p.m.

This week, conceptual artist Mel Chin returned to the site of “Revival Field” at the Pig’s Eye Landfill in St. Paul for the first time in more than 20 years. Initiated in 1993, Chin’s project investigates environmental pollution and possible ways that plants could be used as “hyperaccumulators,” which means they would absorb heavy metal toxins and then the plants themselves would be harvested and incinerated. A collaboration between the artist, the Walker Art Center, City of St. Paul and state agencies, and research agronomist Dr. Rufus Chaney, Chin designed “Revival Field” used art as a way to test if this would actually work. The project itself is a 60x60 foot square with a circle inside of it, divided into 96 plots. Read more about “Revival Field” here, and come to the talk to learn more about it directly from Mel: https://walkerart.org/magazine/mel-chin-revival-field-peter-boswell-rufus-chaney-eco-art

Chin’s talk inaugurates Public Art St. Paul’s public lecture series.

OPENING

Works on Paper or Without by Miriam Karraker

White Page Gallery (3400 Cedar Ave S., Mpls 55407)

Fri., Oct 20 from 7-9 p.m.

Miriam Karraker, White Page Gallery’s recent writer-in-residence from June-August 2017, has emerged from her writerly cave to present her new piece, “Works on Paper or Without,” in collaboration with Alyson Coward’s Qxiz Editions. Through text, Karraker questions process, performance and creative labor. This event is one-night and one-night only! More info on this here Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/134381110524817/

SCREENING

“Kairos Dirt and the Errant Vacuum” at Bryant Lake Bowl

Thurs., Oct 19 at 7 p.m.; doors at 6 p.m.

Tickets: $6-$12 sliding scale

A circle of queer people living in a small Southern dystopian town that is hard to pin down feels like the 1980s but suggests something futuristic at the same time.  This is the setting for director Madsen Minax’s Kairos Dirt and the Errant Vacuum, where a gender-ambiguous kid, a queer lunch lady, a mystical mortician, a phone sex operator/astrologer/life coach, and many others cross paths and unite on their travels through dream states and alternate realities. As in his previous film, The Year I Broke My Voice (2012), in which variously gender-ambiguous characters have a shared communal experience — in this film, it was a queer adolescence —Kairos Dirt similarly situates a group of people on a journey that’s simultaneously revelatory and mind-altering. Minax stops into the Twin Cities on Thursday, October 19 at 7 p.m. for a screening at Bryant-Lake Bowl. Doors open at 6 p.m., and tickets go for $6-$12 (sliding scale). To buy tickets, click here. Read more about “Kairos Dirt and the Errant Vacuum” here: http://www.startribune.com/in-filmmaker-madsen-minax-s-kairos-dirt-every-hole-is-a-portal-into-another-dream/451169303/

Laure Prouvost, How to Make Money Religiously, 2014 (New Museum)

ONGOING

Laure Prouvost: They Are Waiting for You

Walker Art Center (725 Vineland Pl, Mpls)

Hours & pricing: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Fri.-Sat.; 11-5 p.m. Sun. & Tue.-Wed.; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Thu. $9-$14; free for 17 and younger, and for all Thursday evenings.

Exhibition runs through Feb 11, 2018

At the entrance of the French-born, Antwerp-based artist’s solo exhibition, there’s an outdoor table positioned indoors with two oranges on it. Outside on the patio, there’s an identical table with two similar oranges. The uncanny spell cast by this mirror reflection extends into the rest of the show. Journey through a darkened hallway with such objects as a glass of water and a loaf of bread perched on mini-shelves, all with accompanying, playful stream-of-consciousness signage. Eventually, viewers enter a waiting room, then a gallery where a video screens on repeat, reminding them that they are already six minutes late and time is not real — or at least not in the mind’s eye.

More info here: https://walkerart.org/calendar/2017/laure-prouvost

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