Archaelogists should have a laugh with "Relics," a clever piece of art that spoofs the discovery and interpretations of ancient totems. It runs through this weekend in the Guthrie studiio.
Part art installation and part loosely imagined drama, "Relics" would have us ponder our cultural impermanence and the real worth of our disposable trinkets.
It is the year 2314 and we are ushered through exhibits that purport to show what life was like back in 2014. Something called "The Great Wipe" had destroyed all life on Earth and these future historians are proving to this audience that there was once an advanced culture.
So, a skeleton fossil reveals the ear buds still hooked up to an ancient device we know as the iPod. A hooded sweatshirt, it was assumed, was worn with the hood in front, a "trough top" that can be filled with popcorn (now, that's actually not a bad idea).
Dumpsters in the 21st century are interpreted as personal cisterns as three actors do a riff reminiscent of Beckett's "Endgame." And the car brush/scraper so essential this time of year was understood by these researchers as a scrubbing utensil for humans. An actor demonstrates how "ancient peoples" used what we know as cake frosting as hand and body cream.
If "Relics" has any lasting impact, it will be to provoke a smile next time you walk through an exhibit like "The Dead Sea Scrolls" or "Tutankhamun." Just how do we really know that the ancient Egyptians used cosmetics made of clay?
Visual artist Nick Golfis deserves most credit for designing and building the life-sized dioramas and set pieces in the exhibit. Luverne Seifert narrates several scenes as a historical guide — wearing three pairs of glasses, a nice comic touch. Eriq Nelson and Elise Langer play musicians who fashion their sounds from pots, pans, muffin tins and spatulas.
Sarah Agnew, who appears briefly, and director Chantal Pavageaux helped conceive the event.
At 55 minutes, "Relics" is just about the right duration for what is a single joke churned many different ways. It lands quite lightly on the consciousness and evaporates by the next day.