A fun package of arts

Wham City mixes a little film, fashion, music and theater - and serves it up tomorrow at the Walters

February 22, 2007|By Sam Sessa | Sam Sessa,Sun Reporter

The colorful members of the Wham City art collective have one simple goal: To create fun art for their friends and themselves.

"From there everything else is delicious icing," said musician and Wham City member Dan Deacon. "The hearty cake is made of my friends. Friends cake."

The public can get a taste tomorrow night, when Wham City is at the Walters Art Museum's free Fridays at the Walters series. The event showcases the many sides of Wham City: film, music, theater and fashion.

Wham City was originally the name of a space in the Station North Arts District where about five artists and musicians lived, Deacon said. The group made movies, played concerts and held other events there - which attracted larger crowds from the city's artistic community.

Over time, more people joined the circle of friends, some moved out of the original living space, others moved in, and they changed locations. Now, Wham City has come to represent the community of artists and their fun, quirky projects.

Ultimate Reality, a three-piece film and music collaboration between Deacon and Jimmy Joe Roche, is one such effort. Deacon, an electronica artist, wrote music for himself and two percussionists.

Roche heard the pieces and created a psychedelic montage based on the films of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Vivid colors and patterns explode on screen, and then, suddenly, images of Schwarzenegger appear.

Tomorrow's presentation is the Baltimore debut of Ultimate Reality. When the third movement was shown at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington in late November, Roche came to an important conclusion.

"I realized that there was a lot of politics involved in the films, too, that I hadn't originally intended," he said.

Deacon and Roche grew up watching Schwarzenegger movies. Through his roles, the actor became a kind of mythological figure to them, they said. Now seeing Schwarzenegger as the governor of California adds a whole new political element.

"[It's] what the government of California could represent - which is fire, destruction, sex, magic, spiritual energy, transcendence and alien invasions," Deacon said. "A rebel force fighting this large monolithic evil is now part of that monolithic evil."

Another part of the showcase is a 15-minute absurdist play written and directed by Adam Endres tentatively titled A New Play. It centers on a traveler (played by Mason Ross) who happens upon a piece of property, and the landowner (Sean Blue) decides to enslave him.

"It's absurdist, so it doesn't really make sense what takes place - just like oppression," Endres said.

Wham City members Dina Kelberman and April Camlin will each present fashion designs at the show. Camlin will use human models, and Kelberman will use a still photo and animation video.

"I am not that into the regular fashion show format," Kelberman said. "I think it's not as fun. I like to try to make things a little weirder than what people are expecting."

Next month, Deacon and some other Wham City bands such as Video Hippos, Blood Baby and Santa Dads will go on the road for several weeks of shows around the country.

As Wham City continues to grow, its founders are still driven to create art, music and fashion primarily for themselves and their friends. But with the Walters gig and the coming tour, Wham City is more than willing to share.

"We're not making any money," Deacon said. "So we're clearly not doing it for the money. I don't think anyone's after glory. I think a lot of us have an internal need or desire to create."

Fridays at the Walters featuring Wham City starts at 6:30 p.m. tomorrow. Free. The museum is at 600 N. Charles St. For more about Wham City, go to whamcity.com.

To see clips from "Ultimate Reality," go to baltimore sun.com/whamcity.

sam.sessa@baltsun.com

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