How We Work: An Interview with Nick Jirasek

February 5, 2014 · Print This Article

Guest post by A.Martinez

Nick Jirasek is a food artist and founder of underground food entity Guerrilla Smiles. He has worked with Tony Fitzpatrick, Links Hall, Redmoon Theater, Linda Warren Projects, Hauser Gallery, Ensemble Dal Niente, High Concept Laboratories, and more. Nick has a strong love of Malort and makes a mean pork shoulder. I got to ask him some questions about who he is, what he does, and his exciting presence in the arts scene.

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A.Martinez: What is your definition of a food artist and what you do?

Nick Jirasek: A food artist is one who uses primarily comestible materials to create, explore, or challenge ideas.  I work professionally in this capacity at exhibition openings, private events, the streets, house-parties, underground dinners, performances, pop-ups, talk-shows, and screenings.

Martinez: You are a self-trained- how did you develop your skills?

Jirasek: Immersion. There are seemingly unending resources, documentation, and wisdom surrounding food. Everyone wants to talk about it, wants to teach you the ‘right way to do it,’ to share the ritual of eating with you, the most authentic place to buy kielbasa, the healthiest diet, the ethical diet, the best place to eat carnitas. Once I had the feeling that being a food artist is what I wanted to do, I made it my entire life. Some of the learning has been traditional in cooking under trained kitchen professionals, but most of it has been in acute observation and guerrilla learning tactics. I’ll sound like a broken .FLAC if I say the internet has been a tremendous resource, so I’ll say it’s been invaluable. That of course means the usual suspects of e-books, Youtubes, and blog trolling, but also some harder to find fountains of information in more underground and illicit venues of the www. Once one is cognizant of basic technique, cultural/ethnic culinary tradition, and flavor pairing, is when some cooks then begin to hone their craft or get the fuck out; an Italian chef mastering the different regions of Italy, travelling to the Piedmonts to study centuries of tradition in Agnolotti, or a trade-school dropout in search of Tru. They begin to specialize based on their talents, their genealogy, and interests. But, I’m not interested in specializing my edible journey. I want to continually challenge the ideas and traditions of food while building a vocabulary of how to articulate that comestibly, socially, and literally.

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Martinez: Who and what is Guerrilla Smiles and how long has it been around?

Jirasek: Guerrilla Smiles started as a social project about 6 years ago; to simply spread smiles in unexpected places and unexpected ways that would serve to beautify our lives and the lives around us.

I was a worn-out, director of food and beverage at Chicago’s 4th tallest building, the John Hancock. I worked a ridiculous amount of hours. The dreams at night of P&L’s, and the commute home down Chicago on the 66 bus was the cherry on-top of the soul sucking sundae. One day someone at the Hancock had ordered what must have been nearly a hundred gold, helium filled balloons and thrown them in the loading dock after the party was over.  I grabbed all the balloons and walked down the street, handing a floating ball of gold to anyone and everyone that would take them. People like balloons, or maybe just the color gold more than I had thought. I was overrun by would-be gold-diggers by the time I made it to the McDonald’s on State street. At that point I walked to the middle of intersection and released the remaining bouquet of gold into the sky. Similar projects came in weeks following like cashing half my paycheck at the currency exchange in quarters and handing them out, then throwing them in the air and off bridges. Safety became an issue.

Around the same time my good friends Claire Molek and Erin Babbin were starting a gallery practice called Studio1020 (later theStudio and thisisnothestudio).  Building on the ideas put forth on the street, I pleaded with them to seize the opportunity of the ubiquitous gallery food & wine table.  The idea was simple; to mirror the displaying artists’ work aesthetically or thematically in comestible form. This way the dialogue of what the artist’s message was, was literally palatable and hopefully led to broaden and ease the discourse.  Through the past 5 years, a changing cast of cooking professionals, artists, and friends have helped carry on this mission from private dinners of 9 to public events of 900.

Martinez: The Break The Bread series focuses on your collaborations with visual artists at galleries around the city. How do you choose what artists and galleries with which you’re going to collaborate? Or do they choose you?

Jirasek: For the vast majority of gigs, the artist, gallerist, or curator approaches us. Guerrilla Smiles does not advertise, has no website, and uses social media sparsely as a means to communicate. That is to say, we truly relish our underground disposition. My time with Studio1020 afforded me a great opportunity to interact and network directly with interested parties, interesting artists, and share lots of ideas through food. It all started from there and kind of naturally branched out by word of mouth. I have, in special situations, approached artists I want to work with and am looking forward to doing so more in the near future, as well as producing independent original work.

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Martinez: What is the process of trying out new dish?

Jirasek: I kind of have an ongoing list of techniques, ingredients, serving vessels, equipment and ideas I’m waiting for the right opportunity to try. When it seems appropriate, I get to try out new stuff. In general, the basis for everything I make is a new dish as every exhibition or performance is new. There is some safety in knowing my control of flavor is adept, my technique is solid, but conversely an exciting trepidation in knowing that this dish has components I have done before, but altogether is completely new.

Martinez: What is the biggest revelation you’ve had about the way you work?

Jirasek: One needs to be aware of their work patterns and not sabotage their opportunities. I don’t like asking for help, and no one will ever work for me for free.

Martinez: Is shopping for ingredients an important part of your creative process?

Jirasek: Extremely. I devote at least an entire day to shopping for an event that can completely change the menu. The Green City Market is a staple and only occurs on 2 days of the week. But generally I go to local specialty stores and markets that take me from 113th to Skokie. This process of traveling all around the city, of breathing in the lifeblood of our diverse culture, of interacting with ethnicities whose only commonality with me is Chicago and food, is probably my greatest inspiration. It’s not dissimilar to the interaction I have with people on the night of an event. Most ‘food people’ will disagree with me on this, but I’m less interested in the local food movement and more interested in small, local family businesses, and traditions in Chicagoland.

Martinez: What is your favorite ingredient to work with?

Jirasek: Celery or Popcorn.

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Martinez: Guerrilla Smiles has a dish called Oak Street Beach. Describe this dish and how it came about.

Jirasek: Oak Street Beach started as dish for a thisisnotthestudio show featuring artist Xiao Tse at High Concept Laboratories. Tse took upwards of a thousand pictures from the concrete pavement of Oak St. Beach’s shore, facing the lake and narrowed it down to one piece that combined around twenty of the most discerning shots. It is essentially a deconstructed soup, with the broth held separately so as not to affect the aesthetic and textural integrity of the dry ingredients. The dry ingredients are held in a ten ounce clear plastic glass. The sand is a combination of ground peanuts, cashews, and maltodextrin.  The grass is julienned wild ramps. The trash is a candied ginger chip. The fish is a rice flour fried smelt. The towel is a soy and turmeric based spring roll wrapper. The wet ingredients are suspended above in a fitting five ounce plastic glass, rimmed with suntan lotion that is garlic mayo. The Lake Michigan water is a kombu dashi. The eater is instructed to take a small mouthful of the dry ingredients and wash it down with a swig of the wet ingredients, going back and forth in a double fisted affair like they are swimming, until they are finished.

The service of Oak St. Beach was very much so inspired by a dish put forward by Michael Carlson of Schwa at Redmoon Theater’s Spectacle Lunatique 2011 called “Walking Through the Forest.”

Martinez: You were born and raised in Chicago and this has a strong influence on the food you make. Are there any other cities or cultures that you either look to for inspiration or are inherent in your work?

Jirasek: I think Mexican food simply got everything right. We obviously have a large population of Mexican-Americans in Chicago, and benefit greatly from the cornucopia of ingredients, flavor, and culture they have imbued upon us. Aside from that, I took great inspiration from my time cooking in Panama City, whose flavors are a great amalgamation of the diverse foreign cultures who have occupied the area and the local flora and fauna. I look forward to delving into historical American First Nation culinaria as a geographical inspiration, and look forward to marrying Filipino and Czech food with acidic flavors.

Martinez: Food-wise, what do you think are some exciting places or events happening around the city?

Jirasek: I think The Plant in The Back of the Yards is going to be a blueprint for metropolitan farming worldwide. Asado Coffee’s recent expansion plans and concept of ‘nano-roasting’ is next level. Smalls BBQ is the kind of approachable, forward thinking neighborhood restaurant that Chicago has lacked to put it on the level of NYC. Floriole’s baguettes are worth lining up for a la Paris when they come out fresh at 11am everyday. Three Aces is what every gastropub should strive to be. I also think we’ll see a boon in quality independent food writing like Graze, Middlewest and whatever Anthony Todd has up his sleeve.

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Martinez: What is your favorite Chicago-style food? And where’s your favorite place to get it?

Jirasek: Chicago’s hot dog is unmatched. Though not all the classic ingredients are included, Gene & Judes’ can’t be contended with because of the volume they go through and the freshness that entails, and fries like woah. Gotta go with underdog Chickie’s for beef because their giardiniera is only quickly cured and crunchier. Salerno’s for pizza because the true Chicago slice is thick crust and party cut.

Martinez: What does Guerrilla Smiles have lined up in the coming months?

Jirasek: In the great tradition of former Redmoon Theater Development Director Sean Kaplan, we will be curating the amuse-bouche portion of the upcoming fundraiser Spectacle Lunatique, outfitted Guerrilla style, primarily by the underground supper clubs of Chicago. We are in post-production for the next episode of our Break The Bread series with OnTheRealFilm for last year’s THAW fundraiser for Links Hall, as well as designing a menu for a soon opening southside cafe with one of Chicago’s champion contemporary artists.

Martinez: Is there a piece of advice, food-related or not that you think of often?

Jirasek: Don’t crowd the pan. When it rains, it pours. Be safe, be strong.

All photos courtesy of the artist.

A.Martinez is a freelance art and music organizer living in Chicago, IL.




Other Spaces: Shifter launch at MANA Contemporary

October 24, 2013 · Print This Article

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The latest issue of SHIFTER comes out this Friday with a launch at MANA Contemporary from 7-10pm, featuring lectures and performances by Simon Leung, Kelly Kaczynski and Zach Cahill, with a Cake Installation by Tara Lane. A Cultural Conversation with Alan and Michael Fleming on Saturday in case you want to sleep over. RSVP here.

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Shifter’s 21st issue, Other Spaces, considers the body as a site where architecture’s traditional polarities of private and public collapse. This polarity, mirrored in the distinctions we draw between individual and social freedoms and domestic and political action are challenged every day by spontaneous, collaborative re-imaginings of space.

In this issue artists, writers and critical thinkers reflect upon and imagine those other spaces that are coming to be and that are yet to be imagined in the social transformations of our present. While Other Spaces may appear to be an Atlas, it may just as well be read as a diary.

Number 21 features contributions from Jeremy Bolen, Luis Camnitzer, Tyler Coburn, Julia Fish, Beate Geissler & Oliver Sann, Sheela Gowda, Joanne Greenbaum, Tehching Hsieh, Kitty Kraus, Dan Levenson, Blank Noise, Alison O’Daniel, Sean Raspet, Blithe Riley, Jacolby Satterwhite, Greg Sholette & Agata Craftlove, Lise Soskolne, Mariam Suhail, and Josh Tonsfeldt.




Endless Opportunities: Work, play, write

October 19, 2013 · Print This Article

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1. Mills College is looking for an Assistant Professor of Painting and Drawing. Review of applications will begin October 30, 2013, and will continue until the position is filled.

The Department of Art and Art History at Mills College seeks a full-time, tenure-track Assistant Professor of Painting and Drawing to teach graduate and undergraduate level courses. An MFA degree or equivalent is required. Candidates must be practicing artists with strong exhibition records, capable of conceptual criticism in all mediums including painting, sculpture, photography, video, intermedia, and new genres. They must be dedicated teachers and mentors at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Teaching will include undergraduate studio courses; therefore candidates must demonstrate proficiency in the technical as well as theoretical and historical aspects of their fields. Full-time faculty must also advise students, participate in curriculum development, and serve on department and college committees. To apply, please go to mills.interviewexchange.com. About Mills College
Mills College is located in the San Francisco Bay Area on 135 beautiful acres in the foothills of Oakland, California. Additional information about Mills College can be obtained on our website at www.mills.edu.

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2. RU & GALAPAGOS: NATURAL SELECTION – 6 MONTH RESIDENCY FOR NYC ARTISTS IN SWITZERLAND (DEADLINE: OCT 21ST, 2013). 

RU and Galapagos has partnered with IAAB, the International Exchange and Studio Program of the Canton of Basel, Switzerland, to each year offer an artist from New York City the opportunity to spend six months near Basel, in the Swiss countryside town of Riehen. In turn, RU supports a Swiss artist in NYC for 6 months. The studio is situated in one of the old estate buildings on the “Berowergut”, just next door to the Beyeler Foundation. When the barns located on the “Berowergut” have been renovated and the Kunst Raum Riehen has been installed, the old coach house at the back was converted into a two-storey live-in studio. The residency program is generously financed by private and public sponsors. The iaab offers a 700 square foot working and living space from January 1st to June 30th 2014, an allowance of $1,200 per month while in Switzerland to cover day to day living costs and a plane ticket to Switzerland with return to New York. In Switzerland the artist will also receive a ‘half tarif’ public transport card for all public transportation in Switzerland…and lots of chocolate! More info about iaab: www.iaab.ch

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3.Chicago Alternative Comics Expo (CAKE) 2014 is now accepting exhibitor applications; the application process will close on 11: 59 P.M. CST on December 15, 2013

Starting Tuesday, October 15th, CAKE will be accepting artist’s exhibitor applications for the 3rd Annual Chicago Alternative Comics Expo.  The event is a unique opportunity for artist exhibitor’s to showcase and sell their art and last year’s event hosted over 200 exhibiting artists, attracted over 2,000 attendees and featured award-winning comics guests such as Chris Ware and Phoebe Gloeckner. CAKE’s 2014 event will take place on Saturday, May 31st and Sunday, June 1st at the Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted Avenue. Confirmed special guests include Mexican cartoonist Inés Estrada and Chicago native Anya Davidson, with more announcements to come. All applications will be reviewed by a jury and applicants will be notified of the jury’s results by January 20th via email. A guide to the 2014 Exhibitor Application process can be found here: http://www.cakechicago.com/2809/a-guide-to-our-2014-exhibitor-application/

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4. High Concept Laboratories announces THE LIVING LOOP PERFORMING ARTS FESTIVAL APPLICATION:

We are accepting applications for performers and performances wishing to be considered for participation in a new festival to take place in the Loop, in the Summer of 2014. A $500 stipend and extensive visibility will be provided each of the 12 participating performances. The mission of the festival, presented by Chicago Loop Alliance and High Concept Laboratories,  is to showcase Chicago’s diverse performing arts community in the heart of the city. The event will showcase a dynamic series of weekly performances in site-specific locations throughout the Loop. We’re looking for exemplary performers and performances to participate in this one-of-a-kind inaugural festival, featuring one performance each week for a total of twelve weeks June-August 2014. Visit the website for more information. The deadline for submissions is January 1st, 2014.

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5. Call for writing via Gaga Stigmata:

After nearly four years of intensive critical-creative output and interaction with popular culture, Gaga Stigmata, in its current journal incarnation, will be coming to an end at the strike of midnight on January 1, 2014.

In these final months, we are requesting submissions in the following three veins:

(1) Any new essays on Lady Gaga’s ARTPOP era

(2) New essays on any pop cultural phenomenon that manifests what we call a “stigmata effect” – that is, the blurring of lines between superstar and fan, between high and low art, between art and interpretation, between the “original” and the “copy.” In particular, we are interested in essays about about Miley Cyrus, Kanye West, Jay-Z, Ke$ha, Lana Del Rey, and Katy Perry, but you are not in any way limited by this list.

Additionally, we are also seeking essays that explore new pop cultural phenomena such as the aesthetics of new media forms (e.g. Twitter, Tumblr, YouTubers, .gifs, Vines, Instagrams, etc.)

We are also interested in essays that explore manifestations of the stigmata-esque intersection of the “art world” and the “pop world” in contemporary culture.
(3) Any essays about Lady Gaga that have previously been published elsewhere. (We would like to create a one-stop on-live archive of the best Lady Gaga scholarship and creative criticism ever published; we will of course give credit to the original source of publication).

You are welcome to write traditional essays, and/or to use a creative-critical format for your work. Youtube videos, photoshopped images, memes, and .gifs can all feature in your work. You are also welcome to submit more than one piece during this final incarnation of the journal, after which the journal aspect of the project will move into an archival stage. More info here.

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6. If you’re curious about how futures trade, check out Pocket-Guide-to-Hell’s latest reenactment at The Chicago Board of Trade on Sunday, October 20th at 3pm:

THE PIT is a free and fun site-specific performance that uses costumes, props, music-and you-to tell the story of commodities trading and the futures markets in Chicago. THE PIT combines a scene from Frank Norris’s 1903 novel The Pit, about an attempt to corner the wheat market, with the form of a sports event, an idea from Bertolt Brecht. Play-by-play announcer Alex Keefe (WBEZ) and color commentators Tim Samuelson (City of Chicago cultural historian) and Mike Gorham (economist at IIT) narrate the frenzied trading in the PIT. Reporter Niala Boodhoo (WBEZ) interviews traders and members of the public alike as the corner in wheat collapses. With marching band music by Justin Amolsch and concession-based commodities by Maggie Hennessy. And the national anthem sung by L. Wyatt. And 1890s commodities traders played by volunteers from SlowFood Chicago, Northwestern University Press, Paddy Long’s, Public Media Institute, Civic Lab, Archeworks, MAKE magazine, the Hideout, and Architecture for Humanity. The PIT is part of the Chicago Architecture Foundation Open House event and has been co-planned by Ingrid Gladys Haftel. More on that here.

7. Speaking of reenactments — consider Town Bloody Hall: 

 

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Endless Opportunities: Here, There, and Anywhere

July 7, 2013 · Print This Article

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1. Co-Prosperity’s Artist-run School is still open, but the new semester starts on the 8th (aka tomorrow) so waste no time.  visit http://coprosperity.org/co-prosperity-school/ 

2. Apply to be a Sponsored Artist – High Concept Laboratories; deadline for applications is on July 15th

HCL’s Sponsored Project Program is designed to promote the growth of artist and their work through the donation of customizable, no-cost support services including;Projects are chosen three times a year and last for a period of up to four months. Each season is curated to represent emerging and established artists from a range of artistic disciplines. We sponsor three paths of development based on different intentions for the end-result of the project. Get the scoop here.

3. Submissions are now open for the 7th Annual Mono No Aware exhibition, to take place December 6th & 7th, 2013 at LightSpace Studios in Brooklyn, NY.  Open to all artists; filmmakers, performers, poets, musicians – who incorporate Super 8mm, 16mm, 35mm or altered light projections as part of a live performance, installation, sculpture or expanded cinema presentation. Details here.

4. Project Anywhere : Deadline for proposal submissions for our 2014 program is September 1, 2013.

Project Anywhere is an expanded exhibition model encompassing the entire globe (and beyond) in which the role of curator is replaced with the type of peer review model typically endorsed by a refereed journal. Emphasizing artistic projects situated outside conventional exhibition contexts, Project Anywhere is dedicated to the promotion of advanced artistic practice at the outermost limits of location-specificity.

Project Anywhere endorses a two-stage peer review system comparable with the journal-based paradigm for assessing the quality of research outcomes in the arts. Accordingly, Project Anywhere is designed to suit artist academics working anywhere in the world who are seeking independent peer validation and international web-based dissemination for practice-based research.

Please send proposals (as an attachment) to projectanywhere@gmail.com.

Your proposal should include the following:

1. Title of proposed project.
2. Location(s), date(s) and duration for proposed project (this can be updated later).
3. A detailed project proposal clearly stating the project’s potential for creating new knowledge (please refer to the peer review guidelines at www.projectanywhere.net).
4. Images, files (under 8mg in total) and links can be included where appropriate.

NB: To be eligible for the first stage of our peer review process, it is imperative that ALL name and contact details are removed from the actual proposal document (and accompanying materials). Contact details should be included in the body of the email only. Any submissions that do not conform to the above criteria will NOT be sent out for peer review. Please note that Project Anywhere does not provide project funding nor expect exclusive hosting rights. Accordingly, we welcome multi-partnered and collaborative projects and/or projects that are hosted by other arts institutions seeking blind peer-validation. more here.

5. Sheila Heti (author of “How a Person Should Be” among other things) has recently put out an open call, inviting enthusiasts to fill out a questionaire about women in clothes:

THROUGH CONVERSATIONS, INTERVIEWS, ESSAYS, SURVEYS, DIAGRAMS AND DRAWINGS, AND WITH CONTRIBUTIONS FROM A WIDE RANGE OF WOMEN, INCLUDING ESTABLISHED WRITERS AND ARTISTS LIKE MIRANDA JULY, ZADIE SMITH, ROXANE GAY, SARAH NICOLE PRICKETT, RIVKA GALCHEN AND EILEEN MYLES, WOMEN IN CLOTHES WILL EXPLORE THE MULTIPLICITY OF MOTIVES THAT INFORM HOW WOMEN DECIDE TO PRESENT THEMSELVES, AND WHAT STYLE MEANS...IF YOU’D LIKE TO PARTICIPATE IN THIS BOOK, PLEASE FILL OUT THE DOWNLOADABLE SURVEY AND SEND IT BACK TO US. THE BOOK IS BEING BUILT PRIMARILY FROM THE ANSWERS TO THESE QUESTIONS. YOU NEEDN‘T BE A WRITER, OR CONSIDER YOURSELF FASHIONABLE, OR CARE ABOUT CLOTHES OR STYLE, TO PARTICIPATE. ALL AGES, NATIONALITIES, ETC. WELCOME. MEN, TOO. WE ARE STILL ACCEPTING CONTRIBUTORS. more info here.

6. Special shout out to Chicago Artist Writers, Frieze writer’s prize for up-and-comers, the closing date for entries is 22 July 2013.

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Frieze Writer’s Prize is an annual international award to discover and promote new art critics.  Entrants must submit one unpublished review of a recent contemporary art exhibition, which should be 700 words in length. Entries must be submitted in English, but may be translated (this must be acknowledged). Entrants must be over 18 years of age. To qualify, entrants may only previously have had a maximum of three pieces of writing on art published. The winning entrant will be commissioned to write a review for frieze and will be awarded £2,000. Entries should be emailed as a word attachment to writersprize@frieze.com. Please do not send images. go here!

 

 




Top 5 Weekend Picks? Nope, but they have potential…

March 25, 2011 · Print This Article

Ok, so somehow this week devolved into madness, and here I am, to do a last minuet post for my weekly top 5. Being slightly indisposed at the moment, the top 5 pick is being scrapped this week for a longer list of: “Well, it looks like it has potential…” Enjoy!

Friday:

LIKE A ROCK: Tony Balko and Olivia Ciummo at ACRE Projects (1913 W 17th St) Reception 6-9pm.

Snowblind: Alex Blau at Firecat Projects (2124 N. Damen) Reception 7-10pm.

Launch of johallaprojects.com/ARTISTS at Johalla Projects (1561 N Milwaukee) Party from 7-10pm.

Drop It Like It’s Not at Murdertown (2351 N. Milwaukeee Apt #2) Reception 6-9pm.

Double Feature: The Art Dump at Post Family (1821 W. Hubbard S. Unit 202) Reception 7-11pm.

Saturday:

Anthotypes: John Opera at Andrew Rafacz Gallery (835 W Washington Blvd) Reception 4-7pm.

BYOB (Bring Your Own Beamer) Chicago at Archer Ballroom (3012 S. Archer Ave. Apt #3) Reception 7-10pm.

BLUE GLUE AND OTHER EXPLORATIONS: Mara Baker at Happy Collaborationists Exhibition Space – (1254 N Noble St) Reception 6-10pm.

PSYCHA-BOBBLE: J. Thomas Pallas, Laura Davis, David Leggett and Elisa Harkins at High Concept Laboratories (1401 W. Wabansia) Reception 7pm-midnight.

Nobody to Have Any Fun With: Mac Katter, Dylan Cale Jones and Vanya Schroeder at SÃ¥ Gallery (2150 S Canalport Ave #4A-10) Reception 7:30-10:30pm.

WORK IN THE WOODS from SCARCITY asks, “IS THIS YOU, WANT?”: G. Vincent Gaulin at Spoke (119 N Peoria St.) Performance 6-8:30pm.

Sunday:

Zombie Apocalypse: Kimberly MacAulay, Anna Vlaminck, and Eric Cronin at Black Cloud Gallery (1909 S. Halsted St) Reception 6-10pm.

Eyeball Witness: Suitable Video Vol. 2 at Roots & Culture (1034 N Milwaukee Ave.) Screening at 7pm. $5.