Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness
Walking through the new show of photographs by South African photographer Zanele Muholi serves as a fascinating exercise in social behavior. As you blatantly stare at self-portraits of the visual activist (who uses gender neutral pronouns), they stare right back at you — and, unlike you, they don’t blink. This defiant game of chicken is intentional. In 76 stunning black-and-white portraits, Muholi asks viewers to consider the blackness of their skin (enhanced post-production and sometimes accented with lips painted white), to absorb the history embedded within, to not look away from our own preconceptions. In several portraits, Muholi uses day-to-day materials to create crowns, heavy neck plates, hats and hair. Cleaning products, such as scouring pads, latex gloves, clothes pins and vacuum tubes, all stand in as glamorous adornments underwritten with domestic servitude. Computer cables, pop-can pulls and bicycle tires suggest capitalism and exploitation, while cowrie shells and strawlike wigs make a point about exoticizing African bodies. This technique skates on a thin edge of amusing — it's almost funny to see the artist sporting a wooden stool as a headpiece, were it not for the historical context. Throughout it all Muholi looks straight at us with those unflinching, wide-open eyes. “Yes?” they seem to say. And also: “I see what you see when you see me.” –B.D.
If you go: Hail the Dark Lioness at Seattle Art Museum, through Nov. 3. ($20-$30)
Mueller Report Live: a 24-hour marathon reading
Perhaps you remember the Mueller Report? Released in April, the 448-page document contains the findings of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into allegations of tampering in the 2016 presidential election. Rather famously brushed off by Attorney General William Barr, the heavily redacted report is getting some renewed attention as citizens across the country stage live readings to inform the public of its full contents. One such reading is happening at Town Hall Seattle, where some 100 local actors, writers, directors, producers and other arts-inclined folks have volunteered to read the report verbatim in a 24-hour marathon. No ad libs, no asides, no dance numbers during the lengthy redactions, just an honest recitation of a crucial part of our nation’s historical record. Drop by any time during the 24-hour period, or pop in virtually via the live stream on Town Hall's website. Either way, you'll witness a captivating exercise in democracy. –B.D.
If you go: Town Hall Seattle, July 19-20, 8 p.m. - 8 p.m. (Free)
Moon landing commemorations
Saturday marks the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, so pull on your bounciest boots and moonwalk to one of the many commemorations of the occasion. The expansive Destination Moon exhibit continues at the Museum of Flight, while Pacific Science Center screens Apollo 11: First Steps Edition, the IMAX documentary featuring newly discovered video and audio. But if you’re seeking something a little more far out, consider the Salish Sea Anti-Space Symposium. This sometimes-joking but seriously provocative event challenges the hold billionaires have on current space exploration by convening other perspectives. Speakers include Seattle Black Panther Party co-founder Elmer Dixon, who questions the “misplaced government priorities” of the space race, when so many Americans go without health care or education; local artist/performer Meghan Elizabeth Trainor, who presents a case that witches were involved in the moon landing; and comedian Emmett Montgomery, who argues for exploration of other spaces, including the Gum Wall at Pike Place Market. Of course if none of that suits you, just look up and appreciate la bella luna. –B.D.
If you go: Destination Moon: Museum of Flight through Sept. 2. ($10 on top of general admission). Apollo 11: First Steps Edition: Pacific Science Center IMAX theater through July 31. Times vary. ($6.75-$10.75). Salish Sea Anti-Space Symposium: Pipsqueak Gallery (an “anarchist hangout” in the Central District), July 19-21. (Free)
Capitol Hill Block Party
Capitol Hill is aliiive, with the sound of muuu-sic! Well, maybe not that kind of music. Though who can say what the singing Von Trapps might’ve thought of the musical acts at this year’s Capitol Hill Block Party? Surely they would appreciate headlining rapper Lizzo’s mad skills on the flute. And when jazzy Seattle band Breaks and Swells sings “We Will Not Despair,” aren’t they essentially channeling Maria’s determination to think only of “My Favorite Things” when times are tough? What we can be sure of is a killer lineup that includes plenty of local favorites, including The Black Tones (read our interview), bilingual post-punk rockers Tres Leches and alt-soul songstress Whitney Mongé. And that will bring us back to Do. –B.D.
If you go: Capitol Hill Block Party, July 19-21 ($75-$220)
Timothy White Eagle: Songs for the Standing Still People
Amid the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture’s expansive yəhaw̓ exhibit of works by indigenous creatives stands a circular room. But instead of walls, the space is set off by a circular curtain of metal ball chains, similar to those used for military dog tags. At the center stands a log with a stone placed on top. On the south side, an opening in the chain serves as an invitation. It’s the work of Seattle performance artist Timothy White Eagle (White Mountain Apache), who says his installation Songs for the Standing Still People is a “secular sacred space” that recalls the way ancestors connected with the natural world — such as singing among the rocks and trees, and awaiting their reply. Visitors are encouraged to walk the interior circumference while dragging their hands along the chains, causing a jangly noise. Sound is paired with sensation and movement, creating space for meditation. This weekend Eagle is staging a talk and performance within the space, and the audience is invited to join in the noisemaking and reconnect. –B.D.
If you go: ARTS at King Street Station, July 20 at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. (Free)
The Year of Magical Thinking
Joan Didion’s memoir by the same title explored, in frank detail, the process of mourning she went through after the sudden, fatal heart attack of her husband and longtime writing collaborator, John Gregory Dunne. The bestselling book won the National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize nomination, among other awards. Didion’s play adaptation delves into the same examination of grief, extended to include her daughter Quintana Roo, who died of illness after the memoir was published. It’s a sensitive subject, but one Didion tackles head-on with her famously keen level of observation and intellect. The actress playing the author, in this solo performance, is surely up to the job: Suzanne Bouchard, a much appreciated Seattle thespian who has shone in so many shows at ACT and other area playhouses. Another veteran local theater hand, Victor Pappas, directs. –Misha Berson
If you go: The Year of Magical Thinking at ACT Theatre, July 19 - Aug. 11, times vary. ($27-
The Narrative: Don’t Teach Me no Nonsense
“Hip-hop is culture. It’s not monolithic,” Jace ECAj is saying on the eve of premiering his theatrical, multidimensional ode to the cultural mainstay that is hip-hop. Jace and his creative collaborator Felicia Loud are the artistic performance powerhouse known as Black Stax. Tonight, the duo unveils The Narrative: Don’t Teach Me no Nonsense, billed as a dramatic and musical commentary on the devolution of hip-hop. Which is what, exactly? Says Jace: “You go to college, they’re teaching hip-hop. But they’re only talking about the music. They’re not talking about the foundation and the intelligence. They’re leaving certain parts out.” In other words: hip-hop is polylithic and, to that end, The Narrative will weave live music with dance and a cast of characters including a mother, a son, a DJ and a wanderer. With DJ Sean Malik and the Staxin’ Playas. Word. –Florangela Davila
If you go: The Narrative: Don’t Teach Me no Nonsense at Neptune Theatre, July 18 at 8 p.m. (Free with RSVP)