To celebrate the 17th anniversary of its Fashion Resource Center, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago has put together an exhibit juxtaposing clothes from the center's collection with photographs and sound and video installations exploring what fashion means to society. A brown chiffon Prada gown and a black-and-white-checked Vivienne Westwood suit will share space with a video by Vincent Haq-Mastrionni in which he sews silk thread through his own hand. In another video, artist Robin Cline starts with a dirty joke about a gingham-clad farm girl and goes on to delve into the history of the fabric, which has Malaysian roots--who knew? Social Seduction opens tonight with a reception from 5 to 8 and a talk by the curators at 6:30. It's up through April 9 at the SAIC's Betty Rymer Gallery, 280 S. Columbus in Chicago. Admission is free; call 312-443-3703 or see www.artic.edu/saic.
There's very little science involved in SonicVision, a "digitally animated alternative-rock music show" that opens at the Adler Planetarium today--but who needs astronomy when you've got dancing aliens? Other visuals including fireworks and trippy special effects will play across the planetarium's 9,500-square-foot StarRider dome tonight, set to songs by the likes of Radiohead, Stereolab, the Flaming Lips, and Moby (who helped design the extravaganza). The 38-minute show screens Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30, 8:30, 9:30, and 10:30 at the planetarium, 1300 S. Lake Shore Dr. in Chicago. Tickets are $10; call 312-322-0548.
Chinese acrobatics like dagger juggling, stilt walking, and table-and-chair balancing developed some 27 centuries ago out of the ceremonial rituals of Taiwanese laborers. Later it became common for performers to exhibit their talents to travelers and traders along the Silk Road. These days the status of acrobatics in China is on a par with that of ballet in the West. Tonight the Chinese Golden Dragon Acrobats demonstrate the ancient art starting at 7 at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd. in Skokie. On Saturday and Sunday, February 28 and 29, there are shows at 2 and 5 PM. Tickets are $20, $16 for children 12 and under. Call 847-673-6300.
Milliner Eia Radosavljevic notes that traditional cocktail hats were close fitting for a reason: their modest size "made it easy to mingle at a crowded party, and the veiling combined with the smallness of the hats implied intimacy and romance." Today Radosavljevic, also an instructor at the Fashion Institute of Technology, leads The Hat: Haute Couture Sculpture, a workshop at the MCA. Participants will cover a buckram frame with fabric and learn to shape it using a few French couture techniques, then add a lining and trim to make their very own toppers. Materials are included in the cost, which is $90. It's from 10 AM to 3:30 PM at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago in Chicago. Call 312-397-4010 to register.
"Be there and be square" is the rallying cry for tonight's second annual Open End Barn Dance Apocalypse and Box Social. Besides lots of do-si-do-ing to music by the Golden Horse Ranch Square Dance Band, there will be beer, chili, and possibly a mechanical bull; organizers suggest dressing western. The hoedown starts at 7 and runs "until we all fall down" at Open End Gallery, 2000 W. Fulton, suite 310, in Chicago. There's a suggested donation of $5; call 312-738-2140.
Visitors to No Rights! The Injustices of Slavery, the Wheaton History Center's new interactive tour through the history of slavery in America, make their way through five stations--from capture in Africa and passage on a slave ship to a stop on the Underground Railroad. Created for school groups and already seen by thousands of kids, the 90-minute presentation is being offered to the public on Tuesdays at 7 and Sundays at 2 through March 30. The WHC is at 606 N. Main in Wheaton. Admission is $5 and reservations are recommended. Call 630-682-9472.
Dr. Clemens Reichel of the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute has been working to create a catalog of Mesopotamian antiquities missing since the looting of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad. "The database is intended less for a scholarly audience than for anyone who might encounter a stolen object from the Iraq Museum--from a customs official to a cleaning person working for an unscrupulous antiquities dealer," he says. His talk today, Counting the Losses 11 Months After the Iraq Museum Looting covers the extent of the damage to the museum's collection. Sponsored by the Chicago Archaeological Society, it starts at 3:30 PM in the community room at the Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington in Evanston. It's free; call 630-739-7255.
It's that night again, and you can hoot at the stars and groan at the speeches on the big screen at FitzGerald's Oscar Party, which will also include an Oscar ballot contest and a movie trivia quiz. There's no cover; doors open at 6 at FitzGerald's, 6615 W. Roosevelt in Berwyn. Call 708-788-2118.
How is a merlot from California different from a French Bordeaux? At the seminar Introduction to Red Wine, between sips of about ten wines from Italy, France, Spain, the U.S., Australia, and Chile, Fox & Obel wine director David Ohr will answer that and other questions about the differences between grape varieties and regional styles. Ohr's tip for a good spring and summer wine: Syrah, which he says goes well with barbecue. The tasting's from 6 to 7:30 PM at Fox & Obel, 401 E. Illinois in Chicago; it's $25, and participants get 10 percent off wine purchases the night of the class. To register call 312-379-0139.
In 15 years as a crime and breaking-news reporter, most recently for WGN radio, Doug Cummings has seen a lot of nasty things--he was first on the scene at the Brown's Chicken massacre. So there's realism to the gore of his first crime novel. In Deader by the Lake, fired TV investigative reporter Reno McCarthy is offered his job back if he can find a missing hooker who was about to spill the beans about an escort service managed by the Outfit. Cummings will sign copies tonight at 7:30 at the Book Stall at Chestnut Court, 811 Elm in Winnetka (847-446-8880).
For every four barrels of oil used today, only one new barrel is found. Wind power is one possible alternative source of energy, and although it's most often associated with massive windmills in rural areas, turns out there are also quiet modular turbines that could allow it to be harnessed in cities. Bill Becker of Aerotecture will talk about the possibilities at today's free talk, Windpower in Cities: Designing Building-integrated Wind Systems for Zero-Energy Architecture. It's from 9 to 11 AM today at the Chicago Center for Green Technology, 445 N. Sacramento in Chicago; call 312-746-9642.
Circle Theatre's New Play Festival 2 offers a dozen original works presented by six directors and eight actors. The intricate schedule groups three short pieces with a longer play to create three different programs, each of which is followed by an audience discussion. The festival gets under way at 8 tonight with The Ex by David Kravitz, Cargo by John Weagly, and Without You by Barbara Lhota and Janet Milstein, followed by Ron Riekki's Atheist Comedy. It continues Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8 and Sundays at 3 through March 21 at the theater, 7300 Madison in Forest Park. Tickets are $10 for one program and $8 for each additional program. See the theater listings for the full schedule or call 708-771-0700.