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Group Efforts: an art fest that knows how to party

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Since 1992, a growing number of artists have made their way to Thailand each winter to participate in the Chiang Mai Social Installation, a two-month-long public extravaganza of avant-garde art and performance that's heavy on conceptual work. Over the years, participants have also included activists, students, clergy, and anyone else drawn by the festival's mandate to move art back into the public sphere. This year the CMSI, which began in November, has been rechristened "Eukabeuk," a nonsense word intended to reflect the festival's chaotic, improvisatory nature. It runs through February in the streets of Chiang Mai, with adjunct events in Sweden, Germany, the Philippines, and--this Friday--in Woodlawn.

Thasnai Sethaseree, a Thai artist who's participated in seven previous Chiang Mai installations and whose recent work Carnival involved the staging of a three-day-long public "temple fair" of Thai dance, film, and karaoke (with drinks), moved to Chicago three years ago to get his MFA at the University of Chicago's Midway Studios. He's teamed up with conceptual artist and fellow U. of C. graduate Zena Sakowski to spearhead a freewheeling one-night preview of work that they and a handful of other local artists will stage in Chiang Mai later this month. In keeping with the parent festival's "no boundaries" ethic, nonartists will participate as well; Sakowski's upstairs neighbor, for instance, will demonstrate how to make flowers out of boiled plastic spoons. "We believe that the whole festival is not just an art festival but is also a social festival," says Sethaseree.

The Eukabeuk Satellite Opening--which will be remounted in Chicago for a longer run in 2002--includes psychiatric nurse Amy Zucker's giant latex puppets, audio collages and fire breathing by the People's Republic of Delicious Food, live video projection, DJs, martial artists, and a bonfire. Temporary Services will be providing "Chiang Mai ravioli kits," and Sakowski and her husband, Rob Kelly, are doing something involving giant boxing gloves.

"We don't actually know what's going to happen," says Sakowski. "There could be elephants, there could be strippers--it could turn into a complete circus." The free event takes place from 7 to midnight Friday, December 7, at Midway Studios, 6016 S. Ingleside. Call 773-753-4821 for more information.

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