Film has always been dependent on other mediums of art. Without music, filmmakers would be unable to convey any emotion on the screen. "The Blaze," a local art "mission" led by local film director Matt Cici, strives to make their relationship even more chummy.
"The Blaze" started as a way for Matt Cici to hype his film “Lambent Fuse,” an interwoven character drama that revolves around human choices. Hoping to get the community involved in the film-making process, he called for musicians to submit work to be featured in a trailer for his film, and organized "The Blaze Kickoff" event in March, which featured music, art, spoken word and theater all in one room at Intermedia Arts.
Tuesday night they reprised the event with "The Blaze: Encore" at the Neighborhood House in St. Paul.
In addition to organizing events to showcase local artists, Cici and company look to endorse artists of all kind on their website. It’s a mutualistic relationship between "The Blaze" and the artists they promote. The idea is that people attend an event like "Blaze Encore" or any of their future events to see one artist, but they walk into a whole circus of them. You may come for spoken word and leave with a painting or a CD.
“That’s the goal for the Blaze, to integrate the arts in Minnesota and to make the art process a much more transparent one,” Cici said.
However, with such a laissez-faire attitude toward the quality of the art they support, the idea can become a bit schizophrenic. The "Blaze Encore" event ran the spectrum from the extremely talented and world-renowned spoken word artist Michael Lee to the lMatchbox Twenty-meets-Sublime tunes of BluePepper. But Cici remains refreshingly obstinate about being all-inclusive in his support of local art.
“Art is very subjective. You can’t really say whether it’s good or bad. It’s personal. It’s hard to judge something as art because you have an opinion that differs from everybody else,” Cici said. "So we try to stay away from that.”
Even still, they advertise Lee as the “20th ranked slam poet” in the world. This title comes from Lee’s success in Slam competitions across the nation. He won the Minneapolis Slam competition in May, which sends him to Cleveland for the Individual World Poetry Slam in October. This idea of turning the art of poetry into a borderline athletic competition does at times make Lee uneasy, he admitted. But ultimately it’s been good to him.
“It’s a silly thing that I love, and also hate,” he said. “But mostly love.”
Lee, currently a part-time English major at the U, brought the entire U of M slam team, "Minnesota Death Sqaud," to Tuesday night's "Blaze Encore" event. The team has placed in the top five in collegiate nationals for the last three years, but last night, Lee was the main attraction. His poetry is electrifying and honest, his major themes ranging from rock bottom to salvation, with an overt tone of positivity. In the last three years Lee has outrun his past of drug use and excess and reclaimed himself as a poet.
Lee said that movements like "The Blaze" that strive to put a smorgasbord of artists on display have undoubtedly played a part in forging his new identity, and he’s confident it’ll help with others as well.
“At the end of the day, we [as artists] just want people to hear or see us,” he said. “I don’t know a single artist that doesn't want people to see their work.”
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