Odds Are 

Video game art steps out

WED 3/5

"The bad guys are really disturbing, especially the Slogs, eyeless bulldog-like creatures that kick you to the ground and then devour you with obvious relish. The Sligs, who emit a creaky laugh that sounds like crickets or tree frogs after they machine-gun you, are pretty creepy too. The overall effect is like a really malign Dr. Seuss."That's Bob Rossney in 1997, describing Oddworld's Sony Playstation (and now Microsoft Xbox) video game, Abe's Oddysee. Another enthusiast, James Au Wagner, remembered thinking, "I can't believe the suits green-lighted this. Which is what I usually think when I see a particularly eccentric, innovative film." In 2003, their delight still hasn't faded. David Boyle adds, "The more you play these games, the more you learn about the inner workings of the [Odd]world, through the art as much as through the gameplay. It's hard to separate the visual art of Oddworld from the masterful sound and world design."

Oddworld's art enjoys such high regard that it's now the subject of a new exhibit, "Making Oddworld Odd," at Worth Ryder Gallery in UC Berkeley's Department of Art Practice (116 Kroeber Hall), now through March 10. Over one hundred images from its drawing boards, as well as its most recent version for Xbox, will be on display. Greg Niemeyer, curator of the show, affirms this is the first time the gallery has displayed video-game art. What's unique about Oddworld, he says, is its refreshing use of creative risks and subversiveness. Abe's Oddysee's theme is class struggle, or a literal game of eat-or-be-eaten. The meat-packing plant's slaves have their mouths sewn shut and must escape before they're ground into raw product. Munch's Oddysee is about animal testing. The tag line: "The bad news is, you're the rabbit!"

What's more, Niemeyer hopes to show aspiring artists "the amount of drawing and sculpting that drives game development. When art students combine a strong art foundation with new media skills, they suddenly find themselves highly employable" in a lucrative, imaginative new market. The next generation of academically-educated artists would then find the game world not so very odd. There's a lecture by Oddworld COO Maurice Konkle today, March 5, at 5 p.m. at 120 Kroeber Hall, UCB. Info: 510-642-2582. -- Frako Loden

THU 3/6

The Ceramic Ironic

Storytelling with clay in the Berkeley flats

Every figure, teapot, and Jedi Jesus in the Center for Ceramic Arts' new exhibition tells a story, some declarative, others with that tinge of irony that somehow can only be achieved with clay. For instance, take Beth Lo's Bamboo (2002), a glum Asian doll standing confined in a tiny yard of grass. Russell Biles' aforementioned Jedi Jesus shows Christ as a Star Wars character. The Short Stories (Narrative Ceramic Art) show was curated by Leslie Ferrin from her gallery in Massachusetts, and the artworks -- from all over the country including the Bay Area -- reflect a certain reality. According to the center's Forrest Lesch-Middleton, most ceramic arts orgs are in rural areas for various economic reasons (rents, cost of materials, etc.). The center, located in the Berkeley flatlands (1306 3rd St., 510-526-8440), is bucking that trend. "There's a high density of ceramic artists in the East Bay," Lesch-Middleton says. "We're trying to bring national interest to them." The show runs through March 30. -- Kelly Vance

TUE 3/11

Protest King

Unlike a certain Shakespearean lady, David Rovics doth not protest too much -- nor could he ever, wethinks. The Massachusetts-based singer-songwriter is tireless, appearing at more progressive rallies in the last three years than you can shake a banner at. He's performed at the February 15 antiwar protest in New York City; the big April 20, 2002 antiwar rally in Washington, DC; the 2002 and 2000 IMF/World Bank protests in DC; School of the Americas protests; and global justice- and peace-related events in Berlin, Prague, and Quebec City. And he's not just talking the talk, either, especially when it comes to free speech. Each and every track from Rovics' last five CDs is available for free at www.davidrovics.com. He encourages you to download and disseminate his moving, carefully wrought songs, hoping the sound of his bluegrassy flat-picked acoustic guitar will fly free through the collective consciousness, moving folks to action. He'll be showcasing his latest disc, Hang a Flag in the Window, at the AK Press Warehouse, 674A 23rd St., Oakland, with Folk This opening at 7 p.m. Cover's a measly $5. 510-208-1700. -- Stefanie Kalem

WED 3/5

Rocket Roll

The Stork Club has just what you need to wax the downslope of Hump Day, thus making it more pleasantly maneuverable. Alameda's Sciflyer plays what the members call "Newgaze," a fuzzed-down and lit-up hark back to '90s bands such as My Bloody Valentine and Ride. The trio consists of Steve Kennedy on guitar and appropriately whispery vocals, his wife, Kim, on bass (how '90s is that?), and drummer Roger Chandler, and the sounds they make are textured, insistent, and tend to creep up on you like so much pleasantly insidious smoke. The band's second full-length, Fair Weather Karma, will come out this summer on Clairecords. Delour and Quoth the Raven open the show, music starts at around 9:30, and the Stork Club is located at 2330 Telegraph Ave. in Oakland. Cover is $5, and the show is 21 and up. Call 510-444-6174 for more information. -- Stefanie Kalem

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