If Spoleto is so good, why are the official festival posters so bad?

Another year, another intriguing Spoleto USA lineup, another bad poster.

I love Spoleto and am looking forward to spending at least one day at the Charleston festival again this year. Last year’s performance of I Can See Myself in Your Pupil by Gallim Dance at the Memminger Auditorium was one of the artistic highlights of the year for me, and I have really high expectations this year for Kneehigh Theatre’s The Red Shoes. But more on that in a future post.

Each year, Spoleto makes a big deal of the release of the official poster, and it seems like every year the image is met with incom- prehension. That seems to be the case with this year’s poster, Guillermo Kuitca’s “Acoustic Mass I (Covent Garden),” pictured right. I think it’s a pretty safe bet that if an image needs explaining, it might not be effective advertising. From the official press release:

Kuitca selectively edits information from these images electronically and then further alters their appearance and meaning by subjecting them to different water treatments. The resulting works are graphic representations of the acoustic and dramatic energy that is heard, felt and seen in a theater. Though these works depict spaces that are normally occupied by large groups, the human figure is notably absent. In their vacant state, these deconstructed theaters sit between memories of past performances and expectations of future ones — an apt Spoleto metaphor as we are poised between Festival seasons.”

Last year’s poster, Maya Lin’s “From Rhode Island to South Carolina” was even more incomprehensible. Rhode Island and South Carolina are right next to each other in an atlas you see and . . . blah blah blah.

Spoleto has a reputation for high-minded seriousness in its programming, but that can give way easily to an appearance — or even the actuality — of artistic arrogance. I’m not suggesting that Spoleto needs to dumb things down, but sometimes there’s a beautiful art to be found in simplicity.

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