The Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA) is a timeless sort of place. Sure, its first floor boasts an urban-inspired coffee bar with contemporary furnishings that gesture toward the present day, but the galleries tell a different story of time altogether. From costumes to hand-painted ceramics, ritual objects to period rooms, the MIA offers abstract snapshots of other places and other times, mixing centuries and geographies of artwork and artifacts. Walking through the darkened labyrinth of galleries dedicated to the arts of Asia on the second floor, one will eventually arrive at the museum’s contemporary section. Entering these galleries and into the exhibition Myopia is something like taking an ambling path through the strange and colorful brain of the artist who inspired it.
Mark Mothersbaugh is perhaps best known as the front man of DEVO, and Myopia begins here. With shards of melody and harder-to-place sounds emanating from various corners and side rooms, photos of the oddball punk-rock band are seen alongside pages from Mothersbaugh’s notebooks, which have been compulsively filled with collaged and drawn images and text. On one wall hangs photographs of Kent State, where Mothersbaugh and his friends began DEVO in the early 1970s, and where, of course, the infamous protests of 1970 ended with the Ohio National Guard opening fire on a group of unarmed students. This alarming nugget of American history crosses over with the experience that Mothersbaugh and his fellow peers shared during that time. It was partially the shootings at Kent State that contributed to the formation of the Dada-inspired stylings of DEVO. DEVO began with the idea of “de-volution”—the idea that instead of progressing or evolving forward, humankind (and in particular, American society) is declining and moving in a backward direction. DEVO used music, performance, video, and costume to advance their bizarre and critical vision of the world. Dressing in identical futuristic-industrial outfits or donning strange hats and masks, DEVO put forth a strand of music that, with its synth-heavy melodies, was at once catchy and incredibly biting.