- - Thursday, September 27, 2012

Pick of the Pack

Exhibit: ‘Nomads and Networks: The Ancient Art and Culture of Kazakhstan’

Kazakhstan doesn’t get a lot of play in American media, despite being one of the largest and most corrupt countries in the world. Perhaps that’s because the nominal democratic republic hasn’t changed much since gaining its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. The president Kazakhs had then — one Nursultan Nazarbayev — is the same cat who runs the place now (and will for the immediate future, in light of his recent and totally legitimate re-election to yet another five-year term). What you don’t often hear about Kazakhstan — assuming you hear anything — is that it was once the cultural capital of Central Asia. It hosted several Silk Road hot spots, and before that was a prime target for the creative destruction wrought by various marauding groups. Recently discovered artifacts retrieved from burial grounds in the country’s steppe land (and on display here in the District) are a reminder of the Kazakh people’s rich heritage.

Through Nov. 12 at the Sackler Gallery, 1050 Independence Ave. SW

Phone: 202/633-1000

Web: www.asia.si.edu

Nature: ‘Savage Gardens’

Humans like to think of themselves as innovators in the art of predation, but the reality is that plants have us beat. Long before the invention of “beer goggles” in college dating, the American pitcher plant was offering a “narcotic nectar” to bugs, then drowning them in digestive enzymes. The beautiful butterwort, meanwhile, isn’t just gorgeous, but produces the strongest glue that occurs in nature. And let’s not forget Venus’ flytrap, which lures bugs into its mouth using a pretty set of eyelashes, then eats them. These plants and many others will be on display at the Botanic Garden’s “Savage Gardens: The Real and Imaginary World of Carnivorous Plants.”

Through Oct. 8 at the U.S. Botanic Garden, 100 Maryland Ave. SW

Phone: 202/225-8333

Web: www.usbg.gov

Gallery Show: ‘See Something, Say Something’

The post-9/11 slogan, “If you see something, say something,” celebrated its 10th birthday in January, though no one bought it a cake and it likely celebrated alone. Since its unveiling in January 2002 by the New York ad firm Korey Kay & Partners, “If you see something, say something” has jumped from New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority to transit systems in Chicago, L.A. and the District. From airports and train stations to the Super Bowl and college sporting events. Despite its Orwellian subtext (we all are the eyes of the state), the message hasn’t been co-opted and parodied out of existence. America’s leading visual artists, it seems, are too busy making agitprop to mock it. Enter Dana Ellyn and Matt Sesow, whose show, “See Something, Say Something,” responds to the core of the Transportation Security Administration’s favorite slogan by depicting fearful Americans responding with severe paranoia to mundane aspects of everyday life.

Through Oct. 26 at Montpelier Arts Center, 9652 Muirkirk Road, Laurel, Md.

Phone: 301/699-2255

Web: arts.pgparks.com/Our_Facilities.htm

Festival: Fall for the Book

If you took the Metro last Saturday, you likely found yourself squished between a Nats fan and an attendee of the National Book Festival. If you take it this weekend, you’ll likely find yourself squished among similarly bookish types, though these folks will be headed to George Mason University for the Fall for the Book Festival. It’s a bit smaller than the one that takes place on the Mall, and caters more to literary types (no offense intended, drugstore novelists). If listening to famous writers drone about the creative process is your thing, this year’s high-profile guests — Poet Laureate Rita Dove and novelist Michael Chabon — are worth every minute in an overcrowded Metro car.

Through Sunday at George Mason University, 4400 University Drive, Fairfax, Va.

Phone: 703/993-1000

Web: fallforthebook.org

Concert: London: Music From the City of Shakespeare

When we talk about great European composers, we almost never talk about England. A performance at the Folger Shakespeare Library will attempt to convince you that Orlando Gibbons, Thomas Morley and William Byrd deserve to be listed right alongside Beethoven, Bach and Mozart.

Sunday at Folger Shakespeare Library, 201 E. Capitol St. SE

Phone: 202/544-4600

Web: www.folger.edu

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