Art picks

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October 3, 2005 // UPDATED 1:58 pm - April 26, 2007
By: Anna Pratt
Anna Pratt

Behind war's bars

The title "War Trash" expresses the sentiment directed toward the Chinese prisoners, captive in U.S. Prisoner of War (POW) camps during the Korean War in 1951.

This book illuminates a turbulent political climate and the experience of captivity. Ha Jin's graphic narrative focuses on Chinese soldier-prisoner Yu Yuan, who's been taken away from his mother and fianc/e.

Through Yu's eyes, we learn about the underlying tensions that prisoners grapple with once inside prison.

There, they suffer an underground war between the pro-Communists and pro-Nationalists. Yu is jammed between both sides. He's valuable because of his English-speaking skills, a rare find among the Chinese.

In addition to mediating between prisoners and the American Army, he's sought after by both captive groups. He must make critical choices regarding his safety, beliefs and the possibility of ever seeing his family again.

Thoughtful passages wherein Yu contemplates his and his family's future are punctured by brutal murders within the campsite. Ultimately, hovering above what happens there is ruler Mao Zedong's activities that unfold in China, steering the country into the unknown.

Jin will read from his true-to-life story.

• Sa Oct. 8, 7 p.m. Loft Literary Center, 1011 Washington Ave. S. Free. 215-2575, www.loft.org.

'Oh, the Places You'll Go!'

Kevin Morgel's worldly repertoire of photos provides windows into distant and nearby places. Morgel's pictorial travelogue is unique for its clarity, color and breadth.

For a moment, you can live vicariously through Morgel in his pedestrian images: Have lunch in San Juan, shop for accessories in Vietnam, marvel at the Eiffel Tower, spy on a cat in an Amsterdam window or get lost in the fog over a Wisconsin shoreline.

If that's not where you want to go, try Nepal, the Netherlands, Portugal or Mexico. Step through colonnades, columns and narrow streets. In each place, Morgel focuses on an easily missed detail. These are little things uncovered by guidebooks, such as two doors leaning against the side of an old building or rows of electric-colored ties suspended playfully.

Mostly long shots, we don't get up close to anything in particular. Instead, we're put in a reflective mood. Morgel conveys the flavor of a place with few words or, in this case, with thrifty pictures that don't provide a ton of information, but distill colors, textures and movement in a small amount of space. We're privy to what Morgel sees and what inspires him.

Morgel's photos present a sense of drama, almost as if they're cinematography stills, yet there's still serenity as well. Even urban areas provide a quiet retreat.

• Daily thru Oct. 8, M-Th 6:30, F-Sa 7:30 a.m.-midnight, Sun 7:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Espresso Royale, 1229 Hennepin Ave. S. Free. 333-8882.