Courtesy of the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York

This stuff will rule harder than Qaddafi, or your money back. (That is half true.)

VISUAL ART

'Mitzi Pederson: the still night air'

Mitzi Pederson is usually based in Berlin and usually involved in fancy undertakings such as the Whitney Biennial. But for two months this winter, she was holed up in Bellevue creating an exhibition for the double-height gallery of Open Satellite. The results are stunningly gorgeous, smart, sparkling—pretty much what you'd expect from the reputation that precedes her. Don't miss this star's temporary landing in our area. Curated by Stranger Genius short-lister Michael Van Horn. (More on page 34.) Through March 19, Open Satellite. JEN GRAVES

'Claire Cowie: Dead Reckoning'

Claire Cowie is a great painter. But she also knows how to build up a show so it's an entire installation. This show, Dead Reckoning, includes a grid of paintings on paper on the wall, depicting a series of rooms vividly patterned and colored, and two sculptures—one on a makeshift quilt on the floor, and the other in a vitrine on a shelf. Cowie's world is just like the one we live in, with trees and animals and couches and wallpaper and flags, but not at all. Living rooms overlap with ships and heads pile up on melting shores. (More on page 34.) Through April 2, James Harris Gallery. JG

Ken Lum

Vancouver, BC, has produced a handful of great contemporary artists, and one of them is Ken Lum, who's shown internationally since the late 1970s. His work is smart and clean: classic Vancouver conceptual. (I once heard it put this way: Seattle has eroticism; Vancouver has conceptualism.) This retrospective is the most extensive survey of his work to date, meaning that if you want to get your head around the head of Ken Lum, this is your chance. It includes some pieces never before seen in North America: Mirror Maze with 12 Signs of Depression (made for Documenta in Kassel, Germany, in 2002), House of Realization (made for the Istanbul Biennial in 2007), and the new Rorschach Shopkeeper Signs. Through Sept 25, Vancouver Art Gallery. JG

'Nick Cave: Meet Me at the Center of the Earth'

Minds have been lost all over the country for the "soundsuits" of Chicago-based artist Nick Cave. He's a former Alvin Ailey dancer whose wearable sculptures make visual noise and noise noise. For materials, he uses whatever he scavenges: patterned fabrics, sparkling beads and sequins, discarded bottle caps, rusted metal, twigs, leaves, hair. They can stand still in a gallery, but they can also be worn and jumped around in across the city, in cafes and at colleges and on street corners. By the time the exhibition closes in June, you'll be seeing Nick Cave's dancing high-priest monsters when you close your eyes to go to sleep at night. March 10–June 5, Seattle Art Museum. JG

'Ellen Lesperance: The Strong, Star-Bright Companions'

Ellen Lesperance makes delicate drawings that look like abstractions—and that would be enough to hold your attention. But each one is also based on the fabric pattern of a sweater worn by a feminist radical during an act of protest, taken from historical photographs. All this is why Portland-based Lesperance (a Seattle native but Portlandia convert) won SAM's Betty Bowen Award this year; unfortunately, that means a measly, tiny display of her work appears next to the elevators at the museum. For a real showcase, you need to go to Ambach & Rice. Coincidentally, this show is also your last chance to visit the Ballard contemporary-art redoubt before it relocates to Wilshire Boulevard near the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. April 2–May 15, Ambach & Rice. JG

'The Talent Show'

A good traveling group show is hard to find. This one is organized by MoMA PS1, with sculpture, photography, installation, and video by 18 important contemporary artists under the rubric of The Talent Show—the desire to be exposed, maybe worshiped, maybe rejected and traumatized, maybe co-opted and recirculated. American Idol, Facebook, surveillance: It's all backgrounded here. Artists include Chris Burden, Sophie Calle, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Adrian Piper, Andy Warhol, Tehching Hsieh, Gillian Wearing, Hannah Wilke—it can't miss. May 7–Aug 21, Henry Art Gallery. JG

Scott Fife

Every person and animal Scott Fife makes out of cardboard, glue, nails, and pencil marks is a thing you can't stop looking at. Geronimo. Billy the Kid. Kurt Cobain. Bruce Lee. Fidel Castro as a young man. Abraham Lincoln. Popeye. Clarence Darrow. Steve McQueen. Lionel Hampton. Ethel Barrymore. A T. rex. Some of the decapitated heads rest on their sides on the floor; others have clamps and vises sticking out of their necks like bones and veins. Sexy color has started showing up—irresistible. May 19–July 2, Platform Gallery. JG

No Title Yet

Three separate interior environments will take over Western Bridge for early summer: Carsten Höller's 2001 Neon Circle (an enterable chamber of bright light that might be thought of as a prison—or a liberation zone), Mungo Thomson's 2007 Skyspace Bouncehouse (a bouncy house in the transcendentalist spirit of James Turrell's skyspaces), and Julian Hoeber's new Demon Hill (a room set at an odd angle, so it messes with your sense of balance). What's the goal of an art environment, anyway? May 26–July 30, Western Bridge. JG

THEATER

Brown Derby

Ian Bell and his band of merry deviants have been torturing movie scripts almost beyond recognition for years, but his Brown Derby series is still one of the most reliably entertaining seasons in town. In 2011, they're taking on the venerable Stephen King. This very weekend is a send-up of The Shining with Dusty Warren as Jack Nicholson, Nick Garrison as his "Chihuahua-like wife" Shelley Duvall, and Garth Skovgard and Tom Conquergood as the Creepy Twins. In May, they'll tweak Stand by Me, which may be the most homoerotic thing you've ever seen this side of the Grindr app. March–June, Re-bar. BRENDAN KILEY

'The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs'

Once the heir apparent, Mike Daisey is now the legal and notarized heir to Spalding Gray's wooden table, glass of water, and discursive, deeply entertaining stories that bob between the evisceratingly personal and the universal. And now he's getting political. For The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, Daisey went to China and talked with people about the horrible human suffering that goes into those iPhones, iPads, and other iThings—stress, suicides, repetitive labor at an eye- and finger-breakingly minute scale. Jen Graves saw an early workshop version of the show last summer and predicted that this final version would be "electric, poetic, and highly human." April 22–May 22, Seattle Repertory Theatre. BK

'The Prisoner of Second Avenue'

Yeah, I know: Neil Simon and his Trademark Zingers™ isn't typically our speed, but if there's one director who can be trusted to bring out the heat and light of an old chestnut, it's Warner Shook. Shook specializes in grim comedies about domestic roils and has directed some of Seattle's most memorable productions in content (Albee's The Goat and Three Tall Women), style (Clare Boothe Luce's The Women), and, occasionally, both. He'll be polishing up new facets of this old stone about newly unemployed Mel, his wife Edna, and a New York heat wave (plus a garbage strike). April 29–May 29, ACT. BK

'Fabulous Prizes'

The Satori Group relocated to Seattle after researching several cities and judging ours Most Likely to Be Colonized by a Small Theater Company. Satori has been kicking and growing since then, putting up the occasional show and also forging relationships with companies in Seattle, Portland, and Philadelphia. Their new Fabulous Prizes, by Seattle's Neil Ferron (who wrote it while studying at Trinity College Dublin), opens up the door of a basement apartment where a failed restaurateur and his son have lived for 28 years. "Overwhelmed by the hope of a single letter," writes Satori's Caitlin Sullivan, the men "create a world of distorted grandeur." The play stars Nathan Sorseth, last seen at WET as a beleaguered Titus Andronicus. May 6–30, 619 Western Building. BK

'Degenerate Art Ensemble's Red Shoes'

Do you remember the fairy tale of the red shoes? Briefly: A girl likes to dance, puts on some red shoes that won't let her stop dancing, gets her feet cut off. Artists have long leveraged this old Grimm's story into a parable for the artist's life, and Degenerate Art Ensemble's Red Shoes is no different—except their Red Shoes will cap their tenure as installation artists at the Frye Art Museum and they'll be using the whole building to tell their tale, from the pool out front to a fenced-in area in the back (that you've probably never seen before). Along for the ride: DAE's collection of musicians, dancers, reengineered instruments, bizarre costumes, more bizarre machines, and an entire choir from St. James Cathedral. May 12–June 2, Frye Art Museum. BK

Support The Stranger

'El Gallo'

Mexico City's avant-garde theater freaks Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes (Theater of Certain Residents/Inhabitants) perform an "absurd opera" (a little music, a little dance, a little theater) about the intensity, discomfort, and unintentional comedy of trying to put together a full performance in two short weeks. Normally, theater-about-making-theater is a suspiciously solipsistic proposition, but El Gallo sounds vital and promising. One review from the Mexican newspaper Milenio describes one of the performers as "tense" as she "tries to be gracious and thank her executioner." With music by British composer Paul Barker and a live octet. May 12–15, On the Boards. BK

BOOKS

Born in the U.S.A.

In the four years since Hugo House began its series in which three authors and a musician perform new work on a theme, every single show has been entertaining and interesting. You can't argue with those odds. But sometimes, in comes an author who's so exciting, so of-the-moment, that it's an extra-ceptional event. For Born in the U.S.A., the headliner is New York writer Victor LaValle, whose two novels, Big Machine and The Ecstatic, practically crackle with the energy put out by his enormous, electric brain. (How electric? The Ecstatic inspired Mos Def to put out a concept album. It turned out to be his best record in years.) Given that LaValle's fiction has centered on morbidly obese recluses and a team of ghost hunters from troubled backgrounds, nobody can predict what kind of literary witchery he'll bring. March 18, Hugo House. PAUL CONSTANT

Sarah Vowell

I admit it: I'm in love with Sarah Vowell. She's the total package intellectually: obsessed with American history and the oddballs who've made us the nation we are, but willing to dip into pop culture, and one of the funniest authors ever. Her new book, Unfamiliar Fishes, tells the story of how Hawaii came to join the United States. It's a story involving exploration, the subjugation of native cultures, and the continued march of American dominance. Plus: Volcanoes! And I hear some Kenyan socialist politician all the teabaggers are up in arms about claims to have been born there, too. Expect Vowell to be infinitely more charming, smart, and funny than you could ever dream of being. March 28, Town Hall. PC

'It Gets Better'

Over the last few months, something weird and wonderful happened: In response to a disturbing string of gay teenagers committing suicide, Dan Savage, also known as The Stranger's fearless leader, made a video with his "husband-in-Canada/boyfriend-in-­America" Terry Miller. They wanted other teens to know that despite a society that promotes bullying of LGBTQ youth, it gets better. That video became a phenomenon, with people up to and including President Obama creating over 10,000 anti-bullying videos in the hopes that teens will learn that they are not alone and that they are not unloved. This month, Savage and Miller debut their new book, It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying and Creating a Life Worth Living. Besides collecting Savage's essays, the book also contains new testimonials and information for teens who desperately need inspiration. At Town Hall, Savage and Miller will discuss the making of the book and what it feels like to be on the inside of such a tremendous, life-saving movement. March 29, Town Hall. PC

Joshua Foer

Before you ask: Yes, Joshua Foer is the younger brother of beloved novelist Jonathan Safran Foer. But this is not a case of coattail riding. Joshua Foer is a journalist (his work has been in the New York Times, the Nation, and Slate) specializing in writing about memory. His new book is Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything. It combines memoir (Foer participated in the USA Memory Championship) with self-help and accessible science writing. He also explores why it's important, in an age when you can store terabytes of data in the cloud and retrieve them wirelessly from a device that fits in your pocket, to still be able to recall the old-fashioned way. March 31, Elliott Bay Book Company. PC

Meg Wolitzer

It's an unfortunate kind of sexism that the publishing world has effectively ghettoized female authors into the chick-lit category. But fuck that. Meg Wolitzer's novels are serious in every way that matters. Her novel The Position is about a married couple in the 1970s who publish a Joy of Sex–like guidebook and how their sexual frankness affects their family. Her new one, The Uncoupling, is a riff on Lysistrata. All the women and teenage girls in a New Jersey suburb suddenly stop having sex. What happens when the fucking stops? Wolitzer isn't afraid to look at the seamier side of relationships. April 11, Central Library. PC

'The Pale King'

David Foster Wallace was one of the greatest writers of the late 20th century. That we lost him so soon is the biggest literary tragedy of the millennium to date. We have one last chance to appreciate his genius with fresh eyes, so let's make it count: The Pale King, the work-in-progress that Wallace left behind at the time of his death, will finally be published. It's a novel about the IRS, and boredom, and, knowing Wallace, everything else. His longtime editor reportedly worked the book into solid shape, and while we'll never know what a true completed version of it would look like, this manuscript is a reasonable simulacrum. April 15, independent bookstores. PC

Joyce Carol Oates

It's been fashionable for the last few years to mock Joyce Carol Oates for being too productive, whatever that means. Twain, Updike, and Roth all produce/d more work than, say, Franzen or Foer, and that's to be celebrated. Many of our best novelists are experimenters who use fiction as a laboratory, fearlessly creating new work, taking note of what works, discarding what doesn't, and moving on. Who needs the cautious pursuit of perfection? Who says a novel requires six years to incubate? Give me messy producers any day. Oates is the queen of them. April 18, Benaroya Hall. PC

Larry Flynt and David Eisenbach

Whether you think Hustler publisher Larry Flynt is the scum of the earth or not, you have to admit that he's responsible for a few great moments in modern progressive history—primarily the Supreme Court victory against anti­pornographic censorship dramatized in the very good movie The People vs. Larry Flynt. He's appearing with a historian named David Eisenbach with a new book, One Nation Under Sex: How the Private Lives of Presidents, First Ladies and Their Lovers Changed the Course of American History. The two men dig into the unwholesome side of American history to uncover how the sexual peccadilloes of the men we elect have transformed the world for good and ill. The way we feel about the closet cases and cigar-penetration aficionados who have lived in the White House says a lot about how we feel about our own sexual lives. Sometimes it takes an asshole like Flynt to tell stories that need to be told. Just, you know, maybe don't shake his hand after the reading. May 19, Town Hall. PC

MUSIC

Sic Alps, Puberty, Idle Times

Part of San Francisco's fuzzed-out rock scene, Sic Alps trade in hazy, sun-bleached garage jams that transport you to another time/place. Want to feel like you're high on mushrooms in the mountains? Sic Alps might just make that happen. Puberty are the latest brainchild of tireless Intelligence ringleader Lars Finberg, with Susanna Welbourne, Drew Church and Mike Jawarski (the Cops), Curtis James (formerly of the Old Haunts), Dave Hernandez (the Shins), and Ryan Leyva (the Chevy Chasers). This is their record release show, and you are just dumb if you miss it. March 23, Funhouse. GRANT BRISSEY

Mount Kimbie

London duo Mount Kimbie (Dominic Maker and Kai Campos) have become one of the most interesting presences in the mercurially mutating post-dubstep field. Their 2010 album for the world-class Hotflush label, Crooks & Lovers, struck an immediate chord with those immersed in basscentric music, but it could also act as a gateway drug to the uninitiated. With exotic but oddly accessible melodies, creatively Cuisinarted vocals, and crackling, subtle rhythms that coax you to move in unobvious ways, the album rewards repeat listens. This is music that strikes an ideal balance between mysteriousness and infectiousness. March 30, Baltic Room. DAVE SEGAL

'Portable Shrines Magic Sound Theatre Vol. 1' Release Pre-Party

The folks who run Seattle's Portable Shrines collective—Aubrey Nehring, Darlene Nordyke, and Midday Veil members Emily Pot­hast and David Golightly—have elevated the city's psychedelic culture and spirit to stellar levels. Since 2009, Portable Shrines' brain trust has been throwing inspired shows on a regular basis, including two editions of the multi­media spectacular Escalator Fest, a gathering of transcendentally minded West Coast bands. The crew's efforts now expand into record releasing, with the Translinguistic Other imprint, which will issue the 18-track compilation Portable Shrines Magic Sound Theatre Vol. 1 on Record Store Day, April 16. The lavishly packaged double-LP comp spotlights the depth and diversity of psych-­oriented talent in the Northwest—and here's a concert by the savvy trip-facilitators. Heads, we win. April 2, Lo-Fi Performance Gallery. DS

Start Your Own Band

There is absolutely nothing like the rush of playing music in front of a crowd. Do you have a few friends and a few hundred dollars between you? Scour Craigslist and the want ads for cheap equipment and rent a practice space. (They're inexpensive and smelly!) Take lessons if you want, but some of the most successful musicians didn't know how to play properly. When you finally get together for the first practice, set a goal of leaving with one song written. Simple is best. In the words of musical wise man Lars Finberg: "Verse, chorus, verse, chorus, done." Anytime, anywhere. GB

Lightning Bolt

There are two living drummers everyone should strive to see in a lifetime: Zach Hill of Hella (and a million other projects) and Brian Chippendale of Lightning Bolt. Couple the latter with bandmate Brian Gibson and his monolith of amps plugged into a heavily distorted bass guitar, and you have one of the most deafening noise-rock outfits ever to produce noise and rock. The pair hasn't been touring much in the last few years (tinnitus is a bitch)—in fact, there was a nasty rumor floating around that they'd called it quits. But last year's Earthly Delights is as strong as anything they've released, and this may be the last chance to witness the absolutely enthralling spectacle that is a Lightning Bolt show. April 9, Healthy Times Fun Club. GB

Zola Jesus

Zola Jesus (aka Nika Roza Danilova) will shock the hell out of you. Pale and diminutive, she sings not like the pixie you'd expect, but rather in a commanding Nico-meets-Siouxsie mezzo-soprano that claims mountaintops as its natural habitat. On releases like Stridulum and Valusia, Zola Jesus—a trained opera singer—exudes a solemn grandeur that has the uncanny ability to stir souls in people who are skeptical about the existence of souls. Christ, she really nails it. May 4, Crocodile. DS

Mogwai

Scottish masters of the quiet-loud, ebb-and-flow dynamic (you'd be surprised how lucrative this line of work is), Mogwai continue to rank as one of (post) rock's mightiest proponents. Steadily accruing power and renown over 16 years and seven albums, they recently dropped their debut full-length, Hardcore Will Never Die, but You Will (cheers), for local juggernaut Sub Pop. Album standouts "Mexican Grand Prix," featuring the vocals and violin of ex–Long Fin Killie member Luke Sutherland, and "How to Be a Werewolf" find Mogwai revving into gradually intensifying motorik grooves that won't make you forget your Neu! LPs, but will upgrade your adrenaline levels. Meanwhile, the bouncy, Boo Radleys–­esque "George Square Thatcher Death Party" might be the most conventional indie rocker Mogwai have ever conceived. At a time in their career when most rock bands start to flounder, they remain vital and true to their fundamental aesthetic: erecting monuments to guitar and keyboard storm systems that make you feel heroic and indomitable. May 7, Showbox at the Market. DS

FILM

'In a Lonely Place'

Who cannot go on and on about this noir classic by Nicolas Ray? It stars one of the queens of noir, Gloria Grahame, and one of the kings, Humphrey Bogart. The story: A drunken screenwriter (Bogart) suddenly finds a dead woman in his apartment. Who killed her? The police suspect he is the murderer, but his neighbor (Grahame) clears his name. As the two become involved, the neighbor starts to see the screenwriter's ugly side. The more she looks at this side, the more he seems capable of the murder. Will she be next? March 30, Metro Cinemas. CHARLES MUDEDE

'Source Code'

Source Code is dumb and doesn't make any sense. But it's also totally exciting (until the third act, which is dumb and doesn't make any sense)!!! Doe-eyed rascal Jake Gyllenhaal wakes up on a Chicago commuter train trapped in the body of some dude named Sean. He has eight minutes, which he lives over and over again, to save the day before the train blows up. Source Code is Quantum Leap meets Groundhog Day meets a train! And if that little pop-cultural equation doesn't make your pantaloons tingle, then please never talk to me. Opens April 1. LINDY WEST

'Shallow Grave'

If you want to win an argument, then argue this: Danny Boyle's best film is his first film, Shallow Grave. Do not say Slumdog Millionaire or any of the other films in SIFF's series The Works of Danny Boyle (28 Days Later, Sunshine, Trainspotting). Shallow Grave, which came out in 1994, is the film that launched Ewan McGregor's career—this launch indeed sent him to a galaxy far, far away. The film is about three Edinburgh roommates who are thrown into the heart of darkness by a dead man's bag of money. It's 1990s noir at its best. April 9, SIFF Cinema. CM

'The Strange Case of Angelica'

I just checked Wikipedia and confirmed that the director of this film, the immensely old Manoel de Oliveira, is still alive! He has lived for 102 years. Do you understand what this means? He was born before World War I! And he made his first film before World War II. His last film, Eccentricities of a Blonde-Haired Girl, was not only good but completed when he was 100. His new film, The Strange Case of Angelica, was completed at 101. And he is about to finish a new film at 102. As if all of this weren't amazing enough, his filmmaking appears to be improving. I wish I had his genes. April 15–21, Northwest Film Forum. CM

'Potiche'

Why are we so looking forward to this movie? Because (1) François Ozon is a great French director (and he is not old at all at 43) and (2) the film stars a great French actress, Catherine Deneuve (how well she has aged). As the films Swimming Pool and Under the Sand make abundantly clear, Ozon is at his best when working with an actress who has entered the twilight years of a long, glorious career. Opens April 15, Harvard Exit. CM

'Thor'

Okay, so what the fuck is the plot of Thor? He's a Norse god, but he's from space, but he's also kind of an unfrozen caveman lawyer? I guess it doesn't really matter. Is this movie going to be good? I really have no idea. But the cast (Stellan Skarsgård, Idris Elba, Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman) is promising, and Kenneth Branagh directed it, which is weird. Pro tip: Get wasted on aquavit before you go. Opens May 6. LW

Seattle International Film Festival

SIFF equals one million films from one million countries. It is a monumental effort that inspires me to say corny shit like "Your passport to faraway lands!!!" and "Visit people and places you never knew existed!!!" But that's exactly what it feels like! (Also, some of it is shitty. Make sure to read our great big SIFF guide before you commit to anything.) May 19–June 12. LW

'The Beaver'

This is the one where Mel Gibson plays a depressed dad who works through his feelings with the help of a talking Australian beaver puppet. It is his "comeback movie." You've no doubt watched the trailer, at which point you no doubt noticed that this movie looks... kind of good. Jodie Foster directs and costars. Opens May 20. LW

'The Hangover, Part II'

Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, blah blah blah. Bradley Cooper. Blah blah blah. Bangkok, drunkenness, ladyboys, etc. etc. etc. etc. Ken Jeong's penis. Mike Tyson again. Blah blah blah blah The Hangover II blah. Everyone on earth will see this. Your grandma will see it twice. Etc. Blah. Opens May 26. LW recommended