Oh man, we are just crawling out of bed after Saturday night’s fantastic Future History Gala. THANK YOU to everyone who came and supported the Henry! We couldn’t do it without you — and we wouldn’t want to.
ArtBreak: Robert Twomey Saturday, March 7, 2:30 – 3 PM
Artist and UW Ph.D. candidate in DXARTS, Robert Twomey, will be exploring questions on interactive artwork and how art identity is achieved through installation and performance. Twomey has also been a vital part in creating the Field of Bullroarers in the common S E N S E. You don’t want to miss out!
Today’s blog post is written by Erika VanHorne, UW senior and choir president of the UW Chorale.
On the eve of “An Evening in the Galleries with the UW Chorale,” a special event that was held in conjunction with the Henry’s exhibition Ann Hamilton: the common S E N S E, I was nervous. This experience was unprecedented for me as a collegiate choral singer – a deliberate inversion of my ossified conceptions of performance, space, and audience. Yet as the choir reverently filed into the gallery that whirred with otherworldly bullroarers, my sense of trepidation dissipated – replaced with a transfixed reverie.
Audience members expectantly dispersed themselves among the jumbled choristers – but my focus was directed at the machines that crescendoed in tandem with our voices. We moved next to the North gallery where canonical choral literature was sung among images of specimens printed on newsprint. The sheets which rippled softly as the audience quietly stepped around us and them. Next, the choir slowly dissolved and dispersed throughout the Henry – allowing singers to wander as individuals.
These improvisations took on a meditative nature – as I grasped for the names of the immured specimens through song, I induced an inner dialogue on the nature of human-derived taxonomies. In this time of independent song, a fellow chorister would occasionally sidle up next to me – intertwining a voice with mine in unexpected, sublime euphony. As the boundary between performer and gallery visitor also evaporated, I found another audience – the specimens themselves. Through lyrics, these creatures were anthropomorphized with an intimate sonic tactility – at once haunting and familiar.
Although I visited this exhibition at its opening, this event became an unexpectedly meaningful experience for me. Throughout my university experience, I have found that the most enriching experiences are those that transcend the false dichotomy within the arts and academic disciplines. In this interdisciplinary vein, artist Ann Hamilton and Dr. Giselle Wyers, director of the UW Chorale, crafted an evocative, organic experience through an unexpected fusion of song, art, material culture, and biology that challenged my boundaries as a singer and humanist.
On Saturday, March 21, the Henry and Hugo House are co-presenting a creative writing class in response to Ann Hamilton: the common S E N S E. Participants will engage in the reader/scribe activity and discuss the many layers offered by the exhibition–the sense of touch, our relationship to nature, and being touched emotionally and intellectually through the private act of reading–and write creative responses about their personal experiences at the museum.
This one-day class is a mini-version of a longer series of creative writing classes in response to art at the Henry, which will be offered again in the fall. Both are taught by writer Anca Szilagyi.
Perks include a free pass to return to the exhibition and the chance to submit creative work in response to the show on the Henry’s blog (what you are reading right now — your words here!).
INCITE•INSIGHT lecture: Kristan Kennedy Thursday, Feb 26, 7 – 9 PM
We invite you to participate in meaningful discussion on contemporary art with artist, curator, and educator Kristan Kennedy, who, in the past decade, has focused on commissioning work for international emerging artists in the form of solo projects and large-scale, site-specific installations.
Future History: The 2015 Henry Gala Saturday, Feb 28, 6 – 11:59 PM
Tickets are going fast for the Henry’s annual gala! We’ll be offering a handful of unique auction experiences and a raise-the-paddle in support of the Henry. The Gala starts at 6pm and Future History Party starts at 9pm. Purchase your ticket now!
ArtBreak: Video//Yoga Thursday, Feb. 19, 12:30 – 1:30 PM
Engage your senses in this yoga class taught with video art lead by Julia Greenway, curator and teacher at Interstitial Theatre. Video//Yoga occurs the third Thursday of every month.
Critical Issues in Contemporary Art Practice Lecture: Gareth Moore Thursday, Feb. 19, 7 – 8:30 PM Gareth Moore will speak about his practice and various projects. His work has been displayed worldwide, including San Francisco, Vancouver, and Berlin. This artist lecture series is held in conjunction with the University of Washington School of Art + Art History + Design and the Nebula Project.
North Seattle Community College student Marilou Carlson visited the common S E N S E to fulfill a requirement for her Cultural Anthropology class. In this guest blog post, she discusses her experience and how it allowed her to transition from an “outsider” to an “insider.”
I have an assignment. I need to find an activity with which I am unfamiliar. I check out the options on The Stranger’s website. What does The Stranger Suggest? Ah, there is an art exhibition. There’s a lot of buzz about it. I know little about art, and don’t often go to exhibitions. They say it has mystery, singing, and animals. The title is ‘the common S E N S E’ by Ann Hamilton. I check it out. There is singing. Singing, at an art exhibition! I go.
I arrive the day after the exhibition opens. The staff people are weary from the 1,000 people who were there on opening day, but they are welcoming and warm. I am given a folder with the title, “A Commonplace: A book for the common S E N S E.” This is for me to collect a newsprint copy of an animal scan from the exhibit if I so choose, and newsprint copies of fragments of texts which have meaning for me. They are distributed around the exhibition on shelves. The texts have come from published literature, and were submitted on Tumblr by visitors and chosen by the artist. This is a culture that has a high level of online communication. All the text fragments relate to the topic of touch as conceived as a sense shared by all the animals (including humans). They may also relate to touch as understood as a form of emotional or intellectual connection. Ah, the common sense, touch, this exhibit addresses ways of understanding touch. I’m starting to get it.
In the university subculture, there tends to be division and lack of communication between departments, museums, and specialties. Ann Hamilton is attempting to bridge this, as the volunteer artist said, “Like fungi growing underground and breaking down walls.” In the exhibition, there are animal specimens, pelts, and clothing, even children’s books about animals. There are reader/scribes and singers serenading the exhibits. In a large, light room opened up on a lower floor, there are over 20 spinning contraptions mounted on poles; bullroarers calling individuals to gather. There are also the scans.
I ask if I can observe for a while, for my anthropology class, and then return to participate more next week. Yes! I am a student? Yes! Come in for free! Have a seat on this stool, observe all you want! I start in the Test Site space. Several people enter the Test Site, sign a release form, and get scanned in a photo booth with translucent walls. I hear a dad say to his daughter, as they are getting scanned together, “You’ll be part of the show.” They come out of the booth and peek at the shot of them in the camera. “Look. That’s me and you,” says the dad. There are newsprint copies of many, many scans of animals from the UW Collections posted in the galleries below, of which visitors may choose one for their own collection. As the animal scans are depleted over the six months of the exhibit, they will be replaced by human scans, from the visitors to the exhibition. It’s eerie. “It’s the horror and sadness of how animals disappear while human populations grow,” is how the volunteer artist described it.
I later return to be a reader/scribe, in the role of going out into the exhibition to read for an hour in the prescribed book, while writing down what I am reading in a notebook. The Peregrine by J.A. Baker is a gorgeously written book about a man who becomes obsessed with following a pair of peregrine falcons over the course of one fall through spring in the English countryside. The complicated relationship humans have to other animals in this culture is definitely reflected in the exhibition. Ann Hamilton has the sense that the words of the author echo, and they touch the readers and the animals in the exhibit, through soundwaves and through the pages, in this place and outside it. Indeed, as I am reading the book and transcribing it, I come upon a description of a similar feeling I am having about the exhibition, written down by the author some 40 years ago on another continent. After walking through the galleries, I am mostly thinking, “Soft, dead animals. We are a killing culture.” In his words, of the hawks themselves, which were beginning to decline at the time because of farm pesticides, he says, “We are the killers. We stink of death. We carry it with us. It sticks to us like frost. We cannot tear it away.” I see that there can indeed be connections between human beings, through words on a page, across time and space.
I actually think that the question of insiders and outsiders in relation to art is a major point of this particular exhibition. Without the contributions of visitors/viewers, the exhibition would have been radically diminished in its richness. We would have stayed separate in our respective roles, artist and viewers/visitors, and a sense of the connection of a gathering of humans thinking about a topic such as our relationship to animals would not happen. By encouraging many levels of participation, the artist broke down the walls between outsider and insider. She invited everyone to come inside and be part of the show.