This is our third and concluding blog post from artist Molly Mac on the Summer Field Studies project “How to Get THERE ( the dam) from HERE (Seattle).”
First we ate breakfast.
Then I reminded everybody about three things:
1. How to download a QR code reader for a mobile device
2. I have two heroes: Eva Hesse & Amanda Beard
3. For the rest of the day I’ll give away my voice in 4 color-coded roles: YELLOW is normal voice (wears black and knows she is doing an art project); GREEN voice gives advice; BLUE voice gives facts; PINK voice makes confessions (after she frames a safe space to do so).
Today’s post is the first of three written by artist Molly Mac, who will be your host/tour guide/performer for “How to get THERE (the Dam) from HERE (Seattle) with Molly Mac.”
I’m a 31 year old woman. I live in Seattle, and I drive a 1998 Camry.
The Grand Coulee Dam is a gravity dam. It is the largest electric power producing facility in the United States and it irrigates 671,000 acres of farmland in Washington.
yellow voice is my normal voice green voice gives advice blue voice tells facts pink voice exposes (me)
This is a tour that runs from HERE (the Henry) to THERE (the Grand Coulee Dam):
It’s looping, just like your mind (my mind) loops on a road trip.
Scan in with a QR code reader on your phone to catch a stop- there are 18 total.
I’ll explain everything.
you’ll see I have two heroes- the artist Eva Hesse and the Olympic swimmer Amanda Beard
you’ll see the inside of my Camry
you’ll see I’m concerned with electrolyte balance
you’ll see I’m trying to apply basic grammar lessons to glacial geography, shame, and my kidneys
you’ll see my Google search history
you’ll see circles crammed into squares (reduced to pixels)
you’ll see the practical driving directions
eventually you’ll see the Grand Coulee Dam.
After the laser show, we’ll split up and stay overnight in local hotels/campgrounds. Then on August 3rd we’ll all get up, look at the Dam again, and eat bagels together. Then we will drive back from THERE (the Dam) to HERE (Seattle), doing the tour in reverse.
I’ll explain EVERYTHING again, but backwards – and I’ll have help. A team of performers will spread out along all 18 stops and explain:
the practical driving directions
the circles crammed into squares (reduced to pixels)
the Google search history
the grammar lessons applied to glacial geography, shame, and kidneys
the concern for electrolyte balance
the inside of the Camry
the heroes- artist Eva Hesse and the Olympic swimmer Amanda Beard
And then you’ll be back in Seattle.
The event is $10. Please book your ticket to receive a more detailed timeline and travel info, and because space is limited, and you’ll need to make a plan to camp and book a place to stay soon.
The Annual Meeting is a time to share and celebrate what we have accomplished over the past year with our valued members, Board of Trustees, and the community. We will also present information about upcoming Henry programs, exhibitions, and initiatives. This meeting is free and open to the public.
These are the last two performances in this series so don’t miss your chance to see this groundbreaking work! In Mirror Check, a performer uses a small, round hand-held mirror to inspect all visible parts of her exposed body. Mirror Check — one of Jonas’ earliest works — marks an important theoretical and artistic turning point in her practice, when mirrors cease to be a material utilized in her sculptures and become actual instruments in her live performances.
It was a logical development and kind of abstraction of a solo work, standing nude in front of an audience, examining one’s own body with a mirror very slowly. It’s a very simple piece. There is the stipulation that it has to be done by women because that’s how it was originally performed and seen, and meant to be seen because it’s about a woman looking at her own body, having control of that gaze. – Joan Jonas
Mirror Check, a performance based on the 1970 work of the same name by Jonas, will be performed in the galleries for the final six weeks of Parallel Practices: Joan Jonas & Gina Pane at the Henry. In Mirror Check, a performer uses a small, round hand-held mirror to inspect all visible parts of her exposed body. Mirror Check — one of Jonas’ earliest works — marks an important theoretical and artistic turning point in her practice, when mirrors cease to be a material utilized in her sculptures and become actual instruments in her live performances.
Check our website for performance dates and the details of Mirror Check.
Please enjoy the this guest post on our upcoming screening of Jellyfish Eyes by writer/scholar Zack Davisson.
Japan loves monsters. They write books about monsters, draw comics about monsters, make movies about monsters, and even name their foods after monsters. Whether it is from the magical menagerie of Japan’s traditional yōkai or the post-war, towering beasts of destruction like Godzilla, Gamera, or Ultraman; or the endless parade of modern Pokemon (which translates into English as Pocket Monster); Japanese children are weaned on monsters. They find these strange beasts as friendly of companions as American children find Snoopy and Yoda. It comes as no surprise that one of Japan’s premier modern artists, Takashi Murakami, loves monsters, too.
Murakami has always included monsters in his artwork. When he was searching for an artistic style free of Western influence—something “uniquely Japanese”—he found was he was looking for in Japan’s monsters. His Superflat* exhibitions summoned all of Japan’s monsters, from the distant Heian period prints to the garish extravaganza of modern pop culture, and smashed them together into an organic style that speaks both of Murakami and Japan.
In his first film Jellyfish Eyes, Murakami again summons monsters. They are monsters of his own creation but with a nod to two fellow Japanese artists in particular—Shigeru Mizuki and Toru Narita. In an interview with Harper’s Bazaar, Murakami states that Jellyfish Eyes is “… inspired by ‘a manga called GeGeGe no Kitaro’ from the 1960s,” a comic that “accidentally formed the basis for the rest of [his] life.” In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, he expands, saying “My life is heavily influenced by two television shows – Ultraman [1966-1967] and Ultra Seven [1967-68] – because of the artists behind them, especially the Ultraman series artistic designer Toru Narita.”
Murakami is in good company. These artists—Takashi Murakami, Kitaro-creator Shigeru Mizuki, and Ultraman-designer Toru Narita—are torch-bearers of Japan’s monster culture. Shigeru Mizuki rescued Japan’s folkloric yōkai monsters from the ashes of WWII, recasting them as down-to-earth working class heroes with very human motivations and adventures. Mizuki is a mix of the sacred and the profane, pursuing serious scholarly research into yōkai for his Yōkai Encyclopedias, all the while injecting his comic Kitaro with his own earthy sense of humor—fart jokes and all. Toru Narita dove into the future for his monsters, more inspired by the American Buck Rogers and alien attacks than mythical yōkai. He gave the children of Japan a sense of hope for the future and a much needed escape during a time of social upheaval and transformation.
These three artists are also not content delivering mere entertainment. Mizuki turned his beloved Kitaro characters into history teachers, brutally confronting Japan with its own past in his comic series Showa: A History of Japan. Narita also used his monsters to personify social problems, creating physical manifestations of complex issues for Ultraman to smash. In the same way, Murakami promises that Jellyfish Eyes will use the approachable, familiar, and friendly faces of these cute little monsters to educate the children of Japan about concepts as grim as the inevitability of death and the certainty of periodic failure.
And, I have no doubt, at the same time Murakami will inspire a new generation of Japanese monster-lovers to carry their strange beasts into the future.
See Murakami’s Jellyfish Eyes this weekend at Henry Art Gallery – get tickets here.
*”Superflat” is a term coined by Murakami to describe the way various forms of graphic design, pop culture, and fine arts are compressed or flattened in Japan. Want to learn more? Join us at 6pm on May 2nd, before the 7pm screening of Jellyfish Eyes, for “Collections in Focus: Superflat” with UW Associate Professor James Thurtle for a FREE conversation and viewing of works from our collection. Thurtle will make connections between Murakami’s work, manga, anime, and the ‘flat’ images of 17th, 18th and 19-century Japanese printmakers.
Zack Davisson is a translator, writer, and scholar of Japanese folklore, ghosts, and manga. He is the author of Yurei: The Japanese Ghost and the translator of Shigeru Mizuki’s Showa 1926-1939: A History of Japan. He also created the popular Japanese folklore website Hyakumionogatari Kaidankai.
We caught up with French-born artist Melanie Valera (AKA Tender Forever) to get her thoughts on busking, her favorite coffee, and advice for doing your art. Tender Forever will be conducting a workshop on Reenactment and Public Content Source this Sunday from noon to 4 pm to explore re-enactment, recycled narration, and other topics by using found video on the internet.
Henry: First off, since this is Seattle and we love our coffee, who do you think makes the best cup from all the places you have traveled?
Tender Forever: One reason why I love America is because you’re all so nerdy about almost everything you get into. France is NOT. France is very simple. Simple food, simple cooking, simple coffee (contrarily to what most people think). The coffee isn’t that great. It’s thrown together. They don’t even know what coffee they use, where it was roasted and all that. They don’t care whether it tastes like leather or Skittles. They are just gonna make you a tiny coffee for one euro. They’re not going to ask you how you’re doing so you don’t stay too long. And NO you can’t take it to go. I like that about France, a lot. Italy has got GOOD coffee. But the best one I’ve had was in Spain for sure — only because I ordered it in Spanish. But if there was a decision to make between Portland or Seattle, hands down Olympia has the best coffee. Bar Francis it’s where it’s at.
Henry: Ah, Olympia, Love the hometown pride. How did you end up on this side of the pond?
Tender Forever: In 2004, I was busking on the streets of Bordeaux, France. I sold all my belongings and in April 2005 I bought a plane ticket with the money. I think I had $20 left after I bought the ticket. I still don’t know how I allowed myself to travel to a foreign land with $20. I played a few shows down the West coast with Khaela Maricich from The Blow and Squeeze Me I Squeak. I remember burning CD after CD after the shows. People would wait for their CD to come out of the toaster and I’d get $10 for it. That’s how I started! Our last show was in Olympia at the world’s smallest venue ever. Basically an attic. Ten people came. Calvin Johnson came. I didn’t really know who the dude was; I knew K Records, but not that Calvin was the studio. After the show he asked me if I had a CD. I didn’t.
Next night I was still in Olympia and we ended up at the same show. I guess he had gotten a CD from someone else. He asked me if I wanted to record. We pushed my departure date further and I recorded my first LP at Dub Narcotic Studios in Olympia in 2005. Then I went on my first real tour with him and played over 50 shows together. It was, of course, life-changing. I love [Calvin] dearly. Thinking back on that experience and history, it’s pretty amazing that a human can travel so far, change the course of their life, and end up in an amazing place like the Henry to talk about reenactment and representation. Anything I get to do, I always feel so privileged. You know? Everything is a step on a stairway to the next step. I think it’s important for me to remember that my capacities and skills are extremely flexible and unlimited. My mum set that role model for me. You can do anything you want if you want.
Henry: What advice would you give to someone thinking of busking?
Tender Forever: Remember when you were a tiny kid and you are playing hide and seek. You thought that because you covered your eyes with your hands no one will find you? So you’d just stand there, with your hands on your eyes thinking you’ve disappeared. Apply that to playing in the streets. It’s perfect.
Henry: Why the transition from busking to music production to performing at galleries and museums?
Tender Forever: I would really love to shift my performance work entirely to broader horizons. Being perceived solely as a musician isn’t what I’ve always envisioned. Art institutions, art galleries, less traditional venues are by far the places I would like to collaborate more with. I think we all have multiple careers, multiple mind set ups, and we can overcome the fear of perfectness, especially when tied to art. I can do anything and I can play anywhere.
I’ve actually never shown solely visual art before. It has always been music, media, and performance art together. I couldn’t have performed without playing and vice versa. I really liked the engagement of the crowd in the stories I tell. I like the feeling of people eating out of the giant hand of fake narrative and rewriting stories in their head. Using all the means necessary and available to me when walking in a new venue in order to engage the crowd remains the best part of creating performances. I like high energy. I like dense content. I like realness. I like janky and wonky things and I like unveiling magic tricks. That’s a lot of possibilities. So when I walk into a venue, I shake hands, but mainly I want to go in the back rooms and find “the weird things.” I’ve borrowed curtains before, couches, shoes, clothing, food, etc. Each venue is a little universe and I want to discover what it has to offer and what it will also take from me. I’m interested in that odd trade.
Henry: Speaking of finding the weird to use in your art – where have you found the pieces you will use this Sunday?
Tender Forever: I’m actually always trying to break out of the classic ways to get to new content. It’s not easy but mainly, I use people’s blog, comments, threads on odd blogs. Through that process, I’ve developed an interest in the ways that people research the content they’re after. I think the brain path and the personal stories to what pushes people to research or post certain content is the most fascinating part. No one can access another’s brain, at least not yet. Google is my go-to for general research and then I have my secret spots which I will keep secret.
Henry: We’ll let you unveil your secrets on Sunday. Thank you for catching up with us!
We thank Zack Davisson, writer and Japanese folklore scholar, for this guest post on our upcoming screening Hausu.
Flying vampire heads popping out of wells. A massive, shape-shifting cat. The corpse of an unloved woman wrecking ghostly revenge. For modern viewers, Nobukiko Obayashi’s 1977 film House may be a brain-melting tour of a psychedelic fever dream, but Edo-period kabuki fans would have barely fluttered an eyelash. They had seen it all before. Because, if you look past the movie’s flashy visuals and attack storytelling you will uncover a secret; House is a traditional Japanese ghost story.
For a movie so often hailed as avant-garde and experimental, House is a throwback, a retrograde. In an interview, Obayashi rejects the idea that House is even a horror film. More correctly, Obayashi says, House belongs to the genre called kaii (怪異). If you have never heard of that, don’t feel bad. Roughly translating as “strange events,” kaii was a popular genre about two hundred years ago—during the Edo-period kaidan boom.
From 1603 to 1876, Japan was addicted to kaidan (怪談; weird tales). Every conceivable artistic and entertainment medium, from painting to literature to sculpting to theater, produced works of the strange and mysterious. Kabuki theater in particular—with its sensation of gaudy, over-the-top artifice—fed the audience’s lust for blood and spectacle.
Writers and directors like Tsuruya Nanboku IV pandered to baser instincts, and delivered up some of the most bizarre, outrageous, and gory bits of ghost lore ever created. Under Nanboku IV’s hand, the kabuki stage transformed into a wild world of ghosts soaring on wires over exploding fire pots, flying vampire heads, giant fire-breathing frogs, and shape-changing cats known as bakeneko, working their mysterious kaidan magic.
Obayashi followed Kabuki’s lead, favoring the artificial over Western naturalism. House dives head-first into Grand Guignol and spectacle. And the film’s dynamic imagery is wrapped tightly around an even more traditional core.
At the heart of most kaidan—and House—is urami (恨み). Translating into English as grudge, urami comes from a Shinto/Buddhist idea where the soul is bound to Earth by unfulfilled desires. These desires can be anything—unrequited love, unexpressed gratitude, unfinished business—but it becomes meat for storytellers when coupled with resentment. A person who dies with a grudge-bearing soul infects like a plague.
House’s urami is a classic example of an obake yashiki tale. Roughly meaning “haunted house,” obake yashiki stories tell of possessed mansions inhabited by unquiet spirits. Like the Poltergeist of Tajima, obake yashiki manifest any number of ghostly phenomena from rattling windows to monsters. They are random; chaotic; terrifying. But always at the center is a single, tormented soul. Digging through these layers of horror, trying to find the curse underneath, is always part of the fun.
And just think; in 1975 when Toho studios hired Obayashi they asked him to make something like Jaws. Instead, he delivered one of the most bizarre, original—and traditional—works of cinema ever to come out of Japan.
Join us January 3rd at 7 pm at a screening of Hausu in the Henry Auditorium.