The Henry Open House is teeming with fun, excitement, and art! Not only are we opening two new exhibitions, Like a Valentine: The Art of Jeffry Mitchell and Now Here is also Nowhere: Part I, but we are also throwing a museum-wide party! Come dressed in your conceptual best for the Student Henry Advisory Group’s Conceptual Costume Contest. Enjoy the sweet music of the UW Mariachi Band, Fainting Goats, and FBDC ~ ФБДЦ; Check out the FAN CLUB in the Study Center; eat some delicious babycakes courtesy of Cupcake Royale and enjoy libations from Pyramid Breweries. All of that PLUS installations of Public Health Poems by Rachel Kessler!
Rachel Kessler will premier her new poem cycle on public health posters installed in The Henry’s restrooms by sinks and in bathroom stalls. Kessler will lead groups in hand-washing poetry usage, demonstrate hand washing technique, recite bathroom stall limericks, and sing sea shantys. Each poem lasts approximately 30 seconds, the amount of time the department of health recommends lathering hands for.
PUBLIC HEALTH POEMS
About the project:
Remember how your preschool teacher instructed you to rub your soapy hands together for the entirety of the Happy Birthday song? Now there is a poem for that. While scrubbing in like surgeons, our minds and mouths deserve something more than that same old dreary song.
Rachel Kessler, a poet of the everyday, has composed a new poem cycle that will appear on bathroom stall doors, above urinals, and next to sinks in public restrooms. Posing as Employees Must Wash Hands Before Returning to Work signs and stall door advertisements, these poster poems will provide entertainment while imparting a useful earworm of knowledge.
She began writing her first anonymous protest poems on the bathroom stall walls in seventh grade, and has long been fascinated by graffiti art. Inspired by a collaboration several years ago with poet Pete Miller and their collective LOCCAL: League of Citizens Concerned About Literature, her work with homeless adults, and as a preschool teacher and parent, began trying her hand at School House Rock style poems for her kids to recite while scrubbing their hands at the sink.
Determined to put poetry in unlikely and non-traditional venues, her work explores the function and origin of poetry, not only as a mnemonic device, but as a way to reflect on the mundane, daily activities that comprise the majority of our hours. After a short residency in Rome researching ancient public health works, she collaborated with graffiti, nursery rhyme, fairy tales, health department propaganda to compose poems for hand-washing, poems for toilet use, poems for dental hygiene, poems for bathroom stall decisions. Like the “Talking Fountains” of Rome, defaced statues where poets post anonymous political commentary, bathroom stalls are the original online comments. Public restrooms, like phone booths, are one of the few public-private spaces where a citizen can find respite in a public place.
This project was funded by a City Artists award from the City of Seattle’s Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs.
About the Henry event:
Several Public Health Poems will be installed in the Henry restrooms by sinks and in bathroom stalls. Rachel Kessler will lead individuals and groups in handwashing-poetry usage in the restrooms via demonstrations, in impromptu bathroom stall limerick recitations, and in other public health poetic concerns. Sea shantys will be sung in bathroom stalls.
Rachel Kessler, co-founder of poetry-performance collaborations Typing Explosion and the Vis-à-Vis Society, is a writer and performer from Seattle. Passionate about presenting poetry in non-traditional venues, she has performed interactive poetry in parks, on buses, in phonebooths, hair salons, and abandoned motels. She is visiting faculty and writer-in-residence at Centrum, a Whiteley Center Fellow with the University of Washington, a Jack Straw Writer, and senior writer-in-residence with Seattle Arts & Lectures. She has performed at multiple times at the Seattle Art Museum, Bumbershoot, Night School at the Sorrento, Galapagos Art Space and Bowery Poetry Club in New York City. Her poems have appeared in Tin House and the Monarch Review, and her text-based visual art is featured in The Open Daybook and Sea-Cat.
In summary, she’s a pretty rad lady. Make sure to spend some time in the loo at the Open House!