Artist Emily Taibleson went away to find her way back home. Her work currently on display at the Hillman City Collaboratory, a show entitled “Over the Stones on the Edge of a Bluff” (also the title of a compilation of poems she published in college), is a reflection of her personal journey as well as part of a larger community narrative. The story arc of the show follows Emily’s efforts to communicate her impressions and experiences on paper and canvas (and, in one piece that stayed with me, on dense burlap due to running out of canvas mid way through). Some pieces evoke the Northwest with color and texture, some reflect struggle and isolation in stark black and white. Throughout the show runs an underlying theme of connection and community.
One of Emily’s first jobs upon returning to the NW, after completing a rigorous arts program on the East coast, was a mural project intended as a vehicle to express the voices and stories of a group of at risk youth. In projects like this she acted as the framework within which the young artists learned to become the narrators of their own tale. This community method of storytelling is again reflected in the Columbia City Mural Project, a large, vibrant mural on the west side of Rainier Ave S. (in the Hummingbird parking lot). A powerful piece, the mural project was a community effort weaving together a wide spectrum of voices. Emily was tasked with representing these contributors’ intimate stories and she did so with respect and consideration, feeling honored to represent these stories within the community. These projects highlighted for her what a privilege it is to have paint or canvas, to have a space to create or to display one’s work. These things are ‘not a given’ despite what one might believe after being ensconced in an academic environment focused solely on creating art. The Collaboratory show in some ways reflects this change in her personal perspective, understanding the reality of privilege against the backdrop of being an artist.
Emily shared a sense of unburdening herself with this show, building off of the lessons she has learned up to now with an intention to re-focus and start fresh. Letting go of expectations, her own as well as the “industry’s”, has lead her to this jumping off place. The next chapter, blank canvas, awaits.
South Seattle – This Saturday, September 13th, residents of South Seattle will be be able to experience the majestic culture of Japan first hand without stepping one foot outside the southern boundaries of the 206.
SEEDArts, the arts and cultural division of South East Effective Development, is presenting the second installment of their Arts Gumbo series, this one featuring music, dancing and food from Japanese Culture.
The event will take place at the Rainier Valley Cultural Center and will kick off at 6pm with the performance group Mako & Munjuru, who will be showcasing the music and dance of Okinawa and Japan. Using the Okinawan lute, zither, taiko drums and voice, they will combine elegant melodies, folk tales and sophisticated classic tunes to present traditional “island songs”.
Munjuru (which means straw hat) is comprised of three musicians: Mako on vocals & sanshin; Sadayo on kutu; Noriko on taiko; and two dancers Takako and Hitomi.
After the performance, the audience will be treated to a traditional Japanese dinner cooked earlier in the day by Community Kitchens Northwest and local volunteers.
After dining, audience members can participate in a Bon dance workshop. Bon Odori are folk dances traditionally performed during Obon, a Japanese summer festival, to music that includes the steady beat of a taiko. The taiko sits on a raised platform, or a yagura, and musicians use bachi, or drumsticks, on the taiko, to keep time for the Bon dancers. The guiding purpose of Bon Odori is to set aside the ego through unselfconscious dancing.
“With this area being such a diverse place, we feel the the Arts Gumbo series is a wonderful opportunity for the community to engage with, and learn directly from, the various cultures that populate the South Seattle area.” Said Jerri Plumridge, SEEDArts Director.
I had only been to Bumbershoot a smattering of times over the past few years, and each time had felt vaguely indifferent to the festival as a whole. Mediocre music, moderately priced tickets, and the same old street vendors as were prominent at every Seattle street fair, from University District to Ballard and back again. I walked in this past Saturday, therefore, with mixed expectations.
I was greeted by a very friendly press room, complete with bagels, and after a brief stop, I was on my way into the festival. The eclectic mix of street fair and festival I actually found myself enjoying – if ever there was a gap in the schedule of artists I wanted to see, it was comforting to know that I could at least peruse the wide array of jewelry, merchandise, and fair food available.
The first artist I saw was Dude York, playing inside the Seattle Center. With a subtle flash of my press pass, I was in. However, the queue of would-be attendees wasn’t so lucky. I immediately noticed the space left in the venue – with a little squeezing, all 25 people might have fit. Though the space felt open and uncrowded, for the people who had paid to get into a festival that they were unable to see music at, it was unfortunate. The same held true for many other events – Bill Nye was a wonderful show, but for the line out the door, and other comedy shows were sold out from the start of the day. For those who had come to see specific shows, they may have felt that their tickets had been wasted.
On the whole, the artists we saw were enjoyable. Dude York was some very mediocre punk rock – they channeled the Pixies, but with worse songwriting. However, Big Freedia was perfect in all her sassy glory – her shouted encouragement at twerking women were perfect, and her music spot-on. Mac DeMarco was fun country rock in all of its trucker hat, twangy glory, with some decent songwriting along with charming band members to boot.
Panic! At the Disco was, as usual, awful (why do people like these guys?), but the lead singer partially redeemed himself with one hell of a back flip. Bill Nye took me back to the 90s, again making me overly interested in science – in this instance, sun dials (did you know there’s one on Mars?). Elvis Costello was worth it for sheer celebrity viewing, though his guitar seemed to be about as big as he was, and Polica was hauntingly beautiful in its synth-pop meets soulful singer manner. The award for kick-ass show, however, went to Walk the Moon, whose extremely enthusiastic young lead singer and catchy songs like “Shut Up and Dance With Me” led everyone in the crowd to a dancing, singing, shaking high.
I left feeling like I had gotten my share of good music at a venue that, for downtown Seattle, did a pretty good job of hosting these people. Even the visual art was unique, and provided a welcome break from the madness. Photographs from the 1960s were compelling, and especially enjoyable were the playable video games, which visualized sound in a beautiful way.
All in all, Bumbershoot lived up to its reputation, and even surpassed it. Its idiosyncratic mixture of festival and Seattle street fair made it appealing, and the prevalence of decent artists made the music worthwhile. Most of all, I appreciated the effort that was made to appeal to a wide range of audiences. From Elvis Costello to Big Freedia to Panic! At the Disco to Wu Tang Clan, Bumbershoot on Saturday alone appealed to at least four demographics. Despite the overcrowding and the terrible quality of the maps, I found myself having a lovely time, and experiencing a wide array of artists that I typically wouldn’t have seen at a music festival.
The bottom line: Ultimately, Bumbershoot is what you make it. Next year, buy a ticket for one day, or two, depending on who’s playing, but rest assured that you’ll most definitely find something you like – provided you can get in.
Mary Hubert is a performing artist, director, and arts administrator in the Seattle area. When not producing strange performance concoctions with her company, the Horse in Motion, she is wild about watching weird theater, whiskey, writing and weightlifting.
Their music has been hailed as everything from spellbinding to effervescent – and that’s usually just after the first 2 minutes of pressing the play button to one of their eargasmic inducing anthems.
Fresh off their performance at Bumbershoot that transformed the notoriously diffident Seattle crowd into zealous dance mavens, the duo of Fly Moon Royalty brings their lively act to Art Walk Rainier Beach this weekend.
Made up of vocalist, and Rainier Beach native, Adra Boo and DJ/Producer/Emcee Action Jackson the duo seamlessly steers between Jazz, Electronica, Funk, R&B, Soul, and Hip-Hop to produce a sound that defies the constraints of any genre.
The Emerald was fortunate enough to catch up with Boo before her group’s appearance at Art Walk Rainier Beach on Saturday:
Emerald: You guys are well known and have played some fairly large festivals, including Bumbershoot most recently. What made you decide to accept the invitation to perform at the Rainier Beach Art Walk?
Boo: Aside of it working out, time wise, I actually live in Rainier Beach, so it made sense to bring a performance to the neighborhood.
Emerald: They say that music and art are tools that are catalyst for transformation, be it socially or communally. As an area, Rainier Beach has seen its fair share of adversity in the recent weeks. How do you hope having a musical group of your caliber performing at its signature event changes the perception of the community?
Boo: I think that really, it’s not so much that our band performing there will change perceptions of the area, but rather people coming out to support us and the Artwalk that will do that. I mean, yes, Rainier Beach has seen it’s share of adversity, and having these events, having bands that are excited about the music they make, having a community that will come out and really stand with us and with neighbors… that’s what will change the perception of Rainier Beach, and I hope that people who know that I live there, will be that much more amped to have us!
Emerald: Your music is almost impossible to pigeon hole into one genre. How would you describe your sound and who are some of your influences?
Boo: Our music tastes are vast, haha! We each listen to classic hip hop, old soul and R&B, 90’s jams, and alternative sounds, music with fresh sounds and textures, like Bjork, Little Dragon, and so forth. We grew up on good music… Stevie, Dilla, Parliament, Prince and MJ… A Tribe Called Quest, Roots, Erykah Badu and Jill Scott… to name a few.
Emerald: What can someone who has never seen one of your acclaimed live performances anticipate this weekend?
Boo: You might make some stank face, you might feel some good feelings, and you might be hungry afterward!
Emerald: You guys have been described as having a “rocket strapped to your back” in terms of a meteoric rise. What’s next for you guys?(Album, touring, etc)
Boo: Towards the end of the month, we’re kicking off our Fall Tour with a show in Everett, a Battle of the Bands show- pre game for the Seahawks vs Broncos game, and then we’re going through the Midwest, down the east coast, and performing in The Recording Academy’s first ever Grammy Festival At Sea!! We’l even have some unreleased music and visuals drop online! There’s a lot going on, but people can follow it all at our website, www.flymoonroyalty.com!
South Seattle – Artist Carina A. del Rosario will premiere her temporary “passport office” on Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014 at the Rainier Beach Art Walk, on South Henderson between Rainier Avenue South and Seward Park South.
The interactive art installation invites people to consider ways race, nationality, gender and other categories are used to limit and divide people. “We all deal with forms that ask us to check boxes about ourselves,” says del Rosario. “A lot of times, those boxes don’t fit or, if we check them, that information may be used against us.”
Del Rosario explains that she created her Passport Series to provide people with a different experience. She re-framed typical application questions and participants use their own words to describe the most important parts of themselves. She takes their answers and their portraits and assembles them into individual booklets that resemble travel passports.
At the Rainier Beach Art Walk, people can view over 20 completed booklets, and participate in the project by having their portrait taken and completing one of del Rosario’s application forms. These will be added to the growing series, some of which will be featured at an upcoming exhibition at the Wing Luke Asian Museum.
While del Rosario has been working on the series with individual friends since 2013, this is the first time she will be doing it as a participatory public installation.
“To move forward in addressing civil rights and discrimination, we need to have opportunities where people can wrestle with ideas about identity in a broader context,” she says. “I want to provide a safe and creative space for people to reflect on their own struggles with identity, perhaps see things they have in common with someone completely different from them, and have an opportunity to present themselves in a more holistic way.”
Del Rosario’s “Passport Office,” at booth number 13, will be open from 10 am to 6 pm, Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014 during the Rainier Beach Art Walk. Spanish, Vietnamese and Somali interpreters will be available to assist people from those communities who want to participate in the project. Funding for the Passport Series is provided, in part, by the City of Seattle’s Office of Arts and Culture.
While the advent of Bumbershoot is met with ambivalence like nowhere else more than Seattle’s south end, where the arrival of the nation’s largest annual music and arts festival is just as likely to be met with rabid exuberance as it is with dull insouciance from past festival goers, this year’s event comes peppered with some hyperlocal flare that just might be enough to make the trip to the shadow of the Space Needle worthwhile this Labor Day weekend.
The South Seattle based creative arts trio of Andy Arkley, Courtney Barnebey and Peter Lynch, better known as the artist collective LET’S, will be presenting their fully interactive art installation Finger Power at this year’s festival.
The group, who originally formed together ten years ago as a rock band under the moniker Library Science -“We obviously called it that to
attract members of the opposite sex.” Jokes Lynch- chose to move their creative camaraderie from the realm of music into “living aesthetics” three years ago when they began yearning for greater creative expression than local dive bar performances allowed them.
Their latest endeavor, which will be unveiled today at 3:00pm at the Seattle Center’s Fisher Pavilion and be on display for the entire labor day weekend, combines the trio’s love for music, color, and gaming, and features six different interactive consoles that transform colors into instruments, encouraging six different people at a time to form an impromptu band and simultaneously spawn music and art -think Guitar Hero fused with a large scale Jackson Pollock inspired paint by numbers kit.
The Emerald caught up with the members of LET’S prior to Finger Power’s opening at Bumbershoot.
Emerald: So how does a group make the transition from rock band to creators of art installations?
Peter Lynch: After we put out three different albums we kind of just ran out of drive. It started getting more annoying than it was exciting. After we broke up the band we didn’t quite know what we were going to do, but we were still really good friends, and us breaking up the band was kind of like saying that we didn’t want to lose our friendships. So, we thought why don’t we see if we can do something else together and after about a year we started deciding to make art constructs.
Courtney Barnebey: It seemed like when the band stopped we all kind of just went our own ways and that gave us a little bit of distance from each other that was needed. We then just naturally came back together around the time that Andy got a piece accepted at the Soil Gallery.
Andy Arkley: Yeah, around that time I remember sending Peter and Courtney an email saying that, “Hey, I’ve got this show. Here’s an idea of what we can do. Do you want to try (building art installations)?” Everyone agreed to give it a try, not knowing how big of a project it actually was going to be (laughter). They say that an artist has to hone their craft, so we were used to practicing 3 days a week as a band and just translated that to working on the art installation.
Emerald: The transition actually seems more seamless than you would imagine.
Courtney: It was really interesting how everything came together because everyone of us naturally has a creative role and tendency in our group, and we fell back into that with each other. When we came back together to build these interactive installations it was like: “Wow, this is super exciting! This is why we decided to collaborate together in the first place!” We have a history, so every project we work on, we’re not forging new relationships or new ways to work with each other. We kind of just feel back into that pattern of how we used to work together. We just had a different medium.
Peter: Yeah, I felt by the end that the band was really restricting, and Andy and Courtney are more visually oriented, while I’m more musically creative. The art installation was like, “Oh! This is how we can still cluster together and make stuff, and be exploiting what we really want to be doing.” We want to be doing great work that’s collaborative, but we no longer wanted to just restrict it to, “Okay! You make the album cover. You make the live videos, etc.” This really opened up a lot of creative boundaries.
Emerald: This is actually LET’s second year at Bumbershoot. How does Finger Power compare to last year’s entry and what are you hoping people take away from it?
Andy: Last year we made a piece called Magic Synch. It was our first piece and I would say that it was definitely an experiment in making a directly interactive art installation. The curators at Bumbershoot said that the piece was pretty successful, and people really interacted with it. I think we learned a lot of things just from watching people use it, and it gave us a ton of new ideas about what we wanted to create for this year.
This installation involves color a lot more. I’d actually say that this piece is, is a lot more focused than the last one we made, there was just a lot of things going on and all kinds of craziness, this one has some pretty focused things. There’s six colors involved in it that go along with six stations. It’s a lot more obvious than last years about how you’re interacting with it. One thing that happened last year was that people would play with our art installation but they wouldn’t exactly understand what was going on, but we wanted people to be able to do that this year. Last year’s piece was a little more chaotic, and we’ve definitely pushed it towards a little less chaotic this year… but it’s still pretty chaotic (laughter).
Emerald: So why the focus on color with this installation?
Courtney: Going back to people understanding what they’re doing, we tried to use color so that people could better correlate the buttons that push on the installation with what’s going on around them. So if someone is at the orange console, and is controlling the color orange that is a one to one correlation. They can see what they’re doing and how they’re interacting with everyone else, so it was a way to give visual order to the piece so that people would get a more meaningful interaction with other from it. If a person knows what she’s doing, she can now interact with the person next to her better. We wanted to give people the tools to be creative.
Andy: Ultimately, with this piece we’re trying to create that feeling that you get when you’re collaborating with another person. That’s the feeling we already have as LET’S. We want Finger Power to inspire those positive moments derived from collaborating together as a team. That elation that comes from that. We’ve attempted to create an installation that reproduces that feeling amongst random people.
Peter: The great thing about incorporating color in this piece is that you can’t mess it up very much. You can do what you can do, and your color is your instrument for you to attempt to master in a way. The shift from last years to this years is that we’re telling people to not only rely on their ears, but also their eyes so that you’re actually looking at what you’re doing. We have both visual and sound and what other two things do you need to make instantaneous collaboration?
Emerald: So with this installation you’ve intentionally empowered people to be as creative as they choose to be?
Peter: Yes! When we were figuring out what our group was about we kept coming back to this idea of allowing people to find their own creativity, so even if they haven’t been musicians before they get to create music. They get to play with other people without having to have a superior understanding in music. Hopefully that feeling of being creative with others is something that they can take from this and apply in whatever realm of life that want.
We’re aware that probably 80% of the people who walk in and play with it will be: “Yep! Okay, let’s grab a beer.” But, the hope is that you get moments like last year when this jazz musician from St. Louis discovered us, and came in everyday to play with our installation. He kept telling us: “Wow, you guys need this thing down by the river in St. Louie! I’d have my friends come down there everyday!” He kind of became the unofficial orchestrator of the installation, telling people what buttons to push and when, and he and all these strangers created some really cool stuff together!
Emerald: What would it take for you to designate Finger Power as a success?
Andy: It’s kind of hard to know exactly because last year some things happened with the installation that I didn’t know was going to happen, like 18 year olds interacting with 60 year olds. It was surreal watching them teach each other, and that too me was one of the more successful things I saw. I guess if I see people enjoying it, that will be a success. It only takes a few people for me to be like: “Yes! I totally inspired a couple of people and they’re totally getting the purpose of the installation.”
Peter: It doesn’t take lines out the door for me to deem it as a success. It’d be nice to have people come back two days in a row though. I’d love to impress a couple of people, but I just want it to be a fun experience. It it just so happens that only 5 to 8 year olds really love it, then hey, we succeeded with that!
Courtney: For me, it’s success is defined by if we can get more people to interact with each other than they do with us, and if they are actually aware of that interaction and not just off in their own zone somewhere. I want people to look at each other and say: “Yeah we’re doing this together!” That’s when a sense of community is created.
Finger Power will be at featured at Seattle Center’s Fisher Pavillion, 305 Harrison Street, Seattle 98109 as part of Bumbershoot Weekend. A display schedule is below:
In a vacuum, I’m drawn to cutting-edge productions. I want to see art that makes me think, theater that pushes the boundaries of acceptability, dance that calls into question what is and isn’t movement. Often, I go to the theater to learn, to think about current events, and most of all to find new methods of creating.
Theater Schmeater’s first production in their new space, Attack of the Killer Murder… of Death! did none of this whatsoever.
And yet, I loved it.
The play, written by Wayne Rawley, takes place in an old haunted mansion where a bunch of small-time actors with big-time personalities struggle to produce a truly terrible B-movie horror flick. When their diva dies suddenly and suspiciously, accusations fly and murders abound as the inept performers and crew try desperately to discern who the murderer might be.
I spoke to Wayne before seeing the show, and he said the B movie musical had inspired the world of the play. The play, originally commissioned by Seattle Public Theater in 2014 for a youth ensemble, is, in Wayne’s words, a satirical take on the average not-so-well-written murder mystery. The main challenge, he said, was to create a play that was satisfying within its genre while simultaneously poking fun at it. Remarkably comfortable with directing his own work, he told me that for him, “Directing… is an extension of the writing process”. The backbone of the play, he said, is remarkably simple: It is the search for the truth. The characters, the actors, the audience, the plot – all search for the truth. The goal of the play? To have fun.
He hit the nail on the head.
Although it didn’t change my worldview or radically alter my perceptions of theater, the hilarious writing and mostly competent cast constructed a deliciously irreverent romp through a campy tale of murder, romance, and big personalities set against the backdrop of 1950s movie culture. I laughed. I snorted. And the script capered along through each of its zippy 40 minute acts with so many tricks, turns, and witty one-liners (“What can I say? I’m a sociopath! We don’t always use good judgment!”) that I was right there with Wayne the entire time.
Where the play fell flat was in the acting. Perhaps because of its original cast of high schoolers, the script was written in a way that didn’t require acting gymnastics. Even so, the performances at times felt flat. Even in a campy tale, characters must believe themselves, must be completely invested in their actions. This is where the humor lies. Often, the actors seemed intent on playing the stereotypes that their characters were, instead of playing characters in earnest that just happened to be stereotypes. After all, what diva knows that she is a diva? Though the characters were caricatures, the actors still needed some moments of truth that were lacking.
Despite this, the play zinged along with entertaining rapidity, and I found myself invested in the “Who’dun’it” aspect while laughing out loud at the silly scenarios in each of the three rapid-fire acts. Theater Schmeater lived up to their irreverent reputation – I’m looking forward to their next silly endeavor, especially if Wayne is at the helm.
The bottom line: Schmeater’s newest production is an enjoyable, frivolous romp through an already entertaining genre. Only slightly bogged down by mediocre acting, this show is worth seeing if you’re looking for a mindless guffaw on a summer night. Check it out!
Mary Hubert is a performing artist, director, and arts administrator in the Seattle area. When not producing strange performance concoctions with her company, the Horse in Motion, she is wild about watching weird theater, whiskey, writing and weightlifting.
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