I must admit that it is a little intimidating, as a writer, to approach the Frye Art Museum’s Genius/21 Century/Seattle exhibit, running from September 26, 2015 to January 10, 2016. There is just too much good stuff curated and/or sponsored by the Frye from among winners of The Stranger’s Genius Award.
The Genius exhibit challenges what it means to be a viewer, an artist, and an art museum.
I am only going to get into the particulars of one piece here, zoe I juniper’s We were., 2015, an installation with a durational performance on November 12, 2015. Zoe Scofield and Juniper Shuey are 2008 Artist Trust Grants for Artist Projects and Fellowship award recipients in performance. They received their Genius Award in 2013 in performance.
If you are the kind of viewer who wants to sit with one piece for an hour (or six) then this is a good choice for you; zoe I juniper will be doing their thing one last time on December 3, 2015 from 12:00-6:00 pm. I found myself lingering at the Frye from about 1:00-4:30 pm on November 12th; I had intended to head out a little earlier, but I was entranced.
If you enter the zoe I juniper space you may be invited to lie down on the floor as the dancers move around you, or witness a blindfolded dancer being gently danced away from colliding with you. You could also find yourself defined as a point in space for dancers to move in relation to, or witness the dancers exploring new ways to orient themselves to each other. I had the pleasure of viewing or experiencing all of these happenings.
Have I mentioned yet that there is no stage here?
You will sit or stand around the edges of the room, and you may have to move around as the focal point shifts throughout the space.
If the dancers are not present when you come you will still have the pleasure of viewing videos of past performances projected onto the white string curtains that dot the room, dripping to the floor from hoops on the ceiling. In some videos female dancers slowly twirl. Across two other curtains a male and a female character grunt and howl at each other, baring their teeth; their floor-to-ceiling heads are both grotesque and beautiful.
If the dancers are present you may experience the pleasure of one dance intersecting with another, as a live dancer disturbs the curtain onto which a past performance is playing. The shimmering image of those lighted strings flying apart and coming together again is magical. The sounds of the videos seemed to me to add interest to the live movement, but did not seem to set the pace of it.
The piece I witnessed followed more of a group inquiry than a prescribed set of moves. The planning was a continuous process that was not hidden away from the viewer. Near me, one viewer asked another “is this choreographed?” Another viewer, looking for someone in control, asked me if I was keeping time in my notebook.
If you attend on December 3rd, I hope you notice the kinds of directions that are given. Here is some of what I heard:
“Thinking of time and how we have all the time in the world…
…Keep this going and add the element of predator prey, so that you are keeping track of another person in the space… Manipulate them; bring them into your lair…
…Move through the space with your feet like wheels… allowing your spine to be soft and supple, your pelvis the engine that drives you…
…more of the complexity and largeness of our body…
…We don’t always have to come back to the idea of center…”
This piece blurs the line between practice and performance, the audience and the actor, memory and the present moment. There were a thousand moments that made me think about photographing or capturing my own video; but in the end I didn’t want to look away and bother with it. When do we, and when do we not, need to make a record of where we have been?
I see the irony in the fact that this writing is a record of where I have been.
I had a short conversation with choreographer Zoe Scofield, and performer Britt Carhoff, as they broke for soup in the Frye Cafe:
“At one point you were dancing and two people nearby were sitting there on their phones, and I wanted to take a picture of that. Like, look up!”
-Zoe to Britt
“I feel like at a museum everyone is photographing.”
If photography is your bliss you are allowed to do it (without flash). I want to thank the zoe I juniper dance company for giving a show worth experiencing- whatever experience means for each of us.
Photo: zoe | juniper. We were., 2015. Installation and performances. Courtesy of the artists. Photo: Mark Woods
Design, Conception, and Installation: Zoe Scofield and Juniper Shuey
Performers: Britt Karhoff, Jim Kent, Kim Lusk, Erin McCarthy, Alexander Pham, and Zoe Scofield