Vis-à-Vis Society: THE END           

Exhibition at V2, 1525 11th Ave, Seattle, WA

December 1st-December 17th, 2016

Opening Party December 8th, 5-8PM


The Vis-à-Vis Society is a group of scientists dedicated to the poetic analysis of the everyday. In our ongoing scientific-creative practice, we slow down the pace and ask our live audience to provide individual data [via poem-surveys, graphing, movement, among other techniques] — using tactile media [such as paper and pen, safety pins and race bibs, phonographs and vinyl records, overhead projectors and Vis-a-Vis markers, and so on] — within a shared time and space [right here, with you, right now] — to create a composite portrait of our collective personal experience.

Always rooted in text and the writing that occurs between minds, lead poet-scientists Dr. Ink and Dr. Owning also draw on their 18-year collaborative history and shared passion for the scientific method for their lyrical investigations across media.

This exhibit includes selections of new and ongoing Vis-à-Vis Society research, focusing on installations and videos from the field and laboratory, spanning over a decade.

Burning under every experiment, every poem, there is a question. In this exhibition, overtly and obliquely, we ask about The End. Over the past months that inquiry has taken on a more sinister and urgent meaning. We hope in some small way you may find something cathartic in interacting with these pieces, or at the very least something restorative to the self and the senses, and a renewed sense of community and connection through art and collaboration. As a start, we are trying to remember that each ending is only one of many that are possible, and we have the power to choose, individually and collectively, which kind of ending we will move forward in the world.

Thank you for your presence and participation in our work.


Founded by poet-scientists Dr. Ink and Dr. Owning (a.k.a. Sierra Nelson and Rachel Kessler), Vis-à-Vis Society has performed and created installations across the nation, at venues such as The Frye Art Museum, Seattle Art Museum, Hugo House, Bumbershoot, NEPO 5K, Northwest Film Forum, Lo-Fi Festival at Smoke Farm, Hedreen Gallery, Henry Art Gallery, and NYC’s Galapagos Art Space. Their books include Who Are We? (with 7-inch vinyl EP) and Desire & Flotation Devices, and their work has appeared in journals and anthologies including Emergency Index: International Print Anthology of Performance Art, Alaska Quarterly Review, Poetry Northwest, Rivet, Jackstraw Writers Anthology, and Drift Magazine. @VisaVisSociety 


1. “Don’t Stop!” Vinyl banner, 2014. (First Appeared: NEPO 5K Don’t Run, Seattle, WA.)

Don’t stop believing. Hold onto that feeling.

2. “O GO: Heavy Metal Palindrome” (with Ben Kasulke, Michael Seiwerath, Slayer). Video (10:00), palindrome song, TV sets; 2014. (First Appeared: NEPO 5K Don’t Run, Seattle, WA)

Shot in one take at the T-Dock on Lake Washington. Inspired by all that begins again, each line is a palindrome that can be read forward or backward. IN WORDS DROWN I.

3. “Coats” Super-8 film transfer (2:13), multiple-choice poem, screen, coat rack, coats; 2007. (Debuted as part of “We Are You: A Statistical Musical,” a Vis-à-Vis Society feature-length multimedia performance at the Northwest Film Forum, Seattle, WA (2007); featured at 9th Annual Next Dance Cinema Festival, Velocity Dance Theatre, Seattle, WA (Dec 2014).)

Try putting on as many coats as you can at one time. Make a movement (including the option of stillness) for how you feel. Next, try the “Flip Trick”: lay a coat on the ground, then put it on by flipping it over your head. Note any shift in your emotional state. Please return all coats to the rack after you have conducted your own experiment.

4. “It’s All Downhill From Here” Vinyl banner, 2012. (First Appeared: NEPO 5K Don’t Run, Seattle, WA)

Look up. We are all going down, in one way or another.

5. “Downhill” (with Britta Johnson, Kent Kessler, Ruby Seiwerath). Video (11:41), goose droppings, stranger reading a book; 2012. (First Appeared: NEPO 5K Don’t Run, Seattle, WA.)

Please use caution if recreating any of these experiments in your own laboratory. Safety goggles advised.

6. “The End” [Video] (with Britta Johnson, Kent Kessler). Video (23:00), list poem, projector and screen, 2015. (First Appeared: NEPO 5K Don’t Run, Seattle, WA.)

1,000 ways to end – an instructional video for participants.

7. “Scientific Method Poems: The End” Paper, poetry, science; 2016. (First Appeared: V2, Seattle, WA.)

The Scientific Method is a half-sonnet, a strict form of seven steps that begins with a question and ends with discovery. Each poem in this series is a recording of a live experiment conducted between Drs. Ink and Owning in their laboratory. Using a semi-double-blind process, lines are alternately written so that the scientist who poses a question will only hypothesize, observe, and give the final report for her question, while the more objective writing partner researches, builds the experiment, and analyzes the results.

 8. “The End [Wall]” Tyvec; 1,000 ways to end; safety pins; people; 2015. (First Appeared: NEPO 5K Don’t Run, Seattle, WA.)

Now it is time to end again. Choose how you would like to end from our selection of THE END race bibs. Then pin it on and wear it as you move throughout the gallery, into the city, and through your life. Combine with other words and phrases you encounter to form impromptu poems of ending, perhaps as a means of beginning something new.

 9. “Who Are We? Listening Station” (with Carol Chapman and Christopher Strode). Who Are We Vis-à-Vis Society Workbook (36 pages), vinyl record (9:17), turntable, headphones; 2006. (Previously Appeared: Frye Art Museum for Mw [Moment Magnitude] Exhibition, Seattle, WA)

Put on headphones. Gently place record player tone arm on Side A Track 1. Switch turntable from On to PLAY. Refer to Who Are We workbook as needed.

 10. “Stretch It Out” [Poem Poster Exercise Series] (with Ryan Diaz, Rebecca Hoogs, Matthew Offenbacher). Risograph ink & paper, 2013. (First Appeared: NEPO 5K Don’t Run, Seattle, WA.)

Aerobic-poetic exercises to prepare the body and mind for experiencing art. Feel free to engage in these stretches on your own or with a partner, or find a lab-coated poet-scientist to assist you. Read the lines of the poem while executing the movement.

11. “Scientific Method Poem: Do I Look OK?” Two-way mirror, adhesive vinyl, poetry, you; 2012. (First Appeared: Frye Art Museum for Mw [Moment Magnitude] Exhibition, Seattle, WA.)

We see you and we love you.

12. “X = How Fast Does Time Seem To Be Moving / Y = How Far Are You From Where You Want To Be” [Self-Graphing Individual Experience of Time & Distance]. Chalk, people, time, space; 2010. (Debuted as part of Capitol Hill Sound Transit’s STArt Wall Project, Cal Anderson Park, Seattle, WA. Additional graph research at numerous locations, including at Hugo House and for Seattle Office of Arts & Culture’s ARTSparks in Occidental Park, Seattle, WA.)

Ask yourself: How fast does time seem to be moving, right now, and find the corresponding speed on the X-axis. Next, ask yourself: How far am I from where I want to be? and find the corresponding distance on the Y-axis. On the spot on the graph where your answers to the two variables intersect, make a mark with a piece of chalk. Stand back and admire your work and the constellations that are forming.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s