Walk the Block: Vis-à-Vis Society is honored to have an interactive installation made in collaboration with Wa Na Wari as part of their Walk the Block event on Saturday, October 16th, 3:00-6:00 p.m. This one-day art walk in Seattle’s Central District transforms homes, businesses, parks, and other neighborhood spaces into outdoor, street-viewable art installations and performance sites celebrating contemporary Black artists from the Pacific Northwest. Enjoy visual art, video installations, live music, dance, and more as you stroll the neighborhood with family and friends.
How to Participate: Walk the talk when you walk the block by helping to raise funds and build community with Wa Na Wari. Advanced Walk the Block tickets can be purchased here. (And further donations can be made here.) All participants are required to wear a mask at the event. Participants can arrive at Wa Na Wari (location) and begin the walk anytime between 3pm and 5pm. This will allow participants to stay socially distanced throughout the walk. Dress for inclement weather and wear comfortable shoes.
Participating Artists: Barbara Earl Thomas, Sable Elyse Smith, Martine Syms, Marita Dingus, Lisa Myers Bulmash, Owour Arunga, Nia Amina Minor and friends, Kimisha Turner, Northwest Tap Connection, Zahyr Lauren, Chloe King, Black Embodiments Studio, Jazz Brown, Gary Hammon and friends, DJ Riz, Larry Mizell Jr, Shelf Life Community Story Project and Vis-a-Vis Society.
About Wa Na Wari: Wa Na Wari is a center for Black art and belonging, co-founded in 2019. Sited in a fifth-generation, Black-owned home, Wa Na Wari is an immersive community art project that reclaims Black cultural space and makes a statement about the importance of Black land ownership in gentrified communities. Learn more about Wa Na Wari’s history, mission, and programs here.
PERFORMANCE LAB at On the Boards (100 W. Roy St., Seattle, WA 98119)
Performance Lab Theme: An Augur: Future Visions.
Wed Jan 15th, Doors 6:00 p.m., Pre-show Performances and Activities at 6:30 p.m., 7:00 p.m. official start
More info & advanced tickets: https://www.ontheboards.org/special-events/performance-lab-an-augur-future-visions
New Experiments: Part augury, part poetry, part collective unconscious telephone, the Vis-à-Vis Society will debut some new interactive performance experiments in the OtB stairwell and lobby, answering audience questions about the future from the night.
Participating Artists: This unique Performance Lab is co-curated by Charles Smith and Hatlo, and featuring new experimental works by: Vis-à-Vis Society (with co-founders Sierra Nelson and Rachel Kessler), Fox Whitney, Jéhan Òsanyìn, Sara Brickman, Shelby Handler, Julianne Chapple/Future Leisure, and Timothy White Eagle.
Dates: Oct 24-26, 2019
Location: On the Boards Theatre, Seattle, WA
Dance Title: Four Years Ago the Future: We Built You This Time Machine and Change Is Messy But Somehow from the Cells We Were and Imaginal Possibility We Are Becoming Something New
Choreographer: Vis-à-Vis Society
Performers: Dr. Ink (Sierra Nelson) and Dr. Owning (Rachel Kessler)
Sound: Sonia Monet Saxon / Soundcloud DJ sonia monet
Notes: As we explored the 4×4 stage and the number 4, we realized a lot had gone down in our lives in the past 4 years. (Maybe you too?) We collaboratively wrote and danced our way into the number 4. We tried to build an invisibility cloak. We built a time machine cocoon. We learned that within the chrysalis, out of the dissolved cells of caterpillar soup, previously dormant “imaginal cells” start to develop the first idea of radical future form.
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 visavissociety.org
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.
The Vis-a-Vis Society teamed up with Britta Johnson and drove out to the desert last summer to shoot some Spaghetti Western, Sergio-Leone-esque choreography experiments, when the forest fires leaped over I-90, forcing us to re-route to Umtanum. We drove and drove, topped off the hot engine’s oil, until we found this remote site, strewn with bullet casings and shattered glass, just like T.S. Eliot described it in “The Wasteland,”
Read more about our installation and creation process here.
Vis-a-Vis Society’s instructional video on how to go DOWNHILL for NEPO 5K Don’t Run 2012
Vis-a-Vis Society made this video poem with cinematographer Ben Kasulke to encourage participants in NEPO 5K Don’t Run 2014 “Don’t Stop!” to begin again, to go forward and backward, to loop endlessly.
Shot on super 8 to accompany Vis-a-Vis Society’s survey-poem “Coats,” from our book Who Are We?
An oldie, but a goodie. Back in August 2013, Vis-a-Vis Society installed this question/answer machine at Smoke Farm’s Lo-Fi Festival. Photos by Britta Johnson. Some of the resulting poems appear in Alaska Quarterly Review, Fall/Winter 2014, Vol 31, No 3 & 4, which were declared “funny” by The New York Review of Books.
Dr. Ink and Dr. Owning donned ghillie suits and proceeded to engage in dancing rituals in order to answer participants’ burning questions.
First, a participant inserts a question in the mailbox:
Then, after some processing through landscape ritual and song, one burning bush selects a question at random to dance, while the other bush records her interpretation, (without seeing the written question).