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).
You can watch an excerpt of “The End” here.
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,”
Vis-a-Vis Society’s “O, GO” instructional video on how to begin again. Part of their “Registration” installation at NEPO 5K Don’t Run in Seattle WA September 6, 2014. Cinematography by Ben Kasulke.
(photo credit: Rebecca Hoogs)
Vis-a-Vis Society’s instructional video on “DOWN” and “HILL” that was part of their installation “IT’S ALL DOWNHILL FROM HERE” for NEPO 5k 2013.
Music by Kent Kessler
(photo credit: Rebecca Hoogs)
For Vis-a-Vis Society’s final experiment in Occidental Park’s outdoor laboratory as part of ARTSparks, Dr Ink and Dr Owning collected data from passerby, including several licks from what is statistically the cutest puppy in the history of science:
After petting this creature, Dr Owning’s sensible shoes melted onto her pantyhose.
After finding oneself on the “Perception of Time-Speed in Relation to Distance from Optimal Position” graph (X=How fast does time seem to be moving?, Y=How far are you from where you want to be?) :
participants filled out a short exit survey, which Dr Ink and Dr Owning performed as a list poem inside the graph, transcribed below.
Things That Spark
When two or more people start an action
Flint & Steel
Some kind of chemical process?
A good thought
A thought, either bad or good
Living from bliss
Two electrons bounce off each other
Sense of humor
The small things that happen when you least expect them
Release of energy
People who are present
Passion & timing
Walking to work
Connections between people
The arising and passing away of energy at every moment
What Brought Us to the Park
A universal conscience
I am a neuron
Visiting a friend and passing through
I live a few blocks away
My puppy loves leaves!
Nice walk during my lunch break
A place to regroup on journey to resources
Live nearby – been here 20 years
We are tourists on the prowl
Trying to keep it all moving
A love of people!
“Just Be Your Selfie” exhibit
Choosing a thought
I live two blocks away
Looking for pedi-cab fares
On my way to work
Walking to towne
The graph – the piece
A wandering adventure
Dr Ink and Dr Owning laid out a second graph, one week later, next to the first “Perception of Time-Speed in Relation to Distance from Optimal Position” self-graphing experiment in Seattle’s Occidental Park, as part of ARTSparks.
(photo credit: Robert Wade)
In these two poems formed from passerby answers to our survey questions, the people in the park report on Things That Spark and What Brings you to the Park:
Things That Spark
Friction and excitement.
An electronic connection between two people,
two people, two things, two thoughts, two events.
Instant, unexpected inspiration toward joy.
Friction, physical or metaphysical
Solar power acceleration.
Community coming to life.
A chemical reaction.
Everything and everyone I see.
If it’s at the right time, the spark will happen.
Two things colliding.
The intersection of two divergent beings.
The right things coming together at the right time.
Two objects colliding at a fast pace.
Energy, emotion, love.
Instant connection with people.
Food and life.
People who smile.
Some sort of emotion.
Variety in life.
Love or flint,
Two high energy particles coming close
Excitement and something new
Passion and drive
Anything – if struck in the right way.
What Brought Us to the Park
Checking out your beautiful city
‘Cause it’s fun
Catapulting lapse in time while falling into space
The farmer’s market and bread store
Destination coordination within prefabricated reasoning
A quick stroll through Seattle
I’m a neighbor
We were just walking around, while waiting for a friend and saw this beautiful park
Walking home from the doctor
We live just a block away
Visiting from London for a friend’s wedding
Lunch with a friend
It is the center of good and evil
A walk with my family
Visiting on my way to Portland
Chess and friends
Moving through time and space from woods to city to home
I am travelling
The farmer’s market today
Fruit and vegetable and love
Just walking by
Following, like sheep, a friend
Spending time with family
Time and space conspiring
Visit to underground
Lunch at Pioneer Square
To drop off a slideshow
See some art
Just walked by
Vis-a-Vis Society installed a temporary graph on the street in Occidental Park, Seattle, as part of ARTSparks, asking passerby to chalk in a point on the graph by finding X = How fast does time seem to be moving? and Y = How far are you from where you want to be?
Test subjects then filled out a short exit survey, answering the questions:
What makes a SPARK?
What brings you to the PARK?
The answers to these questions formed a list poem, performed by Dr Ink and Dr Owning on site. A transcription:
Things that spark
a rock thrown against bricks
my old broken stove in Germany
a flash of idea
the motivation to make that idea become tangible
movement in friction
no plans/no schedule
that special something
when two people come together to develop/create something special
matches on sidewalks
more than one
making a connection
doing what you love
seeing the moment while travelling through
a person’s smile
oxygen and energy
the night sky
What brought us to the park
Taking a walk with an old friend
Walking with my pregnant friend who just moved to Seattle as I’m on my way to train back home to Oregon
Just walking by
Opportunity brought me near the park right when the Farmer’s market was on
Sunshine and blue skies
on way to lunch
to see the old town of Seattle
working on bringing art to the people!
I work here
to watch chess
by-the-seat-of-the-pants Seattle vacation
my friend, Kristin
taking a walk
day with Mom
waiting for a Bolt bus
the work of the Lord
Wednesday Farmer’s Market
meeting new people
seeing new things
seeing different things
relaxing with myself and etc.
going to get lunch
time away from work
spark my inner self
love and family
air and water
This video by the Vis-a-Vis Society debuted at the NEPO 5K Don’t Run on September 8th, 2012. nepohouse.org/nepo5k2012.html It was created by Drs. Ink and Owning as an instructional demonstration for DOWN + HILL to encourage participants at the event.
At the start of the 5K course, participants checked in with the Vis-a-Vis Society to select one (1) unique verb for Going Down from a list of 580 verbs and phrases generated in the Vis-a-Vis Society laboratory. After selecting a unique verb, the participant then pinned the word onto his/her front or back for the duration of the 5K experience; each participant was also asked to demonstrate in some physical manner, at least once but preferably multiple times, the selected verb while on the course. The 2012 NEPO 5K Don’t Run traversed from Beacon Hill down to the International District in Seattle, beginning under a large banner created by the Vis-a-Vis Society which read: IT’S ALL DOWNHILL FROM HERE.
* Video Credits*
Scientists: Drs. Ink & Owning (a.k.a. Sierra Nelson and Rachel Kessler).
Intrepid Cameraperson for “Hill” sections: Britta Johnson.
Music: Kent Kessler.
Nancy Guppy and her amazing crew at the Seattle Channel made this short documentary about the Vis-a-Vis Society a few years back while Dr. Ink and Owning were at work on their first evening-length performance piece and installation “Who Are We?” at the Northwest Film Forum.
VIS-À-VIS SOCIETY MANIFESTO
The Vis-à-vis Society is dedicated to the poetic analysis of the everyday.
When we look in the mirror, we see 100 scientists in labcoats standing in a field of flowers.
We believe in song, dance, and live hot graphs.
We believe in the full range of human emotions. The beauty of their data could break your heart.
We heart science.
We love to play the overhead projector, portable record player, autoharp. glockenspiel & accordion. We love to sing in the multiple choice choir.
We believe in polka. We believe in robots. We believe in teaching each other to waltz. We believe in crying into telephones. We believe in secret calls from the broom closet. We believe in public payphones and drinking fountains. We believe in clog dancing down the shame quotient. We believe in better science through snacking.
We believe in you, because we are you.
The Vis-à-vis Society wants to know more about who people are, how they are experiencing, and why they live.
We hope our scientific work helps people have a good time, feel a range of emotions, learn something new about themselves and/or their fellow humans, be surprised at least once, laugh at least once, go away still thinking about something they saw/heard/experienced, and maybe dancing on the inside.
Polka is our vodka.
The Vis-à-Vis Society wants to bring its findings to people who like poetry and people who are afraid of poetry. People who like to sing and dance, and people who are afraid to sing and dance. People who enjoy filling out surveys, and people who usually hate filling out surveys but find themselves surprised at how strange and delightful our surveys can be.
We have found a correlation between pocket utilization and our experience of jealousy.
We’d love to meet you in a park, bar, library or cafe. We would like to learn how you dance around in your living room. We’d like to watch old films with you, quietly breathing.
We want to touch your analog technology.
Our hearts come equipped with VU meters. Our hive-minds hum collectively.
We are not afraid to be sad. We hope we might make you laugh really really hard.