Benders was triggered while Gala and Zack observed their sons obsessively entrenched in the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender– an epic story within which characters have an ability to manipulate earth elements (fire, water, earth, air). One evening, after watching a Nova segment on The Fabric of the Cosmos, it registered that their own interests and those of their sons struck an uncanny parallel between mind-bending scientific revelations and fictitious beings harnessing natural phenomena. In this spirit, Benders brings together works that toy with the perception of space or the limits of matter. The exhibit includes works by local and national artists: Calvin Ross Carl (Portland), Lee Piechocki (Kansas City), Maria Gamboa (Seattle), Molly Epstein (Seattle), Nathaniel Russell (Oakland/Indianapolis). The exhibit will also include artifacts from the Bent household, an essay by Gala Bent and homemade pretzels made by Zack Bent and guests.
You are cordially invited to join Zack Bent in an exercise of chemistry and bending, making handmade lye dipped pretzels at 4pm as a prelude to the opening.
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Snow is rare here in the coastal Pacific Northwest. It is, perhaps, the thing I miss most about the Midwestern landscape within which I lived most of my life. I’ll daydream through these documents today, as I wait for the turning of the new year. But I will also enjoy the windy sea air that sweeps up from the Sound, and the green that stays vibrant in the soggy ground.
Suppose we did our work
like the snow, quietly, quietly,
leaving nothing out.
Well, we just passed the official shortest day of the year, and so I am in mind of planetary patterns. The video below is a lovely and haunting meditation for me on the day-to-day rhythms that are presided over by the sun, moon, water, breath, even the patterns you make inside your relationships. It was made by Seattle animator/artist Britta Johnson:
I’ve been trying like the dickens to write an artist’s statement in connection with my most recent work (reactions to and spin-offs from historical paintings of the land in order to understand the contours of the earth through different eyes– hey– that’s not a bad distillation!), but this poem I wrote a few months ago pinpoints the basic impulse:
This mountain that we hide inside
is dark with knowledge of itself.
I’ve scaled its sides
picking through ferns and soft moss
and taking in the ornaments of its anthesis
With my eyes, and my fingers.
But still the mass of it is out of my reach
so I take it in my mouth
And press my cheek to the soft ground,
sniff at its corners and edges
until I remember the secret of its penetralia,
Which is this: my center is its center
and both are unknowable and familiar.
As close as a hand is to an arm.
(Still being a purist, I’m writing this without reading anything else written about Zoe|Juniper’s “A Crack in Everything” that I saw last night)
“A Crack in Everything” begins and ends with an impossible dance. A thick, red yarn-like cord stretches from a dancer’s mouth across the stage and out of sight. It’s impossible because of the effortlessness of the dancers, considering such a tether. The first dance ends with the inelegant shuffling of the until-then unseen tether’s anchor onto the stage– a lumpy gray figure with glowing red underparts. (I thought right away about placenta, having given birth three times, and seeing the improbably gory flop of organ that has sustained my children in utero become detached and alien… the other end of the cord) The lifeline that is so taut, so crucial and binding, snaps in a spasmodic fit at the close of the piece. What comes in between is an aerobatic and guttural set of relationships– maybe even an internal relationship, as if seeing inside one complex personality. All five of the dancers are in the same multi-layered costume, after all, so that their similarities are emphasized more than their differences. The character(s) heads are flanked in flaky gold leaf that flutters around the stage as they dance, that flies through the air along with sweat and spit in some of the more intense moments. The various dances take place in a variety of reflections and divisions– a scrim that is also a projection screen doubles, triples, multiplies the dancers, and also becomes a page for a slow self-portrait trace of a body’s many movements (literally a moving shadow traced in red across a long surface). Movements are inter-species… human, but also reptilian, canine. At what I perceive as the climax of the piece, two dancers peel off layers of costume until they are nude (except for makeup and goldleaf). Stripped down, the long male black body and compact white female body form an elemental and tenuous balance, a quiet acknowledgement of another, vulnerably honest. But vulnerability is soon replaced by brutal barking– a completely committed act of rage and show of power that ranks among the most stilling moments in performance that I’ve experienced.
I left On the Boards with a network of thoughts– bloodlines, second skins, a will to power, mythology, biology– but am left especially with a memory in my own body of these extraordinary artists of movement, and the reason I am such a fan of edge-pushing theater and dance performance– because it is beyond what words or tidy thoughts can contain. Thank God for it.
I’m so excited that I finally get to see a Zoe|Juniper performance tomorrow night. I’ve long admired Zoe Scofield’s work from videos like the one above, and through her collaboration with Mandy Greer. But I’ve never seen her perform live! I’m embedding this older video, because I don’t want to spoil anything for myself before seeing Zoe|Juniper’s “A Crack in Everything.” I’ll report back!
(Some friends and I recently had a conversation about the disciplines that you fantasize about jumping into, but that you know have more to do with your admiration than your ability. Dance– especially dance like this– is one of mine. The language here is so pungent/potent/poignant.)