Visual Art

Light Therapy

Participation and Privacy at ONN/OF

Light Therapy

Kelly O

GET ON THE BUS And let there be light.

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Kelly O

What was ONN/OF? It was just "a light festival," a modest "gloom-banishing" event that came out of nowhere like a pair of headlights in the night, organized by two artists—Susan Robb and Sierra Stinson—and an art writer, Jim Demetre.

Demetre's family happens to own an old sweater factory in Ballard. Demetre Ski Sweaters were period-sweet, with insignias for certain skiers (a spider for Spider Sabich, for instance, made ominous after his death by gunshot at the hands of his girlfriend). Demetre's father bought the business around 1970 and closed it around 1990.

Much of its 11,000 square feet is an open area without columns or pillars—perfect for art. On one end is a watchtower room where sweater-makers could be overseen. "Nobody makes anything anymore in the United States," Demetre says—nobody except artists and designers, and a company across the street called Bardahl. (Bardahl—motto: "A World Without Friction"—makes a lubricant in a can like the one held by the Tin Man.) Great pink letters flickering over Bardahl form the last remaining neon landmark in Seattle. For ONN/OF, all the windows were covered except one, which faced and framed the Bardahl sign, brought into the exhibition.

Stand-alone art mixed with workshops, a marketplace, a dance floor, a beer garden, in keeping with the hybrid fashion of the moment. Just inside the entrance was a beach escape for the seasonal-affective disordered: a built-out room where people sat on towels and rugs with light-therapy lights as bright as the sun (an environment by Susan Robb). At a row of stands, you could buy, or pay to learn how to make, curvaceous ceramics (by James Lobb) or the Japanese art of kokedama, plants submerged in hanging moss balls. Local design (Object) and fashion (Tarboo) were for sale. You were invited (by design collective Dumb Eyes) to wave your arms like a wizard in front of an Xbox, controlling a cube in a video projection. The cube, crawling with morphing patterns, was suspended nonsensically over a city park on-screen.

Videos and installations ranged from light amusements to meditations taking advantage of the extended time and space. Zack Bent's bewitching, touching Rendering pictures a jar of liquid set on a wooden table against a black background. In the jar's surface, a room in a home is reflected, its everyday activity—doors opening and closing, people walking by, vaguely seen—happening apace, as the liquid (animal fat, it turns out) gradually solidifies. The video is as ordinary and unadorned as one of On Kawara's date paintings, yet as suffused with mystery as a photograph by Francesca Woodman.

In the center of the warehouse was a short yellow school bus. Artist Claude Zervas bought it at auction from a school district (he wants to start a spaghetti food truck). Over the driver's seat, in the position of a destination sign, he installed a fluorescent and LED panel that glows such an intense yellow that it lights up the whole bus. The LED lights are in three clusters that seem, at moments, to read "SEX." They don't, "but you're so used to advertising that does say sex when it's trying to pretend that it doesn't" that you still see SEX, as one rider said. Field Trip, as the bus is titled, was the perfect mascot for ONN/OF: a participatory sculpture with a private side, as each rider separated into her own seat, gazing up.

Two pieces by Katy Stone haunted the proceedings: Up in the creepy watchtower room, she set a tea light in the middle of the floor encircled by a small sculpture of cut metal, sending spidery shadows onto the walls. In another room below, Aurora Australis had a record player facing the corner, Blair Witch–style, with sequins scattered on the turntable and a bendy lamp hunched over it, the light hitting the sequins as they spun so that their reflections rode the corner walls in waves.

Inside a tomblike room with a short door you bent down to enter (the exterior walls lined with a Victorian display of flowers, cards, and candles), Graham Downing arranged a scene of longing: a treadmill running at high speed toward a dangling moon. The moon was a sculpture involving a glass jar, cotton balls, moisture, and black light. It was an ingenious alchemization of materials, more moony than the moon itself.

Echoes of the sweater factory's specific history whispered throughout—in Rodrigo Valenzuela's video of an emptied-out Peruvian mining town with sunlight streaking through; in Justin Lytle's woolly creations, lit from inside like the ghosts of raw materials. In a loft, Emily Pothast and David Golightly (Hair and Space Museum) erected a geodesic dome tent with an altar of crystals inside and headphones steady-streaming "om." Knit ponchos hung on hooks at the entrance, ready to wear. Results were both ridiculous and profound. recommended


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alpha unicorn 1
“If your best friend gets it, that's all that matters.”~ Kathleen Hanna
Posted by alpha unicorn on February 1, 2012 at 12:40 PM · Report this
It was a great event, really enjoyable. Seattle needs more of this kind of thing! Thanks to the organizers for what must have been a lot of work.
Posted by izzie on February 1, 2012 at 2:51 PM · Report this
translinguistic other 3
Wonderful weekend, indeed. One addendum: While Hair and Space Museum was indeed responsible for the audiovisual content of SPACE d'OM, the dome itself and its lovely contents and surroundings were largely the work of our collaborator CARAVAN AGE, aka Rena Bussinger.
Posted by translinguistic other on February 1, 2012 at 3:01 PM · Report this
I believe the artists had only 3 weeks to prepare their works; I thought ONN/OF was terrific and I HopeHopeHope it will become an annual event.
Posted by Ranchhand on February 1, 2012 at 6:11 PM · Report this
The event was ok. As an ex-rave VJ, I've seen far better projection work. a couple of the installations were good. The internal beer garden was awesome. The school van was the best touch, although it was the kind of school bus anyone would actually want to own. It was a piece of art because it was cool to begin with.

The space itself is incredible, and artist/band's wet dream. I hope a lot more events happen there, as in this weekend.
Posted by Antinet on February 2, 2012 at 1:56 AM · Report this
Light therapy works for 90% of users and this one time investment intrigues more and more people. Light therapy seems to be a universal solution and you can now own acne lights for home use.
Posted by Carol Peterson on February 2, 2012 at 3:24 AM · Report this
Hi Jen-what do you mean by ridiculous and profound? Can that be? In my own work I use alot of ceramic elementals as well as very effective video and photo imagery, uncoventionally. Light. As I wander I am struck by much of these same things exhibited here. MOMA's amazing retrospective of Francis Alys has also been a huge influence on my works point of view. As I now interject painting and collage into my pieces I feel it is more difficult than ever for the average viewer to grasp my work yet it stands stronger than ever. So ridiculous and profound? What do you really mean? Please explain. Thanks Jen.
Posted by Coatofseeds on February 5, 2012 at 11:31 AM · Report this

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