I caught up with Paige Barnes as she prepares to show her latest work, Interstitial Pulse, I might fall into the ocean, which will be performed at Seattle Art Museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park on Friday, March 31. This presentation is the third and final installment of a series of Art Encounters that were created during an intensive residency at the park’s PACAAR Pavilion over the past three months. In collaboration with visual artist Stefan Gruber, poet Vanessa DeWolf, musician Evan-Flory Barnes, and florist Madeline Mindich, Barnes invites the audience to interact with the multimedia world these artists have created and also to witness a set performance. Incorporating Barnes’s studies in Traditional Chinese Medicine, this work seeks to engender “intimacy, reflection, and awareness of [each audience member’s] inner world.”
Barnes began working with the idea of pulse readings in her previous project, DanceCrush winner PALMS, and she decided to continue developing this idea for the pilot program of the residency at SAM’s Sculpture Park. During the residency process in January and February, Barnes performed pulse readings on visitors to the pavilion’s ARTLAB room. After connecting with each person by listening to his or her pulse, Barnes performed a solo inspired by the reading. DeWolf, in turn, interpreted Barnes’s solo, creating a piece of personalized poetry. These words, along with videos of Barnes’s movement, eventually became one aspect of the Art Encounter presentations that were performed on January 27 and February 24. These improvised solos and writings are one way in which Barnes intends to “bring art to many.”
After their pulse reading, each person left the ARTLAB with a unique, participatory experience and the opportunity to reflect on Barnes’s movements and DeWolf’s words. DeWolf wrote excerpts of her new poems onto cards that she gave to each pulse reading participant. On the back of the cards, visitors found a map outlining an individualized route through the vast “kinetic sculptures” of the park, set before the magnificent backdrop of the Puget Sound. In a thoughtful connection to Barnes’ healing practice, there are five Meditative Walks, each leading participants to sculptures reflecting one of the organ systems corresponding to the Chinese Five Organ Theory. Barnes says that her inspiration for these meditative walks sees “the park as a metaphor for the body.” Barnes identified a sculpture in the park to represent each organ system (heart, liver, kidney, lung, and spleen) based on similar characteristics, such as color, taste, or cardinal direction. This is one of the many ways in this project that Barnes synthesizes her two professions as a licensed acupuncturist and as a dance artist.
After the first month of the residency, Barnes and her collaborators presented their first Art Encounter: Bridging Pulse. In this performance, one of the elements involved audience members calling out commands such as, “Move on diagonal. Rapid feet,” in yet another participatory element for the audience. In order to encourage weaving and even more interaction with the space, the performances took place on the pavilion’s periphery. In February, during Amplifying Pulse, Barnes invited eleven dancers to perform with her in the pavilion, dancing on a floor made from shiny silver mylar to reflect the lighting design by Amiya Brown. The gleaming material brought to mind reflective water, shadows, and to Barnes, worked to “amplify infinity.” In these performances, musicians Flory-Barnes, Ivory Smith, Beth Fleenor and Monica Schley performed an original musical score, and visual artist Gruber projected live animations that interacted with the dancers’ movements.
In Interstitial Pulse, audience members will experience a contemplative, intimate performance intended to open up connections to emotions and feelings internally, and also to form a collective bond with other observers and the performers. Barnes and her collaborators bring together many more exciting elements to this mindful work. I am left with this open-ended question to reflect upon at the performance: “How does an awareness of your inner world affect the viewing?”