Tuesday, August 25, 2009

aka Lo-Fi projects @ Smoke Farm

I presented work this past weekend at Smoke Farm, a 360-acre farm on the Stilliguamish River north of Seattle. What a place! I first visited in June of this year and found myself wandering around conducting the tall grasses in the far stretching meadows and baptizing myself in the cool river. I was smitten.

The annual performance/installation festival was coming up. I was asked if I'd present. Yes absolutely! But coming up with an idea posed a problem. Before I could settle on something, I'd dream up another idea and another and another. The closer the festival got, the more ideas I had. In the end, I decided to show three pieces: two installations & a performance piece.

1. Egg Herding
Full-day (ambient) performance with eggs."From sunrise to sunset, on Saturday 22 August, performance artist Mimi Allin herds 40 fresh eggs across the Smoke Farm grounds – eggs carry depictions of the various homes the artist has known. Get in close to view the eggs, but please don’t disturb the herding process. Herding takes an incredible amount of attention & patience, and we certainly wouldn’t want any of the eggs to break because, at 8am on Sunday morning, on the shores of the Stillaguamish, the eggs that survive will be cooked into a FORTY-ACRE OMELET. All are welcome to breakfast with the artist."

Something struck me as lovely about the mix of bizarre, humorous and challenging idea of Egg Herding. Hah. I'd herd eggs (yes fresh eggs) across the farm on the various paths and dirt roads. The idea of drawing the various homes I've lived in on the eggs came to me at 3AM the week before. I added it to the sketchbook, bought some eggs and started drawing. I very much wanted to engage in a longer, deeper performance of my own. So many of my recent projects have been about engaging others in performance. I wanted a turn. I the end, it was an awesome experience. I started at 8AM as I'd proposed to do and went until about 7PM. I learned so much over the course of the day. A number of themes came up: collecting, distinguishing, counting, fracturing, threats, the lost sheep...

2. Composer’s Stump
Installation in an exposed tree root system on the Stilliguamish River with 8 mirrors, 8 composer's busts, several unfinished manuscripts and a blank composition book in which visitors are prompted to add their unfinished and abandoned "composition" (which will be left to decompose).

I was at the farm the weekend before the festival for another event called Target Art, where you were supposed to destroy your artwork (by shooting, dripping paint, etc), but instead of destroying my art, I spent all my time installing something for the festival. I'd found 22 mirror squares on the side of the road and brought them and a few other things out to the little beach to try some things. The first three ideas didn't work and ate up a lot of time. The last idea morphed and morphed until it became "Composer's Stump."

3. Rare Poetry Sightings
"Take a look around. Use the scopes and binoculars. Some rare poetry sightings have been made in this area recently. It seems Smoke Farm is in a unique fly zone for poetry. Be careful not to disturb any nesting poems. Log your findings in the Rare Poetry Sightings Log Book. Before you go, help yourself to some Patchen Duck Soup (in the tureen)." This is an installation with poetry, birds, binoculars, telescope, log book.

There seemed to be a desire for some literary/poetry related projects, so I came up with this one to satisfy the need. It was the last project I prepared and, luckily, the Goodwill had a healthy supply of birds. The idea was to choose poems you'd rarely or never see and attached the to birds at enough of a distance that you might use field glass to read them, but they were also close enough that you could just go over and read them. Some were hidden in the grass, others were on dowels, on stumps or in trees. The tiny red cardinals Vanessa loaned me were the most striking of all and I found a gorgeous poem about the heart of a bird, a little red bird, to go with them. Perfect.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


"From Art Criticism to Poetry in FIVE STROKES"
Curated by A. K. “Mimi” Allin
@ Seattle Art Museum | SAM Word | 7:30PM 20 August 2009

"From Art Criticism To Poetry in FIVE STROKES” is about gesturing. It is about reversing criticism and using art to respond to art. It offers, as an alternative to traditional critical modes, simpler responses such as letting go and sensing. It plainly suggests keeping the art in the art.

PART ONE happened at this month’s Art Walk (7 Aug), outside the TK building. It included an installation and an interaction. There was a table with sumi-e brushes, ink and a stack of art reviews. Participants were asked five questions, ranging from the simple “How are you?” to the complex, “How successful are you at casting off burdens?” They then used ink to gesture their responses. They made their marks on large-format copies of critical art reviews, everything from groundbreaking essays by Clement Greenberg to contemporary reviews in The Stranger & The Seattle Times.

Once their marks were made, participants could either take their work home or donate it to become a poem. Most chose to donate their work. What appealed most about this project was watching the care with people responded and sensing the clarity of the moment we shared. There was a tangible “brink of expressing” followed by “an expressing” that was curiously and carefully observed by both parties. If this is the kind of communication that is possible, I dare say there is hope.

PART TWO happens Thursday 20 August at SAM Downtown. It is at this event that the sumi-e criticisms will be distributed to 10 poets. Each will have 3-4 to consider. Poets will sit in the SAM galleries, weighing gesture against text, and turning them into poems. Afterwards, they will explain their methods. They will not read their poems. They’ll drop their poems to the floor and go on working. Their explanations will be broadcast to the Brotman Forum (the SAM lobby). Museums visitors will be able to read the poems and see the drawings in the galleries until the museum closes at 9PM.

Witness the event in the SAM galleries or listen to it in the main lobby. The Seattle Art Museum is a “suggested donation.” Don’t let cost keep you away.

LiTFUSE 2009

September 25-27 * Tieton, WA
$120 early registration (includes Saturday banquet) / $130 after Sept. 11
Friday Master Class with George Bowering, $50 ($75 if not registered for LiTFUSE weekend)

LiTFUSE combines writing, improvisation, meditation, camaraderie, natural beauty & readings to ignite your muse. Join us for a weekend of poetry & inspiration in the beautiful little town of Tieton. Check out Ed Marquand's print shop. See Trimpin sculptures in the cold storage warehouse. Fall in love with small town America. Tieton is 15 miles West of Yakima. Homestays possible (inquire when registering). Read this Seattle Times article to learn more about the town of Tieton and the man who is revitalizing it.

2009 Faculty:
George Bowering, Canada’s Poet Laureate emeritus
Carolyne Wright, American Book Award winner
Judith Roche, American Book Award winner
Charles Potts, Washington Poets Ass’n Lifetime Achievement Award
Tara Hardy, Seattle Grand Slam Champ
Mike Hickey, Seattle Poet Populist
A K "Mimi" Allin, Poetess of Green Lake
Leonard Orr, TS Eliot & Blue Lynx Prizes Finalist
Carol Trenga, movement & meditation for the creative spirit
Swil Kanim, musical muse

Monday, August 10, 2009


Westlake Park | Seattle
Monday 10 August 2009

A. K. “Mimi” Allin (Installation)
Andrew Stauffer (Music)

Artist, A. K. "Mimi" Allin, provides Westlake Park users with better reception by installing 30 antennas, 2 transceivers, a satellite dish & 2 radios. Avant-garde musician-composer, Andrew Stauffer, layers with sounds.

Visitors walked through antenna field, responding to questions verbally or in writing. This project explores the questions: Who gets good reception? Who gets bad reception? Who gets no reception? Are “fringe” areas to be avoided? Is the fringe where art & meaning are made, or is it where they are lost?

See Gabi Campanario's sketch of this project posted in the Local News section of The Seattle Times and the print version, also in The Seattle Times, which ran on Saturday 15 August 2009.

Sponsored by King Country Performance Network Site-Specific '09 as part of ArtsSparks, the summer-long, post-modern art series at Westlake Park curated by Ingrid Lahti & Carrie Bodle. ArtsSparks is made possible by a unique partnership between the Seattle Parks Department, Seattle Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs, and 4Culture's Site Specific Program.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

From Art Criticism to Poetry in FIVE STROKES

Downtown Seattle | First Thursday Art Walk | 7 August 2009

I set up an installation last night in the windows of a vacant storefront (where Design Commission used to be), between All City Coffee and Punch Gallery, on Prefontaine Pl. S. Space-wise, it was perfect, like having my own gallery. After about 20 mins, I started getting regular customers. I had a steady stream of visitors then, until 9P when I packed up to go. It was a bit tough at first. I'd had a hard day and was feeling a bit outside things, so I was quick to feel disheartened by the regular hurry-past, off-to-meet-someone sentiment and translated that into an overarching feeling of fear and unwillingness to interact. My, my, talk about criticism. These projects have a way of becoming learning lessons for me most of all, which is good, very good. Happily though, once things got going, I did have a terrific time and so did those who stopped by.

This was an installation in three parts: (1) a set of 20 sumi-e line practices with words on them (left window), (2) a set of 20 sumi-e gestures with titles (right window) and then, between them, (3) a live interaction with the artist.
I stood behind a 2-tiered table with sumi-e brushes and ink on the lower level and a stack of art reviews on the upper one. All those who passed by were invited to participate. I asked five questions of them and they used ink to respond, making gestures on the page.
The pages I used were large-format copies of critical art reviews, from groundbreaking essays by Clement Greenberg to contemporary reviews in The Stranger & The Seattle Times.

Once their marks were made, participants could either take their work home or donate it to become a poem at the Seattle Art Museum. Most chose to donate their work. And so the collected works will be distributed to ten poets on Thursday 20 August. Each will have 4 works to consider. They will sit in the SAM galleries, considering the gestures and the text, and turn them into poems. Afterwards, they will explain their methods of approach. Their explanations will be broadcast to the Brotman Forum.

SAM | Word Thursday, 20 August 2009
"From Art Criticism To Poetry in Five Strokes” is about gesturing. It is about reversing criticism and using art to respond to art. It offers, as an alternative to traditional critical modes, simpler responses such as letting go and sensing. It very plainly suggests keeping the art in the art.

Thanks to all who participated and especially to Mylinda Sneed and Beckett Arnold who supported the project with their rosy presence.

What kinds of questions did I ask?

1. Do you consider what you do to be of value?
2. Is the real you still hidden?
3. In what ways are you compromising?
4. How successful are you at casting off burdens?
5. Do you know the right people?
6. What’s next?
7. What are you holding onto?
8. Are you still growing?

How did people respond?
Thoughtfully. Carefully. With focus. Great interest. What appealed to me most about watching people respond was the clarity of moment we shared. We were at the brink of expressing and then we expressed and that was curiously and carefully observed. This is the kind of communication that is possible! I very much like to see people engaged, especially in creating.