“We look to a blue dot on our phones to locate ourselves,” Tia Kramer points out. “Orbiting Together offers a new way engage with unseen objects that make that technology possible. Through text messages we instruct participants to poetically enact gestures that respond to the function of the satellites orbiting overhead.” Orbing Together is the participatory experience of the current Olympic Sculpture Park artists in residence, Tia Kramer, Eric Olson, and Tamin Totzke. When you opt in to Orbiting Together you get texted instructions, or scores, on how to orient yourself to the space around you once or twice a day, wherever you are, at the same time as anyone else signed up, according to satellite movement over the park. The residency culminates in a final Art Encounter, a participatory experience and performance, at the Olympic Sculpture Park, Friday, February 23.

The functions and properties of the satellites triggering the text messages inform the scores you receive. Some of the messages are sent along with images and information on the satellite that sends them. When writing the scores, the artists are considering binaries. Both the binaries of computers that direct satellites across the skies above us as well as, “how to hold divergent concepts in your mind and body at the same time,” Kramer says.

The three artists in residence bring unique backgrounds to the project. Tamin Totzke, with an MFA in choreography, offers movement practices that inform the scores. Tia Kramer is a site-specific performance artist, educator, and social choreographer interested in gestures and actions of human connection in the everyday. Eric Olson uses his programming and technical skills to create participatory art practice and social engagement. They all consider the Art Encounter portion of their residency as making the irony of the project clear.

“We’re asking people to consider the somatics of our relationship to technology, while using technology to create connection,” Olson points out. Somatics is the making of meaning through intentional movement that allows you to perceive yourself and the world around you. While the project points out how we isolate ourselves from each other and our environments by referring to satellites thousands of miles away to tell us the name of the street we are on, it also uses cell phones and social media to prompt group actions.

Because it requires your phone to take part, the balance between documenting and experiencing is also an inherent tension to the project. Orbing Together is at once a chance to re-orient in space outside of your phone, while using your phone to facilitate that orientation. “We’re playing with parody. We’re using an ad agency technology to facilitate personal agency.” Eric Olson says.

By creating a database of all the satellites that move over Seattle daily (most pass over multiple times a day), tracking which zip codes they travel through, and using advertising technology that sends text messages, Orbiting Together is bridging space through simultaneity.

With people opted in across the world, the Olympic Sculpture Park becomes a location that people the world wide are orienting themselves by, while paying closer attention to their immediate surroundings. For the final Art Encounter at the Olympic Sculpture Park there will be a blend of visitor participation and performers in attendance. It will not be immediately apparent who is a performer and who is an audience member. The performers will create a complete presentation of the gestures that have been texted throughout the project. There’s still time to take part, text “TOGETHER” to “206 IN 01 SKY.” Also coming up this weekend is a send off celebration and artist tour of the Olympic Sculpture Park, Sunday February 25, 10:30 am–noon. Meet in PACCAR Pavilion to join the artists in residence for a tour of the park with inspired exercises.

– Chelsea Werner-Jatzke, Content Strategist and Social Media Manager

Images: Jen Au, Nina Dubinsky, Jen Au

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