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Lumber-Made Listening

Theaster Gates’ Listening Stools, one of the sculptural forms in the exhibit The Listening Room, have helped transform SAM’s Knight-Lawrence Gallery into an open space for music and ideas. Their design may be simple and made from recycled wood, coming from the floorboards of a Chicago police station, but the stools invite visitors to sit, relax, and engage with the art, music and each other. They often lead guests to converse about a record they’re currently holding, and I can’t say how many people have learned to play their first 33 1/3” vinyl record on a turn table while sitting in one of these modest wooden chairs.

Although his artistic training is in ceramics Gates’ sculpted pieces for The Listening Room draw from his seemingly endless resources using recycled lumber as a medium that allows him to transcend artistic traditions and place focus on social engagement through discarded materials-come-art. The Listening Stools are one of these unlikely art objects carrying a history in their structure. Other lumber materials present in the exhibit are the ware board record crates (see below), the original sandwich board from Dr. Wax’s record store made to look like a Japanese Shoji screen, and the entirely recycled wood deejay table faced with a carved wooden altar screen sourced from a defunct Chicago church.

Another example of Gates’ material repurposing is his Temple Exercises (2009) at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, which constructed a temple-like structure from modular ware boards from the abandoned Wrigley Gum factory in the heart of Chicago. This became a site for spiritual exercises and performance by groups such as Gates’ own ensemble,  the Black Monks of Mississippi. The same Wrigley ware boards are used in the Listening Room for the record crates that accompany the turntable in the middle of the gallery in which visitors are invited to peruse records and listen in on headphones at any time during museum hours.

“I’m one person,” says Gates, “one whole person who thinks about friendship and neighborliness and God as much as I think about object making.”[1] His chairs achieve the sense of transformation that Gates’ work self-consciously seeks to convey. Inherent in this transformation is the vinyl vertebrae lining the back wall of the gallery: Dr. Wax’s Record Archive. Entering the gallery for the first time viewers are perhaps not expecting to see a long shelf of records and deejay table. Set into the back wall Dr. Wax’s records are joined with the musical sounds that can be heard emanating from the gallery before visitors even enter the space. They are immediately faced with the aural and visual qualities of this kinesthetic installation and find themselves asking the question “How do I engage with this art?” By the time visitors reach the Listening Stools, they have intoned through osmosis the intertwining themes of music, history, politics, and space that are addressed by the exhibit. It is the music’s audio ability to communicate cultural, political, and artistic history to a public willing and able to engage that brings meaning to the lumber-made objects present in the gallery and comes full circle to connect the archive of cultural knowledge to its listeners.

-Ryan R. Peterson, Curatorial + Community Engagement Intern 


[1] Art In America, December 2011, p. 126

Last photo: SAM patrons Faye Peterson and Mike O’Brien browsing records in the Listening Room. Photograph by author. JPEG file.

 

Faith In Analog

Until recently my attachment to records has been more or less superficial, but when I started buying ethnographic records a couple years ago I began to see how they are loaded with cultural significance for both the listener and the cultures producing them. On one such recording, entitled Afro-Cuban Music from the Roots: Tumba Francesca la Caridad de Oriente (subtitled “percussion and voices traditional and experimental”), I heard how a musical performance can be hugely influential to both the tangible and spiritual elements of a culture’s identity. Now, after being a part of the Record Store project and meeting luminaries such as Seattle’s own DJ Riz, known for his role in the independent radio station KEXP, I can firmly say, and I don’t think I’m alone here, Records are my religion.

Afro-Cuba – Tumba Francesca. 2006. Soul Jazz Records. Personal photograph by author. JPEG file.

Records are an audio phenomenon in a vinyl medium. Vinyl is a medium formatted to articulate a musical vision and in exchange the music acts as the idea-force behind the record. The idea of the neighborhood record store, now often a rare survivor of a former era, is a space with the power to put these receptacles of music’s most essential qualities into the world.

Records are indeed objects of beauty, and I would go further to say they are objects with allure and seduction. We are drawn to the music and what it evokes in us when we put a record on a turntable. Through the attraction we are able to relive familiar moments from the past or become familiar with new musics of the world. Part of this draw is how records allow us to derive pleasure from a listening experience and the recognition of our own “place” in that moment in time.

In the same vein architectural space may be viewed as “a setting into work of truth through recognition and orientation.” To quote the architectural historian Alberto Pérez-Gómez, “the space of architecture, always elusive and mysterious, is the space in which we may perceive ourselves, if only for a moment, as whole.”[1] In his Timaeus Plato names this space the “chora,” or the third element of reality in which we encounter our “other half.” I saw this happen in the Record Store all the time, especially when a slow jam like Bobby Womack’s T.K.O. made its way onto the speakers.

 1983. The Listening Room, Seattle, WA. 2 March 2012. Personal photograph by author. JPEG file. 

Love Wars by the R&B duo Womack & Womack. 1983. The Listening Room, Seattle, WA. 2 March 2012. Personal photograph by author. JPEG file.

What I see as the real beauty of SAM’s Record Store project is its freedom from monetary distinctions and ability to fully create a Platonic “chora” for anybody who walked through its door. In my own Platonic view – record stores give form to this third dimension of reality in which time becomes endless and determined only by a continuous rotation of sound waves.  The neighborhood record store allowed its patrons this perception of completeness through music. I saw this potential realized by one patron of the Record Store who visited almost every day during extended “breaks” away from his job cleaning the streets in Pioneer Square. For him and the rest of us the Record Store became, in the words of Alberto Pérez-Gómez, “a site of resistance against the collapse of desire that drives Modernist technological utopias.”[2]

Reflecting on my time at the Record Store there is no place I could have better pictured myself after coming out of the ethers of academic life. Although the storefront Record Store is in the process of transformation the idea, like the song, remains the same. In fact you will be able to see the Record Store “popping up” again in the future so stay tuned in to the music.

-Ryan R. Peterson, Curatorial + Community Engagement Intern 


[1] Holl, Steven. 1996. Intertwining. pp. 9-10

[2] Ibid.

Final listening party at SAM’s Record Store

The final listening party at SAM’s Record Store will be held January 31 from 6:30-9 pm. Donna Moodie from Marjorie restaurant, Alan Maskin from Olson Kundig Architects and a host of other incredible people will be spinning choice cuts from their favorite albums in the Record Store collection. Don’t miss it!

The Record Store is a temporary extension of the Theaster Gates show housed in a storefront in Pioneer Square. A collaboration between SAM and Olson Kundig Architects, the Record Store is open for the general public to browse the robust collection of records and play albums for the entire store or listen in a small group.

While nothing is for sale in the store, the exchange of ideas and concerns is encouraged. The goal is for the Record Store to function as a cultural commons where ideas, issues and moments in time are discussed, debated or responded to.

The Record Store will feature a series of “listening parties” with guest DJs, artists, community folks, dancers, musicians, urban planners, activists, etc. Each “selector” will borrow from the same collection of LP’s or brings a few of their own records that act as the sound track that illustrates their ideas. Irruptions might take various forms including: debates, writing or dance classes, silent reading, tastings, workshops, to-do-lists or a sermon.

RECORD STORE LOCATION
[storefront] Olson Kundig Architects
406 Occidental Ave. S
Seattle, WA 98104

HOURS
Tues| Wed | Thurs
12 – 4 pm and 6:30 – 9:00 pm

Photo credit: Madeline Moy

Record Store Listening Party Schedule for January 24-26

TUESDAY, JANUARY 24

6:30 – 9 pm
Selector: Eric Frederickson, Western Bridge/Seattle Arts Commission
Eric Fredericksen is the director of Western Bridge, Seattle and Chair of the Public Arts Committee for the Seattle Arts Commission. He has curated exhibitions at the Or Gallery, the Bodgers’ and Kludgers’ Co-operative Art Parlour, and the Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver. His exhibition Poste Restante has traveled to Artspeak, Vancouver; Limoncello, London; and the Henry Art Gallery, Seattle. His lecture and karaoke evening, “Karaoke and Authenticity,” has been presented at the TBA Festival, Portland; On the Boards, Seattle; and Instant Coffee Light Bar in Vancouver and Victoria, BC.

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 25

6:30 – 9 pm
Selector: Hollis Wong-Wear + Youth Speaks
Join Hollis Wong-Wear and the incredible voices of Youth Speaks as they get you writing, performing and chanting with them. When you mix young powerful voices, thousands of vinyl LPs and a few seasoned poets/community folks, the end result is a must see. So…come out.

“Hollis Wong-Wear is rebellious, whip-smart and outspoken is a rising star in the Northwest spoken-word poetry scene. She graduated from Seattle University with a degree in History and a minor in Global African Studies. When she’s not performing her work at poetry slams and open mics all over town, she can be found working as a mentor at the literary arts organization Youth Speaks Seattle.”

THURSDAY, JANUARY 26

6:30 – 9 PM
Selectors: Dean Sven Carlson and Brenda “DJ B” Walker of The Recording Academy
Dean Sven Carlson and Brenda “DJ B” Walker share a love of modern global music.  Dean is known for his internationally syndicated radio program, Fusion Radio and for his work with the Decibel Festival.  DJ B spins a weekly a mix of downtempo, hip hop, world jazz and Latin electronica for WOMR-Provincetown.  As Recording Academy governors, they proudly dedicated their night to MusiCares, which provides a safety net of critical assistance for music people in times of need. MusiCares’ services and resources cover a wide range of financial, medical and personal emergencies, and each case is treated with integrity and confidentiality. MusiCares also focuses the resources and attention of the music industry on human service issues that directly impact the health and welfare of the music community.

The Record Store is a temporary extension of the Theaster Gates show housed in a storefront in Pioneer Square. A collaboration between SAM and Olson Kundig Architects, the Record Store is open for the general public to browse the robust collection of records and play albums for the entire store or listen in a small group.

While nothing is for sale in the store, the exchange of ideas and concerns is encouraged. The goal is for the Record Store to function as a cultural commons where ideas, issues and moments in time are discussed, debated or responded to.

The Record Store will feature a series of “listening parties” with guest DJs, artists, community folks, dancers, musicians, urban planners, activists, etc. Each “selector” will borrow from the same collection of LP’s or brings a few of their own records that act as the sound track that illustrates their ideas. Irruptions might take various forms including: debates, writing or dance classes, silent reading, tastings, workshops, to-do-lists or a sermon.

RECORD STORE LOCATION
[storefront] Olson Kundig Architects
406 Occidental Ave. S
Seattle, WA 98104

HOURS
Tues| Wed | Thurs
12 – 4 pm and 6:30 – 9:00 pm

Record Store Listening Party Schedule for January 16−19

TUES | January 17

6:30 PM – Cancelled due to weather concerns!

Selectors: Jason Plourde and the Three Dollar Bill Cinema Family

Join Jason Plourde, the Programming Director for Seattle’s own Three Dollar Bill Cinema, for an evening of that you will never forget. Three Dollar Bill Cinema provides access to films by, for, and about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people and their families, and a forum for LGBT filmmakers to share and discuss their work with audiences. We curate themed screenings throughout the year and produce programs in partnership with other arts, cultural, and service delivery organizations in the Greater Seattle area.

WED | January 18

Noon –  Cancelled due to weather concerns!

Selector: Karen Toering, Cultural Worker

Karen Toering is back to man the store for the day! She is cultural worker who finds joy in the spaces where justice and art intersect. She is a grant-writing and development consultant for non-profit arts, cultural and social justice organizations. She is Director of GroundUP Organics, an urban farming and food justice program for youth and young adults. Her passion also includes film, where she Program Director of Seattle’s Langston Hughes African American Film Festival and founder of the Gary International Black Film Festival.

6:30 PM –  Cancelled due to weather concerns!

Selector: Makoiyo Alley-Barnes and Makers of Note

THURS | January 19

Noon – Cancelled due to weather concerns!

Selectors: Seattle Art Museum Staff/Volunteers

6:30 PM – Cancelled due to weather concerns!

Selector: To Be Announced

The Record Store is a temporary extension of the Theaster Gates show housed in a storefront in Pioneer Square. A collaboration between SAM and Olson Kundig Architects, the Record Store is open for the general public to browse the robust collection of records and play albums for the entire store or listen in a small group.

While nothing is for sale in the store, the exchange of ideas and concerns is encouraged. The goal is for the Record Store to function as a cultural commons where ideas, issues and moments in time are discussed, debated or responded to.

The Record Store will feature a series of “listening parties” with guest DJs, artists, community folks, dancers, musicians, urban planners, activists, etc. Each “selector” will borrow from the same collection of LP’s or brings a few of their own records that act as the sound track that illustrates their ideas. Irruptions might take various forms including: debates, writing or dance classes, silent reading, tastings, workshops, to-do-lists or a sermon.

RECORD STORE LOCATION
[storefront] Olson Kundig Architects
406 Occidental Ave. S
Seattle, WA 98104

HOURS
Tues| Wed | Thurs
12 – 4 pm and 6:30 – 9:00 pm

Record Store Listening Party Schedule for January 10-13

TUES | January 10

6:30 PM

Selector: Joshua Kohl, Degenerate Art Ensemble Co-Artistic Director/Co-Founder

Joshua Kohl has created original works for dance, silent film, concert ensembles, “classico-punk-big band” shows and street performances and has collaborated extensively on the creation of invented instruments used in DAE performances. Kohl has performed extensively throughout the U.S., as well as in the Netherlands, Italy, Slovenia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland, Italy, and Germany, with the support of Arts International Fund for U.S. Artists and the Mid-Atlantic States Foundation’s U.S. Artists International. In addition to his work with Degenerate Art Ensemble, Kohl has created scores for the San Francisco-based dance theater company inkBoat; for a commissioned performance of c(h)ord (2008) at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco; Tale of Two Cities (2007) and Night Flight (2007–2009) for Seattle’s Book-It Repertory Theatre; as well as Twelfth Night (2007) and The Beard of Avon (2007) for Portland Center Stage. In spring 2011 Kohl will perform with Haruko Nishimura at the Center for Performance Research in New York City, and he will be in a residency with DAE at Robert Wilson’s Watermill Center: A Laboratory for Performance, Long Island, New York.

WED | January 11

6:30 PM

Jonathan Cunningham and Rich Jensen, Hollow Earth Radio, Last Night’s Mixtape, Metro Times Music Blog

Cunningham is bound to make you think, talk and move just as he does in on Hollow Earth Radio – the weekly radio show that features music and conversation connected to Seattle’s musical hot bed known as the Central District. Broadcasts “could include anything from Jimi Hendrix to Ernestine Anderson to Ray Charles to Vitamin D to Shabazz Palaces to Wheedle’s Groove or a conversation about gentrification…they aim to unearth a local gem each week from yesteryear that more contemporary listeners need to know.”

THURS | January 12

6:30 PM

Selectors: Randy Engstrom, Founding Director of Youngstown Cultural Arts Center and Chair, Seattle Arts Commission and a Few Good Friends

Randy Engstrom is a dynamic arts leader with a vision for the new frontier. Originally from Chicago, he first arrived in the west in 1995 to attend Evergreen State College and moved on to Seattle post-graduation. During his time in the Pacific Northwest region he has helped found numerous creative ventures and organizations including serving as the Founding Director of the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center and Chair of the Seattle Arts Commission. Randy continues to develop innovative programs that help support and nurture vibrant communities through his consulting practice, Reflex Strategies.

The Record Store is a temporary extension of the Theaster Gates show housed in a storefront in Pioneer Square. A collaboration between SAM and Olson Kundig Architects, the Record Store is open for the general public to browse the robust collection of records and play albums for the entire store or listen in a small group.

While nothing is for sale in the store, the exchange of ideas and concerns is encouraged. The goal is for the Record Store to function as a cultural commons where ideas, issues and moments in time are discussed, debated or responded to.

The Record Store will feature a series of “listening parties” with guest DJs, artists, community folks, dancers, musicians, urban planners, activists, etc. Each “selector” will borrow from the same collection of LP’s or brings a few of their own records that act as the sound track that illustrates their ideas. Irruptions might take various forms including: debates, writing or dance classes, silent reading, tastings, workshops, to-do-lists or a sermon.

RECORD STORE LOCATION
[storefront] Olson Kundig Architects
406 Occidental Ave. S
Seattle, WA 98104

HOURS
Tues| Wed | Thurs
12 – 4 pm and 6:30 – 9:00 pm

Record Store Listening Party Schedule for January 3-6

TUES | January 3
6:30 PM

Selector: John Gilbreath, Earshot Jazz and Seattle Art Museum Art of Jazz
Calling all jazz heads to the Record Store for an evening of intense listening, great conversation about jazz and the vinyl record with Seattle’s own Jazz aficionado John Gilbreath. The host of KEXP’s Jazz Theater, Gilbreath has been a rabid jazz fan since childhood. He has been immersed in the local and national jazz and performing arts scene for the last 12 years as executive director of Earshot Jazz, Seattle’s no-profit jazz-support organization. He oversees Earshot’s monthly publication and educational programs, and has produced more than 1,000 far-reaching Read More concerts, including the Seattle’s annual Earshot Jazz Festival each fall. He actively works with various Northwest arts organizations and national jazz consortia and hosts the weekly Caravan show on KBCS, he curates Seattle Art Museum’s Art of Jazz longstanding series and, in his rare spare moments, is a student of stone sculpture.

WED | January 4
6:30 PM

Selectors: Jonathan Cunningham and Rich Jensen, Hollow Earth Radio, Last Night’s Mixtape, Metro Times Music Blog
Cunningham is bound to make you think, talk and move just as he does in on Hollow Earth Radio–the weekly radio show that features music and conversation connected to Seattle’s musical hot bed known as the Central District. Broadcasts “could include anything from Jimi Hendrix to Ernestine Anderson to Ray Charles to Vitamin D to Shabazz Palaces to Wheedle’s Groove or a conversation about gentrification…they aim to unearth a local gem each week from yesteryear that more contemporary listeners need to know.”

THURS | January 5
6:30 PM

Selectors: Davida Ingram (performance artist) and a creative group of friends
C. Davida Ingram (artist/writer) and a few creative friends (Christa Bell and Lara Davis along with Chicago based lyricist Marcus Ulysses Ingram) They’ll use the Record Store collection to explore sampling and loops as a form of social reminiscence and storytelling. Ingram is a cultural worker with a dynamic background. She is bringing a brilliant group of people to the Record Store to ignite participation in unforgettable creative activities that will bring warmth to the first week of the New Year. Other special guests to be announced.

The Record Store is a temporary extension of the Theaster Gates show housed in a storefront in Pioneer Square. A collaboration between SAM and Olson Kundig Architects, the Record Store is open for the general public to browse the robust collection of records and play albums for the entire store or listen in a small group.

While nothing is for sale in the store, the exchange of ideas and concerns is encouraged. The goal is for the Record Store to function as a cultural commons where ideas, issues and moments in time are discussed, debated or responded to.

The Record Store will feature a series of “listening parties” with guest DJs, artists, community folks, dancers, musicians, urban planners, activists, etc. Each “selector” will borrow from the same collection of LP’s or brings a few of their own records that act as the sound track that illustrates their ideas. Irruptions might take various forms including: debates, writing or dance classes, silent reading, tastings, workshops, to-do-lists or a sermon.

RECORD STORE LOCATION
[storefront] Olson Kundig Architects
406 Occidental Ave. S
Seattle, WA 98104

HOURS
Tues| Wed | Thurs
12 – 4 pm and 6:30 – 9:00 pm

Listen Up: Record Store in the Business of Ideas

I recently volunteered at SAM’s Teen Night Out, and one of my favorite moments was watching the youth interact with the record players in Theaster Gates: The Listening Room. This exhibition features a collection of thousands of records from a defunct record store in Chicago and transforms the gallery into a lounge in which visitors are invited to pick up a record and play.

Many of the teens I observed that night clearly had never seen or handled a record player before, but there was obvious delight in figuring out how to use the machines and of being able to actually touch things at a museum.

Read More

Free PARK(ing) Day at SAM on September 16

On Friday, September 16 from 10 am – 2 pm, SAM and The Trust for Public Land will bring PARK(ing) Day downtown by hijacking parking spots, feeding the meters and adding a few more square feet of green space to Seattle.

Developed by Rebar, PARK(ing) Day is a one-day global event in which artists, activists and citizens collaborate to transform parking spots into temporary public parks.

Come visit our temporary park by Hammering Man on University Street between First and Second Avene, and check out a variety of fun activities:

  • All ages hands-on art making with teaching artist Elizabeth Humphrey
  • An artist-designed cornhole game (bean bag toss)
  •  A 12 pm concert by classically trained sarod and tabla musician James Whetzel
  • Interactive photo/design activity led by Seattle Design Festival
  • “What’s Your Park Personality” quiz by TPL

Also, make a purchase of at least $10 at SAM SHOP on Friday and get a free Olympic Sculpture Park t-shirt!

PARK(ing) Day is free and open to the public. Visit us at our pop-up park, and then come inside the museum to enjoy more art.

-Madeline Moy, Digital Media Manager

Create “pop-art” during PARK(ing) Day on September 16 from 10 am – 2 pm.