Writing about style, design and all things that catch my eye!

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

interconnectivity (in a one week span of time)

In brief: I first saw the finished John T. Williams Memorial Totem Pole last week. 
Today, I spoke to Rick L. Williams at Pike Place Market at 10:45 a.m.
By 11:10 a.m. I stood in a room at the Frye Art Museum watching a video projection when I faintly heard an audio recording repeatedly stating "Put the knife down," followed quickly by the sound of 5 gunshots.

I instantly cued in, and knew what this was from. Two weeks ago I might not have even heard it since there was another video projection in the room (with much louder sound).
I thought about how painful this would be for the family of John T. Williams to hear in a gallery space, and then I remembered that they both heard and saw much worse in the courtroom. They still must be mentally reliving it everyday.

 I almost forgot that I first wrote a design post in relation to this back in 2011. 

The show at the Frye is called Your Feast Has Ended, and even in its visually fun moments, it is a powerful commentary on race relations, power, and an appropriation of cultures that (probably) are not your own by birthright. It is a must see show.

Video still from a version of this one
by Nicholas Galanin. Even the
audio is edited for the
Frye show.

 In full (PLEASE SKIP AHEAD to the jump if in a hurry): last week I finally stumbled upon the totem pole in its permanent location on the grounds of the Seattle Center. Oddly, this was a long time coming for me to see in person since it was erected there almost two and a half years ago (and I am at the Seattle Center on a regular basis). I had even spoken to master carver Rick L. Williams on a few occasions as he tirelessly turned this massive trunk of a red-cedar tree into a 34' commemorative totem pole to both honor the memory of his brother John, and also to promote cultural awareness for all peoples of Native American and First Nations heritage.

When I stopped by Pike Place Market this morning, I was standing off to the side talking to my husband on my cell phone. Rick was walking by and I held the phone down and away from my ear to tell Rick how beautiful his finished work was. We spoke for about 5 minutes (of course, my husband hung up on me during this time!). Although it seems unlikely (due to the sheer number of people interested in his work), Rick says that he remembers me from years ago. He's a charmer!

I heard about his house in Concrete, about his son who lives there, plus his amazement at the outpouring of love and gratitude he receives around town. He says that in his language there is no word for hate, and there are no swear words. It isn't in his nature to hold a grudge, plus, I can tell you that his smile could light up the world.

A little while later, when I entered the room at the museum, I wasn't expecting for everything to fall into place when I heard those gunshots. I stood there for a long time trying to hear them again, yet I never did. It felt profound* to be in this space watching two looping videos across the room (one with a modern dance along to tribal drumming and chanting, and the other with a traditional dance set to techno music).

Foreground: Nicholas Galanin / Inert 2009,
Plus his video loops of two connected, yet
disparate dance pieces.

In the end, my own three, connected experiences over this past week were: 
unexpected, fortuitous,
 and basically just meant to be.

This sort of thing happens to me a lot.

Tonight, I'm still thinking about the fact that with his piece of wood and his 3" blade, that John T. Williams was carrying the equivalent of a paintbrush and a canvas. He was just trying to cross the street. May the totem pole be the beacon of peace that it's meant to be. It's the first one raised around here in over 100 years, and it is sure a thing of beauty.

On a related note, be sure to look at the work of photographer Matika Wilbur who is traveling the United States to document tribes in these modern times. Simply stunning.

*I had just spoken to his brother not a half an hour prior!

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