January in the Pacific Northwest is arguably the darkest of days. Of course, there’s the trademark rain, cold, and absence of sun. But there’s also a notable lack of arts and cultural events, which seem to sustain our sanity most of the year.
ONN/OF Festival was founded by Susan Robb, Sierra Stinson, and Jim Demetre on the premise of providing some (literal and metaphorical) illumination to these dark days, with site-specific art, performance, workshops and interactive installations revolving around the theme of light.
The 2013 festival, funded in part by a grant from our Art Projects Program, took place on January 26th and 27th at an abandoned BMW dealership on Capitol Hill. This year was the second iteration of the festival, which featured nearly 50 artists and groups, across disciplines, who transformed almost 10,000 sq ft of space into a village of absurd, experimental, fun, and thought-provoking work.
One such piece was NTVTY 3.0 by collective Xchurch. It begins with a mirrored, lighted tunnel (built like the corridors from 2001: A Space Odyssey) which gives way to pedestals housing holographic displays and mirrored surfaces that contain wax sculptures. A cluster of frogs are reminiscent of coral, a skull split in half reveals a silver lining containing a metallic sphere, like a pearl oyster or clam, and a pair of broken apples glean in spikes like a geode (below).
My favorite piece (and one of the more difficult to photograph) was Any Violation of Personal or Group Commitments by Graham Downing. The installation was a 20 ft tall, 3 ft wide tube, positioned on a patch of earth, with a small opening on the side. When you crawl inside, the expanse of vertical space (printed like stone masonry) causes you to look up, where you’re greeted by a glowing splatter of light, unmistakeably like that of a starry night. You feel trapped, the tall walls seem to mock your possibility of escape. But there is also a sense of ease – because here, ironically, there is no light pollution.
The installations, with light, holographic displays, video cameras playing back your manipulated image, performances taking place at audience level, workshops, a sound immersion room, and a group called the The NW Sunburn Company (by PDL) dishing out a dose of artificial sunlight – all perfectly typify the interactive nature of the festival.
When the high of another holiday season fades, you can look forward to ONN/OFF brightening the bleak expanse of a Seattle January.