curating at bellwether 2019

Art trio SuttonBeresCuller are the creative directors of Bellwether, an art festival running September 13-22 in Bellevue, encompassing 10 days of art, music, and talks. More than 50 artists and creatives worked from theme of Taking Root through site-specific installations and experiences across downtown Bellevue.

I was pleased to be invited to be one of the nine curators, and was asked to focus on interactive and experience-driven artworks.

A few artists immediately came to mind, who are emblematic of the wave of artists creating active, femme, strong, and colorful syntheses of fashion, games, media, performance, music, and visual art. I’m inspired by work that assertively takes the mic and de-centers whiteness, telling stories that disrupt and replace the narratives of the old guard. The artists I identified embody this bold approach to art-making and engaging audiences. They gather strength and wisdom from their cultural roots, transforming those roots into vibrant, contemporary experiences that look to the future.

I chose two artists/art collectives who created installations that will live in the lobby of the Bellevue Art Museum (BAM) and Bellevue City Hall–Chanhee Choi, and Degenerate Art Ensemble. Both groups are performing around and within their installations on opening night. I’m proud to be associated with these artists and what they are bringing to the public for this festival.

Chanhee Choi – Polaris

Polaris is a space to discover the signal within that connects all of us through immersive light and interactive video installation. Polaris is inspired by starlight and our existence in the universe. We have a signal within us that we can use to communicate with other worlds. The Introspective signal that connects all of us might be in dead zone temporarily, but we should believe that it is within us. Our signal connects us to the universe, and could be something we can see, feel, or touch. Like footsteps echoing in a cave, your movements through Polaris will be echoed in the light it shines as it reacts to your presence. People are invited into The Polaris Experience by an 8’ x 4’ sculpture which contains motion-activated LEDs with IR receivers. The sculpture in the shape of four profiles of the artist’s face. Visitors are encouraged to participate by playing a game on a large screen projected on a wall. The video game is motivated by “Samsara”, which is from Buddhist theory: the beginningless cycle of repeated birth, mundane existence and dying again. It’s a motion game played by shaking by a wearable controller with your hand. It has 5 different levels created with embroidered elements. It is projected onto two walls of the gallery. At the opening reception, Butoh dancers will perform around and within the installation wearing LEDs dresses that respond to the choreography.
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Degenerate Art Ensemble – Skeleton Flower Installation

Degenerate Art Ensemble (DAE) are creating an installation based on their Skeleton Flower performances and album. The installation will feature three costumes from Skeleton Flower brought to life by Elizabeth Jameson, Wyly Astley, Willow Fox, with projections by Leo Mayberry onto one of the costumes.

On opening night (Sep 13), in the installation, Crow Nishimura, Joshua Kohl, and other band members will perform selections from their Skeleton Flower album to be released September 21st.

Skeleton Flower combines rich imagery, stunning costumes, live music and song, solo dance and storytelling ritual. First shown in Seattle in 2019, the work is a semi-autobiographical exploration of a creative person’s struggle with identity, depression and the awakening of personal power. Director Haruko Crow Nishimura draws on her own difficult and at times violent upbringing. The work explores how, through creativity, she was able to not only survive, but also share her imagination with others, and transform herself in the process. Nishimura’s personal story is melded together with three fairy tales in which female protagonists overcame great opposition by putting their creative desires into action.
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