Ephemeral Art at the Henry Gift Shop

Today I went to the final sing-along party for the Henry gift shop installation “I know, I know” by Jenny Zwick and Joe Park. When I arrived, neither of them were around- but their life size cut outs were. Their faces and bodies had been projected on to wooden silhouettes and anchored on a boat marooned in the left corner of the Henry gift shop. Below the boat, a strobe light and wind-blown metallic strips simulated a stormy sea.

Jenny and Joe hadn’t worked together before this installation. Their names were drawn out of a hat by Gift Shop curator Matthew Offenbacher and then they were given two weeks to come up with a piece to entice gallery-goers.

According to Regina Hackett, the two vendors who ran the Henry’s gift shop went belly-up, providing the imputes for Offenbacher’s whimsical gift shop project. Offenbacher hopes the exhibitions at the shop will “fall like dominoes: a cascading cavalcade of adventurous, collaborative, celebratory artistic energy.”

I dinked around the space, touching the artist’s installation drawings on the wall and eating Offenbacher’s delicious (and spicy) chocolate cookies.

Jenny and Joe arrived and began to unpack their ukuleles and banjos. “What a beautiful ukulele!” exclaimed Betsey Brock, the Henry’s communications director. “Did you know that they sell combination ukulele-banjos in Seattle?” Jenny said, before unearthing a tiny wind blown piano (called a “Melodica”).

Jenny began to strum the banjo and Betsey began to sing. Since the piece was an open installation, any visitor could come in and sing along. Most of the folks who wandered in looked confused – but pleased.

After singing the same song for almost half an hour, Betsey brought out ukulele-versions of songs by Radiohead, the Magnetic Fields and Rihanna. They were a hit.

“I have an urge to drum something” Offenbacher said emphatically. Unable to find a tambourine, he settled for hitting the sides of the marooned boat.

By the time I left the installation, the weather had turned from dreary to dark- but my mind was still somewhere tropical and Hawaiian.

The next artists to be paired up at the Henry are Claire Cowie, Sol Hashemi and Jason Hirata. Their installation launches November 20th. You should go.

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