For the last thirteen years, Seattle has cheekily retorted the MacArthur Foundation’s annual announcement of “Genius Grant” winners by presenting a roster of its own local “geniuses” through the Stranger Genius Award. The Stranger, which is the city’s weekly alternative news and entertainment paper, selects and awards five individuals each year, from the fields of art, performance, literature, film, and music, with $5,000 of unrestricted funds to produce creative work. As described by visual arts editor Jen Graves, recipients of the award have “[ranged] from drag queens to jazz trumpeters”—a diverse group of brilliant and charismatic oddballs, to say the least.
This year, the Frye Art Museum hosts and curates a large-scale exhibition, Genius/21 Century/Seattle, to celebrate the many artists and collectives who have previously received the Stranger Genius Award. The exhibition, which opened during the last week of September, will continue to unfold over the course of sixteen weeks with more than forty performances, screenings, readings, and other events taking place throughout its duration. Considering that most of the works are from fields outside of the visual arts, Genius is an ambitious endeavor that extends far beyond the scope of a traditional museum project.
To integrate the works seamlessly, the Frye’s galleries have been transformed into a series of stages, facilitating encounters between the material and ephemeral—between white cube and black box. zoe | juniper’s We were. (2015) is an immersive installation and ongoing durational performance designed and choreographed by collaborators Zoe Scofield and Juniper Shuey. Cylinders of white string hang from the ceiling to the floor, perforating the dark gallery with illuminated columns of light. Projections of dancers ripple across the surface of the threads, creating a compelling vision that is ghostly and undulates as if projected onto the surface of rain. Ephemerality is inherent in the piece—the residual memories of an embodied, physical experience are retained as short-lived sensorial frissons.