Jessika Kenney: Anchor Zero

January 10 – February 1, 2015

The Frye Art Museum is proud to present Anchor Zero, the first solo museum exhibition of renowned Seattle vocalist and composer Jessika Kenney. Internationally recognized for her accomplishments as a performer of traditional, new, and original music, Kenney was the first recipient of the prestigious James W. Ray Distinguished Artist Award in 2014. Funded by the Raynier Institute and Foundation through the Frye Art Museum | Artist Trust Consortium, the award is intended to advance the creative work of outstanding individuals and culminates in an exhibition at the Frye Art Museum.

Anchor Zero premieres a new composition by Kenney for spatialized anti-choir, presented in a large-scale sound and video installation specially commissioned by the Frye Art Museum for its galleries. Comprised of talismanic scores, ethereal imagery, and interactive spaces, Anchor Zero expresses a mysticism which posits itself in the midst of the tensions between personal and universal, traditions and immediacy, prayer and discourse. It explores an “emptiness practice” of wandering and sounding, which Kenney describes as a deep interiorization of vocalization that supports a heightened sense of external space.

A series of three “threshold” galleries in the Museum served as the site for recording the audio. The galleries now provide an all-encompassing space in which it is played back, encircling the area with an elusive adab, or manner of being. The artist intends for the accompanying video, as a mediation of the sound, to encourage participation and practice. It represents a pun on the absence of the singer (I think it is you, the one who hears, who is singing).

Anchor Zero also offers a breathing room, where a bamboo frame breathes, as we encircle it, with the sound of exhalation and inhalation. The visitor-guest is invited to enter the cube and interact haptically with others through pulse-taking. Zero is a hollow anchor through which breath passes. Here a new ring of pulses, nested in internal fundamental frequencies, emerge as constituent elements of a meta-sensual language, speaking of the inseparability of a being and its environment.

Zero is also a constantly shifting shahed, or witness tone, heard in topologized fragments of the avaz, an unmetered vocal section in Persian music. This auditory immersion in the mysteries of the Untranslatable, and the sonic utterance (nam), is at times disrupted by hyperobjective atmospheric sound.

A parallel of the anchor is played out visually in video projections, representing wall, water, and woods, which refer to physical threshold of frequencies and their spectra. What we commonly perceive as a body for a voice becomes voices for a body, or bodies for a voice, and in this disjunction of deed and doer Anchor Zero becomes an anti-choir.

As part of Anchor Zero, Jessika Kenney is working with the diverse communities served by the Frye. Kenney will be involved in the Frye's Creative Aging Programs as well as School Tours for K-12 students. The public programming for this exhibition includes a free Gallery Talk with the artist and final performance.

Jessika Kenney: Anchor Zero is a Raynier Institute & Foundation exhibition organized by the Frye Art Museum and curated by Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker. The exhibition is funded by the Raynier Institute & Foundation through the Frye Art Museum | Artist Trust Consortium; the Frye Foundation; and Frye Art Museum members and donors. Seasonal support is provided by Seattle Office of Arts & Culture and ArtsFund.

The artist would like to acknowledge her collaborators on this project: Faith Coloccia (painting stills), Mell Dettmer (sound design, engineering, and mixing), Otong “Iron” Durahim (breathing room design and construction), Eyvind Kang (sound mixing), Claudia Märzendorfer (videography), and Daniel Menche (video design).

Jessika Kenney. Stills from Anchor Zero, 2014. Digital video with audio. Videography by Claudia Maerzendorfer. Painting by Faith Coloccia. Video design by Daniel Menche.