Instant Coffee Is Bombarding Bumbershoot With Third Places

Yes, you may end up speaking to a stranger.

Third places offer a venue between work and home. Usually it's a coffee shop or bar, where people go to bump into their neighbors as a way of reaching out for something larger than their own small lives. To that end, members of the Canadian artist collaborative Instant Coffee are coming to Bumbershoot to set up intimate public spaces, or "nooks," attempting to re-create the easy communion that might take place across a friend's kitchen table. Originating in a Vancouver, B.C., apartment belonging to Instant Coffee members Hadley + Maxwell, the first nook offered 24/7 access to social interaction, a place to go from morning coffee to late-night drinks, an enclave to take a break and invite conversation.

At Bumbershoot, Instant Coffee will install Nooks: If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home by Now, each of the five nooks a replica of the original built-in kitchen table and benches. Nooks is organized in collaboration with the Henry Art Gallery's associate curator Sara Krajewski and Betsey Brock, the Henry's associate director of communications and outreach. "Working together, Betsey and I identified Instant Coffee as a great fit for the festival," explained Krajewski, "because they create happenings."

Hailing from Toronto and Vancouver, Instant Coffee is an ever-changing group of collaborative artists whose work—with titles like Peer Pressure, Get Social, or Get Lost, and One Is Not Enough—has been shown from Vancouver to New York to Berlin. Taking a look at their site's online FAQ, I read: "I've heard that an IC show is really just a party with art around—is that true?" Answer: "Capital 'A' Art is the key, we just like it to culminate in a party. But sometimes the party takes over."

And it seems maybe that's the point. A daily "Ceremonial Afghan Roll Out" includes free lemonade on the lawn near the fountain, a sweet lure tempting people to the nooks, and while there will be all sorts of directed and nondirected art happenings taking place, Krajewski explains, "It's not the artist's job to instigate things." That said, Brock has plans for craft projects and intends to stock the nooks with crochet hooks, knitting needles, and collage supplies.

The nooks will populate the Lopez Room, utilized by four Instant Coffee members (Jinhan Ko, Jenifer Papararo, Kelly Lycan, and Kahn Lee), as well as local artists including Dawn Cerny, Whiting Tennis, and Flatchestedmama. The schedule of events features a slew of art happenings from video screenings to readings, dance parties to karaoke, and seems to offer artists the chance to perform in ways that stray from their mainstream art-making. Painter Tennis will perform with the Whiting Tennis Band, and there will be a performance and "jump-in" by On the Double (Dutch), those often frilly-pantied jump-rope mavens, who include performance artist Amy Ellen Trefsger, aka Flatchestedmama. The Vis-à-Vis Society (Sierra Nelson and Rachel Kessler, of the poetry performance trio the Typing Explosion) will screen polka films and offer polka lessons, while Helsinki Syndrome, a theater performance duo, will perform a piece called This Is Not a Test. Also on the roster, a short-story reading and songs by Dawn Cerny (performed with what I am told is her boyfriend's band, Katharine Hepburn's Voice). I am trying to imagine how a story could be like Cerny's clever and funny and historically informed paintings: perhaps a cross between Ben Lerner and Diane Williams, with a bit of the Encyclopædia Britannica thrown in?

The schedule allows for down time between art happenings, where visitors can meet one another in a space big enough for four (maybe a crowded, friendly six) and, perhaps, talk to strangers. "Part of the nook experience," Krajewski explains, "is to have the space for concentrated social interaction. I think there's a lot of things that will be unpredictable."

"With as few as two people, even with one, a certain amount of scooting is involved to find a comfortable space." Betsey Brock explains. "When a nook seats six, all six people must make accommodations for each other. Everyone must really want to sit in the nook. The intimacy created by this close physical proximity is what is important."

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