Just Be

Review of Theaster Gates: The Listening Room @ Seattle Art Museum by Samantha V.

It is unusual to hear music in an art museum. And yet from the very back of SAM's contemporary gallery, you can now hear warm 70's jazz calling you closer to take a look, inviting you to take a seat. Welcome to The Listening Room. Here you can find something that you normally don't in an art museum, an invitation to explore. Not just with your sense of sight, but with all of your senses, except taste. Artist Theaster Gates, shows the history of our country's culture in a way that makes you stop and think a little. Now if you're like me and just want to talk about and listen to good music, that's fine too. Either way you are doing what The Listening Room was designed to do. To start a conversation.

Theaster Gates at the Tea Shack, 2008. Photo by Sarah Pooley.

Mr. Gates is big on reclaimed artwork and this work is no exception. The room itself feels a little like a church. The occasional gospel song only adds to that feeling. So does the DJ station that looks like an alter and the benches that resemble the tops of steeples. Of course the thing that ties it all together and the biggest draw for me is the music. And the music would not be here at all if it wasn't for a little record store called Dr. Wax. Having fallen on hard times, Dr. Wax had to close up shop. And before they did, they sold all of their leftover records to Mr. Gates. As a result, the record collection in this exhibit is quite large. I did not have time to go through it all. I did however have the time and the luck to find an Across America record by Prince. Sitting all alone with my headphones on, watching the record spin, its like I wasn't in a museum. That was a well needed pause.

Of course this pause can't last forever. Neither can a good song. Whatever your case, The Listening Room is the ideal place to think, explore, talk, or just plain be. We all need a breather once in a while. So for now, go ahead. Let yourself be lost to time.

The Listening Room, by Theaster Gates
Through July 1
Seattle Art Museum
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