Rene Yung & Janice Giteck

I'm a little skeptical of art as refuge. Sometimes, when art tries too hard to offer contemplation and peacefulness, you're more aware of the effort than the goal. But art is being increasingly called upon to serve that purpose in secular Seattle, where religious spaces tend to be uninspired (the exception being Steven Holl's oasis of calm, the Chapel of St. Ignatius at Seattle University). James Turrell's Skyspace at the Henry, for instance, is becoming the city's de facto venue for clearing your head. Add to that, for a couple months, Rene Yung's installation "Four Dignities" at Jack Straw New Media Gallery. Yung's minimal but effective work is dedicated to the Buddhist notion of mindfulness as experienced in four states: sitting, standing, lying down, and walking. Each of the four stations, separated by a simple screen and tiny fluorescent lights, requires you to assume the position—and pay attention to what each feels like. Little speakers whisper a collection of phrases—some non sequiturs, and others related to the nature of each physical state. The audio collage is so quiet it's sometimes almost inaudible; if nothing else, this causes you to sit up straight to hear it more clearly. Other, more present background sounds, collected by Cornish music professor Janice Giteck, also demand your concentration: the buzz of an airplane, the tolling of a temple bell, the chatter of children. Yung, a San Francisco-based artist, also installed Wellspring, a collection of teacups donated by residents for the new International District library. If you're in need of a place to slow down the modern world's constant deluge of experience and information, "The Four Dignities" is a welcome escape hatch. Jack Straw New Media Gallery, 4261 Roosevelt Way N.E., 206-634-0919. 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Fri. Ends Sept. 30.

 
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