Hi, my name is Sarah Turner. I currently live in Portland, Oregon. I am an artist, curator, community builder. I run a couple different things. I run Pink Noise Radio with my co-host, DJ Mac B, that's on Freeform Portland FM. We [feature] ambient noise by femme musicians in town all around healing. I run a project called Pink Noise Experiential Party that is similar in aesthetics, in that it is mostly noise and ambient-based music with experiential installations that are all pink. So it's a chaotic but peaceful setting for people to enter into. I also make a lot of TV art, I call it. I'm sure people also call it that, but lots of people installations with old CRT televisions, looking at electricity and glitch, and thinking of TV as a sculpture and an object, and building that into different formations and spaces.
I am also part of a collective called The Cult of Artists, and we make experiential lounge spaces for festivals and raves, and just show off things for people to have a good time when they're feeling good. So I grew up moving around a lot. We lived in Maryland when I was born, and then we lived in rural Illinois, and then we lived in Williamsburg, Virginia, and then Appalachia, Virginia. I moved across the country by myself, I think, four times, just back and forth from West Coast to East Coast. Finally, I landed in Portland about four years ago. But throughout that time, I did a lot of weird stuff, I think. Yeah, like I said, I always wanted to get into art, but I just was so discouraged from doing it. I think especially where I grew up, and my family background, it just was more proper for me to get a real job, and make money to save money for a house and get married and have a baby, and all that kind of stuff.that just never felt right for me.
I went to college, and I went to grad school to try to get a good job, a stable job. I did. I did. I had many opportunities that I'm thankful for to be able to learn and grow and. Then I got a job working in the arts and nonprofits. Then I realized that nonprofits ask a lot of you, and can be tiring because they like to pay you in passion, which is great when you're like, 22 and you've got a lot of passion, and a lot of drive. I did, and that was fun. But I think that now looking back on those experiences, things that I'm thinking about towards like creating a different economy around the arts is looking at a different model.
How can you keep your practice and your community and your project sustainable in this capitalist society that we live in? Because ultimately, we do live within this society, and it can be a temporary reprieve to kind of build your own world outside of that. Still, then it's not inclusive, and you spend more time building this infrastructure, rather than the thing that you're trying to do, which is trying to make art, and share that with people.
I'm in this new space where I'm kind of…Well, I'm not working at a nonprofit currently. I'm exploring what it means to piece things together and to do freelance and to do kind of odd jobs again, and thinking about different models of sustainability .it's been funny, I've had a lot of weird inspiration; should we go with the Burning Man rattle? Which is to not be dependent at all on some kind of benevolent grant type of thing, to just have a job, that you can make a lot of money, and then use that money to do things that you want to do. So no strings attached type of work, but the thing is that you need a collective to pool money together to do that, which is great. I love doing that, or is it to create some kind of other for-profit endeavor that can then subsidize the money that you want to use to do art programming. Because that is one thing I've learned, that art programming does not pay for itself, you always need subsidized funding.
Thinking about how to tap into different markets of money to be able to have a pool to take from to pay people what they're worth for their time and their efforts, and materials too. So yeah, it's interesting looking around the country and having that experience too, living in all these different places and seeing different models of how people are interacting with art and entertainment, and how they're spending their money and how much money they have. Portland's about to boom with millionaires. I mean, it already is but with all these other company is going public, there's going to a lot more money here, and so how do we connect those people with art in a way that's not the traditional like donor model, because that doesn't work anymore, at least for the things that I envision for the future of Portland.so that's fun. That's fun to think about. It's a whole new territory, understanding how to play the game, but just find more interesting loopholes, I think.
In my curatorial practice, I like to bring people together who are of varying backgrounds and skills to create this multitude of learning environments for people to come together and share skills and experiences. Because it's not just about displaying art but about building a community around that to create sustainable conversation and relationships in a particular space. How I like to think about that is from more of a holistic aspect of not just inviting someone because they're cool and they make cool art, but because they're genuinely a good person who is deeply invested in the same community that they are participating in.
I kind of look at it as like the social programming aspect. That's a gross word, but it's a way of like thinking about how you can provide this kind of container for people to grow in a particular way. What I like to do is come up with a theme and a topic and a space for people to congregate in to allow this growth for kind of a fourth space, which Ray Oldenburg wrote about the third space, which is this communal type space that people can come and go to. It's similar thinking of a bar or a park, or another kind of public space that there may be regulars who kind of regulate the codes in the space, but you can go in freely and talk with people and forming relationships .that's different from work, or from home, in that you do have flexibility of being comfortable. You're not regulated to particular rules, but you still are presenting your public self to people.
A fourth space, I like to determine as a little bit more pointed, in that, you're meeting in public with other people but for a particular reason. So it could be a church, for example, you're all meeting for a religion that you share. I sometimes think about art like that, as like a church that you go to, kind of feeds you and gives you faith and life. Art's fourth space is developing a particular community around a central issue. So the fourth space that I like to create is around new media art, providing tools and opportunities for people to present their work and learn and grow together.
People can come from all different backgrounds. That doesn't matter, because what they're coming to talk about, coming to learn about, and coming to share is art.so through that commonality, they can kind of shed their differences in order to kind of focus on this one thing together. Then through that, through their negotiations of both participating and presenting and learning, they're then also creating deeper relationships that can be sustainable friendships and potential new collaborations and partnerships.
In thinking towards the future, I just want to create more communities where people have that solid bond together and can then grow collectively and have a collective impact on their ideas and causes that they care about for the community. Because with more people and more resources, you can do bigger things, and that's important.
Thinking about the future, all of the installations and performances and videos are about setting intentions. A lot of times, I make them in accordance with like moon ritual cycles and particular times of the year.so setting an intention for creating a better world, I guess if you want to get that big, but definitely providing something better for personal manifestation. Usually, my own, and then sometimes I lend that out for other people to experience as well.
I've always kind of dabbled in art. I did a lot of dance, I did drawing, I did singing when I was younger. But I kind of came in through the backdoor as an artist, as like a big A artist, I think, because I did more like art administration and curatorial work where I was always in a supportive role of artists. I always wanted to be near art, but I never thought that I had like the chops to do it myself. While I was at Open Signal, I noticed that every single thing that I did with media there, which for those of you that don't know, Open Signal is a public access TV station, and a media center. Everything I did to prepare for anything, an exhibition, a class, a performance, an artist's talk, I had to build the infrastructure of electricity, which just basically means like running an extension cord from a wall to a computer, laptop, projector, what have you. I just started realizing how important that medium was. It's for that particular tool, I guess, but that it can be so fickle and so fleeting, too. I think that that metaphor is interesting.
There's a weird history of electricity and especially, electromagnetism, which is fun. I found this book during this residency I went to at Signal Culture in New York, that was called A Boy's First Book for Electricity, or something, and I read it. It was like, first letter book, or something like that .it's just interesting how we as humans have figured out how electricity works and not how to hone in, and we have advanced so far because of it. I primarily like working in new media, and you literally can't do anything in new media without electricity.
That's kind of how I started down the rabbit hole. Then I don't have great skills as like a filmmaker myself. I don't know how to use fancy cameras. I knew I immediately was drawn to experimental film, because I was like, "Oh, I can just [bleep] something up, and this is fun, and you can extrapolate different means things from that." the best way I found things up was with these video processors, which are all circuit bent, old video wares, so character generators, or video mixers, or VCRs even like, anything people used to use these tools for live editing on TV.now, we don't use those, we use things on our computer. But now people use those tools, and circuit bend them to just like...You can use BPMC, Fluxus, and totally just glitch the hell out of like some video, and it turns into this new, beautiful thing that looks like old tracking lines but beautiful patterns that you can control and manipulate yourself.
What's so interesting to me about that is that you were physically using your hands and hardware to manipulate this image that can seem...Video is weird. It's fleeting and temporary, but it seems so stable and real, because it's an image, right? It looks like our reality. But in fact, it's just all these dots and pixels that are put together to make us think a certain way. It's definitely an optical illusion.so with these different tools, you're able to take this electricity and move them and shape them in different ways that the tools did not originally allow you to do it. To me, that's super punk. So it'll take someone else's footage and [bleep] it up to how you want to do it and like remix it, but then also reshape these tools to do something that they weren't necessarily intended for, and to kind of reclaim that power as the toolmaker, too.
That's why I like kind of creating new works around electricity because it seems like such a dominated manufacturer, a medium that's like so hard to access unless you have this vast knowledge of physics and electricity too. A CRT is a Cathode Ray TV, which is the big boxy TVs. I'm sure a lot of us had them growing up as kids in the 90s. They don't make them anymore. Obviously, they're like all flat-screen TVs now, but what's unique about a CRT is that it has different physical and chemical properties than a flat-screen does now.so it works well to interact with older modes of media players. So VCR is you know, DVD players, anything that has an RCA hook up, those three prongs of red, white, and yellow.
With my practice, I prefer to use CRTs because they work well with capturing electricity and glitches in electricity so you can get that kind of funky, screwed up looking stuff that happens to digital media. I like using CRTs because they are like physically manipulating the electricity within the object, rather than just kind of like a filter, or an app that you can put on top of a video. For me, that's kind of interesting, in that it's this idea of looking at similarities and metaphysical properties in both our bodies and technology.a lot of the work that I do with the CRTs manipulating energy from our bodies to then display on the TVs themselves.
So, for example, like this one project, I just made, what's called an aura reader, or grounding aura reader, which I thought was pretty clever. I'm usually pretty bad at naming things, but grounding in the sense that like grounding your body energy to the earth, but also grounding electricity from the technological object as well, too. So with this one project, you stick your hands on a pyramid sensor, almost like your hands are in the formation of praying, and the sensor is hooked up to an oscillator that I built.then the oscillator translates the completed circuit of your energy touching the sensor to the televisions, and then displays back to your energetic properties. So it's kind of an aura photograph, but it's live with a moving glitchy image, and it's chaotic looking to represent the things that you need to heal inside of yourself.
The electricity goes through the oscillator through RCA cords, and then into the TV monitors, so into like, the video feed, and then it shows up in the black and white static, but it's always different patterns depending on the energy that you are putting out. So when it is working, it'll show you that sort of screen, or it'll be like squiggly lines, or it'll be horizontal lines, or vertical lines.
The participant is able to see their aura on the screen, and then I am there to assist them in reading it, and then have different devices for healing their aura after it, too. So I took that to Spaceness Festival up at Southwestern Washington, and I had Amber Case and Crystal Cortez do sound healing sessions for people, individual sound healing sessions. So they would see their aura, we decipher kind of what they needed to get more grounded. Then they would have an individual healing session where the sound would help to mitigate the chaos inside of them. Then I also made additional healing cards that people could take away with them for prolonged healing afterwards, which a lot of them were pretty funny.
For squiggly lines, people were pretty neurotic and had a lot of energy that had loose ties just kind of evaporating into space. A way to ground them was to get deep moon energy. So I told them to take a walk to the beach by themselves—It's always good to be by yourself when you're trying to get grounded—Take off your shoes, stand in the sand, and then pop open a beer and stare at the moon, and with each sip, as you stare at the moon, kind of internalize this moonshine into yourself. That's a kind of funny and ritual to have this experience with this liquid and the moon and yourself to kind of just get back into your body. So a lot of the work that I do is semi-ritual practice, but also just kind of tongue in cheek and kind of silly too.
Some of the other glitch or archetypes were vertical columns. For that, I kind of interpreted it as saying your energy is strong and powerful and precise, which the vertical columns do represent that fairly intense kind of collected white energy on the screen with little movement. Then I said, as a solid, no rising above the melody. However, it's possible, but their energy could be stagnant, unchangeable, and immutable. So my prescription was to work on themselves in order to let new light in and to become flexible for...
For that one, a lot of them included like little kind of silly things that represents electricity grounding too. So part of the instruction was to touch the first piece of metal that you see and feel the static leave your body. Which is also common in energy healing and aura healing, is to imagine your chakra energy coming out of your root chakra and going deep into the earth.so it is a similar kind of practice of releasing static and releasing your own org energy.
And then yeah, dots and artifacts, and that your energy is ubiquitous. When you enter a room, people can feel it, which in a lot of ways is great, you know, there's certain people that you just can feel coming into a space, but sometimes that can be draining, to be putting so much of your own energy out into the space, and it can also leave less room for others to share their energy with you too.so sometimes you kind of miss smaller details from other friends. That was fun. So I told people to go down to the beach. These were all kinds, site-specific to being the southwestern sea view. So, go to the beach, go along with your phone, and then just count the stars, and imagine each star you see is a beaming array of light down to you.in turn, you're beaming your energy back to it. Which I thought was a fun correlation with the dots too.
It definitely looks stars-like too. Yeah, and it goes on and on. So I like that practice of just being aware of your energy and noticing how other tools that we have created can also incorporate weird metaphysical metaphors for that as well.
I'm not alone in this. I have many friends and collaborators that also participate in Glitch Witchticism, but essentially, it's using video and glitch, in particular, to create these new rituals around things in a beautiful hypnotizing kind of way. I've been on this kick to do these altars recently. I did one... This is going to be a whole series. I did one for the Winter Equinox, or sorry, Winter Solstice, Spring Equinox, and then I'll do one for summer and autumn as well. They're all using televisions is a kind of the primary communicative tool to show people how rituals can exist in a space on a loop.
I enjoy participatory theater or participatory art. It's not socially engaging. It doesn't have that feel-good kind of thing. In fact, I sometimes like to make people feel comfortable. I guess it's the same as my curatorial practice, which is I like to provide space for people to do weird things, but with comfort. So I'll create these TV ritual sculptures that have a time-based ritual happening on the screens that seems kind of impersonal and passive, to allow people to approach them in their own way. But as they stand near the altar, the ritual will become more clear, they'll see different movements and different objects being used that are on the screen and being acted upon. Then those objects are also on the altar itself in real life with people. So it's a tool of showing them how to use the different objects themselves. Then they can participate with this kind of like ghostly, headless character who is walking them through this ritual, and so they can participate in it, and as deep level as they want to.
With the Winter Solstice one, I found a ritual for the Winter Solitaire, which is an independent singular which can do the spell to help them get through the winter season.so in the directions for this particular spell, it told you to gather candles, smoke of some kind, so incense, bowl of water, yeah, just different colors, specific colors candle. So red is an important Christmas color, or excuse me, Winter Solstice color. There's silver, there's gold.so I went searching for these on the internet, found footage of all these different objects. I did, but then I was like, these feel like much of the Creator. So then I put them through the different glitch machines to cleanse them, and then put them on the screen to then represent these different objects that would be placed in a regular ritual space. It was this installation that people could go and experience the spell for themselves. Also, put the ritual in the entire space itself so that it was manifesting it for everyone just by being there.
And then for the spring equinox altar, I created my own spell, which was...So, spring equinox is all about shedding the darkness and allowing room for growth and bloom. I created four steps of ritual, which was to cleanse yourself from the space by lighting some incense on the screen, then lit a candle and turned on a baby TV monitor on the screen to allow light into your space to kind of brush out all that darkness that was in there.then made an elixir that you could drink to wash away any remaining negativity from the winter before. Eat a strawberry to then plant the seeds for blooming of love.so then all those objects were also represented outside too.
So it's fun, you know, people often look at art like something that can't touch.so when they approached the altar, and there were strawberries there, they assume that they weren't supposed to touch them or eat them. So I had to kind of like gently guide people be like, "Please eat a strawberry, this will help complete the spell." so we've been looking at that some more just through different collaborations I've had. I just worked with Devin Cabrillo and Sage Fisher and my good friend Alexis Rittenhouse on a video for Dolphin Midwives, where we kind of extrapolated this idea of Glitch Witchicism in more creating this narrative for a song off of the Dolphin Midwives' new album called Flux. Where it's these characters, who are visited by this kind of ominous creature who takes them into Sage's alter layer and instructs them to do all these kinds of ritual techniques to then free her from this alter cave.so a lot of the footage is just of them doing these made-up rituals that are just kind of silly and strange but have similar aesthetics and movements to things that you might find in more of a traditional spell casting.
Art is weird, and it can be anything and everything. I frequently think the loudest stories that we hear from our computers, and art allows another channel for distribution of hearing from other people who don't necessarily have those tools to access, to share their story so loud, so...that's what's important. It's like being able to share your story to create empathy in the world, and more understanding .it's a great way of allowing us to visualize and celebrate and just be excited about like other people's voices too. How do you be an artist? I think the first thing is that you just say you're an artist. I think you just have to say it, because I think for me, I was always intimidated by like, "Well, I can't say I'm an artist. I didn't go to school for it, my art's aren't that good," like, and that held me back from doing it, from practicing it, from like, engaging with it. I can't figure out when... I think it might have just been like, the first time that I showed my work that I was that someone was like, "Oh, yeah, Sarah's art and like, she's an artist," like, describing me to someone and I was like, "I guess I am, I guess this means I am this act means that I am." so then I just was like, "Okay, I'm going to embody this and do what an artist does and extrapolate from there." If you can find space to practice art, that'll let you just go wild. Having a studio is quite a luxury. I highly recommend it if it's possible.
It's also important just to like, take the time to do it, and do not feel ashamed about it either. I think that our culture like promotes so much about productivity. Like, any time that you do, being productive, you need to get paid for it, which I agree to some extent, but also as an adult, There are a slight few times that we play anymore. For me, art is very much about like playing and experimenting and practicing. It's important just to take that time to do it and to prioritize that and not feel guilty about it. Yeah, that's important.
I've always thought that art is a communicative tool. For me, I think why I like experimental art is that it provides a conversation and an idea without hitting you over the head with it allows a lot of room to think things over and over without a definitive answer, which I think is a good thing for us to negotiate with. Obviously, there's a lot of like, chaotic happening right now. I think we tend to fall to yes or no, black and white, us versus them kind of a thing, and I think art can provide this nuance and the gray area that can allow our brains to live in the dissatisfaction of not having the correct answer all the time.