I'm convinced that MadArt Studio's practice of allowing visitors to check out the art fabrication process during their Open Studio time has made my brain, like, 20 times bigger. Because the gallery challenges each artist to make an installation specific to their space, there's a beauty in seeing an established artist translate their interests and modes of expression to fit the concrete site.

Currently, Seattle-based artist Henry Jackson-Spieker is tinkering away at Interstitial Volume, an exhibition that "explores visitors’ physical and philosophical perceptions of space" via three installations. In an interview, Jackson-Spieker said he's specifically curious about the interplay between "tension, perception, and environment." The show officially opens on Thursday, February 9, but visitors have a chance to take a gander now. 

When I visited MadArt last week, I nearly walked into one of Jackson-Spieker's pieces. In the front half of the gallery, he and his crew installed an intricate sculpture composed of tensed string suspended from the ceiling and anchored into parabolic wooden slats on the floor. Though the string is black, it's virtually invisible, blending into its surroundings. I suddenly became deeply aware of how my body and movements figured into the space. And to Jackson-Spieker, that sense of tension is kinda the whole point. 

"I want people to be very hyper-aware of their surroundings," he told me. "In part, that comes from me being a person of color. When I enter spaces, there's this hyper-sensitivity of my body in relation to my environment. But, in general, [I'm exploring] how aware people are in their day-to-day lives of the space they are moving through."

That sense of hyper-awareness comes through in the second installation in the gallery space, which sits underneath MadArt's mezzanine. From the ceiling hang thick strips of colorful, vibrant microfilm. Secured to the floor, when viewed from one angle on their wide side, the strips are profoundly reflective, changing colors in the light. But viewed from another perspective—one that focuses just on their razor-thin edge—the strips disappear. Walking through it's like traversing a funky-looking forest, and Jackson-Spieker said he was inspired by the disorienting nature of apple orchards. 

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During my visit, Jackson-Spieker was in the beginning stages of finishing the third installation in the back part of the gallery. MadArt has two giant skylights that flood the space with light, which Jackson-Spieker plans to transform into a piece exploring depth. Using curved inserts, neon lights, and black paint, the third installation will turn the windows into bottomless voids, playing with visitors' eyesight and perception. 

Interstitial Volume is all about consciously dictating the environment visitors make their way through and the tension that comes with it. Sometimes that tension is material—like how the string and microfilm demand certain methods of moving through it—and in the case of the final installation, the tension is more perceptive. What am I looking at? Where does the art end and the world begin? It's a potent investigation of the ways that race, culture, and environment can clash together and inform how our bodies move through public spheres. 

"My goal is to have people want to interact with the space and want to come in," said Jackson-Spieker. "But—at the same time—have the work be a little off-balancing." 

Henry Jackson-Spieker's Interstitial Volume opens on Thursday, February 9 at 5:30 at MadArt. Open Studio hours are Tuesday-Friday, 12-5 pm.