Niche Audience

Claire Cowie & Leo Berk


August 16 – October 13, 2021


October 14, 2021


October 15 – December 3, 2021


Thursday, November 18


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In their first large-scale collaboration, Seattle-based artists Leo Berk and Claire Cowie expanded on the boundaries of their domestic partnership through Niche Audience — an exploration of public versus private space as it related to maintaining both community connections and personal distance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through an extended residency period, the two aimed to fully integrate their creative practices to produce an entirely new presentation of their work.

Inspired by the form and function of architectural niches, this exhibition comprised a series of free-standing sculptural alcoves made almost entirely of recycled and refuse materials collected from area construction. This material decision was not only a response to ecological issues and material waste, but also conceptually tied into collective human experiences of adaptation and happenstance. A selection of these structures hosted imaginative figurative objects while others were left empty, creating opportunities for visitors to actively engage with the work and temporarily become part of the installation. In this way, sculptural figures and gallery visitors were both audience and exhibition.

Berk and Cowie were interested in the cultural significance of niches and how these intentioned spaces have been utilized across cultures and time as places of isolation and shelter. They considered this as we emerged from our own protective pandemic shells and began reengaging with the community, reimagining these nooks as places for contemplation and individual retreat. Through Niche Audience, Berk and Cowie exploited methods of experimentation and spontaneity, providing space for visitors to engage in ways that honored the collective art-viewing experience while maintaining a sense of personal comfort.

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Video by James Harnois
Photo by James Harnois