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The Carletonian

Closing of the “NORTH” Exhibition in the Weitz

The cover photo of the “NORTH” exhibit (courtesy of the Carleton College website).

The “NORTH” exhibition in the Weitz has closed after a three-month run from Sept. 12 to Nov. 15, 2023. Created by Mary Ellen Childs, “NORTH” emulated the atmosphere of the Arctic using sounds, sights and smells. Childs is an American composer and multimedia artist based in the Twin Cities. She primarily focuses on composing music for small ensembles and is the founder of the percussion group “CRASH.”

“NORTH” premiered in Red Wing, Minnesota from Jan. 27 to April 22, 2023, before moving to Carleton College in the fall. The exhibition is based on Childs’s time in the Arctic circle in the Svalbard territory of Norway. She went to the Arctic circle with the intention of creating an art piece about it.

When participants walk into “NORTH,” they are immediately immersed into Childs’ interpretation of the Arctic. The walls are covered floor-to-ceiling in material made to represent ice and snow, and are lit by blue lights. In addition to the blue lighting, glowing white projections appear to mimic the fall of snow and abstract paintings make the viewer feel as if they are in the Arctic circle.

On the floor are many different seating options: floor chairs, bean bags and cushions. The seating allows to relax and take in the exhibit in its entirety. Along with utilizing the viewer’s sense of sight, Childs also taps into their sense of smell. A relaxing scent fills the space, dispersed from diffusers placed throughout the room; Childs’s website stats that she created the scent herself.

The final sense that “NORTH” utilizes is hearing, via recordings of St. Paul-based classical music group “Zeitgeist” performing her music. The music is the most striking part of the exhibit, which makes sense, given that it is Childs’s specialty. Through music, she reinforces a sense of calm by using instruments that are neither loud nor soft, keeping the ambiance subtle yet impossible to ignore.

“NORTH” was originally intended to consist of music alone, but both the group and Childs decided to make it into an exhibit so they could incorporate visual effects as well. According to the Carleton College website, the piece’s intention is “to create an immersive environment in which to consider our northernmost lands and their connection to all of us — wherever we live.” Mary Ellen Childs has achieved that goal in her piece, whose closing reception was held on Nov. 10.

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