Chelsea DeLorme is excited about an upcoming event she’s planning to attend at Space Gallery.
But she’s not completely sure what it’s all about.
She knows she’ll be watching a film while sitting in a one-person sauna pod. And she’s read the organizer’s promotional material about how the event is “designed to create a wireless network using the collective energy of its participants.”
But still, it’s hard to imagine what exactly is going to happen.
“It takes the cake as far as being a unique event. It must be a first for Portland,” said DeLorme, 31, who teaches design and media courses at Maine College of Art in Portland. “Over the years, with events at Space, I’ve learned to take a risk on certain things, even if I don’t completely understand them beforehand.”
The event DeLorme is looking forward to but not quite clear on is called “Hotspot: A Contemporary Sweat-Lodge Ceremony.” It’s a traveling, interactive experience organized by two artists known collectively as The Sisters of the Lattice. The event will be held at Space five times between Thursday and Saturday.
At each event, 10 people will sit in personalized sauna tents, or pods, for 80 minutes while watching a film called “Link.”
The film follows the Sisters of the Lattice, two performance artists from Pittsburgh, Pa., as they travel to various locations trying to “link” random strangers together. The first person who starts talking to them becomes their subject. They then arrange for that person to converse via a tablet with a person the Sisters met randomly in another town.
The two people connecting over the tablet are supposed to hold their hands near the device and try to transfer their “energy” to the other person. After the tablet conversation, the Sisters let the person they are with select the next location they’ll travel to.
While watching this unfold on film at Space, the folks in the sauna pods are asked to do various things and to try to transfer their energy to others as well. Got it?
“We explain our ideology to people as trying to use consumer technologies to access a spiritual connection with each other. We don’t have all the answers, we’re basically experimenting,” said Nina Sarnelle, 28, who is one of the Sisters of the Lattice, along with Agnes Bolt. “Technology can be distancing, the way we use it, so we want to look at using technologies in absurd frameworks and see if they can be meaningful. It’s hard to explain in a blurb.”
The sauna pods are a good example of consumer products that are sort of absurd. Sarnelle said she found them in a Sky Mall catalog she read on an airplane.
One theme of the “Hotspot” event is the physical experience of watching a film. In this case that experience is “intensified” by the saunas, and at times the film helps people try to get into a meditative state, Sarnelle said.
The Sisters are coming to Maine because Space is paying for their travel. After Portland, the “Hotspot” event will travel to other Northeast locations.
On the logistical side, people who sign up for the event should arrive 30 minutes before curtain time, bring a swimsuit or something suitable for the sauna, and make sure they are fully hydrated. Towels will be provided.
For some of the screenings, people will be able to just sit in the audience and watch the film, without going in the sauna. People who call for a reservation and find all the saunas are full for a particular screening can be put on a waiting list.
The saunas will not be on full blast the whole time, in fact they might not be on at all sometimes, but Sarnelle doesn’t want to say for sure, since perception is a part of the experience.
Sarnelle encourages people to come to “Hotspot” who might not buy the idea that sauna pods or tablets can be used for spiritual connections.
“We’re not trying to fool people. Part of this is thinking of belief as a medium, and to explore the malleability of our beliefs,” said Sarnelle.
And maybe to get a relaxing sauna treatment, to boot.
Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: