When Aaron Taylor Kuffner installed a gigantic, immersive, robotic gong orchestra, or “Gamelatron Gandaberunda,” in the Art Association of Jackson Hole’s gallery, he had an idea of its power.
It’s one of about 50 Gamelatrons that Kuffner has installed across the world — there are some in Japan, Portugal, California and New York. He said his goal with the Jackson installation, which was originally part of the Center’s “All That’s Left Behind” artist-in-residency program, was to “add resonance” to people’s lives.
His intention was for the machine to “become part of people’s diets and make it so that they can be kind of exposed to, like, the power of resonance in a way that maybe wasn’t accessible otherwise,” Kuffner said in a May interview with News&Guide.
“People use them for all different kinds of reasons,” he said, ranging from playing background music to facilitating meditation practices, to inspiring “a little moment of wow each day.”
A few months in, Medicine Wheel Wellness, the Art Association and the Center for the Arts have tacked another use onto that list: sound, aroma and movement-focused healing sessions.
Art and wellness
Since July, Medicine Wheel has used the Gamelatron as the backdrop for its “Wellness and Creativity Series,” workshops that have included restorative aromatouch, acupuncture and sound healing and meditative yoga flow. The final class in that series, a restorative aromatouch session, will be held from 7 to 8 p.m. Thursday in the gallery.
Francine Bartlett, the owner of Medicine Wheel Wellness, said she and Oona Doherty, the Center’s creative initiatives director, came up with the idea for the program after the opening of the “All That’s Left Behind” exhibit.
Among Mia Dungeon’s “guardians,” the artist Shrine’s found-object towers and Kuffner’s Gamelatron, “there were so many wonderful art exhibits that night,” Bartlett said, “but I really couldn’t leave the Gamelatron room.”
Over the new few weeks Bartlett and Doherty put together a class list and, on July 18, debuted the series with a restorative aromatouch session.
Sound all around
Bartlett, who taught the first class, said she and the other practitioners at Medicine Wheel Wellness use sound therapy in their classes, usually crystal sound bowls, binaural beats or calming, meditative music.
The Gamelatron, though, was different.
Bartlett said she felt like the robot orchestra was another practitioner, playing to its own, insistent rhythm.
Devin Bailey, who taught a subsequent aromatouch class Aug. 8 with Sam Willits, agreed.
“I felt like the space was doing so much of the work for us,” Bailey said. “The sound just held this incredible space for us to be immersed in an experience. It was as invigorating and calming for me walking around and applying the oils as anybody else lying there listening to the music.”
Bailey and Willits picked the soundtrack for the class beforehand (Kuffner has programmed hundreds of arrangements that his robot orchestras, which are controlled by a computer program, can play), but, during the class the soundtrack took its own direction.
At certain moments it sped up, and started changing the vibe, which usually doesn’t happen in a class in which sound bowls or a handpicked playlist provide the background music.
“It was a really cool experience to just be OK with whatever flow was going on,” Bailey said.
It taught her to accept uncontrollable interruptions while leading a class and to go with the flow in her own practice.
Anne Rose Hart, who participated in the Aug. 8 aromatouch session, called it “amazing.”
The Gamelatron “covers both walls, so it fills the room with a 360-degree sound experience,” Hart said. “It’s coming from both sides and all sides instead of just one focal point.”
And, like Bailey and Bartlett, Hart said she felt like she could feel Kuffner’s intention behind the Gamelatron during the aromatouch session.
It “was almost like another person in the room,” Hart said. “You could feel the energy of what his intention in his creation was that added to the whole experience.”
Though Thursday’s session is the last of the “Wellness and Creativity Series,” the Gamelatron will perform Friday alongside a synced LED light show.
It will also hang around until Sept. 6, when the Center and the Art Association will celebrate its closing with a performance by Contemporary Dance Wyoming and a close-out party during the Fall Art Festival’s Palates and Palettes Gallery Walk.
That night, Jeff Stein, who curated “All That’s Left Behind,” will also host an exhibit-wide after-party at Hand Fire Pizza.
Until then it will remain in the gallery, where it’s open to viewing by the public — a sort of vestigial limb of Kuffner’s providing resonance for whoever drops by the gallery to check it out. ￼