For more than a decade, solo performer Stokley Towles has been studying us. He examines the mundane aspects of life in Seattle like an anthropologist from another planet--our libraries, our trash system, our police force, the history of a single city block--and delivers his findings in rich, understated monologues full of bizarre, colorful trivia and bittersweet observations about how people navigate the world and each other. -Brendan Kiley, The Stranger Weekly
My work focuses on the relationship of people to their daily working and living environments, be it the public's experience on a trail system, the dynamic world of police officers on the street, how patrons interact with the public library, or the seemingly mundane environment of a municipal water system. In each case I research to understand this relationship and present stories and images that reveal these otherwise hidden worlds.
As a result of doing these projects, I now see a municipality as a web of worlds that are visible and invisible. On the one hand there are the homes, businesses and the shopping centers, all the places that people go to work, eat and enjoy a vibrant life. On the other hand there is the space backstage or behind the curtain. It's the infrastructure, the teeming underbelly--the companies and agencies that provide the very important services of our day-to-day survival.
For ten years I have been exploring this infrastructure or what I call municipal systems. When exploring a system--the police, a water utility, sewer system, garbage collection, the public library, a rural trail system--I take up residency within the system, look closely at its environment, interview the people who work there to learn about their work and interactions with the public.
This research has allowed me to speak to citizens throughout King County, Washington. In Fall City I learned about the most unusual book mark a librarian had found in a book returned to the system: a strip of raw bacon. In Arlington I witnessed Robert, a Navy veteran, hold a flag retirement ceremony for American flags he had retrieved from the garbage. On the Cedar River trail in Renton, Alice told me that walking there helped her feel connected to her son who was serving in the army. Moving around the county allows me to see how diverse populations and geographic locations interact with these systems.
I have performed at conventions, art spaces, bookstores and nightclubs in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle. My work has been presented locally at the Henry Art Gallery, Greg Kucera Gallery, and Seattle Art Museum, through Humanities Washington.
Currently I teach at Evergreen State College. Since 2005 Rachel Carey DeBusk and I have collaborated on a project we call Culture Mine.
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