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It’s Good To Be The Kring

Long before blogging and YouTube made it easy for folks to share their thoughts, opinions and hobbies with the masses, there was public access television. It was through this medium that Seattle gained one of its most (in)famous daughters: Shannon Kringen. Her TV show, Goddess Kring, has aired regularly on Seattle’s SCAN-TV, Channel 29, since 1995, accumulating a considerable cult following. It’s a low-tech, no-budget, one-woman affair produced almost entirely in her small apartment in Seattle. It’s taped and edited with an old camcorder and VCR, and these days transferred to DVD with a simple DVD recorder.

As Goddess Kring, Shannon offers viewers a largely experimental mix of freeform poetry, dance, video diary, show-and-tell and editorializing. On any given week she will bare her soul—and often, her Rubenesque body—to public access viewers. Her nudity and occasional sexually-charged monologues, though not the focus of every episode, have shaped her public perception. That people mostly identify her by this, rather than other elements of the show, arguably says a lot about society’s addiction to sensationalism. On the other hand, it is hard to forget a chubby, naked, body-painted woman romping around on TV, reciting abstract poetry with an echoey voice filter, even if she presents less controversial entertainment the following week!

Her predilection towards televised self-expression began innocently enough. An outgoing, free-spirited sort thanks to her parents’ bohemian lifestyle, Shannon grew up in California. Her parents divorced when she was four, after which she and her mom lived on an art commune in Petaluma for about a year. Here, Shannon spent a lot of time alone exploring various kinds of visual arts. Later, she moved to Whidbey Island, Washington, and eventually attended Seattle Central Community College to study art. While there, she befriended a group of public access TV enthusiasts who thought her offbeat personality and hippie-chick aura would be worth a show of her own. At first, Shannon balked at the idea: “They said to me, ‘hey, you’re an interesting person, you paint your shoes, why not try it?’ And at first, I was shy and I said no.”

Eventually, though, personal problems inspired her: “I was dating a guy who was a hemp activist, and we didn’t really have a lot of money between the two of us, but we decided to buy a video camera so he could tape a political show about hemp. Then we were going to return the camera and get our money back. But we broke up, I got upset, and I ended up just talking, pouring my heart out on videotape. I felt so relieved that I just kept the camera.” Her monologue lasted about 29 minutes: the perfect length for a TV show. She was hooked. Her spur-of-the-moment expression of angst became the first episode of Goddess Kring.

Goddess Kring (both the show and the persona) is just one of Shannon’s many exercises in stream-of-consciousness self-expression. She also does photography, paints, dabbles in music, writes, maintains her web site, and makes a living as a figure drawing model. Another cherished vocation is shoe painting: she refurbishes footwear with abstract, fluorescent and glittery coats of creativity. In fact, she’s often recognized in public by the ones she wears. She’s especially proud of the time she gave a pair of painted shoes to singer Tori Amos. The one connecting thread between her various endeavors is her desire to rebel against convention.

Many viewers see a method to her madness, as well as a message in what she says and does. Shannon confirms that there is indeed a point to it all: “My overall message to people is to be yourself no matter what ‘they’ say. I hope my work enCOURAGEs people to follow their own heart and not feel they must follow someone else.”

The emphasis on the “courage” portion of “encourage” is her own, and is representative of another well-known Shannon Kringen touch: her philosophy of expression, whereby she often tweaks words to indicate the deeper meaning they hold for her. It’s through this habit that she coined her signature term, syn-Kring-nicity, defined as a sort of cosmic force guiding her life’s path.

Overall, she has garnered a lot of attention for her efforts. Some has been positive, but much has been (not surprisingly) negative. She’s dealt with criticism from many directions—everything from being called narcissistic to being accused of drug use (which she firmly denies). Ironically, her detractors seem to be as much of a cult as her supporters, even engaging in sharp-toned online debates about the merits of her pursuits. There are also Shannon Kringen parody sites—a true indication of fame!

The negativity barely fazes her. As the old saying goes, there’s no such thing as bad publicity. This isn’t lost on the Goddess Kring, who often reads the sarcastic, even vitriolic, comments about herself online. “Yeah, that’s pretty nasty,” she’ll typically say. “But it helps to get my name out there!”

There’s a preponderance of Shannon Kringen on the web, including her website, www.shannonkringen.com, some videos on YouTube, and her personal MySpace page (with over 400 friends and counting). Please remember some of her material is suitable for mature audiences only. If you’re over eighteen and think you can take it, try experiencing some syn-Kring-nicity for yourself!

Weird Washington

 

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