Seattle Art Fair, the exhibition founded by billionaire Paul Allen to showcase unique and innovative works, kicks off for the second year on Thursday and themes around technology will be evident thanks to a variety of pieces and performances.
Artistic director Laura Fried told GeekWire that the experiences at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field Event Center are super diverse, from large-scale monolithic sculptures to immersive installations. She highlighted three specific works that come at tech in unique ways.
“The [tech] theme is definitely a strong undercurrent, even if it’s not foregrounded and made explicit,” Fried said. “What’s important to me is the ways in which we can bring out these kinds of projects which ask certain types of questions but are maybe not so much on the surface about technology or exploiting technology.”
She said many of the projects this year deal with tech or questions about tech, and different kinds of instrumentations of tech underly some projects at their core. But they are not all so explicit on their face as Adam McEwen’s “Blue Gene 1 and Blue Gene 2,” two massive and meticulous graphite replicas of the exterior of IBM’s supercomputer.
“Of course the supercomputers are what will catch one’s eye quickly, because that work is on its face kind of about technology in a way,” Fried said, adding that McEwen’s work is more about information, and it’s conveyed in a deeply material and delicate manner. It is up to the viewer to take in these monoliths and inform themselves.
“I am a deep believer that if you’re bringing an experience of art to a tech community you do not have to show them examples of what they already know how to do,” Fried said. “The wow factor is fleeting — that ‘aha’ moment — it’s not about answering questions, it’s about asking them. That I think really resonates with those who devote their lives to tech and those kinds of explorations, and being curious about the world and creating new forms of experience.”
Glenn Kaino’s “Aspiration” is certainly a curious experience. The artist has worked closely with phoneticians and linguistic experts to design two new dialects for our imagined future: Lunar French (LF) and Martian English (ME), according to the fair website’s description of his project.
A series of “mytho-geographic walking tours” at the fair and in the neighborhood nearby will be led by famed New York City tour guide Timothy “Speed” Levitch, who can be seen in this trailer for the documentary “The Cruise.”
Kaino’s Lunar French is on display in this YouTube video of the moon singing in a dialect and slang developed in futuristic off-Earth colonies.
Fried even said a mobile app for use on the tours will utilize augmented reality (oh, hey, Pokémon Go) and there will be landmarks users can point their phones at to reveal surprises along the way.
“There are a whole bunch of tech projects that Glenn is involved with that run in tandem to his artistic practice and both inform the other,” Fried said of the artist. “It’s super fascinating. What’s going to come out in these tours this weekend is a manifestation of all of these ways in which Glenn is engaged in tech and performance and questions about space and colonization.
“I’m such a nerd for Speed Levitch, too,” Fried added. “I’m so excited to meet him.”
Dawn Kasper’s “Star Formation” takes place in a room off the main fair exhibition space, and is a “sculptural performance environment and improvised sound composition.” Motion-activated motors are attached directly to a field of cymbals on their stands.
“The piece is inspired by a couple of things,” Fried said. “Including this recent research that revealed the chirping sounds that black holes make. The installation itself and how Dawn thinks about clustering these cymbals is related to galaxy clusters in space.”
Fried said the viewer becomes the performer by walking through the space, which causes the cymbals to start fluttering. Entry to the room will be managed and is meant to provoke an intimate experience for attendees.
“There’s a really poetic line that came from Dawn about how this is a kind of analog way of hearing the universe instead of just seeing it,” Fried said.
Seattle Art Fair runs Thursday though Sunday. Information about tickets is available here.