There is no bigger project Vital 5 is currently involved in than Walden Three. It could be called the thing we’ve been practicing for all of these years, and it is a formidable and very exciting proposition. We highly encourage you to check out the new website we’ve built (with the help of the very talented web designer Jess Rees and the internationally acclaimed brilliance of Olson Kundig Architects), follow the blog, sign up, endorse, spread the word and help us bang the drum. So if you’ve been wondering why the Vital 5 website has looked so dormant lately, it is in large part due to this titan. (Click on image to be redirected to the Walden Three website.)
PDL had a blast creating the NW Sunburn Company for this year’s Onn/Off Festival in Seattle. The premise of this light-based art festival is that us Americans in this northwestern corner of the world are seriously deprived of sunshine and the psychological nutrients it provides. Especially this time of the year, when the days are short and the clouds are anchored to the landscape like giant wet blankets.
Curators Susan Robb and Sierra Stinson found a 20,000 square foot commercial building in the middle of Capitol Hill and transformed it into a brilliant exhibition space. They blocked out all of the windows and skylights with black tarps so the only light in the building was that emitted from our sculptures, performances and, in PDL’s case, their La Push Sunbathers and Yakima Sun Washs (see below). We dressed in our best pleated kaki pants, donned our neon sunglasses and matching company polo shirts and set about the festival like a tradeshow convention booth. And we sunburned over 300 people, adults and children alike. It was an event not to be missed, and we only apologize for announcing our performance three weeks after it happened. You got to keep your ears close to the ground to catch a PDL event (and joining the Vital 5 mailing list doesn’t hurt either).
We over at Vital 5 Productions have been busier than ever! And in all that activity, we often forget to update our website… and blog… so I’m going to try and play catch up and post a lot of things grossly out of date and long since missed. The first (but in no particular order) is a new poster from Artists For a Work Free America (AFWFA to those in the know). The Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings reminded us of the harsh truth that people have a bad habit of using guns and violence to express themselves. Yes, we do need to curb access to deadly weapons and yes, we need to take better care of those suffering from mental illness, but I do feel that the root of the problem is based upon the fact that too many people lack the proper tools to safely express themselves. That instead of reaching for a rifle or a pistol, people reach for a pen to write, a brush to paint, a microphone to shout into. Art is the way we express our problems and fears, it is the way we escape loneliness and despair, it is the way we keep our water from boiling over.
This poster was created the day after the Sandy Hook shootings. Maybe it won’t stop another senseless act of violence, but we hope people recognize that there are ways that we can curtail these types of events from happening. Taking guns away is not enough and having better access to mental health is part of the solution, but I firmly believe that the root of the problem is our inability to properly communicate, our quite desperation. And paintbrushes and microphones are the tools we must employ to combat this growing and very real threat to our cultural health.
Vital 5 founder Greg Lundgren recently had a one night show in Seattle as part of the Vignette series curated by Sierra Stinson. On December 10th, from 7:00 – 10:00 pm, Lundgren exhibited these three sculptures with accompanying text. It was a great night and we thank everyone who came out to see it in person, but we did want to post the work here so others can get a glimpse of the work. Hope you enjoy these three Swan Songs.
PS – If you double click on the images they get bigger and the text is much easier to read!
Walden Three is about using film as the vehicle to share contmporary arts and culture with a broad audience – the most efficient medium for the maximum audience. So in order to present the idea of Walden Three, Vital 5 is creating a series of animated videos, each one tackling a small aspect of the larger project. Check back for new installments and updates on this big idea.
(please click on the highlighted text to view the video!)
As the saying goes, still waters run deep, and the inactivity on the Vital 5 website is no reflection of the work being done behind the scenes. Certainly there are a lot of Vital 5, AFWFA and PDL projects that have not been archived here, but an apology is not what is prompting this post.
I have felt for years that Seattle is in need of a formidable, accessible, sustainable contemporary art center. There have been brief flashes of brilliance, pushes for an institution we can call home, but the models we (as a city) have employed, are no longer applicable to the world we live in. Gone are the days that we can rely on NEA grants or consistent public funding. And simple survival of an institution – while no small feat of its own – is not enough to inspire, to challenge and program the type of exhibitions and events that our creative class is capable of executing.
For the last nine months, I have set to task with a greater thirst for this contemporary art center, asking the questions of what it would look like, who it would serve, where it would be located, how it would be financed, and identifying, specifically who and what our creative capital is. It has been a busy time, and now, nine months later, I believe that those questions have been addressed and answered in a most interesting way.
The idea and interest that permeated through all of these questions and conversations is the that of exporting our cultural capital. The Pacific Northwest harbors some of the smartest artists, thinkers and visionaries in the world. It is by far the one resource of our region that eclipses all others – we birth ideas like a rabbit farm, original, smart and relevant. We work hard for small rewards. And in most cases, we do it for the right reasons. So when I talk about a contemporary art center, I view it as the cultural depot to create, foster, produce and export creative content to a global community. Not to another gallery in New York or London, but to the greater populous – the majority, not minority of our society.
As an art center that broadcasts it’s creative content, I am firm in my belief that film is the most efficient and effective way to export our art and ideas. Whether it is two minute YouTube clips or a full length feature documentary, film is an incredibly powerful way to reach “the mass of men.” And I think that is what an art center should strive for – the mass of men – not the nod and approval of academia, of other curators and dealers and benefactors, but popular culture. There is no reason why sports teams and Hollywood actors and politicians should own that wide spectrum of cultural consumption, while painting and sculpture and installations and performance target and vie for the smallest sliver of the pie. To do so signifies one of two things – 1)- that artists do not have something relevant to say to the majority and/or 2)- that the majority is not smart enough to understand the complexities of self expression.
Vital 5 productions has drafted a blueprint for a contemporary art center. It is designed as a for-profit, twenty-year project – producing and exporting Pacific Northwest arts and culture in a multiplicity of ways to an international audience. The most fundamental difference between our model and other existing art centers is that our art center is in fact a movie set. The art center is the stage, the artists and patrons and exhibitions are the content and the operating capital does not invest in the center, but the documentary films that emerge from the center. The project is called Walden Three, and is by all measures an experimental hybrid between film and institution.
We will post the entirety of the Walden Three business plan on the Vital 5 website for your review and consideration. It can also be found online by joining the Walden Three group on Facebook. It is too much information and too many details to outline here, but we have a script that would forever change the artistic heritage of our region, have set our sights on a physical set location – a six story building in downtown Seattle, directly across the street from the Seattle Art Museum and former home of the Lusty Lady, and are all together serious about our template. There is more to follow and much more to read, but that is the thrust of our attention these days, and with enough conversation, optimism and support, I do believe it holds the capacity to create a golden era. And I want to live in, and contribute to such a time. Don’t you?
On Friday, January 28th the members of SBC (John Sutton, Ben Beres and Zac Culler) go head to head with PDL (Jason Puccinelli, Jed Dunkerley and Greg Lundgren) for the ultimate sculptural face-off.
At high noon, each of the six artists (if you can call them that) will be handed a box of Legos and relegated to a corner of the gallery. For the next four hours they will construct the coolest, fastest, most kick-ass Lego Spaceships t…hey can imagine, and place them on six unmarked pedestals. At 6:00 pm, the viewing public will be invited to judge these vehicles and vote for their favorite ship, using old poker chips. At 10:00 pm, SBC will gather their collective chips and PDL will gather theirs, and the group with the most chips will WIN the competition.
Set against the backdrop of Jesse Higman’s exhibition, the gallery will be the perfect outer space backdrop for spaceship Lego’s.
January 28th also marks the 25th anniversary of the tragic explosion of the spaceship Challenger, an event that shocked the world. To mark the anniversary of this tragic accident, we will be constructing six new spaceships (which won’t do much, but the symbolism is nice).
Stay tuned for more!
It was a cold Saturday night, and we crossed our fingers that the ominous clouds would not dump down on our street performance. It was the opening night of Crawl Space Gallery’s show “Stranger Circumstances” and marked the last exhibit the five year old gallery would produce. It was just October and weather in Seattle can be a bit unpredictable.
The premise was that we would set up 30 folding chairs in an alleyway. It was a dark and unlit area, set back from the street and strategically perched above Olive Street. Below the seating our stage was set- street lamps illuminating a busy pedestrian corridor- a Starbucks Coffee across the street, a bus stop, a convenience store… It was our theater stage- expansive and dirty, with strangers and unsuspecting pedestrians crossing in front of our seated audience.
We were concerned about the rain for two reasons. A patchwork of extension cords ran through Half-Priced Books parking lot, across the alley and into our tangle of amps and receivers. Not all of the people walking across our “stage” would be random. We had a dozen or so actors of our own playing with loose scripts and suspicious experiments in social interaction. And they wore wireless microphones, broadcasting the conversations and sounds from the street below. It was a very strange night. There was little documentation. But I will try and relay some of the highlights, as strange circumstances abound that night.
ACT I – Help I need someone.
Steven Miller is handcuffed to a telephone pole. He is wearing a microphone. His task is to interact with pedestrians and convince them to go to the gallery, a block away, and retrieve a hacksaw. He wants to be cut free and the saw is the only way that was going to happen. We thought. As it turns out, one of the first people he talks to has a handcuff key on his key chain. Steven is released with the handcuffs in tact.
Heather Elsa is across the street. She has a violin with no strings on it. She pretends to play. A concealed boom box provides the soundtrack. A passerby could reasonable assume that she is a busker, and her violin case welcomes donations. But every time someone tips, or loiters in her presence, she stops the act with the music playing on. Our audience is uncertain if she is an actor or just a random, unaffiliated performer.
ACT II – Brother Can You Spare a Dime?
A silver van pulls up, stage left, and drops off a large leather couch with a free sign on it. Arne Pihl walks by and claims the couch for his own. The trouble is, he can’t carry it by himself. He asks strangers to help him carry it down the street. It is heavy, but one by one, people help.
Jed Dunkerley has his bright orange knit cap and an old box with 50 pounds of change in it. He is wired with a mic and asks people where the nearest coinstar is. The box is heavy and not well constructed. In front of Starbucks, Jed buckles, his box implodes, and an explosion of change hits the street, rolling in all directions. People help him collect the change. Two Dutch men help and ask Jed if he knows where Cafe Presse is. Jed responds, “If you want a real American experience, you shouldn’t go there- you should go to this Starbucks.”
ACT III – No Strings Attached
Mike Katell and Jed sport similar green parkas and AFWFA shirts. They are carrying clipboards. There goal is to give out free money to people who ask for it. They approach strangers and ask “Would you like some free money?” Almost all people say no thank you and quickly walk away. Those who say yes are given free money, no strings attached.
Igor Peev is a big, intimidating guy. We handcuff him to a telephone poll. Within 10 minutes some kids sign up to retrieve the hacksaw, cut through the chain and set him free. It was unbelievable how easy it was to get a stranger to release a cuffed man from a telephone poll. No big deal at all.
ACT IV – Submarines and Mermaids
This took the cake. Jed stands in front of the bus stop with a note pad. He is trying to remember the words to the Beattle’s song “Yellow Submarine,” asking pedestrians and others at the bus stop if they know the words. When he feels like he has the lyrics right, he walks into the Starbucks and orders a cup of coffee. He is wearing a mic and the audience can hear everything happening in the store. The idea was that Jed would start belting out the song in the middle of the store and encourage other patrons to join in. We had a few plants to help get the ball rolling. What we did not know, was that there was a function happening at Starbucks that night, a function for deaf people. So when Jed starts singing, all of the deaf people start signing and making gestures like he is drunk and/or crazy. The store does not burst out in song.
Performance art group PDL will be engaging in some distinctly unusual street theater this October 24th, in part of an exhibition entitled “Stranger Circumstances” curated by Jennifer Cambell.
The exhibit, as described by Crawl Space:
Stranger Circumstances is a curated exhibition bringing together artists who devise strategies in their art practices to connect with people they would otherwise never encounter. In this current moment of social and economic uncertainty, we have seen the general public pulling together in order to make a difference in the world around them. This trend often means trusting in and interacting with strangers in order to build stronger and healthier communities. Stranger Circumstances is an exhibition of works and performances by artists who put stock in experimental social exploration and have therefore decided to approach strangers either as collaborators, research subjects or participants in unconventional performances.
Stranger Circumstances highlighted in Jen Graves’ Fall Preview:
Artists always want you to do something nowadays: No more passive spectatorship. What the hell do they really want from you, and how does this relate to the current political, economic, and social moment? Seattle artist trio PDL joins Italian artist Massimo Guerrera, Montreal’s Alana Riley, and Vancouver’s Ron Tran in considering—and taking part in—more awkward, open-ended, and infinitely hopeful encounters between artists and strangers. Nov 7–29. Crawl Space, 504 E Denny Way #1, 201-2441. JG
As far as PDL is concerned, you just have to show up. There will be six performances between 6:30 pm and 9:00 pm, with limited audiences for each showing. And since strangers are very much part of the theater, no two episodes will be alike. Please email us if you would like to make a reservation for one of the six performances, happening every half hour, outside the gallery. It is entirely free but space is limited. Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
This is it. This is the last Arbitrary Art Grant before the Dada Economics exhibit opens in three weeks. Now some may say “Art Dealer! Why that’s not some one you give grants to! Give it to the artists.” And my response is three fold- All artists that exhibit their work are part dealer, all dealers are part artist and lastly- sit on it bigmouth.
There are a few artists that exist in a vacuum and don’t show their work, don’t try and sell their work, find some other way to pay the rent. Hell, besides those that live off sticks and grub or trust funds and rich husbands, the great majority of us are hustling day to day. So some of us flip burgers and flip homes. The art world is mighty and complex and only partly ran on angst and creativity. A great portion of this alternate universe is fueled by critics, dealers, curators and rich people. Take them out of the equation and the art portion of the art world looks quite a bit different. Looks a bit like Howard Finster’s backyard.
Yes, like it or not, the health of our cultural identity relies on a great network of participants and removing one can throw the whole planet off its axis. So for our next grant, we are recognizing the importance of a properly lubricated art machine, a healthy balance of bottom feeders and fishermen, the consequences of any one aspect of our culture suffering. Buying art keeps painters painting and photographers clicking. It pays bills, it inspires more work, it sponsors more ambitious projects, it brings more beauty into the world. No lie. Take away the consumer and the supply slows. Speed up consumption and art falls out of the sky like seagull shit. Easy, fluid, effortless.
This Thursday we are going back to a block that once upon a time defined Seattle. It was a single block of simple one story storefronts. Nothing fancy, not architecturally significant. But it hosted an array of local businesses, bars and an old rental house. It claimed home to the ChaCha, Bimbo’s Burritos, Man Ray, Lipstick Traces, Kincora’s and a convenience store that always advertised cheap beer with bikini clad models. You know the block.
They tore the heart of Capitol Hill out and replaced it with a parking lot. The great comedy of greed. But this Thursday we are going to create a new gallery on that block, lay down a hundred and fifty feet of white rope, define an entrance and call it home. It is our 2009 Arbitrary Art Grant for Art Dealing, and we invite you to strap on a painting, a photograph, some 2-D piece of art- around your neck like a big Flav necklace. Hell, put a price tag on it. And step on this white rope. With enough people, your bodies will become the walls, and for an hour, pedestrians can stroll into this temporary structure and view a selection of poorly curated work (one thing at a time, alright?) Artists- throw on your work. Friends- try and hawk your shy artist friends work. Dealers- extend your arms and hang a tryptich just to show the punks how it is done. Maybe you sell something, maybe not. But one person will walk with $500.00 cash, chosen randomly, in one small effort to recognize and appreciate the true nature of our arts culture. Plus, how cool would it be to make a gallery out of bodies? Come one, come all! The Arbitrary Art Grant in Art Dealing is a rain or shine event, open to all people, of all skill levels, and all that jazz…