PDL at Crawlspace

December 13th, 2009


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.

PDL at Crawl Space Gallery

October 16th, 2009


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:

‘Stranger Circumstances’

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: info@vital5productions.com

Announcing the 2009 Arbitrary Art Grant in Art Dealing

August 10th, 2009

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…

Crystal Barbre Wins the Arbitrary Art Grant in Writing

August 10th, 2009




So how does one pick a winner for an arbitrary art grant in writing with 154 contestants? Ping Pong Balls seemed rather appropriate, and we wanted to go swimming. So Jed, Perla, Ben and I packed up the car and headed north to the prestine wilderness that is Smoke Farm. We strung a finish line across the lazy river. We walked upstream and Jed threw the balls straight up. It was fair. It was kind of exciting, in a really slow, quiet way. And as the balls crossed the finish line, it was Crystal Barbre in the lead. Congratulations! It’s just been that kind of summer. Thank you all for playing.

Arbitrary Art Grant in Writing

August 3rd, 2009


And it starts right here, in the comment section…

Rick Klu Wins the Arbitrary Art Grant in Graphic Design!

August 3rd, 2009


Do superballs have brains? Ours bounced around the room, rolled across the floor, checked out the landscape and settled down on Rick Klu’s entry like a lazy cat in the sun. Well, you get the idea.


1 pinata, 40 superballs, 80 entries and a 5 year old. Our overly educated, culture creating intellectual Iaasc makes some solid contact and sets the into motion.

We are are proud to announce the winner of the 2009 Arbitrary Art Grant in Graphic Design. Out of 80 entries, our pinata spilled its superball guts and one special money ball (yeah it actually has a tiny hundred dollar bill trapped inside) rolled to a stop on Mr. Klu’s entry. He will be promptly mailed a money order in the amount of $500.00 (he lives in Los Angeles) and we will proudly use his entry as our official Dada Economics exhibit poster. What a great day, and great video to follow.

Announcing the next Arbitrary Art Grant in Graphic Design

July 19th, 2009


Vital 5 is proud to announce the next in the series of Arbitrary Art Grants for the upcoming exhibit at the 2009 Bumbershoot Festival in Seattle, Washington. For this grant, we turn our sights towards Graphic Design and ask those applying to create an 11″ x 17″ black and white poster announcing the Dada Economics exhibit. You have until July 30, 2009, to create one design for our upcoming September exhibit. All posters will be on exhibition during the festival (with your name attached, so keep that in mind), but one will randomly be awarded $500.00 and become our official exhibit poster. For better or for worse.

All you have to do is include the following words:

(dada economics, exhibition, bumbershoot, seattle, september 4-7, 2009, rainier room, a vital 5 production)

The rest is up to you. You can email us a jpeg or PDF file at: info@vital5productions.com, or mail it to: Vital 5 Productions, POB 23385, Seattle WA 98102, just include one poster and your contact information. On July 31, we will select a winner using a pinata and superballs, and hand over $500.00 cash. It is that easy. Your poster is your application, and this grant is open to all people, of all ages and skill levels, all over the world.

Questions? Fire away.

I am From Bellevue – Opening

July 19th, 2009

Greg Lundgren-Bellevue_2

Greg Lundgren_Bellevue

I am From Bellevue, an installation by Greg Lundgren, opened at Open Satellite on July 10th and runs through August 1st. It was a really strange adventure through suburban folklore and cultural identity. There was a nice article in the Seattle Times and if you want to learn more (but don’t want to/can’t make it to Bellevue to see the installation, learn more here: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/thearts/2009484886_lundgren17.html

picking a winner for the arbitrary art grant in dance

July 19th, 2009

Last Wednesday, Arne, Jed, Catleah and I drove north to Smoke Farm, with a truck load of old shoes, guns and a video camera. We tagged each submission with a number, wrote a number on the bottom of each shoe, and then mixed up the numbers one more time to insure for a completely random and unbiased selection process. Then we drove out into a beautiful green prairie. And lined all of these old shoes along a short wood wall. And then started shooting. Lots and lots of shooting. Eventually one shoe remained. It was a very simple brown leather flat that my mom had in a bag headed towards Goodwill. It took quite a few shots, but just didn’t feel like falling over. And on the bottom of this brown leather flat was the number 26- a number that pointed directly, and without question, to one Miss Saskia Delores. While the video of this is forthcoming, we needed to call Saskia, hand her a healthy stack of $500.00 cash and keep the Arbitrary Art Grant train moving. Next up, graphic design.

photos courtesy of Catleah Cunanan

Arbitrary Art Grant in Dance – Instructional Video

June 17th, 2009