Artwork in action! | Bumbershoot 2013
Kinetic art figures in three exhibits at the 2013 Bumbershoot festival, which includes work by Brooklyn artist Jonathan Schipper and Seattle art-trio LET’S.
Seattle Times arts writer
Things are on the move — literally — in some of Bumbershoot’s visual-arts offerings this year.
In “Magic Sync,” an installation by Seattle-based art trio LET’S, geometric sculptures light up and make music as audience members lay their hands on one of the 16 touch pads that activate the contraption. In Brooklyn artist Jonathan Schipper’s “detritus we value,” elaborate machines do all the work for you, as Schipper explores the destructive element in creativity.
“Magic Sync” has immediate all-ages appeal. It’s the brainchild of LET’S members Courtney Barnebey, Peter Lynch and Andy Arkley (formerly of the “electro post-dub psychedelic post-dub disco slo-dance” band, Library Science).
Each of its 16 touch pads is linked to a sound (percussion, bass, sampled guitar, etc.) that plays a quirky melodic fragment in 9/8 time. The software is programmed so that when a new “player” joins others at the touch pad console, he/she is put in “magic sync” with the music in progress.
Get enough hands on it, and you find yourself conjuring up some zesty polyrhythmic techno-pop (you half expect David Byrne to start singing over the fractured rhythms).
Barnebey explains that in some cases the sculpture/lighting ideas came first, and sounds were tailored to them. In other cases, it was the other way around. Along with being catchily tuneful, it’s fun (and beautiful) to watch. Bumbershoot has a winner with this one.
Schipper’s focus in “detritus we value” is on “how things change over time.”
In his kinetic pieces, objects are set up to collide and corrode over long periods of time (we’re talking months and years). For his biggest installation at Bumbershoot, he’s speeding things up by pouring three tons of salt into a huge three-dimensional printer to create objects — replicas of car tires, for instance — that may start to crumble almost as soon as they’re created.
Two smaller pieces are also on display. One is a real teacup under glass that, thanks to some techno-wizardry on Schipper’s part, is oddly out of focus (you can notice it especially in the cup handle). The other is a mechanically controlled simulation of a beer bottle being smashed against a wall and then being reassembled, ad infinitum. (“Enigma Machine,” a group exhibit, wasn’t installed yet at press time, but also features “sculpture, electronic and light works” that have a kinetic component.)
Of course, some of the art won’t move or make noise this year. But it still has unusual origins.
“Found and Unbound,” curated by Shane Montgomery, explores found objects — shoes, books, bottle caps and more — that are repurposed in an unexpected manner.
Ganz Sayaka’s “Emergence” creates two galloping stallions, one white and one black, from plastic kitchenware. The piece, dominating the entrance of the exhibit, couldn’t be more striking — and it carries a message with it. “The dreams of a wild west are made plastic and static,” the artist writes, “in this sculpture that wants to recapture the energy of a time gone by.”
Jason Mecier’s collage, “Stepfanie Kramer,” is a new twist on the celebrity portrait. Mecier asked the actress (“Hunter,” “Twin Sisters”) to send him her junk — discarded cosmetics, old TV scripts, Chinese restaurant menus — which he then made into her likeness.
Other items in the show include Scott Fife’s busts of Geronimo and John Wayne made from recycled cardboard; Guy Laramee’s geological/archaeological site sculpted from a stack of reference books; and Justin Beckman’s murals (a stag, a bicyclist doing a wheelie) created from bottle caps.
The visual-arts lineup is rounded out by “Fashiony,” a selection of African-American and Asian-American fashion photography curated by Erika Dalya Massaquoi, and an exhibit of work by Seattle artist Jeffry Mitchell who designed this year’s Bumbershoot poster.
Note: There’s free admission to the visual art exhibits 3 p.m.-8 p.m. Friday. On Saturday-Monday, paid admission to the Bumbershoot grounds is required.
Michael Upchurch: email@example.com