Next week, the Bridge Motel just off Aurora in Fremont will be destroyed by a wrecking ball. But before it dies, it will host a happening. Yes, an art happening, just like the 1950s performative-multidisciplinary thing that seldom made sense but was billed as art. Happenings are back, and motels have become the hot new places to hold them. Both the current venue and the concept may seem like they're in desperate need of an update. But it's clear from conversations with the organizers that "motelmotelmotel" has the potential to be much more than an exercise in hipster partying.
motelmotelmotel Bridge Motel, 3650 Bridge Way N., www.motelmotelmotel.com. 5 p.m.–midnight Sat., Sept. 15.
Saturday's event (the first in a series of three; hence the name) arose through a "happy series of coincidences." Each of the three parties responsible for the project has a connection to motels: Mike Min grew up in one; Liza Lee Keckler-Christofferson lives about three blocks from the Bridge; and a friend of d.k. pan (the lowercase is his thing) purchased the aging motel last November and asked pan to baby-sit it before its demise. "Independently," pan says, "I'd been thinking about doing an art event, and then I connected with Mike, who wanted to do an endurance performance piece, and it all just sort of came together. Artists got excited, and we figured out how to pull it off."
More than 18 installation and performance artists, many of whom are all-stars on Seattle's art scene (including Jack Daws, Paul Rucker, and PDL), have been given a week to transform their own dilapidated corners of the building. Their only guideline was to avoid the subject of drugs or prostitution, as pan wanted the artists to push past the motel cliché.
Within these loose parameters, artists have brought some compelling ideas. Min's endurance piece, called Hurting Cats, consists of him being locked in a motel room with six cats for three days and three nights. It's supposed to mimic the ridiculous nature of off-site summit meetings in which powerful people come together to make decisions. It's also a heavy-handed homage to a political piece by Josef Beuys, who spent three days in a room with a coyote, ironically challenging the Vietnam War and the hegemony of American art.
Daws—whose newest show of punchy political sculpture at Greg Kucera Gallery, "Nothing to Lose," is also worth a visit—similarly plays with political and historical undertones. Daws will be taking the roof off his room and building a sort of campfire inside. He's drawing irreverent parallels between the campfire as a place for frontiersmen to rest their heads for the evening and the motel as our modern-day campfire.
Also known for purposeful cheekiness, the trio PDL will be showing an installation called Deep Space. Greg Lundgren, the L part of the group and the unofficial media contact, was uncharacteristically tight-lipped about the project, saying he didn't want to reveal the surprise. He did say Deep Space will be "much lighter" than the confessional piece the group has recently been touring to venues such as Bumbershoot, wherein people enter a booth and confess to the artists.
There will be cooking, too. Davida Ingram, who works in the community affairs department at the Seattle Art Museum, will publicly perform a project she's been doing in private. Putting classified ads in papers that read something along the lines of "Black woman willing to make your favorite meal," Ingram has been cooking for strangers so long as they purchase the goods. For the Bridge, she will transform her space into a dining room where the most recent respondents to her ad will get fed. If Ingram's piece makes you hungry, no worries: Michael Hebberoy's also going to be on-site hosting the ever-creative, ever-enjoyable One Pot event, which is always an epic dining experience wherein perfect strangers mingle together at the same table around the same delicious plate. Though he hasn't exactly decided what this particular dining experience will consist of, according to his Web site, it will include a long table, some big pots, plenty of food, and maybe even a little participation.
I'm hoping Hebberoy's casual approach will permeate the entire event. Since no one knows exactly what the experience will consist of, there's no need to prescribe any art pretense to it. We needn't bring Beuys or the Bridge back from the dead. Both had their place; let's make some space for the new format.