B’shoot Viz Arts Review: Tires on Fire!

Down in the Fisher Pavilion are four visual-arts exhibitions, one of which we’ve already covered, detritus we value. One small gallery isn’t listed on the Bumbershoot program, evidently a late addition. In it are some drawings, small sculptures, and the festival’s fine arts poster—not the blue-and-green one you see everywhere—designed by local artist Jeffry Mitchell, best known for his ceramics work. The main poster was done by L.A. firm DKNG (aka Dan Kuhlken and Nathan Goldman); it’s also on view with a selection of Bumbershoot posters past. The room seems a missed opportunity: Why not show all 42 prior poster designs—including the 1972 effort by Claes Oldenburg, before the festival assumed its prior name? Mitchell’s poster is okay, essentially a row of his blobby little ceramics, but it doesn’t pop like the DKNG design.

Also underwhelming is Fashiony, a collection of local fashion photos and sketches curated by Erika Dalya Massaquoi. A few random videos provide some interest, but you’d get more value out of the September Vogue. A better idea would’ve been a live fashion show with local designers and runway models.

Enigma Machine is a different matter. It’s full of crowd-pleasing installations, several of which are moving and mutating before your eyes. Curators Shelly Leavens and Jana Brevick have selected a local and international roster of artists who incorporate machines or kinetic forces in their work. On one wall, local artist Mark VonRosenstiel’s Remember This has a small drawing machine obsessively retrace a large abstract image programmed into its memory. Scuttling on its track along horizontal and vertical axes, the device is like an autopen gone mad. On a mindless quest, it only stops for fresh ink.

Nearby, in his piece 56L, Danish artist Henrik Menné points a big industrial fan and a flue-filament generator at a ladder placed in a corner. Over the course of the Bumbershoot weekend, the ladder is gradually being covered with a cotton candy cocoon. It’s relaxing to watch, but do we need face masks?

Probably the most popular attraction at Enigma Machine, which deserves a much larger screening area, is Der Lauf der Dinge by Swiss artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss. It’s actually a 30-minute video of their 1987 residency in a 100-foot-long industrial space, where they conducted various messy Rube Goldberg experiments by rolling tires and skateboards and the like up and down plywood ramps, one thing bumping into the next, often setting objects on fire, as the camera slowly tracks along the steady path of inertia and destruction. Using crude materials, weights and levers, flaming tires and combustible chemicals, the Swiss duo creates durational art with actual narrative tension. Will the flames burn the string that secures the water balloon above the roller skate poised to crash into a table leg? There’s more suspense in these videos than in most summer movies, and each video was made in a continuous take. Hitchcock would approve.

Der Lauf der Dinge (or The Way Things Go) also recalls Survival Research Laboratories with its choreographed catastrophes. It’s the kind of thing you’d love to see live, but would be too dangerous at Bumbershoot. And there would be way too many liability waivers to sign.

 
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