Mark Soo is presenting an installation in the modest upstairs corner gallery of Western Bridge as part of a new series of short exhibitions (called New Year). The Vancouver-based artist’s title is simply and non-referentially awesome: Night and fog and a glass of milk. It sounds like it might be about a lot of things but is actually about none of them. It's a dodge, a misperception, or just atmospheric haze.
What am I supposed to do with this?
He wants you to tangentially experience confusion, or just a sense of purposelessness. The condition causes the perception, or affects it. In Seattle (and perhaps only in Seattle), events are conditions are states of affairs.
The Department of Safety in nearby Anacortes, Washington closes, and that’s an event, ever more so considering the particularities of this particular space; a repurposed fire station with a honeycomb of lodging, an art gallery, performance nooks, a recording studio, and a really excellent back-alley couch. All of a sudden we feel a little less sure of the purpose or the direction of any and all of it.
But that’s the Northwest for you.
As a native daughter, one could shrug it all off as being lost in the fog or the cedars or another carefully chosen whatsit for what “Seattle” is. It’s cute to see a visitor with an idea about the weather or the landscape or the “Salish Sea” (Puget Sound???). We hardy Nor’westerners, we’re in tune with that, we understand it. Physical reality is always a genius excuse to throw your hands up in surrender to the unknowable. The rents got higher, the name of this or that changed, everyone moved away/grew up. The center couldn’t hold. But the facts remain: the Department of Safety (DoS) was a happening place. It attracted a certain crop of 12-20 year olds, and gave them their first taste of DIY, of real artists, and of real bands. Rebar Niemi, a young friend of mine who grew up in nearby Bow, Washington, saw TV on the Radio there 7-8 years ago before they were anything. Everyone smoked outside with Tunde Adebimpe that night.
To parents, to art-focused adults, to the community, it was a really safe and
positive way to let your kids go have some fun, to bring up the level of culture in general, or just a great spot to score a hand screened T.
It will be missed.
It was north of Seattle, and it wasn’t Vancouver, but it was CULTURE. Aaron Flint Jamison had a solo exhibition there this last year, and it was gorgeous. Upstairs the nattily attired drank whiskey (SHHH, it was supposed to be all ages) and laughed about everything. Local delinquents would tell their friends not to bring beer to keep the place open, the cops never messed it up, and everyone respected the building.
The fire station is still in Anacortes, and it’s not a place to go be young and creative anymore. It should be again someday. But it will always be the DoS. Indeterminacy is much better when you just call it all by the same name. That’s why they couldn’t stand the name Puget Sound anymore. Once we figure out a simple and effective way, we must at all costs confuse the issue and complicate it beyond belief. So we keep the name but close the institution. It’s like being blinded by flannel or heavy leather boots with fishnets. It’s not right, but it’s the way the world works.
- Jessica Powers, Seattle Correspondant
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