Sunday, September 9, 2007

Three short stories about Bumbershoot

Bumbershoot is Seattle.

The music side of the festival is a huge arching wood structure. It went up with a vision, and it's been rotting in the rain ever since. It's the weird kid after 35 years of socialization. Isn't socialization just another word for rot?

Then there's the art side. The artists have been there the whole time, nibbling. They're the termites beneath the structure. Not part of the rot; they don't care about what's happening up in the sky. They're just building a home in the dirt. This is how they do it, and someday the whole thing is going to fall and whoever's still there afterward will get to put up a new one. Maybe it'll be them.

But termites are social insects.


When I tell people outside the Northwest that I live in Portland, they say, "Oh, that must be an interesting place. It's so close to Seattle." For people squinting over from the East, we're a twin star system, one blurry dot in the telescope and 20 light-years away.

Seattle people feel British. You can see it in the limp faces beneath their knit hoods. They refer constantly to "the Pacific Northwest." They're just patronizing enough about Portland to hide their fascination. It's an old empire.

Portlanders do not talk about Seattle.

I think the Easterners have it right. One blue, one red. Both in orbit, and a plume of hydrogen pouring across the gap. The blue one doesn't notice, or need to.


When people talk about "experimental" art, it seems like they usually mean that it doesn't have a narrative. Most modern experimental art is lyric art. Concrete art. You understand a Jackson Pollack painting because your eyes are moving.

I love lyric art. But one of the things about narrative is that you remember it. You can abstract it. You can keep it. Lyric art doesn't keep well -- it's great, and a few weeks later you can't remember anything else about it. That's why commercial art is almost always narrative art. And great narratives are great, too.

Experimental art is like the sex. Narrative art is like the relationship.

Hollywood isn't selling sex after all -- it just wants to move in.

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