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Temporary Art on the Waterfront


This summer, Waterfront Exchange brings a series of temporary art installations and events to the Seattle waterfront. The art installations feature colorful posters, subversive signage, an emerging goddess and a photographic tableau. These works by artist Fabiola Carranza, Nicole Kistler, Jeffry Mitchell, Heather and Ivan Morison, and Martine Syms and Marco Kane Braunschweiler, will run through October 2016. Waterfront Exchange is a project of Waterfront Seattle and the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture. It is funded both by 1% for art (SDOT) and by the Office of the Waterfront.

Mitchell - Colors Are Fragrant - Stair view (1)Colors Are Fragrant, Union Street Jeffry Mitchell collaborated with regional artists and screenprinters to make a series of posters. These are wheat-pasted as a large mural on the wall where Union Street meets Western Avenue, a connection point between downtown and the waterfront. The artist will add new posters to the wall over the course of summer, inviting new collaborators and drawing new ideas from the waterfront. Mitchell was born in Seattle, and for decades has produced endless drawings, prints, ceramics, sculptures, and installations here and around the U.S.

Carranza - Mutiny longviewSeven Signs, Waterfront Park Fabiola Carranza’s installation features seven colorful road signs made in collaboration with Robin Ford of the Seattle Department of Transportation. These signs, with texts appropriated from English- and Spanish-language comic books, employ satirical language to question orders and to challenge and interrupt power dynamics. Carranza was born in Costa Rica and currently resides in Vancouver, BC. She makes photographs, videos, poems, sculptures, paintings and drawings that examine visual, cultural and personal phenomena.




Kistler - overviewOutburst, Pike Street Hillclimb Nicole Kistler has unleashed a sleeping goddess and transformed the west side of the elevator tower of Pike Street Hillclimb. The artwork portrays the arms of a once-sleeping goddess emerging from an abundance of vines and growth, reaching to the sky and stars. Kistler lives in Seattle and creates interactive art and landscapes that help connect community members to the places they live and start conversations. With artist Sarah Kavage, Kistler organized Duwamish Revealed, a series of installations and events exploring the history, ecology, and industry of Seattle’s river.




Syms-Braunschweiler - view from rearI’m a reader not a philosopher, Waterfront Park Martine Syms and Marco Kane Braunschweiler placed photographic images on Plexiglas around the seating area of an amphitheater, as if on a stage. A photograph of Syms’s father, a survey engineer, stands as the central character amid this scenery–a group of photographs taken during the artists’ travels along the West Coast of North America. Syms is a Los Angeles-based conceptual entrepreneur who uses publishing, video, and performance to explore the making and reception of meaning in contemporary America. Braunschweiler is a Swiss-American artist and publisher based in Los Angeles.

MorrisonsA vase of achingly beautiful flowers the moment before their petals fall…, Seawall construction fencing near the Seattle Aquarium
In July, Heather and Ivan Morison, working with designer James Langdon, will introduce a series of texts on construction fence banners. The Morisons’ texts refer to objects and everyday situations in a way that connects them to other places, people, or emotions: “When you hold the fork think of your father.” Heather Peak and Ivan Morison live and work in Herefordshire, England; North Wales, and points around the globe.

Images by Mark Woods



The Summer’s Salty Tongue

In his history Native Seattle, Coll Thrush relates the story of Ling Fu, who appeared in front of Judge Cornelius Hanford, threatened with deportation. Ling Fu argued in his defense he was born on Puget Sound. The judge then switched from English to Chinook Jargon and asked him his name and age. The defendant responded, “Nika nem Ling Fu, pe nika tahtlum pee quinum cole,” giving his name and age of 25. Hearing this, Hanford declared, “You are an American, sure, and you can stay here.” An Iowan of English descent discovered the local roots of a Seattleite of Chinese descent through a Native-descended language they held in common.

Chinook Jargon was a trade language derived from the language of the Chinookan peoples, but incorporated words with French, English and other etymologies. In the 1870s, when Ling Fu came before Judge Hanford, it was as widely spoken in the region as the Salish language Lushootseed and English. A trade language allows conversation, or at least pragmatic exchange, between native speakers of unrelated tongues.

Trade languages thrive where diverse cultures meet and exchange goods and services. For Waterfront Exchange, we thought to explore art as a kind of trade language allowing people from different origins to connect.

Waterfront Exchange brings together a group of artists from the western coast of North America (and an artist team from rural England) on the Seattle Waterfront. Thinking of Seattle’s history as a seaport, as a polylingual metropolis dating back long before the arrival of Europeans, and as a place of artistic and commercial exchange, this project seeks to explore the cultural and physical context of the Seattle waterfront. Temporary installations and events will bring new life and public engagement to a geography which is in the middle of dramatic physical, cultural, and ecological transformations.

—Eric Fredericksen, Curator