Claude Andrew's Alone in a Crowd

Walk up to Benaroya Hall, where the Garden of Remembrance to fallen soldiers leads to the University Street entrance to the bus tunnel, and you'll find local artist Claude Andrew's Alone in a Crowd, which is the kind of public art I'd like to see more of in Seattle. It's accessible, it invites scrutiny from passers-by, it's conceptual--but not with a capital C that requires you read Roland Barthes to decipher. (ItÂ’s part of the ongoing West Edge Sculpture Exhibition, which runs through Oct. 4.) At first glance, the installation is a thicket of metal pipes arranged in two groups. Move closer, and what look to be fluttering metal wind vanes atop each pole assume the appearance of little robot faces, like the hero of the popular film Wall-E. The robot heads--let's just call them than--spin and twitch. It's like a herd of gazelles on the savanna, looking for predators, only these robots aren't checking the same direction all at once. The longer you stare at these staring faces, the more you look for a pattern. Are they spinning as a result of our scrutiny? Are there motion-sensors? Is their back-and-forth scanning random, programmed, or what? What the hell are they looking at? And why are we looking at them? Try to make eye contact, and they turn away. Pedestrians seem uniformly fascinated by the installation. Try to take the a robot's picture, as I did, and you have to wait for just right moment for it to turn and pause for your lens. They seen skittery, nervous, scared, watchful. BRIAN MILLER

Sept. 24-Oct. 4, 2008

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