The Fussy Eye: Turn on Your Green Light

Hing Hay Park is one of those parks I want to like more than I do. During a recent sunny afternoon, it was full of kids playing ping-pong—there’s a permanent outdoor table—and doing craft activities under adult supervision. It was some kind of after-school camp, though none of the campers looked up at Shutter, a new Seattle Storefronts installation overlooking the park from the north.

Created by Ian Campbell and Benjamin Gray, Shutter looks better at night, when its green threads are illuminated to look like lasers. Problem is, Hing Hay Park is desolate at night, frequented mainly by the homeless, who are there to sleep or drink—not play chess or look at the art. Shutter occupies an impressive, long, galleried space. It’s a wall of windows that would be perfect for a trendy bar or restaurant, only the ID isn’t the kind of ’hood where new bars and restaurants are opening. The whole point of Seattle Storefronts is to fill such unleased space with local art and artist residencies, and Shutter is certainly eye-catching at night, when it appears to blast through several panels of Sheetrock, suggesting a violent stasis or moment of frozen demolition. Perhaps there’s a science experiment up there; you want to get closer and see. Only the windows are too high to peek in, and the facade is awkwardly cantilevered over descending steps to the building’s entrance. The nearer you get to Shutter, the more you’re penalized for proximity. But that’s the problem with free space—it doesn’t always work the way artists would intend. It’s the fault of the site, not of the art. And it’s the same paradox faced by the city: good intentions, pity about the park. Hing Hay Park, 423 Maynard Ave. S., Ends Aug. 31.

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