The Fussy Eye: Twigs in Search of a Nest

A message of hope in South Lake Union.

Memorial Day is past, summer is here, and it's the season for outdoor art. And for clearing bramble patches, which is how artist Bryan Ohno supplied the materials for his temporary installation The Spiral Project: A Spiral of Hope. Forty volunteers helped him gather fallen branches from the East Duwamish greenbelt—including the notorious former homeless encampment overlooking I-5 known as "The Jungle." Then 200 more volunteers helped Ohno assemble the curling edifice on the open gravel of Lake Union Park, facing the SLUT tracks and Amazonland across Mercer. Fifty feet wide and 22 feet high, the spiral is meant to be an "evocative sculpture" reflecting back on those denizens of The Jungle. "Rather than the tragic, downward spiral of hopelessness, the form will spiral up in a metaphor for 'hope and opportunity,' " says the manifesto from Ohno's Urban Art Concept. Inside the lattice, which somewhat resembles a garden fence, there's a tall sapling planted when the park opened two summers back. That's your hope, maybe, but where's the opportunity? During a Friday-morning visit, busy commuters barely gave the spiral a glance. Bikers and trolley riders were anxiously massed to cross Valley Street and get to work. A few runners passed on their morning workouts. A homeless guy was sleeping on a bench sheltered by the awning of the park's restroom. (Is it locked at night?) If The Spiral Project were permanent, like a massive rusty Richard Serra sculpture, people would stop, and be wary of entering its dark, claustrophobic embrace. But this twiggy metaphor is too flimsy to notice or disturb. It just reads as yard waste, creatively arranged. What do the homeless lack? Make a giant bed out of the branches, or the outline of a house. (Or, if you want to be cruel, a 40-oz. bottle of malt liquor.) If you want to address such a pressing social need, given how empty and underused the park's gravel is, the best statement would be a tent city for the homeless, right there in prosperous South Lake Union. 

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