The Seattle Center Pavilion, next to the skate park, is divided into two galleries for Bumbershoot this year. One is a place of refuse, not refuge, as the artists selected by Shane Montgomery for Found and Unbound work with castoffs and other found materials to create their art. That can mean ordinary trash, as in Jason Mecier’s Portrait of Stepfanie Kramer (she being a reliable TV actress who co-starred on Hunter during the ’80s), or more carefully selected discards—like the beer bottle caps Justin Beckman uses to create a pointillist deer and motorcycle. Other familiar artists include Scott Fife—who makes oversized busts of historical figures including Geronimo and John Wayne—and Guy Laramée, who carves little landscapes into unwanted old library books. There are a few screens of found film and video, plus Sayaka Ganz’s horses made of plastic spatulas and other household implements, but none of these recyclers achieves anything transformative out the trash. One wishes for something larger in scale, impossible for a three-day show, like the large trash-portrait assemblages of Brazilian artist Vik Muniz (add the documentary Waste Land to your Netflix queue). There are no real discoveries to be found among this sampler of prior work.
Next door, the local arts organization Reel Grrls has set up a performance space called After the Riot, with events scheduled for 4 p.m. Sunday and Monday. On Friday I watched the earnest duo Ivan Coyote and Rae Spoon play songs and tell stories about growing up queer in Canada. It’s all very heartfelt, but not gallery art; and the amplified music distracts from Found and Unbound next door. Maybe the problem for Bumbershoot programmers is finding a quiet indoor stage for mopey folkies and the like. Not every band is suited for a rowdy outdoor stage, but it’s a mistake to situate live music so close to what’s supposedly a contemplative space. Why isn’t Bumbershoot using the Northwest Rooms this year? Today’s Reel Grrls performing artist is Anna Oxygen, and Monday’s is Molly Mac.
Outside the pavilion is a tent housing Magic Sync, a fitting enclosure for a vaguely circus-like installation of music, lights, and bright geometric forms. Ushered into the darkness, you’re confronted with a control panel with great big red buttons you can push to trigger noise loops and light displays. It’s perfect for kids who need to get out of the sun and burn off steam, though the cacophony might drive parents crazy after more than 10 minutes. With all the noise and candy colors, the space is like a TV stage set for Pee-wee’s Playhouse. It feels as if you’re trapped at a children’s birthday party, minus the bouncy castle and sheet cake.