Fictilis is sent from heaven. It's an 8-month-old, artist-run gallery in Pioneer Square that currently has a bunch of cat faces on display. The call for entries for Cat Faces read:
Work that results in a cat face, but has an interesting way of getting there. That's right, a cat face. The face of a cat. Work in unusual media, on an unusual scale, work that involves an impossibly elaborate process, a succession of material transformations or conceptual translations, or uses complicated machinery, industrial mechanisms, or other impractical techniques, work that requires painstaking labor, superhuman patience, or fantastic leaps in imagination, that accumulates its own impressive critical adornment and theoretical justification, but results, after all that, in the end, in a cat face.
When you ask like that—the clarity! The hilarity!—you get a fancy feast. All kinds of things were submitted by all kinds of artists, grandma painters and Photoshop masters and MFA ironists. Hand-drawn animated videos. Tile mosaics. Portraits with real whiskers. A Twitter feed of the catcalls two women get in the Mission in San Francisco. Pictures of celebrity faces digitally morphed to look like cats, composed by 400 workers from the online outsourced labor force Mechanical Turk. Paintings of real-life storm-drain covers resembling cat faces along the Los Angeles River. A print of a cat face created from a spider web that remains embedded in the surface.
When the Seattle Police Department uses Fictilis soon to host a neighborhood meeting, the backdrop will be glossy, billboard-sized photographs of Diamond Cat, a lounging creature with jewel eyes said to be an homage to a legendary figure of Tokyo nightlife. Diamond Cat does not look like a crime-free cat.
One artist made two sets of drawings of his cat Renton: one from memory, one from life. After the show opened, the artist called to say that Renton had died suddenly, of a heart attack.
Alone, any of these pieces would be fine. But together—and with self-consciously profound/pretentious bits of reading about cuteness and the avant-garde posted on the walls and door—they add up to an ecstatic encyclopedia that could only have been made possible by the conflagration of minds currently calling itself Fictilis.
The word is Latin for "capable of being changed," Fictilis's website says, and "that's how we use the space, that's how we think of our entity, and possibly also something about the larger world and art's role in it," says Timothy Furstnau. He and Andrea Steves relocated from Detroit and opened Fictilis in May; they were later joined by Rani Ban and Isabel Blue. Their backgrounds are in art, media, computer science, anthropology, and linguistics; past shows have focused on the colors of shipping containers in Seattle (especially at Terminals 46 and 30) and Xeroxing. Next up: art that "addresses the divide, if one can be said to exist, between internet and life—the 'inter-life crisis.'" You'll laugh, you'll cry—but can anything be better than Cat Faces?