Envelopes

A letter from the mailbag:

Dear Emily Hall:

Why in the world didn't you write about the guerrilla art on Broadway? The sculptures have disappeared, and you never mentioned them. What are you, asleep?

What? All right. I admit it. There never was any such letter. In fact, there's no mailbag. But I have been asked why I ignored this explosion, this veritable renaissance of guerrilla art around town. Even the Seattle Post-Intelligencer wrote about the four sculptures that spent a week or so at the corner of Broadway and East Harrison.

The problem, if I must answer my own fake letter, is that I found it all a bit arch, and not just too clever, but rather too knowing, with the air of something closer to a calculated publicity stunt than real guerrilla-style disruption. Often this kind of "mysterious" art arrives with a press release, or else a series of e-mails from "bystanders" suggesting I look into it.... I would just like to remind people that whatever guerrilla art is, it does not arrive with a press release.

There were those "bald man" posters that Amy Jenniges found [In Other News, April 5]; then, two weeks ago, the four figures appeared on Broadway, big grayish boxes with cast-plaster faces, one bent over a fire hydrant, another seeming to scream, the other two more relaxed. These sculptures were so mysterious, according to the P-I, that no one on the Capitol Hill Community Council or the Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs knew who had done it (no one thought to ask John Sutton, Ben Beres, and Zac Culler, who have been doing odd, sometimes great performance/installation-style work on Broadway for the past few years). At some point, two of the figures disappeared. And then there was the announcement from Marianne Goldin, AKA SuperJew, that the works were so bland and annoying (and still somehow getting so much attention) that she had tagged them, with glasses and little beards.

I get her point. This wasn't particularly good, spontaneous, anonymous art--its point only seemed to be to surprise us by being there--yet KING 5 loved the story, loved prattling on about how such things are not unusual in a "funky" neighborhood that "pushes the envelope." (Sorry. Gagging.) But neither was the announced tagging a particularly trenchant act. Neither of them had the quality, as The Magic Christian's Guy Grand strove for, of the spectacularly surreal--in his own parlance, "making it hot for people." Even as a dialogue between urban oddities it had a tepid air.

My favorite recent instance of anonymous art was the appearance of what looked like class notes written on big sheets of paper and stapled to telephone poles. They may have been entirely unrelated to each other--the chart of drug side effects near the IHOP on Madison, what looked like notes from a sociology text across the street from the Capitol Hill Arts Center, to name two--or intended for some other use altogether, but they had a funny cumulative effect, both bossy and gentle, authoritative and diffident, out of place but squarely, weirdly there.

emily@thestranger.com

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