Bumbershoot Guide

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Bumbershoot 2010

Monsters of Alt

TV Pilots vs. Baboon Attacks

Previews of Every Single Thing Happening at the Festival

People's Republic of Komedy vs. People's Republic of China

The Stranger's 2012 Bumbershoot Guide!

The Stranger's 2011 Bumbershoot Guide!

Our Massive 2013 Bumbershoot Guide

Bumbershoot 2009

Gogol Bordello vs. DeVotchka

The Stranger's Bumbershoot Guide

How Does It Feel to Be Back?

Mad Ruins

The Bob Dylan Torture Test

Still a Gigolo!

Touch Me, I'm Sub Pop's Warehouse Manager

The Shins vs. Their Future

Here's What We Think of Every Damn Thing Happening at This Year's Festival

Give It to Me Easy

Rock, Chunk, or Rule

Fergie vs. Jackson Pollock

Bumbershoot 2009

Emerald Shitty

De La Soul for Life

Hari's Big Break

Friday, August 31

I'm More Than Hair

Yes, Aloha!

Let Them Bring You Brown

Countdown to Courtney

Why is visual art a part of Bumbershoot at all? This year, it's to teach you that anyone can be an artist. "The visual art's integrity is really strong this year," says Bob Redmond, the programmer with a background in literary arts who, in the past year, has absorbed the duties of the visual art curator into his job because Bumbershoot has decided it no longer needs a visual art curator.

"It's about populism," Redmond says.

"We've been thinking of powered by the people," interjects Bumbershoot artistic director Michele Scoleri, who is seated next to Redmond and whose background is in rock music.

They describe the headlining art show this year: documents and performances by the Olivers, a Seattle family (neighbors of Redmond's) whose six members have completed all the assignments set out in Miranda July and Harrell Fletcher's art project Learning to Love You More.

Learning to Love You More began in 2002 and has been documented in shows around the country, including in a West Coast survey coorganized by Seattle Art Museum in 2003 and at the Whitney Biennial in 2004. How it works is the artists post on their website a list of poignant but plain assignments to be performed by regular people—"make an encouraging banner," "lip sync to shy neighbor's Garth Brooks cover"—and the regular people send their results in to the website, where the results are posted. A book about the project will also debut at Bumbershoot.

"The other one that performs highly on our goals," Redmond says, is the exhibition of photos and videos about cult '70s musician Nick Drake, A Place to Be, organized by Drake's estate. "We're really getting things to blur, genre-wise," Redmond says.

Hmm. A charming but outdated headliner. A music show. And what else?

A room commandeered by the Henry Art Gallery featuring Canadian artist network Instant Coffee will house a series of nooks. In those nooks, "very intimate" performances, talks, readings, parties, screenings, karaoke, and craft making will happen. It will be a "sculptural installation designed... for social interaction," according to the press release. Could be interesting.

In another room is Claimin' Space: Context and Urban Art, a show curated by Damion Hayes, owner of Belltown "urban art" gallery BLVD. In the press statement, Hayes poses the old question, "Is graffiti still legitimate once it is displayed in a gallery or museum?" and tidily answers it: "Art is art regardless of its venue." Claimin' Space sounds like a rehash of an earlier Bumbershoot show (Beyond Reason, which already considerably postdated the 1980s trend of graffiti artists coming into galleries). It also sounds like a simple best-of survey of BLVD's roster.

There's also the Seattle-Havana Poster Show, a series of silk-screened posters for music, film, theater, and art events from the two cities—another "genre-blur." Meaning only sort of an art show.

Finally, the Northwest Rooms will be home to the Seattle art trio PDL: Jason Puccinelli, Jed Dunkerley, and Greg Lundgren. Each of them will man a single "Portable Confessional Unit," where you're invited to go inside and talk. In return, you get the ear and, if you want it, the advice of an artist—or an artist's mutual confession. "We have a warning on each of our confessional units," which are wood boxes painted in slick bright colors to look like machines, Lundgren says. "It's a disclaimer about who we are and what we are doing it for, which is simply to encourage people to express themselves." On trial runs, Lundgren says, the confessions have been startlingly intimate, even meaningful.

Those units, I'd like to experience—and there's nothing saying there won't be high moments at Bumbershoot art this year. But it's hard not to question the festival's motives when it comes to visual art. For six years before this one, art at Bumbershoot was a fairly high-concept (not to be mistaken with highfalutin) operation, led by Yoko Ott, who now oversees programs at the Frye Art Museum. She did the impossible: made art people attend a music festival, and made music fans care (briefly) about other forms of art. Under her regime, a fashion-as-art show would come up against an exploration of technological art. Rock posters faced off with esoteric sound art. Bumbershoot never was an ideal art venue, but Ott made it work.

When she left, after working as an art minority in what was increasingly a commercial music festival focused on a few big names, her job disappeared.

Support The Stranger

And now comes the first year without a staff art curator, peddling the ostensible theme of "populism" in a way that seems little more than a lazy way to justify not having anyone on staff who knows or cares about visual art. If the purpose is to condescend to Seattleites about art—It's not scary! Anyone can do it!—then consider how Bumbershoot would go over if it behaved the same strictly touristic way toward music. The difference, of course, is that music sells the tickets at Bumbershoot.

But if Bumbershoot isn't making money on art, then why does it hang on to art? Along with theater and dance, art provides an anchor of legitimacy that keeps Bumbershoot from being just another rock-and-pop fair. But when an art curator position is no longer funded, and the rest of the crew puts together a lineup of stale ideas opposed to the very notion that there's any difference between artists and anyone else (while lionizing commercially attractive rock and pop artists)—then something has gone sideways.recommended