Building 18, Magnuson Park, 7400 Sand Point Way NE, 4 am-11:30 pm daily through Labor Day, 4 am-10 pm daily thereafter. For information call 522-9529.
To "brand" something, in current corporate parlance, is to claim it. There's something greedy about this concept, something infinitely more grabby and brainwashing than the possessive little tattoo of the trademark. How is it that all possible associations--including visual and aural, as well as the less definable ones, such as the allusive and suggestive--can be marshaled toward one identity? That one company can own the idea of trying harder, or adding life, or thinking differently?
Well, as the British say, there it is. And like so many ideas good, bad, and ambiguous, art has gone about its way of subverting the pants off it. Think of Andy Warhol, who more completely owns the Campbell's soup can than Campbell's does. Artists, as well, brand themselves with their styles: the drip, the canvas painted bumpy white, the cow sliced up in formaldehyde. The concept is both turned on its head and used to advantage.
Why shouldn't art grab some territory out there? Staking claim to land is exactly what the first show at SPACE (Sand Point Arts & Cultural Exchange) is about. Sand Point has been in the art world's peripheral vision for years now, a prime piece of real estate fairly languishing in a city where rents are dear and artists think seriously about relocating to Tacoma and Bremerton. But for some reason, no matter how many well-meant events take place at Sand Point, the campus always has a whiff of the ghost town about it. The current plan to redevelop Building 18, the old firehouse, into studios for rotating artist residencies is a step toward injecting some real bloody life into the place, and Project 18 is SPACE's bid to brand the building for art with site-specific installations.
Site-specificity--as we have all been told, ad nauseam, by writers like me--speaks to a location's use as well as its physical properties. The whole experience of going to see Project 18 becomes part of the brand: the out-of-the-way drive, the half-dead campus, the piles of crap left behind when the Navy bolted. When the Horsehead Project (an outdoor sculpture event in 1999) took place at Sand Point, part of the frustration and the fun was figuring out which of the odd assemblages were sculpture, and which were bona fide junk. Outside Building 18 is a fire hydrant swathed in black plastic and duct tape; it's not part of the show, but in a way, it is.
What is part of the show is a series of six sculptures by emerging local artists. Leslie Clague's is gorgeous: a wing and fin from what seems to be an airplane that has crashed and buried itself in the ground. Behind it is the footprint of a demolished building, a rectangular concrete pad that might be the landing strip the airplane missed. The sculpture, which is made of canvas stretched over rebar, bounces lightly in the wind. It's an elegant suggestion of movement in a stilled vehicle that references both Sand Point's former occupants and the garbage left behind that often becomes the province of art.
In an odd gestalt gesture, the installations speak to each other. Perry Wesley Johnson has also created an unusable vehicle, in this case an enormous kick-scooter made of bricks and steel culled from around the campus. The use of found materials to make a trendy item--something eventually to be cast off--is echoed in Sheri Newbold's temporary architecture, a wall also made of castoffs (including a gleaming steel toilet/sink combo that might be from the brig).
In a work of great delicacy and coiled energy, Mark Johnson suggests the way that nature reclaims abandoned architecture. He has filled part of an anteroom with wood strips tensely wedged into arcs, some already springing out the windows into the parking lot. Like vines or cobwebs, the laths have taken over the space in a manner both organic and aggressive. Johnson heightens the effect with audio of dripping water, the very soundtrack of erosion.
And then, coming full circle with a comment on being paid for this branding exercise, is Brad Miller's pile of 50,000 pennies. It's not just his $500 honorarium translated into its smallest possible component; it also becomes a pile of material--like bricks, like detritus--that might be taken away and claimed by someone else. You live by the brand, you die by the brand.