Minus 33,153 minutes: They're sitting on the floor—some dancers, some actors, some musicians—at an apartment in Pioneer Square that belongs to Tonya Lockyer—a dancer and choreographer with black hair, black pants, and a black sweater—while she valiantly tries to explain the Textile Factory, a project they've assembled to discuss, but not everyone understands. Depending on who's talking, it's "performance art" or "guerrilla art" or "Fluxus-style chance procedures." It involves taking over a westerly block of Yesler Way in Pioneer Square for twenty minutes during July's First Thursday—roughly three weeks away—and filling it with a carefully timed series of "actions," each between thirty seconds and four minutes long. "There isn't one narrative center," says Lockyer, who participated in a similar event in New York three years ago—which, she says, was attended by Susan Sontag—and a subsequent Seattle version just two months later. "It's more like a grid, a multiplicity of centers."

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It sounds like a street theater monster, built by two dozen Doctors Frankenstein.

An original score will blare out of the windows of a second-floor loft apartment. The action on Yesler will be watched by an invited audience in the loft—and whatever crowd happens to assemble on the street below. "We're trying to shift the way people perceive daily life," Lockyer says. "To react to the action that already exists on the street."

Minus 33,033 minutes: Two hours later, there has been some politics talk ("this can't help but be political, given the times we're living in"), some antipolitics talk ("I don't want this to be too heavy-handed"), some artsy gibberish ("does anybody have a strong objection to appropriating from ourselves?"), and a little useful logistics ("everybody needs a stopwatch"). They've discussed whether to include an action featuring a scantily clad woman ("why does it always have to be a woman?" asks a dancer named Sheri) and high points from the last Textile Factory: "This guy, I don't know where he was from, he had an accent, said, 'In my country, we pay our street performers,' and threw money on the sidewalk!" They've also hammered out a basic timeline, with over 60 actions in 20 minutes. People pitch ideas: polar bear costumes, a haircut in the middle of the street. There will be no press, no advertising. They have invited me to the meeting, as a participant and documentarian, but ask that I not publish anything until the event is over.

Minus 5,867 minutes: Performers have spent the intervening weeks preparing—painting umbrellas, finding ladders, wigs, donated baguettes, a menacing black SUV. Actor Gabriel Baron has sent out procedural e-mails arranging and rearranging the timeline: "12:30–13:30 violin serenade, 12:30–? tent camping, 13:00–16:00 street haircut, 13:45–18:45 street intersection dance, 14:15–16:15 family argument." Some fret that their actions are too small to be seen. Lockyer sends a final missive: "Don't worry if what you do feels subtle... The performance of these actions is intended to enhance the street life that is going on around it and to change how people see street life after the event ends." The—wildly idealistic—conceit is to get people to look at the whole world as an aesthetic object: Give a man some art and he'll be edified for a day, teach a man to see art everywhere and he'll be edified for life.

Minus 153 minutes: We're making crude risers out of cardboard boxes and plywood for a small audience invited to watch from the second-floor loft. Composer Brant Campbell throws boxes down one flight of stairs to actor Troy Miszklevitz who throws them down another flight of stairs, where I catch and carry them into the loft.

Minus 78 minutes: "Remember, this is not a protest, this is not a performance, we're not charging admission," Lockyer says during the final huddle in a nearby apartment. "If the police come, point to the loft and say this is a party that has overflowed." Which is, strictly speaking, true. "Tonight," she concludes, "imagination will flow freely over the street."

Minus 15 minutes: There are only five audience members in the loft. "If anybody has any friends, call them now," somebody says, hurrying up the stairs. "Tell them to come."

Minus 2 minutes: We're lurking on the sidewalk and in alleyways, waiting for our cue to begin, trying—and failing—to look inconspicuous, wearing our costumes—suits and fur coats and dressing gowns—and clutching our props and stopwatches.

0 minutes: Miszklevitz's taxi finally pulls up. He gets out, pays the driver, pats the roof of the cab paternally, and sets a music stand in the middle of the narrow street. He raises his arms, waits for a car to pass, and begins passionately conducting his invisible orchestra. A few cars slow and swerve around him. Then a garbage truck hurtles down the road, with a bus rumbling up in the opposite direction. A few people stop, stare, hold their breath, waiting for him to (1) be crushed or (2) make two drivers of two large vehicles very angry. At the last second, he picks up his music stand and runs down the middle of the street, disappearing between the bus and the garbage truck as they pass each other. A middle-aged woman in a shawl murmurs "oh my God." The curtain is up. We're off.

1 minute: A woman, carrying an enormous bag of citrus, falls in the crosswalk—lemons, limes, and oranges roll down the pavement. Passersby stop to pick them up.

2 minutes: A man is doing pushups on the yellow line in the middle of the street while two women dance a duet on BMX bikes. "It's art! Art in progress!" whoops a man with a baseball cap and a cigarette. "This is trippy!" A crowd has started to congeal.

6 minutes: A woman in a bathing cap is standing on a tiny ladder on the corner, preparing to dive into a small glass of water. Women in black walk by, wailing. Someone is decorating a parking meter with stickers and tape. One confused onlooker turns to another: "Wherever we are, we're in the right place." They're both wearing T-shirts reading: "Firefighter Combat and Challenge." The sidewalk is filling up.

8 minutes: There is a tea party, with a tiny table and a cake with candles, on the sidewalk. "Stop it!" a young passerby in a short skirt huffs as she squeezes past the gawkers. She snarls: "We don't all own all the road!"

17 minutes: A car drives up the street, with someone yelling out of a bullhorn. A woman types letters and folds them into paper airplanes. "Will someone please explain what's going on?" asks a rotund man taking pictures with his cell phone. Two homeless men watch nearby, holding signs: "On the road. Anything helps. God bless." I ask, half-kidding, if they're part of the performance. "No. Well, we could be. Maybe we will be."

21 minutes: Two women, dancers dressed like homeless men, do their duet on the street, then lie down and spoon on the sidewalk, like they're sleeping. One of the actual homeless men puts down his sign and cup of change, lies down with the dancers on the sidewalk, and closes his eyes.

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24 minutes: For the finale, all the performers freeze for 30 seconds while a man in the road releases black balloons into the air. Somebody starts clapping. Then everybody starts clapping. No cops, no press, and 200 surprised, delighted-looking strangers—the Textile Factory is over.

42 minutes: In the aftermath, an artist named Jed, told to come and watch by a friend of a friend, says: "That was great—there were times I couldn't tell who was in the performance and who wasn't. I mean, some people looked like they could be, but I wasn't sure." recommended