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Charles Mudede

This is the last day to see Jennifer Zwick's exhibit The Idea & The Thing Itself. Its large-scale installation is the show's main or immediate attraction. It emerged from the same conceptual universe as Zwick's "I’m Pretty Sure This Is Exactly Right." It's of a hospital waiting room and a chunk of nature. The waiting room, however, is underneath the chunk of nature, and is upside down. And so, if you are on the floor and looking up, you are like some disembodied spirit looking down on a waiting room's chairs, tables, and magazines, one of which is a National Geographic with this featured story: Beneath the Emerald City.

There is a second city below the first one, the visible city. It is something like Seattle's class-consciousness—above which is its class-unconsciousness. The visible city dreams; the beneath city is wide awake. Above, we recognize the Space Needle or Amazon's towers and spheres; below are histories and realities that mostly go unseen, like the fate of the Duwamish Tribe and "Insanely Underfunded Schools." This is the "second Seattle." You can read about it as you wait to see a doctor. Or you can let your mind drift to another place—to a place in nature, to a patch of grass between a stream and a forest. You have to do this because nothing can make a waiting room not ugly or oppressive. Many fish tanks have tried and failed. You can enter or leave a bedroom, or a living room, or a dining room; you can never enter a waiting room. You can only find yourself in it, waiting to leave.

Indeed, yesterday, I was in a waiting room on the 9th floor of the Polyclinic Madison Center. I was waiting to see a doctor of internal medicine. Time passed slowly; I had nothing to do with my mind; I looked out the window and saw downtown's new and old towers in the wildfire haze like redwoods in a mist. My mind drifted to the forests burning in British Columbia. I saw the flames and smoke and sun in that sky. I also thought of the hard cones of jack pines. What opens and releases their seeds is a very hot fire. No fire, no future for the jack pine. It is a tree that lives on flames. Indeed, if it had a religion, its Heaven would be like a human Hell. If you were to say to a jack pine, "I hope you burn in Hell," it wound, if it understood you, not be at all offended. It was born because of a fire whose temperatures were Hell-hot.

The Idea & The Thing Itself is on view at Gallery4Culture.