Itching to travel again? Already taken a few road trips or hopped a plane? Hell, maybe you've navigated the rigamarole of pandemic-era international borders and even gone abroad.
Regardless, I can guarantee you haven't spent the last nearly two years as adventurously as former Seattle resident Filastine. The musician spent most of 2020 sailing from Europe to Indonesia via the Panama Canal with a motley crew of artists-cum-sailors aboard a converted fishing vessel turned performance venue called Arka Kinari. On Monday, October 11, in a multimedia presentation at the Museum of Museums, he'll speak about the bizarre experience of navigating the high seas when nearly every border was closed, the natural wonders of the post-atomic Pacific Ocean, and what it's like to perform avant-garde experimental music in remote villages.
The nomadic artist has undeniable Seattle roots, being a non-grunge maverick of Seattle's '90s countercultural underground whose coup de grâce came from soundtracking the WTO protests. When we last left our hero three years ago, Filastine deployed a parachute in the middle of the crowd at The Clock-out Lounge as part of his mesmerizing "Drapetomania" show: a parable of pushing the eject button on fossil fuel-powered touring.
While he didn't end up buying an Indonesian pirate ship as he told me the plan was back then, he did get his hands on a 1947 rustbucket of a North Sea fishing vessel rotting off a pier in the Netherlands. With his artistic collaborator Nova Ruth Setyaningtyas, an Indonesian vocalist, he renovated the ship to make it seaworthy again. They shoved off from Rotterdam in fall 2019, performed a dress rehearsal in the Canary Islands, crossed the Atlantic while skirting pirates off Venezuela, hung out with the autonomous Kuna Yala indigenous people who live off Panama, then passed through the infamous canal.
When the world shut down in March 2020, Nova Ruth had gone ahead to Indonesia to plan their inaugural tour and Filastine lingered in Mexico to source last-minute parts onshore. He planned to rendezvous with Arka Kinari in the Marshall Islands. The ship was already at sea with a westerly at its back and Pacific hurricane season not too far off the horizon. While the rest of us dutifully stayed home, Filastine secured one of the final flights to Hawaii and frantically negotiated visas for his international crew. In April, they shoved off into the unknown, across a Pacific Ocean filled with small island nations suddenly unfriendly to foreign visitors.
"This story is a completely different version of everything that's happened in the last few years," Filastine told me over heaping plates of vegan Vietnamese food in Little Saigon. "Most people have been locked inside a series of concentric circles. Meanwhile, we got locked out. We shared a lot of the loneliness and isolation, but in a very different way."
From corresponding with Filastine via e-mail (me WFH, him on a satellite phone in his berth) for a Pitchfork feature in July 2020, I can attest to the world-expanding impact of his story at a time when leaving the Evergreen State seemed like a daunting prospect. Along the way, moreover, this artist, known for pounding percussion on the frontlines of protests against global capitalism, reconnected with nature—his first cause célèbre back during the '90s-era fight for ancient forests.
"I acquired a sense of wonder at the world that is still out there," he said. "It's amazing how quickly nature can bounce back. Not just from our disappearance from places because of the pandemic. Some of the healthiest natural places I found were part of the U.S. military's nuclear legacy in the Pacific atolls because people don't go there."
Filastine's mixture of ecological call to arms, artistic DIY at visionary scale, and rollicking good maritime yarn should appeal to a broad range of Seattleites: from MoM members to Extinction Rebellion kayaktivists to amateur boatbuilders from the Center for Wooden Boats.
Best of all, you can only hear it in person.
"This is a story I've refused to tell on social media," he said. "The whole project is built around sharing person to person. The way that this story is told is also that way."
Artivism at Sea: Grey Filastine Shares the Voyage of Arka Kinari, Monday, October 11, 7-9 PM, Museum of Museums, 900 Boylston St. Free, proof of vaccination required.