This tree is growing.
  • This tree is growing.
I've complained that Mark Dion, the artist who created the Neukom Vivarium at the Olympic Sculpture Park, should be more forthcoming. Specifically, I've asked Seattle Art Museum, which owns the Vivarium, to make the artist's instructions public—to tell us what he intends should happen in the case that the nurse log grows to the point where it busts through the glass of the vivarium that houses it.

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Both the log and the vivarium are equally the art; each are pedestals for the other—it's not as if the vivarium is the frame and the log is the art. Their live interaction is, in some ways, a test of how freely a work of art can live in an institutional setting.

But Dion has refused to tell. SAM didn't share any instructions, and even declined to say whether there are instructions for that particular scenario, and Dion, too, answered me only cryptically when I asked whether he'd prefer that the log be trimmed or allowed to grow to the point of threatening the structure that nurtures it.

The reporter in me wanted to know the artist's intentions. But recently, I was talking to another artist about this, and he said, "Wait. Isn't it better that we don't know? Doesn't the tension of the piece depend on not knowing?"

And he's totally right.

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So all we can do is go to the park and keep an eye on what's happening in that hothouse—how close the tree gets, whether it seems to be trimmed or not at any point. I've got new reason to get down there more often.

P.S. The temporary summer installations at the park are in the middle of being taken down. Get down there soon if you want to see them one last time!