Fuzzy Engine, 789-6951.
Through March 3.

Here I go again, writing about an event that's over and gone, one for the history books, you missed it. Well, too bad. It just so happens that some elements of the art world are as ephemeral as champagne bubbles, but no less important.

The event in question was the opening of the new show Mania, at Fuzzy Engine. The artists in the gallery had ruminated on and produced evidence of their own various obsessions--meditations on obsession itself--but the artists outside the gallery were living proof. Fuzzy Engine is in an old Ballard office building that has been converted into studios, and at each opening Leslie Clague curates a magnificent show-outside-a-show. The artists open their studios and outside artists bring their work in, mounting it and projecting it in the halls, the atrium, the building across the parking lot, even the bathroom. The result is something so much more sexy than your average art event that it should live in its own category; I'm going to depart from the usual "highbrow is sexy, dammit" party line and say that it appeals on a sense level that could only be called... fun.

It's impossible to narrate every instance of art merging with party merging with theater merging with freak festival, but here are a few of the highlights. Jesse Paul Miller spun discs from behind a pile of Christmas-wrapping detritus, happily busy and workmanlike, occasionally social, though you had to shout at him over the great garbage divide. In the downstairs bathroom, Jennifer West's video projections (right onto the toilets, in darkened stalls) made peeing an otherworldly experience. Alicia Berger's installation riffed on the idea of mania through a series of videos about people and their strange collections (doll parts, bunnies, those plastic things that keep your pizza from sticking to the top of the delivery box) projected onto a wall above the entryway. Berger hung examples of each collected item nearby, and the hallway was crammed with people all night long, gazes directed skyward, watching the record collector in leather chaps dance to "Dream Weaver." Nearby, musician Mark Johnson recorded the ambient party sounds and played them back as a kind of weird feedback wail, a moment-by-moment distillation of the evening, unintelligibly coded.

Into the static standing-around built into the art viewing experience slinked performance artist Jeppa Hall, accompanied by Bianca Maggio (with Eli Kaufman on saxophone), dressed for a prom 40 years ago: silent, vampish, coyly vogueing. The saxophone was jazzy, cinematic. I followed their slow progress around the building, through both floors, into the bathrooms, outside to the parking lot, where they batted their eyes at the shivering smokers. Hall and Maggio returned inside to serve tea, and later reappeared as two cranky old men arguing through their thick mustaches.

The absolute pinnacle of the evening, for me--which tells you God-knows-what about my maturity level--was the appearance of a gorgeous pair of goats called Clyde and Nigel, courtesy of Miss Susan Robb. Clyde and Nigel were there in honor of Robb's mania, made manifest in the gallery in the form of an enormous blanket into which Robb had knitted her e-mail identity (goatmax1) over and over again. Clyde made it up the stairs to the gallery, where he was widely photographed and petted, posing quite handsomely with Robb. Then he christened the gallery floor. Nigel was more stubborn, folding his legs and lying down mid-stairway; not even the appearance of his goat companion at the top of the stairs would budge him. The goats left too soon, leaving their own little installation in the building's hallways.

Which brings me to Mania itself, unfortunately sidelined by livestock, vamps, and "Dream Weaver." In fact, the show paled next to the action in the halls, falling into an established vernacular that, to this group's credit, is entirely their own, but that seems a bit repetitive. This isn't to say that the work isn't good. I continue to be surprised and delighted by Steve Veach's metamorphosis from painter to sculptor, and I loved the sheer work-hours implied in Robb's blanket, as well as her excellent showmanship. But I'd like to see what happens when the group tackles a less culturally loaded topic, something where the irony and winks to the audience aren't as broad. The Fuzzy Engine has such a good thing going; I want it to carry the torch for the rest of Seattle's galleries.

Meanwhile, I'll be outside with Clyde and Nigel.