Katie Holden's floating world (version 2) isn't just a nice object, it's a good idea. Crafted from subtle, materially seductive wood and polymer clay, it's a small wall-mounted sculpture designed to hold an iPhone above your head, so you can watch videos while lying down without making your arms tired.
Across the room, Julia Heineccius's Tree of Wifi is a solid sheet of brass cut out to form tabs that hold individual pieces of fruit in ways that are both aesthetically pleasing and near comical. (The fruits themselves were purchased from the internet—if you buy the piece, yours will come with fresh web-sourced fruit.)
Both of these objects look more like something you might find in a high-end design shop than in an art gallery, but that's the point. They're part of Tech Support, an exhibition that sets out, according to curator Colleen RJC Bratton, to "test whether commerce would improve with artworks marketed toward the wealthy tech community in the city." She has created a website complete with a point-of-sale, so visitors can interact with the digital version of the show—and buy the art—onsite and remotely.
Not everything in the exhibition falls under the umbrella of functional design. Forrest Perrine's Flashing Light is a sped-up supercut of the highest-grossing films released each year from 1915 to 2015 projected onto an asymmetrical slab of marble. Christian Schmit's The Analog Kid is a low-tech wonderland of meticulously crafted cardboard miniatures. And Jason Hirata's security is a combination key safe that contains his own ticket stub from seeing the Andrew Wyeth exhibition at SAM, providing a patron with the opportunity to purchase a functional object for what it actually cost, plus a working artist's admission to a pricey museum show.
Depending on your feelings toward Seattle's affluent newcomers, the idea of marketing an art show to them might seem a bit like selling out. But in a city where rents are skyrocketing like Bitcoin, the survival of local art depends in no small part on the degree to which galleries and artists are able to secure revenue streams from the tech monoculture.
The marriage of art and tech is also a natural fit, according to artist Francisco Guerrero, whose contribution to Tech Support is a flashy chandelier made from colored LED strips, zip ties, and plastic fish traps. "The nexus of the arts and tech community in Seattle should be more obvious," he says. "Both communities use design as their vocabulary of interaction."
Bratton agrees there are affinities between the tech and art scenes that have been overlooked. "Both communities are trying to use creative problem solving to do their jobs," she says. "We both have tools that the other community could utilize. Aside from selling the works, I would consider the show to be a success if it helped start that dialogue."