The fourth annual Seattle Art Fair, which happens the first weekend of August and is the city's largest art exhibition of the year, arrives at an interesting moment in the space-time continuum.
How dizzy are we with the simultaneity of historical moments happening, being immediately memed, retweeted, shouted about, and—just as fast as the headline comes—disappearing? The hashtag for the Annapolis Capital Gazette shootings was trending and then gone in less than 24 hours. You'll have forgotten who Scott Pruitt was by the time this comes out. It's #NationalFriedChickenDay. What else. Whatever. Meanwhile, the internet won't let us forget he said, "Grab 'em by the pussy," or her e-mails. (Note how no context is needed for either of those.)
"When we look back on this time..." begin a lot of tweets these days. There is a collective awareness that we are in the midst of a historically historical time—it's almost easier to time-travel ahead to some future moment when we'll all look back on this rather than deal with the here and now.
Given this context, the programs and special exhibitions planned for Seattle Art Fair not only look backward and forward, but inward to the self and outward to the stars. Along with the bazillion exhibitors from around the world, fair artistic director Nato Thompson (formerly of New York's Creative Time and now at Philadelphia Contemporary) has curated additional talks and projects that explore the themes of technology, history, and identity.
A throwback to when Seattle hosted gigantic fire-spitting robots with the city's blessing, Survival Research Laboratory founder Mark Pauline will demo some of his robotic sculptures and take part in a talk with sci-fi author Bruce Sterling about our technological future.
Gesturing toward earlier "robotic" technology, the public will be able to interact with Wayne White's 14-foot-tall puppets of Seattle pioneers Mary Ann and Louisa Boren. (Fun fact I found on the internet: Louisa married her stepbrother David Denny.)
"What happened to that Seattle?" C. Davida Ingram asks as part of the conversation related to the upcoming 20th anniversary of the WTO protests, a conversation she's facilitating with local activists Alix Chapman, Chris Jordan, Soya Jung, DK Pan, Tracy Rector, and Matt Remle. Capitalism plus social media plus selfie culture puts individualism at an all-time high. (Or on fleek? Are we still saying that?) For all of the political and social activists pushing collectivism, we seem to be a long way off from reaching across the aisle, crossing the divide, or [insert hashtag cliché here]. For those of us who were inside that historical moment, the WTO protests felt like the beginning of something huge. Then ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
One of the things I'm most looking forward to at Seattle Art Fair is seeing a model of Trevor Paglen's Orbital Reflector. It's a satellite the artist will launch later this year in partnership with the Nevada Museum of Art. Floating in the night sky for several weeks will be a giant nonfunctional sculpture reflecting us back to ourselves. Reflect is the operative word here. Do we like what we see?