For the next few weeks at MadArt Studio in South Lake Union, three of the floor-to-ceiling storefront windows are being left wide-open during business hours, three mouths of a giant steel structure constructed inside the gallery.
The facade of the building is wrapped in blue construction netting, which extends into the space, covering all sides of the structure itself. The color and texture are meant to get your attention and call you inside.
The structure-sculpture is a collaboration between Minnesota-based artist-architect duo Jennifer Newsom and Tom Carruthers—collectively known as Dream the Combine—and local artist-engineer Clayton Binkley.
Together, they create inhabitable structures and installations that explore the body in relationship to space, light, and environment. They recently worked on a project funded by the Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1 called Hide & Seek. Lure, the MadArt exhibition, explores similar concepts, emphasizing how to bring different groups of people inside of the space, especially within the context of the techie playground of South Lake Union.
When you first step inside, your foot will land on one end of a giant steel walkway wrapped in color. The individual corridors begin on the street and slope upward, crisscrossing each other in a figure-eight-like fashion, eventually culminating into one path that's close to the ceiling, directly under the skylights. No matter how you follow the corridors within the structure, each will eventually lead you back onto the street, spitting you out like a piece of debris in an eddy.
While I was passing through one of the corridors—entangled in its steel trap, following its labyrinthine paths—something remarkable happened. Lure made me aware of aspects of my bodily existence I'd been numb to before. Within the piece, I was more mindful of my steps because of the way the mesh was ever so slippery beneath my boot. I became aware of a slight unease at being so close to a skylight I'd admired from the concrete floor below.
Lure has a distinct ability to concentrate the piece's gaze back on yourself, upending your sense of automatic movement. Given the way it entraps you, there's ironically a sense of freedom to focus fully on yourself and your reaction and your experience of it.
By engaging the public sidewalk along Westlake Avenue, Lure confronts the border between public and private space, especially deep in SLU where the presence and gaze of Amazon is heavy. It has stores riddled with cameras watching your every move, and corporate offices overhead.
During my exploration of the piece, the portals that led to the street seemingly sucked in random pedestrians. Tech workers wearing backpacks and rain jackets moved through the structure with curiosity and, perhaps, suspicion. From my perch on the uppermost corner, it felt like watching mice move through a maze.
After my five or six minutes inside, compelled forward by the path in front of me, pausing to bask in the muted white light of the skylight I was now only an arm's reach away from, Lure spat me back out onto the gum-covered sidewalk. Unharmed.