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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Starbucks at the Olympic Sculpture Park

posted by on August 5 at 10:00 AM

This past weekend saw another performance by the group PDL (I Slogged about their last performance here.) Again, I missed it, but I have heard from some folks who were there.

Did you have the opportunity to see the installation by PDL this Sunday at the Olympic Sculpture Park? It was fantastic. If you did not, I would be happy to tell you more about it. If you did, I’d love to hear your thoughts, and wondered whether you planned to blog about it? It was deliciously over the top and well-executed. Provoked a heated debate in our little walking party about whether the “forthcoming installation” was real or not.

That was the first email I got. This was the second.

I was at the Sculpture Park this weekend and I noticed a newly fenced off area with a large sign next to Calder’s Eagle. The sign was advertising the imenent arrival of the new “art” sponsored by Starbucks entitled Wake (up). It depicted a few huge Starbucks coffee cups which were kinda wavey and some bullshit copy talking about how the new “art” was inspired by Serra’s Wake. While obviously an attempt at pop art, this crass intrusion of of corporate advertising into a respectable art venue is shocking and contemptable.

Well, here’s what happened. This time, the artists got permission from the museum (unlike in their This Is Not a Swingset installation, which was removed after a short time by security guards).

And no, there will be no Starbucks-sponsored sculpture at the park. Here’s what Greg Lundgren, one of the artists, has to say after the fact.

Thank you for joining us at the Olympic Sculpture Park yesterday for a beautiful, sun-filled afternoon of art appreciation. We set up our installation without a snag and had a wonderful breakfast at the Shanty. When we returned, our Wake(up)tm installation was in full effect with tourists and art enthusiasts alike all wondering and contemplating this new partnership between SAM and Starbucks Coffee. We sat with stretched ears and listened to the full range of responses, from “Isn’t anything sacred anymore?” to “This will be really nice for the tourists.” Some wondered how much Starbucks had to pay for such prime real estate while one fine lady exclaimed, “Finally sculpture is meaningful!” It was a little strange to hear an approval of WAKE (up)tm, and visitors explaining the idea to their family. …

PDL would like to thank Michael Darling and the SAM staff for allowing PDL to punk them. It says a lot about a large arts organization that is willing to be misrepresented, misunderstood and the subject of potentially misdirected criticism and disapproval- all in the name of artistic exploration, social experimentation and fun. It is rare and refreshing. We hope that an espresso stand is never embedded into a sculpture at OSP without great conceptual intent. Hey- maybe that is where all this leads… I think we are onto something… Maybe corporate sponsorship and utility IS the future of contemporary art. It would be a wonderful world indeed if sculpture really did have a purpose. We can dream.

Here’s what the installation looked like.


And here’s the sculpture the poster promised was coming, “based” on Richard Serra’s Wake.


Myself, I love these guys. They are truly public artists in that their medium is the public. They do it for nothing but experimentation—they have no gallery representation, they don’t get paid, they don’t even use their names. And the idea of a Starbucks-inspired sculpture isn’t so far off. Remember the Target-inspired opening of the sculpture park? How fine is the line between sponsoring a sculpture park and sponsoring a sculpture?

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This is cool. Hipsters bitch about the OSP all the time, but it's good that we have it and I'm happy that they seem to have a sense of humor.

Posted by Big Sven | August 5, 2008 10:07 AM

I love these guys.

"Sculpture... with a purpose!"


Posted by boxofbirds | August 5, 2008 10:16 AM

That's brilliant. If I could offer one small criticism, they need to make a better study of land-use and condo-development signs and use the full 4x8 sheet of plywood. It's a fantastic sign; it just needs to be a bit larger. And possibly dirty the site up a bit. There's something just a wee bit precious about it. But the idea of it is wonderful, just wonderful.

Posted by Fnarf | August 5, 2008 10:20 AM

When the OSP first opened I was worried that it would end up being just another derelict venue for mediocre "safe" art that would end up being a perfect place to buy crack in five years. They keep proving me wrong. I commend SAM for their sense of adventure and willingness to to allow this type of thing to happen. We need to see more of that.

Posted by Super Jesse | August 5, 2008 10:24 AM

SomethingAwful style photoshopping meets chainlink.

Posted by beid | August 5, 2008 10:34 AM

Wait, you mean I CAN'T order a "Serraccino"?

Damn, that would have given me a reason to actually set foot in a $tarbuck$.

(Although personally, I'd prefer a "Duchampiatto"...)

Posted by COMTE | August 5, 2008 10:51 AM

I sat near the installation on Sunday morning and enjoyed watching people react to this. There was one girl that was so furious it was hard to contain myself from laughing. Nice work PDL, keep it up.

Posted by blip | August 5, 2008 11:06 AM

What's suprising to me about these installations is how humorless, uptight and reactionary our city has become. An announcement goes up, and instantly the emails and phone calls start to denounce and stop these imaginary projects.

Posted by rb | August 5, 2008 11:12 AM

Actually, OSP already has a sponsored sculpture - the Neukom Vivarium. That entire building is the sculpture itself, not just the nurse log. The artist was involved in the sponsorship-naming process, and is purportedly fine with it.

Posted by NG | August 5, 2008 11:38 AM

What began as a parody is now a pastiche (in the Jameson sense).

The fact that they don't recognize this slays me.

Until they move beyond that - and most importantly apply a little self-evaluation/reflexivity to their own practice - nothing truly smart, meaningful and uniquely their own will come of their interventions.

And Ms. Graves: your continual regurgitation of the pablum they keep feeding you diproves your point about them doing this "for nothing but experimentation."

Their constant cries for attention from the press, the press' continued unmediated response and simple
reprinting of their ideas, not to mention repeatedly choosing, and misguidedly executing, shallow, straw man targeted ire at SAM, all add up to a very needy bunch wanting the "art world" to recognize, represent and pay them heed.

These BEFORE and(!) AFTER press releases, although seemingly quite effective with you, are really pathetic. I'd love to see them try and get away with in another art town. If, in fact, the "public" is their work and this "after press release" a summary of whatever "art" happened, they should be a lot, lot better, smarter and deeper than this.

I say this with love and hope. I'm not say that there isn't potential here. They're so close to getting it right it kills me. Humor goes a long way. Dead-pan dumb sum-ups have there place. But to truly operate in the field of institutional and sociatal critique, one needs to move beyond one-liners and pranksterism, understand, articulate and mediate what highly tread upon and codified territory they are exploring, self-reflexivly evaluate their parodic practice, and then bring something all their own to their section of the playground.

Perhaps this referee should be out on this until the full suite of works has been achieved. Perhaps they'll prove me wrong and really bring this project home with some sort of post-game, wrap-up rigor.

I look forward to the ensuing games nonetheless.

Posted by FJ | August 5, 2008 12:48 PM

Is it me, or does someone seem to have their tongue right up Greg Lundgren's ass? Are you getting free drinks at the Hideout for this?

Posted by seven | August 5, 2008 10:23 PM

@10, great comment. this work is sooo 90's but enjoyable, of course! We can all appreciate tricks on your average tourist/ seattleite. We scathe them, don't we? At fishermans warf in san francisco there is this guy who has hiding behind fake-shrubbery and frightening tourists for, like, 20 years. It looks like a bush, then, wham! its some freaky dude! yikes! If he were exploring some line between the urban space (sidewalks) and "nature" objects (trees, bushes) he would be totally awesome. but he is not, just as PDL are not "really" exploring the tricky-ness of corporate sponsorship. Like the bush man, they are having fun! which is totally fine, cause it allows me, the viewer, to go-beyond the fun, and think more seriously about it.

Posted by agrees pretty much | August 6, 2008 8:52 AM

PDL are truly inspiring . I see that there are always a bunch of jealous haters, which supports their validity. It's good to start conversations, even with idiots.

I look forward to future installations.

Posted by Static Invasion | August 6, 2008 10:17 PM

Have to completely agree with 10 and 12. PDL's work seems to be nothing more than an elaborate joke on the uninformed, which isn't really a difficult feat to accomplish in the realm of contemporary art understanding. Also, they may not be "selling" their work in galleries and getting compensated in the traditional way, but isn't the validation that comes with someone like Jen Graves' stamp of approval (and a likely SOIL show in the future; maybe the Henry?) worth FAR MORE? I can't think of many contemporary artists that wouldn't choose the latter.

Posted by Sue Talksaboutart | August 7, 2008 9:56 AM

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