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  • COURTESY OF HENRY ART GALLERY

Down low in the museum in a high-ceilinged room with pretty wood floors, the overhead lights have gone a little green. The room is nearly empty. It's the largest in the Henry Art Gallery, built for long vistas and big sculptures that would bust the walls of lesser rooms, but right now, it looks like a school gymnasium put to some nebulous after-hours use. Four enormous rolls of industrial newsprint sit on the floor. Also on the floor: five tightly plastic-wrapped piles of folded white towels, two purple pillows, two light-blue pillows. One wall has two doors. Another wall is studded with three lightbulbs. That's all, and in no way all.

There's a handout with a map at the entrance containing necessary words. About the color-coded pillows, it says, "Pillows that have only been slept on by acrobats" (purple) and "Pillows that have only been slept on by Ornithologists" (light-blue). The piles of plastic-wrapped towels are titled Anyone. Their medium is "Bed linen in weekly rotation by a linen service." They sit unopened here, in between uses future and past. How clean are clean towels? The handout is important because it embodies the idea that you must "take the word of" the artist, Jason Dodge; he uses the medium of language to fill in what's there even if you can't see it. The pillows were slept on, and only by acrobats and/or ornithologists. A local hotel does, really, bring new piles of plastic-wrapped towels to the gallery every few days and take the old piles back to be used. The rolls of newsprint are borrowed from the Seattle Times, and one by one, over the duration of the art show, each roll will be taken back to the factory to become newspapers, leaving empty spots in the gallery.

Dodge arranged all this by asking acrobats, ornithologists, a local hotel, and the Seattle Times to play along. One imagines these conversations were interesting. Another conversation: Dodge arranged for a local farm to bring animals into the Henry for a residency...

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