1. Spit Milk and Barking Spots – Christmas at W3
    December 26, 2012 by Walden3

    Aaron Pessl and company perform The Breakfast Club on the W3 Barking Spots.


    I ate 47 Frango mints last night. For those of you not familiar with Frango mints, they are this really rich plug of chocolate about the size of a Jolly Roger that were made by the old Fredrick & Nelson’s department store. The store is long gone, eclipsed by Nordstroms years ago and eventually replaced by Macy’s, but this one single thread of Fredrick & Nelson’s life still pulses in this town and it is their octagonal boxes of chocolates. And last night, after eating a huge meal, 2 artichokes and 9 Satsuma oranges, I sat down and ate 47 pieces of chocolate. And that is the reason I was drinking bourbon at 4:00 pm today in the Dial. It seemed to be the only logical solution.

    That, and I was meeting with Sierra Stinson, Sara Edwards, NKO, Greg Kucera and Jack Daws about January programming, as everyone (myself included) seems to be escaping Seattle for the holiday. Sierra is the floor manager/meta-curator for the Dearborn Gallery where Jack’s show is opening, and Kucera is his dealer. It was one last chance for us all to touch base and go over last minute details before his January 12th opening. Alex Berry was discreetly filming the meeting – from the gallery to the production offices to the Dial – a common arc of dialog – it seemed like we usually ended things over a drink.

    About ten minutes into our  second drink, Lanny DeVuono walks by with a friend and stops to chat. Lanny has been writing about and making art long before I got started, and is generally just a really smart, doing it for all the right reasons kind of artist. We all hug and make introductions and she says, “This is my friend Jenny Holzer.” And my eyes go wide, really wide. I remember seeing Jenny’s work in Los Angeles in the early 1990s and her text-based work was funny and different and totally changed my understanding of what contemporary art could be. I was a fan. And now she was sitting down with us. Things were getting interesting.

    “I really love your work,” I blurted out. “I forget everything, but the one thing I remember is one of your pieces – one of your slogans – I’ve remember it for years. ‘Spit all over someone with a mouthful of milk if you want to find out something about their personality really fast.’ I’ve said it a thousand times probably.”

    Jenny smiles, looks over at Lanny with a curious grin, and asks, “Have you ever done that?” I tell her no, and she immediately flags down a cocktail server. “Can we please have 8 shots of milk? Yes, shot glasses filled with milk.” And our table goes awkwardly silent. We shrug and give each other uncertain glances, no one wanting to interrupt the orchestration of Jenny’s recent proposal. Greg and Lanny smirked at each other, and I thought that maybe this is something Jenny does all the time – as a dare, as a party trick, as a way to make people uncomfortable, and I admit, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. But sure enough 8 shot glasses filled to the rim with milk show up on a servers platter and are passed around the table. And without a word, Jenny Holzer drains her shot of milk and spit it directly into my face. I close my eyes and feel it run down my chin, into my shirt, up my nose, and run right down the side of my left arm. I sat still and giggled. Yes, giggled. Like a girl. The cold milk tickled. Meanwhile Jack spit his milk at Greg and Sierra spit hers on Sara and the whole table was a mess of spurting, flying milk. No one got angry, and only one person remained undrenched. Jack Daws had opened his mouth and drank all the milk headed in his direction. Everyone else in the room stopped and stared, and though the music was still playing it felt like it had been turned off.  There was a moment of total silence. And then, for the first time in my life, I heard Greg Kucera laugh an uncontrollable laugh. And then Lanny joined in, the two of them laughing so hard that Greg started to choke and Lanny held her hand over her heart like she might just have a heart attack. And as funny and weird as the whole thing was – something was off. Something was not quite right. Jenny looks over at Lanny and says what’s so funny? And between gasps for air, Lanny states, “This is Jenny Holezers, this is Jenny Holezers!” and Kucera’s bright red face bursts out again in complete hysteria. It takes about five minutes for them to calm down enough for me to understand that the woman seated across from me is not Jenny Holzer, the Los Angeles based media artist, but Jenny Holezers, an encaustic artist from Bothell. Eventually we wipe the milk off our faces, throw back our whiskeys and regain our composure. NKO  says, “Well that was interesting,” and Alex Berry shakes his head “That was fucking priceless!” camcorder still in hand, the whole moment captured. “Wait till you see that clip!”

    Dabbing milk from her blazer, Sierra reminds us of the performance happening outside on the Barking Spots, and we pay up and go top side.

    The Barking Spots are 7 raised concrete platforms outside of Walden Three, on the sidewalk in front of the First Avenue entrance. They are various sizes, all about two feet tall, and designed to host performances, musicians, poets, temporary sculptures or anything else people could think of. W3 doesn’t curate them – people just show up and make things happen on them. And with all the pedestrian traffic coming and going from W3, it’s prime real estate to find an arts minded audience. During openings and other big events, the Barking Spots are all occupied with Butoh dancers and trumpet players and live models holding poses for whomever is inclined to draw them. Tonight there were five actors occupying five chairs, and it became quite clear that they were performing the entirety of The Breakfast Club to a group of about 40 – sitting in folding lawn chairs and on blankets. There was a street cart making fresh pizzas and a kid was handing out bags of popcorn, which was a nice touch. Ryan Mitchell and Rachael Jensen waved us over to their patchwork quilt and we all sat Indian style and ate popcorn and mushroom pizza. I partly watched the play unfold in front of me and partly just looked around at the crowd that gathered – all different kinds of people – some settling in and some just stopping for a bit. I got a bit sentimental and thought how cool it was to have Walden Three in our city. Then an actor repeatedly yelled, “CLAIRE! CLAIRE! CLAIRE!” and I snapped back into reality.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I’ll be out of town for the week, but the new year promises great surprises and unbelievable talent. Stay tuned.