Truth be told, the city can be monotonous; the hum-drum of the daily routine can suck all life and vibrancy from you. One of the newest art exhibits in Seattle acknowledged this and wondered, “What can we do about this?”.
Cue the group, Electric Coffin, coming up with Discover + Disrupt, which is a celebration of cityscape art in the literal sense of the word: art in the cityscape. Things like highway signs with polar bears, or special stop signs with racoons.
Electric Coffin, an art collective known for its outlandish and vivid installations strewn across local Seattle, in smaller restaurants, and even major corporate offices like Amazon Seattle. Their intention with the installation was to bring wonder to the everyday.
Co-Founder Stefan Hofmann says that it can be really stressful to travel around Seattle. Let’s be honest, that’s true for a lot of cities, but let’s get back on topic. Hofman says that all the signs in a city either told them what to do or what not to do, and that felt like a shame. What if moving through a city also showed the wonders on the streets?
Another thing they took note of with cityscape art is that a lot of creative energy in a city goes to billboards, and ads, and other forms of advertising; selling something. Hofman believes that to be a waste of energy, perhaps best exemplified by the installation where McDonald’s fries and smashed Budweiser cans surround the phrase “Space Dust”, from Carl Sagan’s assertion that everyone made of cosmic dust, and, the idea that since we’re only around for a short while, we should enjoy our time.
Another co-founder, Duffy De Armas, says that the idea is to question where art actually fits into city planning. He describes a city as an engineered system built for efficiency, but points out that the entirety of the human experience is not just productivity and efficiency. It’s also about having fun.
They’re also looking to create a sense of artistic uniformity within cities, noting how disjointed it is in Seattle, where old and new buildings sit alongside each other, and people recognize and reflect that. Regardless of the method, the idea, Hofmann explains, is to awaken people to art, to destroy the notion that art should only be to museums and galleries, cordoned off from the rest of daily life.
Seattle’s had some success with these artful initiatives, like the renovations done to the Nord Alley in Pioneer Square, which have seen use in wedding shoots, outdoor movies, and even parties. De Armas says that they just want to take those ideas a bit further forward, put things on light poles, traffic cones, mailboxes and the like, to balance out the nature of municipalities as functional, efficient systems with the natural desire for artistry and creativity.