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Steambots at the Hazard Factory, Seattle WA, 2010

“Hybrid thinking” …it’s what is going on in the minds of successful innovators, according to Dev Patnaik, founder and chief executive of Silicon Valley growth strategy firm Jump.  He defines it as “the conscious blending of different fields of thought to discover and develop opportunities that were previously unseen by the status quo …”. By nature, “hybrid” thinkers embrace new vantage points. They create new connections and landmarks. So, just what happens when you cross-pollinate a handful of creative hybrids?

Steambot is a collaborative exhibition up now at the Kirkland Arts Center, featuring artwork that combines both current and Industrial Age technologies. In creating the curatorial model for Steambot, Cable Griffith and I stewarded a thoughtful and flexible process that allowed these artists with diverse backgrounds to mine each others’ expertise, share studio practices and develop effective working relationships. Our aim was to set up the gallery itself as a working platform for their collaboration. With generous funding from 4Culture’s Group Arts Project Grant (we heart 4C!), Steambot became an incubator, a collaboratory, a fablab, an heritage archives and a virtual community hub.

Starting with an architectural landmark as muse (the Peter Kirk building)…and toggling between to industrial eras, these 5 hybrid thinkers, Rusty Oliver, Pat Gallagher, Rebecca Cummins, Randy Moss and Simon Winder, explored ideas around industrial heritage, technological advances, craftsmanship and collective authorship. They honed new skills and forged meaningful partnerships while creating a body of work together.

Peter Kirk’s imagined steel hub, along with a veritable palette of archival ideas including oracles, time travels, Victorian Spiritualism, magnetic fields, weights and measures, recoding instrumentation, telegraph, early astronomical devices, clear cut forests, powered flight, X-ray technology, diatoms, steam powered turbines, steel mills, helium balloons, Morse code, rotoscopes, stereoptics, dirigibles, telegraphic cameras, portraiture were investigated by the group. These notions served as fertile ground for collaborations and blue prints for potential fabrications. The result…a steam engine generating powerful, poignant and whimsical site specific works of art that speak to place, partnership and possibility.

ALL ABOARD, STEAMBOT…before it pulls out of the Kirkland station on Dec. 3, 2010.

Kirkland Arts Center (620 Market St, Kirkland, WA 98033 | (425) 822-7161)

Photo credit : Steambot portraits by Marty Oppenheimer. From left to right: Randy Moss, Simon Winder, Rebecca Cummins, Patrick Gallagher, Rusty Oliver, Cable Griffith, Genevieve Tremblay

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