A NEW SOUND FOR FREMONT
by Kirby Lindsay
On Saturday, September 26, from 1 – 4 p.m., Kristen Ramirez will stage the opening event, or unveiling, of her temporary art installation at the Fremont Bridge. The culmination of a summer residency Ramirez spent in one of the bridge towers, the unveiling promises to be every bit a typical Fremont celebration. Ramirez has organized a procession of 100 people, and staged four horn players – trombones, trumpets and saxophones – in each one of the four bridge towers. All of this to announce the arrival of the collaborative and community-based art work created by Ramirez.
Ramirez, a successful Seattle artist, has kept up a blog (http://thebridgereport.blogspot.com) about working in, and around, her tower this past summer. Funded by the Mayor’s Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs, using Seattle Department of Transportation 1% for Art funds, Ramirez deliberately incorporated the neighborhoods that surround bridge into her art. She maintained a phone line and conducted a survey at the Fremont Sunday Market as parts of her efforts to collect comments on the bridge and learn what it means to this community.
What The Bridge Means
According to the results reported in her blog, many people expressed affection for the bridge – sort of like an affection felt towards an annoying, unpredictable, but nonetheless charming, younger brother. Ramirez reported adjectives used like “solid,” “historic,” “funky,” and “people-sized.” Her survey also turned creative, as Ramirez invited respondents to build a metaphor, and she received, “My relationship to the bridge is like that of a hairstylist to Cab Calloway.” Also, Ramirez invented Fremont Bridge math. Yep, steel + love = the Fremont Bridge, as do iron + hydraulics, but Don Knotts + nuclear fission?
As the grand opening approaches, Ramirez admitted, “I’m singularly obsessed with the procession.” The procession, the horns and the gathering will create a large presence here, but they actually serve as a prelude to two pieces of sound that she created.
From now until April, a two-minute and 30 second long collection of found sounds, knitted together, will play during each bridge opening. Ramirez described the sound bite as “rhythmic” although, for playing over the speakers on the bridge approaches, “it is not nuanced enough to hear.” Another piece, which includes samples from voice mail messages she received this summer, will be made available at a 1-800 number to be announced at the unveiling.
From Where It Started
Through the summer Ramirez has distributed “pontist” buttons, a word she defined as “a bridge enthusiast.” She admitted she wouldn’t have identified herself as a pontist before this residency, but now she said, “it’s been really something special. The longevity of this bridge,” she praised, as it stood here when “the [Lake Union] Ship Canal wasn’t even done.” She noted also how dramatically “the topography of the area has changed.”
Ramirez has immersed herself in the bridge, and the community here, to create her art. Now it remains in the hands and hearts of Fremonsters, over the coming months, to respond and choose to make her sound – a collection of noises, rhythms and voices from our bridge – a part of the community here.
©2010 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.