Corridor 2018: Light beams from the west facing windows, colliding with the fog swirling in the upstairs of the abandoned West Coast Printing building. But it’s not really abandoned, at least not today. Rows of spectators sit in plastic fold out chairs, filling the room. The sun is beginning to set and the room is getting colder by the second with no electric heat to cancel it out. Still, everyone sits rapt and patient. At the front of the room sits Vancouver producer Yu Su. Alone at a table with a laptop, keyboard, and beat pads, she soundtracked the icy moment and infused it with a swathes of sonic warmth. Everyone sat still, letting the waves of ambient beats and elegant piano melody intertwine with the serenity of the moment. This was just one of the many perfect moments at this year’s Corridor – an event the organizers call an “annual festival of light, sound, and movement.”
That description is incredibly apt, especially in its ambiguity. Having heard about the series tangentially from others and even talking with the organizers, I thought I knew what I was getting into. But actually being confronted with this pitch perfect blend of experimental art, music, and dance revealed something even more beautiful than I was prepared for. Everything about Corridor was far from conventional, at least in comparison to a typical festival affair, right down to the venue. The West Coast Printing building has been a part of Seattle since it was built in 1923, during that time existing as everything from a cosmetics factory to its inevitable turn to a printing factory. To make a long story short (Vanishing Seattle provides a wonderful look at the building’s history), the building changed hands in 2016 and is scheduled for demolition in order to make room for – surprise! – a six-story apartment complex. Before this building disappears forever, Corridor gave one last moment for Seattleites to revel in its historic beauty. Cleaned up, gutted out, and plugged into a generator humming outside the entrance, West Coast Printing came alive one last time and became a canvas for artists across a multitude of mediums.
The space was almost as important as the event itself. Specifically, with how the artists and audience engaged with it. This fact became immediately clear when I walked in mid-afternoon to Los Angeles ambient producer Ahnnu live scoring a performance by Seattle dancer Jenny Peterson. Peterson had thrown red pens all over the floor before twirling to the shiver of Ahnnu’s pulse of metallic beats and elegiac drones. Peterson would roam the front of the room, throwing herself to the floor and staying there for extended periods of time without moving. She’d drape herself in a sheet, contort her body, and look out at the branches just beyond the window. It spoke to a lot of what guests would experience at Corridor – art that follows impulse and welcomes ambiguous interpretation.
Hardly anything was immediate throughout the day, with musicians and visual artists crafting work that leaves you without direct answers. As you’d roam from room to room, you were bound to discover something new. A stack of televisions hooked up to a distorted video camera. A room full of clothes with spices and oils either dangling from the ceiling or resting on the floor. A room where you pick a colored stick at random and then you’re expected to eat whatever food on the periphery of the room aligns with that color. A black room filled with strobes and industrial imagery that was sure to leave you feeling overwhelmed or shocked. In its abstractness, it left room for imagination and wonder to set in.
When the sun went down, the mood and feeling of the building changed. Most notably, the cold became more intense. Thankfully there was a spread of tea, coffee, chili, and hand warmers accessible in one of the many rooms downstairs – the building truly felt like a labyrinth at times. The sun went down fully during an hour long intermission from performances, starting back up again with a performance from Gamelan Pacifica. While most of the performance took place in either of the larger rooms up and downstairs, Gamelan Pacifica set up their massive setup Indonesian percussive instruments in a hallway with minimal light. I watched from behind a pane of glass near the glitching television pyramid, letting the chiming sounds of the ensemble radiate throughout the room.
That you could jump from gamelan to a short, yet dynamic dance performance from Matt Drews spoke to the wide spectrum Corridor exists within. The serenity of the percussion being thrust into Drews contorting himself under red light was a powerful juxtaposition. Much like Peterson’s performance during the day, he moved without inhibition. Arching his back, leaning against a support beam, all while a crowd of people sat in chairs circling around him.
My night ended a little early – for as much as I loved the cold and how it added to the atmosphere of the event, my fingers and toes weren’t exactly thrilled with me. But I couldn’t leave without watching Seattle’s own Lushloss perform her set of stunning, emotionally candid work. The moniker of songwriter/producer Olive Jun, she kept the audience rapt with her songs that veered between glimmering, blissful rhythms and recordings of acoustic guitar as she’d lend the wondrous, hushed tones of her voice overtop. For a day that was full of embracing the abstract, Lushloss pulled back the veil and made herself emotionally open to the crowd. It made her set and her lyrics hit even harder. Experimental art is easy to categorize as “out there,” but it can also tap into real human emotions. Lushloss’ last tape, Asking/Bearing, is proof of that. But to experience it live only heightens the nakedness and capacity for empathy and love in our hardest moments that Jun does so well.
There’s a lot you can take away from an event like Corridor. The lamenting of part of Seattle fading away, the unanswered question left by the art, and the visual works that stay ingrained in your head after the fact. More than anything else, I left hopeful. Hopeful just because of the fact that something like this can exist. That artists will find new ways to express themselves and utilize the relics of a Seattle we’re losing and turning it into a work of art in itself. That’s something that shouldn’t be overlooked. More than just a moment in time, events like this can happen here with the right hands behind it. Just one of many things to ponder after a cold, February night.
This Saturday marks the third annual Corridor, a single day festival featuring an array of experimental music, dance, and visual art.
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