is a performance group based in the Pacific Northwest. Recently I had a
chance to talk with Powderkeg's Jamie McMurry and Jesse Chambers about
the group's recent work and the area's new media art scene.
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Alex Galloway: Please start by talking a little bit about Powderkeg...
its organizational structure, purpose, projects.
Jamie McMurry: I will try to stick with information that is not already
included on our web site. My Production Manager Jesse Chambers is here
as well and I'll note any input on his part.
The individual aspects of our organizational structure can each be
compared with a variety of other entertainment entities which I would
suppose makes it very unique. We all have titles which hold specific
responsibilities, yet we also cross over into other aspects of the
Some aspects of our group fall under criticism because of our methods of
operation. Unlike traditional performance artists, we do promote our
organized shows. We do press releases, posters, mailings, and other
not-so-condoned methods of advertising, but we try to approach
everything with more of an expressionistic attitude.
Jesse Chambers: our press releases are usually printed or written on
things pertaining to the work like broken glass or tobacco leaves or
frozen cornish game hens, etc.
Galloway: Could you describe where you show your work? what venues are
available in the Pacific Northwest for the exhibition of new media art
(contemporary art that uses technology)?
McMurry: To stay in line with our manifesto and our emotional pursuits
of performance, we perform everywhere we are invited to perform and many
places that we are not. Clubs, galleries, cafes, theaters are the home
for our more formal productions. Contemporary work isn't happening much
here at all. Contrary to popular belief it doesn't really seem to have
ever made it to Seattle (as far as local artists). There are many places
who claim to house such things like On The Boards and COCA [Center on
Contemporary Art], but they are very exclusionary and 90 percent of
their shows are from non local talent. As for work involving technology.
Very rare. I have yet to be impressed by a local artist's use of
technology and I feel that's mostly due to the lack of support by local
venues. exceptions are, Soil, Project 416, One Ree, l Aorta Magazine.
Seattle is still clinging on to its musical prosperity of the past and
everything that gets major attention from this area and in this area is
related to that industry.
Galloway: Do the available spaces fulfill your needs in terms of space
and technical resources? is there space in the gallery for new media
Chambers: Very rarely. We have put ourselves in a very self sufficient
position so that never has to be an issue. If it were, very few venues
geared towards modern performance would be able to suit our technical
Galloway: The Northwest is now known for its dominance in the fields of
software production, online technologies, web site production, etc. Is
there disdain for art-for-arts-sake? It there a tension in this area
where the economy is so based on technology?
McMurry: The rest of the US sees this area as being dominated by certain
computer companies. Realistically, sure, a lot of people work for these
companies, but live their lives in a normal fashion. Can you believe it?
I don't think that is why there are not more artists doing work just to
do work. I feel that Seattle is a dangerously comfortable community to
survive in. Easy to get employment, find housing, drink beer, watch
cable tv, etc. and because of this apathetic approach to life, people
become sort of emotionless. When you just don't give a shit, what do you
have to express and unless something has major gain potential for these
types of walking sociopaths, why bother?
Galloway: Who would you cite as doing interesting work in the Northwest
on CD-ROM, in video, on-line, or in performance?
McMurry: Kristen Kosmas, Tamara Paris, Bryan O'Hare, Piece of Meat
Theatre, The Compound, Friese Undine