If it seems hot enough downtown to spread out a beach towel on Tollefson Plaza, then go ahead – you’ll be in good company. Artist A.K. Mimi Allin is there every afternoon this week through Saturday with her own towel, plus lifeguard chair and flags, for her 10-minute performance art piece “Seaside Opera.”
Allin has set up a weirdly ambient atmosphere, flying in the face of this concrete desert. The chair-tower is blue and orange, flat blue fabric waves drape the ground, and behind her there’s a record of evocative Japanese flute music on an LP turntable. Littering the plaza are a towel with books and sunscreen, flip-flops, a plastic lobster pot, rubber waders and the delicate chime of seashells from a table umbrella.
Allin’s a poet (the very first “corporate poet” in Washington, a position she pitched herself to architecture firm NBBJ Seattle), but if you’re hoping for poetry, you’ll be disappointed. Instead, Allin strides barefoot around Tollefson in red lifeguard T-shirt and skirt, waving red-and-yellow flags in a kind of fusion of semaphore and stiff Japanese fan dance. She covers a lot of ground – the street, the fountain, the steps – attempting to engage passers-by with flags and water toys. (Yesterday, apparently, some skateboarders participated for hours; today, though, the only people at the 2:30 p.m. show were myself and my daughter, plus a woman who walked past with her cell phone completely oblivious to the action.)
The overall effect of “Seaside Opera” is relaxing, in a surreal way. But Tollefson’s big, and Allin could do with some more dramatic props – an umbrella for the chair, or enormous flags to engage the passing drivers the way I saw dancers do in Houston, Texas, on the side of a freeway.
But just about anything would liven up Tollefson, and on a 90-degree day a beach performance is the best thing I can think of.
Mimi Allin performs “Seaside Opera” 2-7 p.m. on the half-hour, every day this week through Aug. 21, and through 8 p.m. Aug. 19. Performances last 10-15 minutes. Free. Tollefson Plaza, N. 17th Street and Pacific Avenue, Tacoma. The show is part of Spaceworks Tacoma, filling vacant downtown spaces with art: www.spaceworkstacoma.com More information: www.thepoetessatgreenlake.blogspot.com