The Duwamish Lighthouse
Artist: George Lee | georgeleestudio.com
A Project of Duwamish Revealed
Exhibition period: June 2015 - TBD date in 2016
Filmmaker: Harley Pan
It is a beacon for a river, bringing visibility and presence to the Duwamish River so humans can better understand and develop a relationship with it through sculptural form and water quality data-driven lighting at night.
Good views are from Jack Block Park the hour before sunset, downtown Seattle or docks and beaches near Salty's in West Seattle. Time will expand as days shorten.
The sculpture appropriates the very industrial forms that in the past exploited the river. The form is open-ended, among some interpretations playing on control/rigidity vs freedom/flight, and human traditions of ever-changing style in light of unintentional beauty arising from efficiency only structures, industrial and/or organic.
At night, visible from anywhere on Elliot Bay, and specifically targeting downtown Seattle, the lighthouse signals to the nexus of human stewardship and influence over the fate of the Duwamish River with light. A sensor at a separate location on the river collects real-time water quality data, checks how clean the river is according to state water quality standards and live sewer discharge CSO data, and then this is transmitted wirelessly to the lighthouse to determine if it breathes on calm or erratic mode. The lighthouse then translates this data to humans in the form of our own breathing as light: Steady and relaxed is a cleaner river, fast and spasmodic is a polluted river. It is only on at night, signaling for several hours after sunset.
The lit signal plays off the human biological constraints in processing and amending abstract trans-national issues like water pollution or climate change. Research shows humans primarily process in an emotional, experiential and relationship based way rather than logically, and also disproportionately place trust in information closer to the present moment, the recency phenomena, and that with can easily be perceived and understood with the five senses. The Lighthouse is an experiment in bridging our species to knowledge and solutions that will enrich our lives and the world in a species-calibrated way.