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Underbelly at Seattle Center + enlarge

Photographer: Bruce Tom

Underbelly at Seattle Center

  • Alan Maskin, Design Principal
  • Blair Payson, Design Collaborator
  • John Nebendahl, Diorama Fabrication
  • Phil Turner, Kinetic Design
  • Seattle, WA, 2012

Project Details

Olson Kundig Architects collaborated with Degenerate Art Ensemble (DAE) to present Underbelly at the Seattle Center as part of the World’s Fair 50th anniversary. The three-performance engagement—supported by a grant from the Seattle Center—brought Seattle Center’s subterranean world to life through dance, live music, animation, video portraiture, architectural diorama and light sculpture.

During Underbelly, the audience was led through typically forbidden parts of Seattle Center where they encountered meditations on the Northwest’s colorful past. DAE’s Haruko Nishimura, recipient of a 2012 Guggenheim Fellowship, embodied three misunderstood and controversial female characters from the past, including Gracie, a powerful business woman based on the real-life cabaret club operator who built the short-lived Sin Alley as part of the 1962 World’s Fair; Yamaba, an elderly woman based on stories of elders in Japan being left on mountains to die; and Joan of Arc, an indigenous woman based on the Duwamish Tribe’s settlement offer of under $70 per person for the land of Seattle.

DAE’s artistic director and lead performer Nishimura and music director Joshua Kohl, and designer Olson Kundig Architects’ design principal Alan Maskin were joined by over 50 artists and technicians to create the performances, including renowned installation artists Ben Beres and Zach Culler of SuttonBeresCuller, lighting installation duo Ben Zamora and Etta Lilianthal of Lilienthal I Zamora, video artist Leo Mayberry, painter/printmaker Romson Regarde Bustillo and Bay Area vocalist/drummer Dohee Lee. Costume artist Alenka Loesch, photographer Bruce Tom, animation artist Reilly Sinanan and video artists Ken Rome and Robert Twomey also helped to bring the experience to life.

View previews of Underbelly by videographer Ian Lucero here, here and here.

This project could not have happened without the construction expertise and generosity of Schuchart Construction.