Dada Economics was a 16,000 square foot exhibition on the Seattle Center campus, as part of the arts programming for the annual Bumbershoot Festival. This four day festival focuses around music on the sprawling campus of the Seattle Center, bringing tens of thousands of music and art lovers to various stages, performance halls and exhibition spaces on a site originally designed for the  Seattle World's Fair in 1962.


The intent of Dada Economics was to create an exhibit that included as many participants as possible - artworks organized and produced in the months leading up to the festival as well as generated over the course of the weekend. This maximist exhibit approached archtecture, performance, sculpture, creative writing, fashion design, photography, graphic design, dance and a crowd-sourced event around art dealing. Each medium was produced as a $500.00 Arbitrary Art Grant to sweeten the deal for participation, especially among people who rarely, if ever apply for grants. Winners were not selected by the talent or cleverness of their idea, but purely on their participation. This is a difficult show to describe as a singular act, so it might be best to break down each element of Dada Economics one by one.



The application

Walk into a grocery store. Grab a shopping cart. Using only the products found within the store. Build a sculpture in your cart. Take a photograph of this sculpture and send it to us before May 15th.

The beauty of Arbitrary Art Grants is that you never know what you are going to get. It could be that only a handful of people respond, or that all of the entries are lackluster and uninspired. But to date, we have not been disappointed and the sculpture grant was no exception. We received (97) entries and none of them looked the same. We had people crawling into shopping carts, sculptures that towered on the very brink of collapse, miniature living room sets made out of meat, creatures made out of artichokes and sweet potatoes. We had a great harvest of people doing strange things in shopping carts. You should try it sometime. It’s harder than it seems, and there are always those suspicion store employees looming about wondering what on earth you are doing.

The winner

We try and employ a bit of creativity in selecting our winners. For the Sculpture grant, it only made sense to pick a winner within the context of a grocery store. And we just happened to stumble across a very bright yellow electric leaf blower. Watch the video below and see how we very randomly selected our first winner of the year - Ms. Jennifer Budke. 



The application

We realize that art grants often ask you to jump through a few hoops and make you do things that you normally wouldn’t do. So when constructing our new Arbitrary Art Grant in dance, it just seemed to make sense to ask you to dance like you were being shot at. Bang! Bang! Bang! Dance I said! Bang! Bang! Bang! Let’s see those feet move! Like in Bugs Bunny cartoons. Like in spaghetti westerns. But put the task in front of artists, and I thought a whole new interpretation of “dance like you are being shot at” would emerge. That is the only direction that we are gave, and the response blew us away. The instructions were clear and simple:

$500.00 cash to be awarded to one person or troupe performing a dance like you are being shot at. Film and post it on Youtube with the title “Arbitrary Art Grant in Dance” by midnight, July 10, 2009.

While some of our past art grants have been live performance based, the sculpture grant and dance grants we open to an international audience, open to all people in all places, of all ages and skill levels- basically anyone that can get their hands on a video camera. 

We recognized that guns kill people and that not all people are really smart. So we made a point to remind people to stay away from REAL guns and ammunition in their entry, and I believe, for the most part, no one actually shot at dancers. As for the selection process, that was something else entirely.

The winner

Please watch the video as we narrowed down the entries and, after an hour and a half, announced Saskia Delores as our winner. 

To watch all of the entries for the Arbitrary Art Grant in dance, follow this link to Youtube.



The application

On Friday, August 7, we hosted our 2009 Arbitrary Art Grant in Creative Writing. It was one of the more unusual grants we have done – simple instructions, in the field of creative writing, but it may stand as the first short story written by 350 people. The instructions read as such:

$500.00 cash will be awarded to one random person participating in the writing of a novel about a ping pong ball. This novel will be written on August 7, 2009, starting at 9:00 am and finishing at 5:00 pm. We write the first sentence on our blog, participants write the rest. Your post is your application.

It was total madness. Maybe because the internet is easy. There was no stupid tricks, no embarrassing public stunts. But starting at 9:00 am the entries just rushed in faster than we could handle them. There were lag times, the same people applying time and time again, and it just took some time to get used to. But eventually this rodeo got under control and it was fantastic. It was a busy day of accepting and posting and trying to remind people to follow the basic instructions. But at 5:00 pm we had a story, and through all of the adventures of this single, fictitious white ball.

The winner

As for the selection process – this might very well have been my all time favorite. We wrote the names of every participant on a ping pong ball. Crystal Barber walked away with $500.00 as our winner, but the selection process was priceless.  Please watch the following clip below:



The application

Some may say "Art Dealer! Why that's not someone you give grants to! Give it to the artists." And my response is three fold- All artists that exhibit their work are part dealer, all dealers are part artist and lastly- sit on it.

Yes, like it or not, the health of our cultural identity relies on a great network of participants and removing one can throw the whole planet off balance. So for our next grant, we are recognizing the importance of a properly lubricated art machine, a healthy balance of bottom feeders and fishermen, the dire consequences of any one aspect of our culture suffering. Buying art keeps painters painting and photographers clicking. It pays bills, it inspires more work, it sponsors more ambitious projects, it brings more beauty into the world. No lie. Take away the consumer and the supply slows. Speed up consumption and art falls out of the sky like seagull shit. Easy, fluid, effortless.

This Thursday we are going back to a block that once upon a time defined Seattle. It was a single block of simple one story storefronts. Nothing fancy, nothing architecturally significant. But it hosted an array of local businesses, bars and an old, vibrant rental house. It claimed home to the ChaCha, Bimbo's Burritos, Man Ray, Lipstick Traces, Kincora's and a convenience store that always advertised cheap beer with bikini clad models. You know the block.

We invite you to strap on a painting, a photograph, some 2-D piece of art- around your neck like a big Flav necklace. Hell, put a price tag on it. And step on this white rope. With enough people, your bodies will become the walls, and for an hour, pedestrians can stroll into this temporary structure and view a selection of poorly curated work (one thing at a time, alright?) Artists- throw on your work. Friends- try and hawk your shy artist friends work. Dealers- extend your arms and hang a tryptich just to show the punks how it is done. Maybe you sell something, maybe not. But one person will walk with $500.00 cash, chosen randomly, in one small effort to recognize and appreciate the true nature of our arts culture. Plus, how cool would it be to make a gallery out of bodies? Come one, come all! The Arbitrary Art Grant in Art Dealing is a rain or shine event, open to all people, of all skill levels, and all that jazz...

Sure Seattle holds a reputation for rain, but typically mid- August is a safe bet that the sun will be out and the skies blue. At 5:00 pm the skies turned dark and by 5:30 heavy clouds opened up and dumped. It was pouring. Do we cancel? Will anyone show up? Will the rain stop on time? The Arbitrary Art Grants have always been rain or shine events and this summer rain just added to the absurdity of an open air, roofless gallery. We set up the rope, rounded us some umbrellas, and waited. One person showed up. And then another. People wandered down the street with umbrellas, galoshes and their artwork covered in cellophane. By 6:15 the gallery walls were constructed and we even had a busker in the corner playing music for the passing visitors.

The winner

At 6:45 we brought out a large spinning arrow, placed it in the center of the “gallery” and gave it a spin. Benny (Benny, what is your last name?) just happened to be standing in the right place at the right time. As the saying goes, showing up is half the work.



The application

One random person participating in the graphic design of the Dada Economics exhibition poster will receive $500.00 cash. All entries will be exhibited in the Dada Economics show at this year's Bumbershoot Festival at the Seattle Center (along side and credited to your real name), but one random entry will be selected, receive the cash and become our official poster. 

The poster must be 11" x 17" and black and white in format. All entries must include the words: (dada economics, bumbershoot, seattle, exhibition, rainier room, september 4th-7th, 2009, a vital 5 production). Other than that, it is a free-for-all, and we look forward to seeing your diverse, creative and entirely curious entries. 

The winner

We received around a hundred entries for the Graphic Design grant. And we printed out each entry and lined a living room floor edge to edge. And then we bought a piñata and a hundred super balls. And one special ball with a little $20 bill floating in it's center. Rick Klu walked away the cash, but we sure had fun in the process.



The application

A rolling green landscape is constructed in the gallery 15' x 15'. Several craft tables flank the felt topped platform, complete with paper, scissors, glue sticks, hole punches and utility knives. The challenge: build an architectural model using only one sheet of paper. When the small scaled model is finished, the designer places it on the landscape, slowly transforming the platform into an eccentric neighborhood.

The winner

One amateur architect walked away with $500.00, handed out during the exhibition.



The application

The rules? $500.00 would be handed to one random person actively protesting Performance Art on the nw corner of W. Roy and 1st Avenue West in downtown Seattle, between 7:00 and 8:00 pm on June 5th, 2009. Simple enough.

The location just happened to be the corner in front of On The Boards - the beloved non-profit that showcased avant guard dance and progressive performance art all year round. And our protest against performance art just happened to coincide with the opening of their Northwest New Works Festival. Yes, we sponsored a grant in Performance Art that required participants to protest performance art in front of the premier performance art venue in town. That's the way we do things. And it was magic.

The winner

What the participants didn't know was that three blocks away we had a telescope set up and narrowed in on a very specific dot on the On The Boards promotional poster. And whoever was standing in that exact location at 7:37 was the winner. Was he the most talented? Did he have the best sign? Who knows? I mean really, what does "the best" even mean?



The application

We named the photograph "The reason I came to Bumbershoot" and the participating artists responded by taking the image that matched that title. The artist call was printed and posted through out the festival grounds with the email address to submit the image to, the the location of the gallery where the images would be displayed. And we received hundreds upon hundreds of images that reflected the reasons why people came to Bumbershoot, as well as their own photographic skills. But everyone knows that isn't how we pick the winners around here.

The winner

We gave out $500.00 - promise! I just need to remember how we did it! I know it involved a bull horn, but I'll have to get back to you on the rest...





The application

The rules were simple: construct an outfit from the Dada Economics clothing inventory and model it in front of our fashion photographer. One random fashion designer will be awarded cash on the spot during the 2009 Bumbershoot Festival. Open to all still levels. Your participation is your application.

We gathered up hundreds of pounds of old clothes, fabric, accessories and other odds and ends. We had sewing machines and yarn and tape to stitch it all together with volunteers on hand to help. And throughout the course of the weekend, festival goers were welcome to rummage through the bins, pick out fabric and build a costume to their own liking. If you wanted to wander around the festival with your new look, it was welcomed and encouraged. Just let us capture you with a professional photographer. Adam Weintraub and Tomato Jones were their to make you glamorous and we have hundreds of photographs to prove it. The costumes and the participants were amazing.

The winner

Selecting a winner was easy. All we had to do was pick one swatch of fabric in advanced and hope that someone would decide to include it in their outfit. Only two people knew what that winning fabric swatch looked like, and none of the participants were told how to win. But on day two, Holly wrapped the fabric around her neck, stood before the camera and the winner was called. $500.00 cash was handed to her and the last Arbitrary Art Grant of 2009 had been awarded.