For our third construction installation, we turned our sights to the Eastside. For a site-specific installation, we wanted to propose a project that was as repulsive as it was plausible. We wanted to daylight the kind of hypocritical NIMBY entitlement that often goes along with wealthy liberal privilege. We thought of proposing a man-made island/prison in Lake Washington, with a bridge connecting it to Mercer Island, or possibly a mammoth tribal casino connected to Bellevue Square Mall. In the end we chose green energy - something hard not to support in the progressive NW - until it manifests as 300-foot wind turbines placed in your back yard. The Bellevue Wind Farm was born. We created signage showing artful illustrations of what the scene would become, complete with a map. Giant windmills dotted the Bellevue waterfront like a long string of Christmas lights, hugging the shore of multi-million dollar homes. Giant windmills marching in formation across the ridge of Clyde Hill, perforating the downtown landscape, perching atop the skyscrapers and parking garages. It was designed as a noble but inconsiderate effort to make Bellevue go green.
We strapped the chain link fencing down extra tight for the trip across the lake. It was 6:30 am on a Saturday morning but all was not sleepy in Bellevue. There were detour signs and motorcycle cops at every intersection. The Downtown Bellevue Park was within sights but the parking lot was blocked. We entered through the exit and inspected the situation. A dozen circus-sized white pop tents stood on the park lawn. Loud speakers were playing some horrible top 40 song. It was the core of an annual breast cancer walk, thousands of women with pink shirts and water bottles and a hundred cops to make sure… that nothing bad happened? We put on our PDL jumpsuits and hard hats. Just act like we were supposed to be there. We did not have a permit or permission of any kind.
It turned out to be a beautiful summer day. Our paranoia quickly subsided and we lounged on the grass, taking pictures, documenting pedestrian comments and keeping an eye peeled for police, parks employees or anyone looking like a figure of authority. Where we found quickly mobilized hostility for our Queen Anne Tram installation, and scathing commentary for our OSP Starbucks, people in Bellevue approached the Wind Farm installation without resistance. A few folks got rankled when they noticed the proximity of the windmill towers to their property's million-dollar views, but we were quick to engage them in conversation and eventually reveal our farce, after some constructive dialogue about private rights versus civic duty. But the great majority of onlookers took the installation as a civic project and vocalized very little opposition. Was it because the city was still young and growing, with so many cranes and construction projects that its citizens expected growth and change? Was it because they were less rebellious by nature or supported all things green? Because gas was $4.65 a gallon? Whatever the reasons, it stood in stark contrast to our previous construction installations. Maybe it just takes an awful lot to make people from Bellevue mad. Maybe it was all the sunshine. We wondered if the miniature Alcatraz or giant casino would have incited equally calm reactions.
With no police intervention, no petitions or park employees, PDL wrapped things up around dusk and headed back to Seattle. We did receive an angry voicemail from the city 48 hours later, demanding that we take our art project down. Maybe they just had a slower reaction time.