Performance Installation
Vain Free-Thinking Residency Exhibition
Vain Salon and Studios
December 13, 2003

Artifact aimed to reconfigure the systems and authorities that turn material culture into official history via the speculative origins of a 100-year-old decorative floor rediscovered underneath the sidewalk in front of Vain in 2001. Beginning with a series of interactive installations set into the salon and retail store at Vain, participants were able to hear, see, and touch evidence from the arc of the floor’s life—from its hypothesized Egyptian inspiration, to its creation and use within a one-of-a-kind transitional home for prostitutes in post-Goldrush Seattle, to its recent excavation. Wall text identified the story's heroine, former prostitute and pioneering feminist Anabell Notch, who established and ran the home. In a separate chamber, participants were invited by an usher and security guard to take off their shoes, step over a yellow museum rope, and walk barefoot on the floor. In a final room, participants were asked to reflect upon their experiences, the floor’s disputed ownership, and its likely denial from the National Registry of Archaeological Resources.

Though fiction, Artifact was rooted in historical research and a major regional current event, the capture of Green River Killer Gary Ridgeway, who was eventually convicted of murdering 48 young women, many of them teenage prostitutes.

Artifact was supported by the Vain Free-Thinking Residency

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