ARTBARN’s new, massive installation project in partnership with the Satori Group, immersing audiences in the Georgetown Steam Plant, its history, and the stories that emerge from it.

For 2016, ARTBARN will be creating a new piece in the Georgetown Steam Plant, a National Historic Site in South Seattle as a co-production with the Seattle-based Satori Group.

We’ve partnered with Michael Aronowitz from Seattle City Light as we’ve engaged with the history of the space. We have been struck by the ways in which the Steam Plant is a symbol of efficiency and inefficiency in an ever-changing technological landscape.

Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, iconic engineers and efficiency experts, designed and completed the plant in 1906. The plant featured two cutting-edge steam turbines, which required over thirty people to run. Over the next fifty years, technology outran the plant’s utility. By the 1950s the plant had all but shut down, requiring just four essential employees to maintain a negligible output. These four workers continued their inconsequential work for twenty more years. In 1977, the Georgetown Steam Plant made noise for the last time. That every same year, the CommodorePET, the world’s first personal computer, was demonstrated at the Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago. Also that year Star Wars became the highest grossing film of all time. A blackout plunged the city of New York into 25 hours of darkness and looting, the first food stamps were given out, and Apple computer was incorporated.

And the four didn’t notice. They didn’t notice that they were being left behind. In the beginning, they were at the forefront; they were the pioneers feeding a system that spurred innovation, that powered an entire city, that enabled all the advancements that soon made their work obsolete.

This is where our story begins. We imagine ten year have passed, and twenty, and one hundred, and perhaps a few hundred more. Wires and roots have infiltrated the Steam Plant, crawling through cracks, slipping down pipes, pouring out of cabinets, overtaking like a spider.

We will ask questions such as: What happens when the speed of technological innovation is faster than our imaginations? How do we imagine new systems of efficiency, new modes of working, new forms of communication when working in isolation?

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{the below is language from Satori’s announcement}

Building on Satori’s love for creating stories through environment and installation, we’re partnering with the interdisciplinary and site-specific collective ARTBARN for a large-scale collaboration. The project will include core artists from both theater companies, as well as Seattle engineers, historians, designers, performers, and writers.

The culminating performance in Seattle will feature a large cast of local artists and will invite a city-wide audience to immerse themselves in the Georgetown Steam Plant, its history, and the stories that emerge from it.

The work is already underway! We are struck by the Steam Plant as a symbol of efficiency and inefficiency in an ever changing technological landscape, by how technology outran the plant’s utility and left the four employees operating the facility forgotten.

Our story follows these Four. Driven by both the fear of becoming irrelevant and the hope of creating something truly innovative, they push forward. They rebuild.