A Record Store Where Nothing Is For Sale

A new installation in Seattle encourages users to rethink how they consume music

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Courtesy Olson Kundig

At the new Record Store in Seattle, you can’t buy anything. But you can listen to any of the thousands of vinyl records on display there. Visitors are encouraged to engage in the lost art of music foraging in a bricks and mortar store.

There’s nothing virtual about it, no Pandora or Spotify to curate, though there will be guest DJs. Presented by Seattle Art Museum, in collaboration with Olson Kundig Architects, Record Store aims to remove the barrier between artist and audience, encouraging community participation and an intriguing alternative way of listening to music sans ear buds.

The project is "one of those projects where the final outcome is unknown. It's a genuine experiment,” explains Alan Maskin, Principal at Olson Kundig. The collaborators were intrigued by the "idea that vinyl records can be a catalyst and tool that people work with in order to understand other narratives and perspectives."

Christian Swenson and Haruko Nishimura, of Degenerate Art Ensemble, perform "Skirmish" at [storefront].

But [storefront] isn’t just about records: It’s an experimental work place for Olson Kundig Architects' pro-bono design work and a cool place to develop new design ideas. The installation is the latest in a series of collaborations that have included K-12 art programs, an experimental dance piece with the Degenerate Art Ensemble, and an artist-in-residence program with Mary Ann Peters and Jim Olson. 

The Washington Shoe building, 1904, which is now home to both Olson Kundig Architects and [storefront]. Photo: University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections Division.

Designed as a traveling installation, Record Store is currently located at 406 Occidental Avenue just off of South Jackson Street - a zone American soldiers were forbidden to enter during the World War II era because it was perceived to be dive-y and dangerous. In reality, it was home to black clubs and hangouts where a music scene thrived.

The Record Store brings to mind a recent blog post by librarian/inner-city gardener/amateur cook Hugh Rundle. "At a time when many are questioning the relevance of libraries (thinking in terms of the 'storehouse' model), might we develop libraries further as idea factories? The place you go to generate ideas in the first place," he asked.

Rundle discusses the concept of liquid networks, which, in other contexts might be called cosmopolitanism or multiculturalism.  "Someone with liquid networks mixes with lots of different types of people, picking up ideas and practices they would not encounter in a mono-cultural, small network," he wrote.

The communal practice of browsing, listening and discussing at Record Store follows that logic. Who knows what creative ideas might result?

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