The Loafing Shed and the Abactor's Hideout

Guess what a loafing shed is, it's where cows go to loaf when it's hot.

Guess what an abactor is, it's a horse thief.

I learned these things yesterday on my first ever visit to Smoke Farm in Arlington, Washington, 360 acres of grass trees blackberries river rocks mud love and outbuildings on the Stillaguamish River.

Smoke Farm is an art and conservation collective funded by the Rubicon Foundation.

Every year in August the collective hosts a festival called Lo-Fi. Artists and performers submit proposals which are reviewed by a panel.

If chosen you are faced with the task of pulling off a work of art in a setting so vast, gorgeous and naturally itself you are warned that your average gallery-type installation will be swallowed up, that the farm in fact eats art. For breakfast.

On a map the property is shaped like a bra, two swells of land curving from the river joined by a narrow strip in the middle.

A friend and I drove up and got there late in the day on Sunday. Anne Blackburn, an ecologically-based visual artist and one of the members of the collective gave us a rambling, informative tour.

The Loafing Shed it turns out is a long and airy barn with a concrete floor, one end of it a blacksmithing and metalworking studio the other a mostly open space set up for events and performances with a pile of doors stacked against the open slatted walls in one corner, a dusty federal-style table in another, antique glass-doored cabinets somewhere in the middle and rows of bathtubs for ice and drinks lined up outside.

The Abactor's Hideout is a beautiful letterpress studio with tons of natural light, two (as far as I could see through the window) vintage presses, rolling tables and cabinets of type.

We waded through long grass like water. Under a cottonwood we watched artist and Lo-Fi warrior Jed Dunkerly dig out blackberries at the roots with a machete and admired the belt buckle someone found in the dirt, two cast nude swimmers swirling around an eddy. We hooked it on the tree over the mysterious oozing knothole and made our way through alders and pine to the river where we picked our way along the bank, stopping to skip flat round stones into the river. All along the way we looked at potential art sites till the afternoon rolled into evening which inolved salmon (left over from Café Nordo with pro chefs present to cook it) and potato stew followed by Little Debbies and Safeway marionberry pie.

The Star Wars theme it turns out sounds pretty good on accordion round a campfire. It is up for debate whether Little Debbies are smaller than they used to be (I love this conceptual art stuff). My proposal takes shape in my mind, ready to feed to the hungry farm.


Lo-Fi Arts Festival

Smoke Farm

Anne Blackburn

Café Nordo