Neukom Vivarium Variations

It is part public art sculpture, part environmental education project. Unlike any other art project one can imagine, the Neukom Vivarium in Seattle’s Olympic Sculpture Park is a nurse log decomposing in a very public setting.

Your humble narrator visited the Neukom Vivrium on consecutive Saturdays in late winter 2017 to bathe himself in the atmosphere created by artist Mark Dion, and installed in 2007. From those sessions has come the poem Neukom Vivarium Variations, from which an excerpt is featured below. The poem will be debuted at the Easyspeak Seattle reading series and other literary venues in the next few months and a publisher of a chap book is being sought.

Bryan King is Headworks Operations Manager for Tacoma Water, the public entity that provides drinking water for the City of Destiny. He was instrumental in the Neukom Vivarium project. On April 4, 2017, we caught up with him to discuss how a log from near the Howard Hansen Dam ended up being chosen to be the Nurse Log for the Neukom Vivarium, or as Bryan puts it “The art log.”

Paul Nelson with Bryan King

Segment 1 – The sincerity and care with which the “art log” was sought and removed from the intake area of the City of Tacoma’s Green River water supply. Listen to Part 1 – 7:14.

Segment 2 – He compared Tacoma’s management of their watershed with Seattle’s Cedar River watershed management. Listen to Part 2 – 7:59.



The following photos of the Nurse Log’s removal from near Howard Hansen Dam were provided by Bryan King:


About Splabman

Paul Nelson is founder of SPLAB in Seattle and the Cascadia Poetry Festival. He wrote a collection of essays, Organic Poetry & a serial poem re-enacting the history of Auburn, WA, A Time Before Slaughter (shortlisted for a 2010 Genius Award by The Stranger.) He’s interviewed Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, Wanda Coleman, Anne Waldman, Sam Hamill, Robin Blaser, Nate Mackey, Eileen Myles, George Bowering, Diane di Prima, Brenda Hillman, George Stanley, Joanne Kyger & many Cascadia poets, has presented his poetry and poetics in London, Brussels, Qinghai and Beijing, China, Lake Forest, Illinois and other places & writes an American Sentence every day. www.PaulENelson.com

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