This music video pulls a lot of weight: Conceived and produced by interior designer Michelle Dirkse and featuring a song by Black Whales and choreography by Jamie Karlovich, “No Sign of Life” commingles music, dance, filmmaking, architecture and Seattle history. The story that lead to its creation is common in present-day Seattle, but as it traces a path through the 120-year-old Hull Building, home to Dirkse’s office and recently slated for heavy renovation, the video achieves a rare and haunting beauty.
“I love this building and it’s been sold,” Dirkse says. “I’ve been given 12 months. So I wanted to make a video to document this history before it’s gone.” The owners of 50 years decided to sell the building because they couldn’t afford the upkeep, and though development will certainly improve the place’s livibility, something will be lost in the process.
Dirkse says that during Gold Rush-era Seattle, the three-story Hull housed a ground-floor furniture shop and hotel above. The video pans through a series of rooms cluttered with the left-behind belongings of former tenants—decades-old sewing machines, TVs, seamstress dummies—following Karlovich as she essentially unpacks a time capsule of personal ephemera accrued over the last century. Meanwhile, Black Whales’ “No Sign of Life” describes the transition with eerie accuracy: There was once life here and, with luck, there may be again.
“My favorite room has paint peeling off all the surfaces. I wanted Erik [Hecht, director of photography] to focus on that texture. That’s kind of what Belltown is,” Dirkse says. “It has a little bit of grit and I don’t wanna lose that.”