Category Archives: Public Space and Politics

POST-PONED! Join Artists of the 99% for ARTIST BLOC Day at Occupy San Francisco

Sunday, November 20, 2011
12 – 5PM
Occupy San Francisco / Justin Herman Plaza

We are artists and art workers of the 99%. We are struggling to survive and sustain our creative practice in an economy that does not value us as workers, that privatizes cultural institutions and that continuously defunds art programs–from public education to government grants. We are putting our creative efforts towards this movement and considering our role in the fight for economic and social justice.

Join us for the Artists Bloc day at Occupy San Francisco for hands-on workshops, participatory projects, discussions and the distribution of our zine. The day will include screen-printing, crocheting and banner-making workshops, a speaker’s booth and conversations facilitated by local artists about arts funding, education and the systems of oppression that affect artists economic sustainability and more.

We will hear from art historian, Julia Bryan-WilsonJeff Chang, who, along with local artist–Favianna Rodriguez, organized Culture Strike in opposition to Arizona’s SB 1070 law, and artist, print-maker and political organizer Melanie Cervantes of Dignidad Rebelde.

This is a family friendly event an will include art-making workshops for kids.


12:00: Welcome

12:15: Speaker’s Address, Julia Bryan-Wilson / Melanie Cervantes

1:00 – 5:00 : Ongoing Workshops : Crocheting, Banner-making, Screen-printing,Speaker’s Booth Video Interviews, Kid’s Zone

1:30 – 2:00 : Workshop : The Art State We’re In, Dialogues on Challenges of Living and Creating in the Bay Area and California. Facilitated by Paulina Nowicka

2:00 – 2:30 : Workshop : General Education about the Occupy Movement for Artists. What’s our place in this movement? What systems of oppression affect the 99%? Facilitated by Adrienne Skye Roberts

3:00 – 4:00 : Workshop : Pictures Make Change, Visual Brainstorming with the Beehive Design Collective. A collaborative drawing jam for artists to draw ourselves into the 99%. Facilitated by Zeph Fishlyn

4:15: Speaker’s Address, Jeff Chang

…and free give-aways of posters, zines, arm-bands and more!

Contact us:, and on Facebook.

Artists of the 99%: A Call to Action

Over the past month I have witnessed and participated in the local contingent of now-global movement known as Occupy Wall Street/Occupy Together. The goal of this nonviolent movement, fueled by people in 1,497 cities throughout the world, is to challenge capitalism by protesting major banks, corporations, and the top 1% of people who benefit from our country’s current economic system. Through taking over public space, consensus-based general assemblies, demonstrations, direct actions, workshops, teach-ins, defense against police brutality and collaborations local with grassroots organizations and various unions, this movement is full of energy, complications, and has the potential to get people talking about systemic oppression and building together to create some real change.

As an artist and one of the 99%, I keep coming back to the questions: what is the place of artists in this movement and what can we learn here?

Consider this a call to action! Let’s talk about our role in this movement. How we are already making our voices heard and how can we put our creative efforts towards this movement? As the inequities of capitalism are exposed, how might we, as artists, reconsider our reliance upon this economic system? How is the financial sustainability and livelihood of artists in the Bay Area connected to larger movements for economic justice that have been fought here for years?

If you are a visual or other artist interested in engaging in conversation, action, and/or education around these issues and putting efforts towards building an artist contingent of the 99%, let’s talk! You can use the comment box below or email

Philadelphia Research, Part 2: Sherman Labovitz

Sherman Labovitz is the only surviving defendant of the Philadelphia Smith Act, a former professor at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, and author of the book, Being Red in Philadelphia, A Memoir of the McCarthy Act. He is helping me solve the mystery that is my grandfather and is illuminating for me the role of the Party in Philadelphia 56 years ago. This following quotation is excerpted from the statement Sherman prepared to deliver to Judge J. Cullen Ganey after the defendants were found guilty. Upon recommendation of the defense attorney’s, it was never given.

“I stand before you today because I am afraid. Afraid of war. Afraid that because of war I, my wife, my two sons, my mother and brohers and everyone I love dearly may die too soon. I stand before you today because this fear moved me again to speak to my neighbors who can halt the drive to atmoic destruction just as they helped to win the truce in Korea. I stand before you today because the real advocates of force and violence, the would-be war makers, who fear and hate the ability of my neighbors and others like them throughout this nation to impose their will, will today jail the advocates of peace…

…What have I done these past few years? My neighbors can tell you. That is, those who can speak freely, who do not fear for their jobs. Most, for the time being, watch these proceedings silently, confused. The politically ambitious prosecutors did not produce on of my neighbors to testify against me. Why not? These are the people with whom I live. These are the people with whose children I played. These are the people I have tried to influence. These are the people who know I am a communist. Some of my neighbors, I learned recently, addressed themselves to you, Your Honor. ‘Mr. Labovitz is a communist, but Mr. Labovitz is a good man,’ they said. I say to my neighbors and to you, Your Honor, I am a good man because I am a communist.”

In a conversation with Sherman over lunch this week, he described why he left the Party in 1957 and affirmed that despite the 56 years between the Smith Act trial and today, his politics haven’t changed. He said:

“I believe capitalism is an incurable sickness, in all of its manifestations. I continue to hope for a peaceful transition into a society that is concerned about the well-being of all its people and that shares resources in the world. In the late 1940s, during World War II and in the 1950s, despite the ugliness in the world, I believed that that society was just around the corner. I was optimistic that the world was changing and capitalism driven by profit and greed was dying.

I left the American Communist Party when I no longer felt that it could be the instrument to bring socialism to the United States. However, my politics remain the same today. The difference between 1953 and today is perhaps the existence–at least, in theory–of an alternative that we, as a people, can attach to and believe in.”

Where We Are Not Known, Queer Imagination and the Photograhy of Kirstyn Russell in Make/Shift, Issue 9

Kirstyn Russell’s photographs are haunting, beautiful and oftentimes, comical portraits of place framed through her queer lens. After working with Kirstyn on the exhibition Suggestions of A Life Being Lived, I felt compelled to spend more time with her project, “Where We Are Not Known.” In this ongoing project she photographs real and imagined queer spaces throughout the United States: gay bars tucked away in rural towns and businesses recontexualized as queer spaces.

Beginning with my own relationship to queer locations as a San Francisco Bay Area resident, I wrote a piece about Kirstyn’s work in which I discuss the imagination required of queer people who must so often create our own spaces and realities. This article was published in the most recent issue of Make/Shift: Feminisms in Motion. I am thrilled to be included in this publication with a roster of contributors whose work I respect and admire. Check out Issue 9 at your nearest independent bookstore or buy it online! And check out Kirstyn’s work here.

Image: Dyke Photography: Flint, Michigan, 2006

Art 148: The Intimate Body / The Public Body

I will be teaching an undergraduate sculpture class at UC Santa Cruz during the Winter 2011 quarter entitled, “The Intimate Body / The Public Body.” Below is the course description.

This course will consider the body as it exists within both an intimate and public sphere. Students will engage in a series of formal and conceptual projects that address topics such as body memory, anatomy, vulnerability, racial and gender identity, queerness, body technologies and how the body relates to and effect its environment. Through a series of presentations, readings, research, and studio work, students will be exposed to feminist and queer theories, contemporary art practices and histories related to sculpture and the body. Assignments will encourage an experimentation with materials, performance and collaboration

Image credit: Regina Jose Galindo, Saqueo. Photography by Marion Garcia.

Artist’s workshop at the Asian Art Museum, June 4th and 5th

In conjunction with my position as a teaching artist for the Asian Art Museum’s high school program, ArtSpeak, I will conduct a two-day public workshop at the museum on June 4th and June 5th.

This workshop is based on the curriculum that we developed for our students on the themes of identity and place. (More information here.) Specifically, it will draw upon themes of neighborhood identity and memory and will consist of participatory projects including writing letters to your hometown and collecting stories through short interviews. And there will be lots of take-aways: articles, catalogs, as well as postcards and buttons.

Friday, June 4th & Saturday, June 5th (Free on Saturday!)
North Court
1st Floor, Asian Art Museum
200 Larkin Street
San Francisco

Memory in Place, Part 2 on Art Practical

Part 2 of my series, Memory in Place was just published in Art Practical, Issue 13:  Critical Mass. The article, “Where This House Once Stood” follows the  story of the Zenke family whose historic home was moved from its original location in downtown Greensboro last September in order to make room for a new Guilford County jail. In this article I focus on the paralleled injustices of different scales occurring within one city block; the displacement of one home and the future incarceration of nearly one thousand people and consider the use of involuntary displacement as a form of civic control. You can read it in full here.

In/Visible Borders: Urban Neighborhoods and Representations of Belonging

I just came across this paper written during my first year of graduate school and thought it deserved to be out in the world. It’s a little rough around the edges but continues to feel relevant to San Francisco politics.

The landscapes of urban locations are constantly shifting.  Within San Francisco, a city that is spatially small and therefore relatively condensed, these changes are easy to observe.  In walking through San Francisco, people find themselves quickly crossing the boundaries of one neighborhood into the next.  These boundaries, although physically invisible, are present through the visible shift in an economic class, racial or cultural identities, tourist destinations or business districts.  These parts of San Francisco or any major metropolis are an obvious aspect of city living, yet the arrangement of urban neighborhoods and representations thereof offer a rich and provocative site for investigation and analysis. It is through the representations of these urban neighborhoods and their residents that it becomes visible how particular neighborhoods are imagined and therefore understood by the public. This interrogation allows us to further understand the effect that these representations have on the physical landscape of urban neighborhoods.  In this paper I will examine the representations of two urban landscapes, San Francisco’s Bayview-Hunter’s Point and post-Katrina New Orleans.  I will consider how under-valued spaces and marginalized communities are represented in mainstream media outlets.  I will question who benefits from these representations and how they benefit.  I will do so through an analysis of the formation of neighborhoods and spaces of belonging.

Map of Hunter's Point, San Francisco

Neighborhoods are defined through physical space and geographical location.  Yet, the boundaries that serve to demarcate neighborhoods are imaginary and mark more than just spatial organization, they define who belongs and who doesn’t belong within certain spaces.  Thus, creating sociological borders that produce meanings and significations beyond physical spatiality. According to Fran Tonkiss in her book Space, the City and Social Theory, the making of borders creates “zones of inclusion” and  “draws lines of social division and exclusion.”[1] These lines of division are often understood in terms of social and cultural diversity, creating a spatial separation of ethnic and racial identities.  The borders that exist between neighborhoods serve both to separate and connect various communities and landscapes.  By recognizing the neighborhood in which one belongs one also recognizes the spaces in which one does not belong.  Further, the imaginary boundaries of neighborhoods facilitates an ability to recognize those who do not belong within one’s own neighborhood.  This recognition occurs through both the separation and connection inherent within this process.  In acknowledging the separation between neighborhoods, one also acknowledges the potential of their connection.  The separation is therefore always “shadowed by the idea…the danger of their connection.”[2]

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