Society of Submerged Culture

Society of Submerged Culture

The Society of Submerged Culture, a project by Bay Area artist Lauren Hartman, reveals the many layers of San Francisco's undersea history, ranging from sunken ships under the financial district to a coastline dotted with shipwrecks. StoreFrontLab serves as the Society headquarters offering maps, nautical instruments, an archive of artifacts, a library of submerged literature, and a variety of programs.

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Big Sale

Big Sale

Big Sale is a one-day event, organized by San Francisco-based KIDmob. Big Sale welcomes streetgoers of all ages to participate in a series of purposefully vague and mysterious transactions that adapt the familiar language of commercial advertising and consumer desire. KIDmob has reimagined this framework as a cashless transaction market that builds community, tests social and interaction-based art and designs through the exchange of not-your-average, store-bought goods.

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The Art of Assemblage

by Arianne Gelardin and Jacob Palmer

“Nature uses only the longest threads to weave her patterns, so that each small piece of her fabric reveals the organization of the entire tapestry.”
— Richard P. Feynman

We enter a fabric womb, a cave-like space of soft stalactites that brush against us, shifting and pooling us into groups. We’ve stumbled into the world that is Give, an installation by artists Bird Feliciano and Juliana Raimondi.

We could trot out the familiar trope of the “social fabric,” but this piece touches upon something more distinct. The equivalent of a child’s blanket fort, the installation gives us permission to let go of our expectations of what a night at a gallery is meant to be. In a time fraught with divisions and stratifications, subsets of subgroups of subcultures, it seems an admirably naive prospect to create a magical, ephemeral space, and then simply throw a party within it, inviting anyone and everyone with even a passing interest in merry making. On opening night, Feliciano and Raimondi invited their friends to dj and perform live hip hop, a call and response with a mob of human bodies bobbing and gyrating among the contents of a giant laundry hamper.

The installation is as much about the individuals who come to see the spectacle, as it is about the fabric, itself. The low-hanging wool, polyester, cotton, and polycotton are a decoy for the real artwork—the art of assemblage—which suggests the careful orchestration of randomly assembled people and materials. The small pockets of standing room and the wayward layers of insulation introduce human warmth and closeness to the oftentimes cold white interior of an exhibition space. Those who attended the opening reception found themselves committed to an unexpected intimacy, a dance party in a fabric cocoon, free of pretense and art-world formalities.

A month ago, Feliciano and Raimondi called upon the public to germinate this idea. Clothes were delivered to the gallery in mounds and twisted knots; musty dress shirts and ill-fitting pants were pulled out of a box under a box in a closet. People were delighted to hand over a tired old rag, privately sentimental, and return a week later to see it drawn and quartered, bisected and conjoined, suspended from the ceiling on high tension wire. At the opening, a woman reached up and delicately touched a hanging yellow sleeve, eyes glazed over a bit, “I wore this on my honeymoon 35 years ago. Wow, has it really been that long?”

We pull out an old worn t-shirt from a drawer with a certain tenderness, like a sweet lonely child somehow transported from our past. An article of clothing that we chose from a rack, a choice that at one time defined us and who we were before the divorce, the kids, the cancer, the new house, the career. We draw it close and smell it. We are embraced in a personal history. These woven fibers become totems, mystical articles, good luck charms or perhaps just a quiet old friend telling the same sweet old story.

Feliciano and Raimondi join these artifacts together, stranger to stranger into a collective memory, a quiet cavern as warm as a paper lantern. As the opening night’s festivities reached a crescendo and spilled out under the billowing fabric of the city night and its few dim stars, a certain quiet reverence was observed. Fueled by wine and song we carried on with our small lives, clothed in our current whims and fancies, drawn closer to one another by idle curiosity and abandon.

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Massive Urban Change

Take a closer look at the changing Mission with the exhibition, Massive Urban Change. The five-week project, a collaboration of artists Eliza Gregory and Nicole Lavelle, creates a space for nuanced dialogue about neighborhood evolution amidst the polarized debates currently surrounding San Francisco's Mission District. 

Composed of visual, sculptural and conversational components, Massive Urban Change zooms in and zooms out on the controversies by calling attention to historical context while also prioritizing individual experiences within the neighborhood.
The installation begins with a photograph of Mission Street between 15th and 30th Streets. With a nod to Ed Ruscha’s Sunset Strip, this panoramic series will snake around the gallery walls and provide the first layer of what will become a collaged, narrative map of neighborhood evolution, hope, frustration and reinvention.

I Love Extremophiles

StoreFrontLab presents I Love Extremophiles by New York-based experimental landscape studio, GRNASFCK. Get back to basics with extremophile bacteria, nature's original metabolic organisms, and now the de-facto stewards of the post-industrial landscape. GRNASFCK transforms the gallery into a laboratory and a conference center to illuminate the forms and habitats of these little-known urban citizens, and examine diversity and hyper-resiliancy at the microscale.

In the future, the Ego becomes the Eco, as our cultural and survival practices become fused with biology and technology. We look to the strategies of ancient life as a method of adaptation to the Anthropocene Epoch.

Extremophiles are nature’s original metabolic organisms, flourishing in extreme conditions, utilizing unusual sources of energy including ammonia, metal ions, petrochemicals, and hydrogen gas. Extremophiles are currently being domesticated for resource extraction by the mining and gas industries. Meanwhile, within the urban environment, they remain feral and unstudied, colonizing post-industrial and contaminated sites, slowly but surely metabolizing petrochemicals and other introduced toxins.

Understood as such, extremophile microorganisms can be seen as stewards and change-agents within the industrial landscape; as well as a model for considering hyper-adaptability and site-specificity as compatible design tools within an ecologically destabilized future.

How does one thrive in a wasteland?

As part of GRNASFCK's three-day installation, the Summit on Invisible Urbanism brought together interdisciplinary thinkers to speculate on the biological, virtual, and moral tools at our deploy in confronting the post-industrial landscape, and designing for resiliency in an ecologically destabilized future. Many thanks to the panelists:

• David Fletcher, Landscape Architect, Fletcher Studio
• Andrew Cal, Molecular Genetics + Cell Biology, Mango Materials
• Nicholas Korrody, Artist, Theorist + Writer, Archinect
• Geneva Travis, Management Consultant, Water Division of ARCADIS
• Murphy Stein, R&D, Google; Futurist

Urban Symposium

Urban Symposium

San Franciscans are angry. They are angry about the city, their city, as exemplified by the ongoing storm of headlines, sound bites, and neighborhood tensions. Google bus protests and Twitter tax breaks. Ellis Act evictions and a proposition to limit building heights. Given the seemingly disconnected conscious of our city and its citizens, and a desire to encourage learning from each other, the Urban Symposium series will foster an interactive and participatory dialogue about urban life as it relates to San Francisco's restless social and political climate.

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Lines Made by Walking

In Lines Made by Walking, Ilyse Iris Magy led the public on epic urban walks to locations along the city’s waterfront, marking points of interest from both predetermined and spontaneous criteria. Through rigorous physical charting as well as visual representation, Magy facilitated the collective mapping of our relationship to the landscape, both internal and external. 

Interview with Ilyse Iris Magy

Yosh Asato: You just returned from Portland where you attended XOXO, a conference celebrating art and technology. Lines Made by Walking, like Miguel Arzabe’s Sightlines, engages both digital and analog processes, yet the projects are very different. What is the role of technology in your work?

Ilyse Iris Magy:  With Lines Made by Walking, I’m attempting to sort out and embrace my complicated relationship with technology, which has fundamentally shifted our relationship to maps and the city. I often wander for the sake of wandering, exploring new routes and relying on my strong mental map of the city to find my way. Yet it feels like I spend at least an hour a week on Google Maps, figuring out how to get from Point A to Point B with which transit mode and which route, in some strange effort to constantly optimize my commute. There is a lot of going back and forth from experiencing the city in the moment and looking at it from a satellite, essentially. 

The five long walks and our means of tracking them are deliberately analog. We’ll use a paper map and physically mark points of interest we encounter on the ground with chalk. I composed all of the routes on foot. Yet I still used digital tools to tweak them afterward, and even made a website for the sake of sharing them. The base map projected onto the wall at StoreFrontLab is also digital; I created it using a program called TileMill. But the ultimate map is deliberately analog: once the projector is turned off, all that will be left on the wall are chalk marks and handwritten notes. Documenting this piece may also transform the analog map back into a digital, interactive one so that it can be experienced long after the show is over. 

It is a dance back and forth between digital and analog, documentation and live experience, mark-making and the ephemeral. Tracking only certain reference points along the way means the lines made by our walks become the spaces between what we choose to document. 

YA: Participation is a defining aspect of Lines Made by Walking. Why is having a group so important?

IIM: Participation is almost always a feature of my work, and thus a question in my practice. Lines Made by Walking in particular is study of the city, which is characterized by having so many relationships and interactions happening at once.  Documenting a walk I take alone wouldn’t quite capture this multiplicity. On these upcoming walks, the content is emergent, and involving others increases the possibilities for interaction and discovery in a way that can better speak to a collective experience, though of course it is still subjective. The experience of deliberately walking in a group is also is part of what subverts the solitary nature of everyday walking.

YA: You’re also a cyclist who helped to organize the Sewer Ride earlier this year. Did you consider riding as a mode for mapping?

IIM: This piece is about relating your immediate surroundings to your position in the city as a whole. Walking was the clear choice. It’s matter of scale and speed. On a bike everything is rushing by; you are moving through the city instead of really dwelling in it. Walking creates more of a 1:1 relationship with your surroundings, a sense of intimacy. It is far more fluid to stop and investigate when you are on foot. 

The slowness is really key. Walking long distances is a commitment, and intentionality changes your perspective on what you encounter. There is also something beautiful about the rhythm of walking, your steps merging and contributing to the rhythm of the city. That rhythm is so strong to me that I can never listen to music through headphones while moving through the city.

YA: You mentioned the mental map. How does the relationship between mapping and memory figure in your work?

IIM: In a sense, I’m poking at the relationship between our mental and corporeal experience of the city. We are constantly processing and filtering and distilling information. The things we encounter trigger associations that constitute the mental backdrop for our daily experience.  

On these walks, when we notice or think of something, we’ll make a mark on the ground, a very physical gesture and a direct intervention into the landscape. How does this act affect how we relate to that point in space, as well as the mental connection it evoked? How does the mindset we occupy on these walks allow us to both engage with and sort through the many details that we otherwise ignore when we’re on a mission to get somewhere specific? 

The points we mark may be familiar landmarks or they may be points that evoke a memory, but they will all be emergent. This simultaneously deliberate and arbitrary strategy subverts the traditional function of the map for wayfinding or data visualization and moves it closer to the realm of the narrative. It is documentation of an actual experience that cannot be relived, yet can be revisited and reinterpreted.