Talks: Art & Politics / 2015-2019

Primary Source

Shaping San Francisco hosts Public Talks on a variety of topics on Wednesday nights, about 18 times a year. One recurrent theme has been Art & Politics under which we have featured an individual artist or group of artists speaking about their work and its politics over time. Here are the Talks we held at the Eric Quezada Center for Culture and Politics at 518 Valencia from 2015 to 2019.


September 11, 2019

Art & Politics: San Francisco Poster Syndicate

The San Francisco Poster Syndicate has been creating inspiring silkscreen posters at protests, demonstrations, street fairs, art events, and parties for the past decade or more. A steady stream of new participants has kept it fresh, and tonight we’ll hear from veterans and newbies alike. Art Hazelwood, Jos Sances, Lucia Ippolito, Joanna Ruckman, Christopher Statton and more!

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Video here.


April 3, 2019

Art & Politics: Chris "L7" Cuadrado

Few local artists have combined the refined skills of a fine artist with the blistering edge of anti-colonial and liberationist critique that L7 has. He has an incredible body of work and offers a show-and-tell about how his politics have shaped his stunning productions. This is part of a series of solo artists giving a behind-the-scenes and indepth look at what inspires them in the interrelationship between art and politics.

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February 13, 2019

Art & Politics: Seth Eisen/OUT of Site

Last year we embarked on a grand collaborative journey through the under-recognized LGBTQ+ history of North Beach with Seth Eisen’s OUT of Site performative walking tours. Seth returns with a look at his new SOMA tours coming in June and September, bringing forgotten queer histories and sites to life and exploring the intersections of labor history, the leather scene, bars, nightlife, and the immigrant experience.  This is part of a series of solo artists giving a behind-the-scenes and indepth look at what inspires them in the interrelationship between art and politics.

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November 28, 2018

Public Art and Murals: Controversy, Neglect, Restoration

Not always seen by all as a public benefit, public art faces sometimes quiet neglect, sometimes outrage and controversy. Earlier this year, San Francisco Poet Laureate Kim Shuck brought attention to the appeal to remove the Pioneer Monument’s “Early Days” statue of a subjugated and emaciated indigenous figure in Civic Center. Calling for a rehearing, she wrote a poem each day—55 in all—until the Board of Appeals granted one in June. Megan Wilson of the Clarion Alley Mural Project (CAMP) speaks about the recent spate of vandalism on Palestinian solidarity murals in the alley, and the impact on CAMP. Barbara Mumby-Huerta also joins the discussion of what and how we value works of art in the public realm.

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May 2, 2018

Do Androids Dream of Surplus Value?

Are There Marxist Robots?!? Kal Spelletich, robot-maker and long-time artist, professor, actor, and all around raconteur of machinic chaos and dissent combines with Chris Carlsson, a persistent critic of the Planetary Work Society, to confront our collective anxiety. As Nick Dyer-Witheford ably puts it: "Digital capital [is] making a planetary working class tasked with working itself out of job, toiling relentlessly to develop a system of robots and networks, networked robots and robot networks, for which the human is ultimately surplus to requirements... it is about a global proletariat caught up in a cybernetic vortex." What future for the labor theory of value in a world that expels human workers from production and is rapidly becoming more habitable for machines than people?

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Video here.


April 4, 2018

Insurgent Country Music and its Roots in the Golden State

With the twang of a steel guitar, the whine of a fiddle and the plunk of a banjo comes an instant association; the pick-up truck, the cowboy boots, the rolling hills, dusty fields, lonesome highways and the flag. For many, it has also come to signify conservatism, “traditional values,” American chauvinism, and even racism, bigotry and the confederate flag. Although one wouldn’t realize it from listening to today’s pop Country radio stations, Country music has been anything but a rightwing soundtrack. To the contrary, the roots of Country lie firmly in resistance to capital, freedom from government interference, and in defense of the right of workers, poor farmers, and the dispossessed to live their lives in dignity. Jesse and Glenda Drew will discuss the radical roots of Country, and explain how California is historically more central to Country music than Nashville. Also: special musical accompaniment!

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March 14, 2018

Ilana Crispi: Tenderloin and Mission Dirt

Ilana Crispi is a Mission District ceramicist with a curiosity of what makes up a place. In her recent projects MISSION DIRT and TENDERLOIN DIRT she literally digs in to the earth to extract the soil and transform it, inviting residents to take a look at an invisible past and consider its future. Dirt taken from an excavated Boeddeker Park in 2013 became furniture and vessels to eat out of and created to give Tenderloin residents a direct connection to the soil under their feet. MISSION DIRT is an excavation of dirt along Valencia Street, through the firing of the physical material examining questions of home, history, geology, and ownership. As part of the project, you are invited to write or draw an experience, story, or favorite Mission District site. This is part of a series of solo artists giving a behind-the-scenes and indepth look at what inspires them in the interrelationship between art and politics.

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February 28, 2018

Lou Dematteis

Lou Dematteis is an extraordinary social documentarian, photographer and filmmaker. He has been taking photographs of the Mission District since the 1970s, capturing the low-rider scene of that era, and being at the first Carnavals and leaving us a stunning visual record. He has also covered the Nicaraguan Revolution into the mid-1980s, the depradations of the multinational oil industry in the Amazon, and more recently has been making movies, with his “The Other Barrio” capturing the current displacement crisis in the Mission in a distinctly San Francisco noir tone. This is part of a series of solo artists giving a behind-the-scenes and indepth look at what inspires them in the interrelationship between art and politics.

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Video here.


November 8, 2017

Seth Eisen "OUT of Site"

Seth Eisen and James Metzger and collaborators Colin Creveling, Rayan Hayes, Mary Vice, and Diego Gomez bring to life research and performance excerpts from Eye Zen Presents's newest project (a collaboration with Shaping SF)—a series of queer history performance-driven walking tours through the streets of San Francisco. This performative talk explores the ways that queer people have historically created community, how our communities have adapted over time, and ways we might sustain and nurture our historical and cultural queer essence. Revealing new ways to envision and preserve queer heritage, Eisen covers events such as the country’s first homeless queer youth movement, Vanguard of the 1960s, and the Compton’s Cafeteria riots which predated New York’s Stonewall riots; popular American dances which have roots in cross-dressing Gold Rush stag dances and early gay clubs; the 19th century out gay author of early SF bohemian literati, Charles Warren Stoddard; the life of late 19th century transgender writer and social activist Jack Garland; and the infamous queer gathering spots of the prohibition era Pansy Craze.

This Public Talk was made possible in part by a grant from The Creative Work Fund, a program of the Walter and Elise Haas Fund that also is supported by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

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June 7, 2017

Kent Minault's "Diggerly-Do's"

Kent Minault tells of the explosive first six months of the San Francisco Diggers. Featuring stories of the San Francisco Mime Troupe, Tim Leary, Huey Newton, Emmett Grogan, Lenore Kandel, Richard Brautigan, and Gary Snyder. His chronicle charts the first Digger free food in the park, tense encounters with the police, the opening of the Digger Free Store, and the Invisible Circus at Glide Memorial Church. Accompanied by photos by Chuck Gould, and music by Peter Coyote. The evening chronicles a turning point in SF and the transformation of a youth into a life-long activist.

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January 25, 2017

Art & Politics: Packard Jennings

Visual and conceptual artist Packard Jennings talks about his work, through which he has reimagined and revisualized the world around us, shaking up our concepts and assumptions of how things are through humor and the reappropriation of pop culture imagery. Packard talks about his work which ranges from digital subversions to quiet mail-in actions to large scale, space interventions on billboards. He also speaks about work that gets made and that which doesn’t.

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September 28, 2016

Art & Politics: Jenny Odell, Art as Archiving, Archiving as Art

Jenny Odell brings us an update on her ongoing project, the Bureau of Suspended Objects, which seeks an archaeological approach to the present by researching and archiving everyday discarded (or about-to-be-discarded) objects. First displayed at the dump, the objects are seen as true artifacts: crystallizations of a whole set of desires, economic contingencies, material availabilities, and abstract valuations that are more specific to their time than we could possibly realize now. As a result, all objects come to seem "limited edition," and the present is understood as imminently historical.

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February 24, 2016

Art & Politics: Mauro Ffortissimo with Dean Mermell

While squatting a South Park Gulch apartment in the 1990s and experimenting with urban guerrilla art, at some point Argentinian-born artist Mauro Ffortissimo began collecting pianos. He took them apart, pushed them off rooftops, and set one ablaze on the bluffs of Half Moon Bay after a series of sunset performances. Together, Mauro and Dean Mermell now bring pianos to the streets and gardens of San Francisco. Including an excerpt of Twelve Pianos.

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November 4, 2015

Art & Politics: Guillermo Gomez-Peña

The Mission District's incomparable Guillermo Gomez-Peña performs his latest screed, “Notes from Technotopia: On the Cruelty of Indifference” along with a brief retrospective of his work, followed by an open conversation with the audience traversing the complicated borders in which his work resides.

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September 30, 2015

Art & Politics: Nato Green

The boundary-pushing, “wickedly funny” comedian and formidable foe Nato Green breaks our Art & Politics tradition by giving a stand-up performance during our Talks series. It’s a free show, followed by conversation with the man… Get your brain stimulated while laughing your head off… critical thinkers, contrarians, and ne’er-do-wells welcome! Also featured Irene Tu.

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March 4, 2015

Art & Politics: Sirron Norris

Sirron Norris has been splashing his satirical cartoon characters around the Mission and San Francisco for years. From biting social commentary to whimsical commercial art, his work spans a range that challenges the boundaries of art and politics.

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February 11, 2015

Art & Politics: Rene Yañez

Rene Yañez has been at the epicenter of the Mission’s multiple art movements going back to the 1970s. Our Art & Politics series puts him in the spotlight for a retrospective of his life’s work, a free-ranging discussion of the politics that informed his work, and how his work has shaped the neighborhood and the City to which he has contributed so much.

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