Recent Free Public Talks
A place to meet and talk unmediated by corporations, official spokespeople, religion, political parties, or dogma.
All events are free.
At 518 Valencia Street, near 16th, in San Francisco (close to 16th Street BART)
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More of our lives are being tightly integrated through the commercial social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Google, private corporations that are monetizing the enormous creative and cooperative activity that takes place there. A movement among tech workers and cooperative activists to create real alternatives through building self-managed platform cooperatives is taking shape. Yes, Virginia, there IS an alternative! The micro-rental economy masquerading as "sharing" is unmasked, and another way forward is explored. Neal Gorenflo of Shareable.net and Melissa Hoover, director of the Democracy at Work Institute, and Dennis Hayes (author and tech writer)
2-4pm: Energy Plan for the Western Man: Art after Capitalism
Round table discussion with Elizabeth Thomas (curator), Sylvie Denis (author), Keith Hennessy (artist), and Andrew Mount (artist), Praba Pilar (artist/educator) at Shaping San Francisco, Eric Quezada Center for Culture and Politics (518 Valencia St, SF)
Each of the participant’s practice and individual work will be framed with an accent on the post-capitalist future. Largely drawing on themes that are present in Joseph Beuys work—e.g. his pioneering concept of social sculpture, money and universal basic income—we will use his figure to discuss the future of art and the future of art/artist/author/performer, post-capitalism. The first steps toward a post-capitalist practice involve the redefinition of art itself. Art after capitalism starts right now. Is the promised future artist’s emancipation providing only a contemplative respite from the exploitation, hierarchies and conflict present in the art world today? What does the future hold for artists, authors, performers? Will the artist abandon the authorial form? Will there be massive exodus from the museum/from the bookstore/from the performance venue? Will art finally merge with our lived experience? What new avenues can lead us toward an exit from our failed artistic paradigms? Will the rules of competition and money remain alive in the background and it is important to learn how to struggle absolutely for changes that are still only partial? Can we build a truly inclusive adequate, equitable and decentralized system that puts the artist/author/performer/curator at the forefront of this change?
No Audio, Video here.
8:20pm–10:05pm San Francisco – Tiburon Boat Trip!
Multi-media Art Experience, PIER 41 San Francisco (Please arrive 15 minutes prior to departure)
Join the Blue Collar Green Water Art & Culture Collective, for an hour-long multimedia art experience on the water. In addition to stunning views of the San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge, the evening will include readings, a short video screening, slideshow and animated video presentation on San Francisco waterfront history, presented by San Francisco Bay maritime working artists.
No audio, Video here.
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?
Universal Basic Income, Is It time?
Touted by the tech industry as a way to preserve livelihoods in a time of automation replacing workers, Universal Basic Income (UBI) is not a new concept. As a poverty alleviation idea, it has resonance in the EPIC program of 1930s California, and similar ideas were floated by leaders of social movements of the 1960s, including MLK, Jr. and the Black Panthers in their Ten Point Program. Through a discussion of UBI we take a look at the nature of work and classifying invisible work as work, and open up a larger conversation around economic and racial inequalities. Proponents see UBI as a way to get at a new social contract in the U.S., one that builds trust and a chance for truth and reconciliation. Christian Nagler discusses his research into UBI, including performative economics, economic futurity and forecasting, and the divergent political ideologies held within the perceived prefigurative communitarian movement. Anne Price discusses how UBI differs from the social welfare system in being steeped in racial justice rather than race, and how her work at the Insight Center for Community Economic Development in Oakland is addressing economic security. Sandhya Anantharaman of the Universal Income Project, an advocate of Universal Basic Income, talks about the radical impacts it could have on society.
Photo: From Christian Nagler's 2011-12 economic performance art project, "Market Fitness".
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!
Photo: California migrant farmworkers during 1930s depression, still frame from Jesse and Glenda’s upcoming film Open Country: The History and Politics of Country Music.
Saving the Bay from “the Future”!
From the weird madness of the Reber Plan to dam both ends of the Bay into freshwater lakes in the 1950s to the Save the Bay movement of the early 1960s that helped create the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, we’ve come a long way in a half century. Today’s open shorelines, closed trash dumps, and returning wetlands honor and preserve our greatest public resource. Historian Chuck Wollenberg and Steve Goldbeck from BCDC.
Image of Reber Plan
Art & Politics: 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.
Photo: Various concentrations of Mission Dirt fired by Ilana Crispi.
Resilient by Design: The Language of Water
The “Language of Water” is a vision to retrofit strategic locations of the Islais Creek Watershed to reduce flood risk and invest in real resiliency from sea level rise, drought, flooding and demonstrating the state of the art practices available to the agency or the cities. This proposal includes plans to create multi-purpose, distributed infrastructure for water supply, wastewater and stormwater treatment and the incorporation of creek daylighting and floodable spaces that make room for floodwaters. The team also explored the role of energy and water independence within neighborhoods and individual buildings as part of our toolkits for ensuring redundant and resilient water and drainage systems. Speakers include Patricia Algara of Base Landscape Architecture and Rosey Jencks, formerly of the SFPUC
Photo: Rendering of Islais Creek Watershed plan
Art & Politics: 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.
Photo: Lou Dematteis
Building a Deep Map -- Beyond Buildings and Views
Celebrating the release of a new map of San Francisco, "Nature in the City" reflects a rich and fairly recent understanding of what comprises a place. An update of an original 2006 map, the rework includes a total of five maps, highlighting species that live alongside Homo sapiens, geology, gardening, restoration, and connections within the Bay-Delta. Mary Ellen Hannibal (author of Citizen Scientist), Rebecca Johnson (Academy of Sciences), and map artist Jane Kim highlight the making of the map, the contributions of citizen science to our broader knowledge of place, and how this collaboration expresses the kind of emergent creative work we all need to do together to meet the challenges of our day and going forward. Co-hosted by Nature in the City
Photo: Anise Swallowtail feeding on a mallow flower growing among the industrial zone of Pier 70, by LisaRuth Elliott.
Dogpatch Then and Now
Few San Francisco neighborhoods have gone through as dramatic a change as Dogpatch. East of Potrero Hill, once an industrial neighborhood making warships, steel, sugar, rope, and more, where flimsy wooden structures teetered on long-gone hills, the area has had an arts renaissance that is now giving way to high-end condos, the encroaching medical/biotech industry, and even more grandiose plans for highrise development. A microcosm of San Francisco’s history from the 1860s to the present. With Glenn Lym, Steven Herraiz (Steven was sick, and we showed excerpts from his Potrero Hill History Night presentation), and Marti McKee
Photo: West on 20th Street, old Union Ironworks and Bethlehem Steel offices on right, by Chris Carlsson
San Francisco's Freeway Revolt
Today’s San Francisco and our village-like neighborhoods, charming architecture, and quality of life is indebted to the Freeway Revolt that shocked the nation between 1956 and 1965. Most histories have focused on the politicians and city leaders who argued and voted in those years, overlooking the vital role of the emergent middle-class women who spearheaded the Revolt, and kept it going against overwhelming odds. Decades later, a second Freeway Revolt helped reclaim the Embarcadero and Hayes Valley from the blight of freeways, leaving us in the current configuration we have today. With Jason Henderson, Evelyn Rose, Chris Carlsson
Photo: Central Freeway swerves across Gough and Franklin to end at Turk, Aug. 2, 1965. Courtesy San Francisco History Center, SF Public Library
Popular Front to the Cold War
In November 1938, California elected its first-ever liberal Democratic governor Culbert Olson, supported by a state-wide Popular Front coalition of liberals, unionists, communists, and other radicals. But by 1940 the Popular Front forces were already fracturing and from its wreckage emerged key elements of the Cold War. How did Communists help build this social movement, and how did the Communist Party undercut its own principles during WWII? And where did that leave California politics at the end of WWII and the beginning of the long post-war economic boom? With Jonathan Hunt, Chris Carlsson
Photo: Sept. 8 1938 rally for Culbert Olson gubernatorial campaign at Dreamland Auditorium. Courtesy San Francisco History Center, SF Public Library
Art & Politics:
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. "OUT of Site" is also supported by the Kenneth Rainin Foundation and the Zellerbach Family Foundation.
Photo: Cowboys dancing in 19th century saloon. Source: Wikimedia Commons
100th Anniversary of the
1917 Russian Revolution
Few events in the past century equal the importance of the Russian Revolution. And yet we only know it through the fog of propaganda and fear, and the actual events of 1917 are long forgotten in the mists of time. Find out what actually happened in that fabled year, and how it fit together with the world events of that epoch. Longtime Russian scholar Anthony D’Agostino (SF State) joins Anarchist scholar from socialist Yugoslavia Andrej Grubacic (CIIS) to unpack some of those tangled histories and together we’ll connect it to San Francisco then and now.
Photo: Petrograd political demonstration, June 18, 1917. Source: Wikimedia Commons
October 18, 6 pm (Offsite Event!)
50th Anniversary of Stop the Draft Week Protests
Join the California Historical Society, Shaping San Francisco, and the Oakland Public Library, Main Branch, for a panel discussion that explores the intentions, planning, and outcomes of the historic October 1967 protests against the United States draft and the Vietnam War in general. Hear from organizers, including members of the “Oakland Seven,” who were tried for conspiracy and found not guilty by an Oakland jury, and from historians and others who will share context and stories of that era. With Frank Bardacke, Karen Jo Koonan, and Charles Wollenberg, and Chris Carlsson moderating. Event at the Oakland Public Library Main Branch, 125 14th Street, Oakland, CA 94612
No audio for this event. Video here
Photo: Oakland 7 waiting for verdict in Oakland, 1968.
Speeding Through the Unseen,
from Coding to Commons
Ellen Ullman writes in her new book Life in Code “The penetration of technology into the interstices of human existence is nearly complete,” and then demystifes how humans turn their intentions and ideas into the computer codes that are the language of computers. Katja Schwaller puts “Twitterlandia” under the microscope of her critical gaze, showing how the reconfiguration of mid-Market embodies a larger capture and repurposing of public space by private interests. And Dennis Hayes, a long-time tech writer and author of an early critique of Silicon Valley, brings his own historical and political chops to bear on our current predicament, both obsessed with and deeply oppressed by the technosphere that speeds up our lives to the breaking point even while it presents itself as the answer to everything.
Photo: Market and 6th Streets by Chris Carlsson
Art and Architecture During
The Maritime Museum at Aquatic Park recently underwent extensive renovation, bringing to public view murals and sculptures from the WPA that have long been hidden and overlooked. Other beautiful artworks grace public buildings throughout the East Bay and San Francisco, including Coit Tower, and on Treasure Island, where Maritime Museum artists went on to create work for the Golden Gate International Exposition in 1939. Join Richard Everett (Maritime Museum), Anne Schnoebelen (Treasure Island Museum), and Harvey Smith (Living New Deal) for a revealing discussion of the art, architecture, and politics that challenged the economic impoverishment of the Depression by inspiring flourishing public art.
Photo: Artists paint mural at Maritime Museum, May 18, 1938. Source: National Maritime Museum (P88-035.148p)
Other Food Systems are Possible
The Diggers served free food in an effort to address a massive influx of young people to the Haight during the Summer of Love and the Black Panthers’ Free Breakfast Program for youth began soon after. Drawing from this same desire to reimagine food systems, food conspiracies flourished in communes in the early 1970s and the People’s Food System built a network of stores and distributors out of this collective framework. Three worker-owned cooperatives survive — including Other Avenues Grocery — alongside various contemporary urban agriculture projects, continuing to address the where from and how of our food consumption. With Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff (author of Other Avenues are Possible: A History of the San Francisco People’s Food System) and Antonio Roman-Alcalá (independent food systems activist-scholar) we look at historic and current examples to use food systems to challenge the political and economic dictates of our world. Join a critical discussion asking if and how these are working to achieve their stated goals of political-economic change.
Photo: Alemany Farm by LisaRuth Elliott
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.
photo: Back cover of Issue 2, Diggers' Free City News street sheets distributed in San Francisco 1967–68. Courtesy Digger Archives
May 31, 7:30 pm
Summer of Love or
Music, Art, & Politics of 1967: Was it all peace and love or did the anti-war movement really define the era? A conversational antidote to the narrow interpretation of a memorable summer in the City. With Calvin Welch (author, activist, and USF Faculty), original Digger Judy Goldhaft (Planet Drum Foundation), Mat Callahan (The Explosion of Deferred Dreams: Musical Renaissance and Social Revolution in SF, 1965-75), and Pam Brennan (Haight Ashbury Flower Power Walking Tours).
photo: 1967 at the corner of Haight and Masonic. Part of the Charles Cushman Collection, Indiana University Archives (P15560)
From the Delta to the Bayshore: Adaptation Infrastructure and Rising Seas
Tim Stroshane (Restore the Delta) and Brenda Goeden (San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission) discuss the politics and prospects of facing our rapidly changing future around and health of the bayshore. Wetlands restoration, Sea Level Rise, Delta Tunnels, Clean Water Act, future of EPA, and more.
photo: Sears Point wetlands with San Francisco in distance. By Chris Carlsson
Agents of Change!
Fred Glass (From Mission to Microchip: A History of the California Labor Movement), takes a long look at the labor history of California with Chris Carlsson (Foundsf.org), who focuses on the ebb and flow of class war in San Francisco.
photo: Members of the Marine Cooks and Stewards Union in a Hiring Hall in 1952, courtesy San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library
We've Done This Before:
The fight against the Reagan administration’s war build-up, emergency response against Central American wars, birth of the Peace Navy, stopping the USS Missouri, creating sanctuary cities, AIDS and Anti-Nuclear activism. We bring it up to climate justice & no nukes today. With activists and archivists Marcy Darnovsky, Steve Stallone, Lincoln Cushing, and Roberto Lovato.
photo: The Peace Navy obstructs the USS Missouri during a contentious campaign to homeport the ship in San Francisco in the 1980s. By Bob Heifetz
Local History in Your Ear
Podcasts are shaping the presentation of history through audio delivery. Hosts of several local series tell us why they chose this new technology to delve into the past and how they gauge success. Hear clips of each program in a special podcast challenge! With David Gallagher and Woody LaBounty (The Western Neighoborhoods Project Outside Lands San Francisco), Liam O’Donoghue (East Bay Yesterday), and David Boyer (The Intersection).
Crossing centuries and social mores, editors Ivy Anderson and Devon Angus (Alice: Memoirs of a Barbary Coast Prostitute) and author Clare Sears (Arresting Dress: Cross-Dressing, Law, and Fascination in Nineteenth-Century San Francisco) take us into 19th Century San Francisco’s underworld of prostitutes, cross dressers, and others who transgressed the strict gender norms of the time. We look at how normative gender and sexuality were policed and created by widespread mid-1800s laws as well as challenged by gender defiers. Our panelists share the fascinating detective work of the archival research process uncovering these complex and often hidden stories of history.
Citizen Science/Extinction Culture
Doing science and making culture are increasingly intertwined as more and more amateur naturalists crowdsource the multi-layered experience of life on this planet. Authors of two new books Mary Ellen Hannibal (Citizen Scientist: Searching for Heroes and Hope in an Age of Extinction) and Ursula Heise (Imagining Extinction: The Cultural Meanings of Endangered Species) illuminate the tangled, dynamic processes of thinking and doing that help us understand where we are and what we can—or ought to—do about living through this heartbreaking Great Extinction.
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. This is part of a series of solo artists giving a behind the scenes and in depth look at what inspires them in the interrelationship between art and politics.
photo: courtesy Packard Jennings