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Digital Archive of San Francisco History at Foundsf.org

Recent Free Public Talks
January 2018-

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)

podcast subscription To subscribe to our Talks as a podcast, paste the link into your favorite podcast software (iTunes, Podcast Addict, etc.)

December 5

Movements of Movements

Editor Jai Sen of Movements of Movements joins Shaping San Francisco and YOU for an open discussion. Breaking with our usual format, this entire evening is a discussion open to all participants. Co-hosted by PM Press.

Photo: Demonstration during U.S. Social Forum in Detroit, MI June, 2010. Photo: Chris Carlsson

No audio recording. Video here.

November 28

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.

Photo: "Early Days" part of Pioneer Monument in Civic Center. Photo by Chris Carlsson

Video here.

November 13

San Francisco State College Strike of 1968-69: 50th Anniversary

An event celebrating the 50th anniversary of the San Francisco State Strike. A discussion will be initiated by leaders and participants of the Strike, as well as an artist who graduated from San Francisco State in Raza Studies and now teaches at State. U. C. Berkeley Professor Waldo E. Martin will moderate the discussion which will touch on what sparked the Strike, how it happened, and the impact it had and continues to have on San Francisco, California, and the country at large. With Dr. Ramona Tascoe, Penny Nakatsu, Benny Stewart, Roger Alvarado, Jesus Barraza, Nikhil Laud, and Artnelson Concordia.

Video here.

November 7

The War to End All Wars?

If there were a single event of the 20th century that we could magically undo, would it not be the war of 1914-1918? It led to some 20 million military and civilian deaths, the rise of Nazism, the Russian Revolution, and another even more destructive world war. On the centennial of WWI, the “War to End All Wars,” eminent historian Adam Hochschild revisits that pivotal epoch. His 2011 book To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918 reminds us of the shock provoked by the mass slaughter of the First World War and stands as a rebuke to the callous acceptance of mass violence and war perpetuated up to the present moment by the U.S. government.

Photo: Troops slog through the mud in northern France during WWI.

Video here.

October 31

The Jazz of Modern Basketball:
Racism and Virtuosity at the Roots of the Golden State Warriors

Shaping San Francisco’s Chris Carlsson digs into the long history of basketball as another season begins. The first African-American players entered the NBA in 1950, while black college stars led the USF Dons to consecutive national championships in 1955 and 1956, inventing a new style of aggressive defensive basketball. Today’s outspoken Warriors embody the decades-long Heritage in which earlier basketball stars pioneered today’s wild improvisational style while resisting the Jim Crow U.S. in which it began.

Photo: USF's Bill Russell is lifted up in celebration after 1956 National Championship.

Video here.

October 24

Rethinking 1968: What Happened, How Has It Shaped Us?

Rarely has the entire globe seen such a far-reaching revolt as the revolutionary upheavals of the 1968-70 era, whose effects continue to reverberate for better and worse through to our time. Join critical analysts and participants Judy Gumbo, George Katsiaficas, Mat Callahan, and Carlos Muñoz for a provocative historical inquiry. Co-hosted by PM Press.

Photo: Marchers in 1970.

Video here.

October 10

Missing Pieces: Remembering Elements of a Gone City

Geographer Dick Walker looks at the formative politics of the region in his new book, Pictures of a Gone City: Tech and the Dark Side of Prosperity in the San Francisco Bay Area, and takes us through the overheated bubbles and spectacular crashes, inequality, and delusion of the current moment. Arthur O’Donnell has methodically documented parts of the City slated for demolition or redevelopment from 2010–2018 in his Bound to Fall photography series. His drive to capture what has been a part of our streetscape aims to give future generations a window into what San Francisco was willing to lose, and hoping to gain. Come to learn and to share your own missing pieces.

Photo: A lost landmark, Flax Arts & Design Store, represents the latest of many changes to the Valencia/Market Street area. By Arthur O'Donnell

Video here.

October 3

Women, Power, and the Vote:
1911 Suffrage to the 2018 Midterms

Given the predictable buzz developing about the 2018 midterm elections and the predictions of a blue wave/a female wave, we want to convene a discussion rooted in history that can critically take on this frame of mind, especially in light of the recent election of London Breed and the likely re-election of Dianne Feinstein. It's not like we haven't had decades of powerful female politicians and leaders who have by and large done things that reinforced the world they inherited rather than pursuing agendas that may have helped unravel it. What have we learned about women and power? Working-class San Francisco women were key to the campaign for the Vote in 1911. Does representative democracy still represent anyone? Will women getting elected make a difference? Will the approaching midterms produce a turn to the left and if so, what role will women play? We’ve had decades of powerful female politicians who have mostly reinforced the world they inherited rather than helping unravel it. What’s next? With Maya Chupkov, Zoe Samudzi, Sue Englander

Photo: San Francisco women organize for Prop 8 in 1911 to gain women's right to vote.

Video here.

September 26

Model SF: Collectively Shaping the City

Public Knowledge artists-in-residence Bik Van der Pol have pulled a New Deal scale model of the City—based on 1938 aerial photographs—out of storage crates and into the light. Inspired by the Halprins’ 1970s collective creativity and community planning efforts, their project, “Take Part” will explore local histories with City neighborhood residents as library branches display relevant sections of the model beginning in early 2019. Creators of a 2017 cultural map of southeast San Francisco, Kate Connell and Oscar Melara, with cartographer Sofia Valera Airaghi, also ask, “Can we build a collective cultural life together?” Their projects, including Moving Art House, are designed to do just that. Join these artists in a conversation about engaging communities as we look both back and forward.

Co-hosted by Public Knowledge, a partnership of San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the San Francisco Public Library

Photo: Southeast San Francisco Cultural Map

Video here.

May 23

Archives and Memory: New Ways of Making History

How do we “hold” (record/store) history now compared to the past? How do we “tell” history now, and has the relationship between archival sources and narrative arcs/presentation changed with digitalization? What do we learn from narration-free archival materials (a la Prelinger home movies, foundsf photo pages, etc.)? And popular attitudes towards history: who cares about footnotes? How are archivists beginning to shape new ways of making history public? Film archivist and librarian Rick Prelinger, and city archivist/librarian Susan Goldstein, scholar Howard Besser.

Photo: Smithsonian

Video here.

May 9

Platform Cooperatives

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)

Video here.

May 5

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 ExperiencePIER 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.

May 2

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?

Video here.

April 25

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.

Video here.

Photo: From Christian Nagler's 2011-12 economic performance art project, "Market Fitness".

April 4

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!

Video here.

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.

March 28

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.

Video here.

Image of Reber Plan

March 14

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.

Video here.

Photo: Various concentrations of Mission Dirt fired by Ilana Crispi.

March 7

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

Video here.

Photo: Rendering of Islais Creek Watershed plan

February 28

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.

Video here.

Photo: Lou Dematteis

February 7

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

Video here.

Photo: Anise Swallowtail feeding on a mallow flower growing among the industrial zone of Pier 70, by LisaRuth Elliott.

January 24, 2018

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

Video here.

Photo: West on 20th Street, old Union Ironworks and Bethlehem Steel offices on right, by Chris Carlsson