The Mercury News
By ERIN BALDASSARI | Bay Area News Group
PUBLISHED: October 1, 2017 at 8:00 a.m. | UPDATED: October 2, 2017 at 4:56 a.m.
OAKLAND — In the immediate wake of the tragic Ghost Ship fire, artists Chris Treggiari and Peter Foucault invited members of the public to send messages to the dead.
The impromptu exhibit at the Oakland Museum of California, displayed on the two first Fridays after the fire, was a way for the artists to honor their colleague, Alex Ghassan, who died in the fire, and served as a memorial to reflect on all the 36 lives lost. The bare masts of a small-scale 18th century replica ship at the center of the shrine evoked a ship at bay, moored in grief, Foucault said.
Nearly a year later, they’ve resurrected pieces of the exhibit for the museum’s annual Días de los Muertos, or Days of the Dead, celebration. The theme this year, “Metamorphosis & Migration,” pays homage to the Monarch butterfly. In traditional Mexican iconography, the butterflies’ annual journey from California to Mexico symbolizes the returning of loved ones’ souls, curator Evelyn Orantes explained. But, it also serves a dual purpose, she said, as a metaphor for how people’s lives, and communities, change as a result.
“As humans, we go from the terrestrial to the celestial in our transformation,” Orantes said. “But, it’s also how all those who get left behind change and how that absence changes you and how that makes you … go about your world in a very different way.”
Treggiari worked closely with Ghassan last year for an exhibit at the museum examining the accelerating social, economic and demographic changes in West Oakland, as seen through the eyes of residents and business owners who call the neighborhood home. Their work reflected on the impacts of gentrification, the increasing scarcity of affordable housing and the displacement of many longtime Oaklanders, Treggiari said.
In many ways, he said, the memorial exhibit this year, which also honors the four people who died in a four-alarm fire at a halfway house in West Oakland in March, is a continuation of that earlier conversation.
“It’s definitely about displacement and livability and affordability in a city that is becoming harder and harder to live in,” Treggiari said, adding that in the arts community, at least, “We’re all very conscious of being an artist in Oakland, and what that means, and all of our survival methods to keep making work and living here.”
In the current exhibit, a floor-to-ceiling mast made of unfinished construction wood and bamboo staffs harken back to materials used to furnish the interior of the Ghost Ship warehouse, Foucault said. It’s one way of paying tribute the make-shift nature of how artists survive in the city, he said.
“The idea is that these spaces were created with found, used materials, anything an artist could get their hands on to create their own environment, their own space, their own structure,” he said.
But rather than a bare mast, this exhibit features wide sails emblazoned with the messages to the dead left nearly a year earlier during the duo’s first memorial exhibit at the museum. The final product will also feature the names of all 40 victims from both fires embroidered onto the mast’s “spiritsail,” which were commonly used until the mid-18th century and were positioned at the front of the ship to catch the wind, he said.
“We’re seeing what we’ve learned from (these fires) and how that can affect the future,” Foucault said. “So, the sails metaphorically push this (conversation) into the future.”
The 23rd annual Días de los Muertos exhibit opens Oct. 18 at the Oakland Museum of California. It will also feature artwork by Hung Liu, Favianna Rodriguez, Fernando Escartiz and Jet Martinez, plus altars by Bea Carrillo Hocker and Rafael Jesús González and installations by students from the Oakland International High School and Thornhill Elementary School.
East Bay Express
OMCA’S Days of the Dead Exhibit Mourns Loved Ones, Ghost Ship and the Election.
The exhibit provides space to celebrate and grieve. By Azucena Rasilla
The moment you walk into the Metamorphosis & Migration: Days of the Dead exhibit at the Oakland Museum of California, a wave of serenity washes over you. Perhaps it’s the shades of blues on the walls, or the captivating imagery surrounding each altar. It’s an inviting space in which to honor the dead.
Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is the sacred holiday celebrated throughout Mexico on Nov. 2. For one day, the realm between the living and the dead overlap. It’s a chance for families to honor those who have passed away by creating intricate altares (altars) and ofrendas (offerings), which consist of photographs of those who have passed, their favorite food or drink, and sentimental objects, all adorned with orange and yellow marigolds, papier mâché, and sugar skulls.
For the past 23 years, the Oakland Museum of California has hosted the Day of the Dead exhibit. (Although, beginning in 2016, the museum decided to present the exhibit every other year, so there won’t be one in 2018.) In each installation, different artists are featured, and while the general format is the same, the altars are always unique, each honoring someone special.
Orantes also enlisted students from Oakland International High School and Thornhill Elementary School to participate in the exhibit. While Day of the Dead is a Mexican tradition, other cultures honor their loved ones as well, and the curator wanted other members of the community to be represented.
One of the most striking installations is the one about the Ghost Ship by Chris Treggiari and Peter Foucault. The fire that killed 36 people in December 2016 touched the OMCA family in a direct way. One of the victims, filmmaker Alex Ghassan, had contributed to the installation Oakland, I want you to know… earlier that year. OMCA wanted to honor his name and legacy, and all of those who lost their lives on that tragic night. Orantes said many OMCA staff members were at the party and managed to escape. “We wanted to recognize lives lost through fire,” Orantes said, adding that “shortly after Ghost Ship, there was another fire in West Oakland, and there was little to no attention to that one.”
San Francisco Examiner
Bay City News
September 21, 2017
The Oakland Museum of California’s upcoming Day of the Dead exhibit will feature a large-scale sculpture installation dedicated to the victims of the Ghost Ship fire, which killed 36 people during a warehouse show in the Fruitvale neighborhood last December.
At that time, artist Chris Treggiari had been working with one of the victims, 35-year-old Alex Ghassan of Oakland, on a show called Oakland I Want You to Know.
“Then Ghost Ship happened,” Treggiari said.
Treggiari and collaborator Peter Foucault had been working together for nearly a decade, and they came together to produce the “Ghost Ship Memorial,” currently under construction in a gallery at the museum, in honor of Ghassan and the Dec. 2 fatal fire’s 35 other victims.
Foucault said they wanted to reference the form of a ship as a metaphor. The memorial takes the shape of a ship’s mast and three sails, with a steering wheel affixed to a wooden structure in the foreground and tributes written on cards that have been sewn onto the sails.
One last component that the artists are calling a “spiritsail” has yet to be attached. They plan to decorate it with the names of each of the fire’s 36 victims.
Nearly a year after the initial wave of shock and grief rocked the Bay Area arts community, there are still conversations happening around the impacts of the fire itself.
The focus has mostly shifted though to the economic pressures of the region’s housing market and how they can accelerate the displacement of local artists.
That problem has been exacerbated as warehouse communities with questionable construction and inadequate fire safety standards get cleared out, sometimes by unscrupulous landlords capitalizing on the Ghost Ship fire to maximize their return on investment.
“We know a lot of people who have been affected by that,” Treggiari said.
Foucault said he hopes the gallery space around the Ghost Ship Memorial will serve as a safe space for that conversation and others related to it to take place.
The artists thanked the museum for approaching them about the installation, and praised the organization for being highly responsive and focused on the Oakland community.
“That’s the beauty of the OMCA,” Treggiari said. “They really have a pulse on it.”
The Oakland Museum’s Day of the Dead exhibition, described as an exploration of tradition and transformation inspired by the annual journey of the monarch butterfly, is known as Metamorphosis and Migration.
Journalism and Art: Complementary and Collaborative Storytelling
March 28, 2016
As journalists use art to bring stories off the page, artists adopt reporting techniques to address social issues
While journalists have experimented with reader collaboration through citizen journalism and crowdsourced news, “social practice art”—which emphasizes working with communities, often those marginalized or disenfranchised—offers an avenue through which readers can engage with news stories on a more personal and emotional level. In many cases, the art lies as much in the process of creating the piece as in any product resulting from it.
That was certainly the case with “Eyes on Oakland,” a collaboration between the Bay Area’s Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) and the Oakland-based social practice art collective, Mobile Arts Platform. For several years, CIR had been reporting on the increasing use of surveillance technology at the Port of Oakland. What started as a network of cameras at the port had “ballooned,” according to CIR’s reporting, into a citywide network comprising closed-circuit cameras, license-plate readers, microphones to detect gunshot locations, cell phone calls, and social media into a unified police database, with little public debate about its use. When Mobile Arts Platform’s Chris Treggiari was invited to participate in an art exhibit at the Oakland Museum of California under the theme “Who Is Oakland?” the two groups saw a unique opportunity to collaborate.
The team outfitted a van as a sort of mobile newsroom, parking it in locations in the neighborhood and at commercial centers. Cole Goins, a CIR senior manager for engagement and community collaborations, greeted visitors with a clipboard, asking them to take a quiz to test their knowledge of surveillance technology. Participants could also use a screen-printing station in the van to make signs reading, “Surveillance is …” and write in their responses, which included lines like “A tool that cuts” and “In my pocket.” The reactions ranged from outrage over the extent of surveillance to support in the name of public safety. Treggiari photographed participants with the signs they’d made and displayed the images as part of the “Who Is Oakland?” exhibit. “I am not advocating for whether these tools should be used or not used,” says Goins, “but the public has a right to know how they are being used and what they are being used for.”
While the project was a collaboration among artists and journalists, ultimately the biggest collaboration was with members of the public. Rather than the one-way mode of transmission typical with an article, participants actively created the story as they contributed their own experiences. “We were giving people information in a way that they can process it and internalize it and create something with it,” says Goins. “We are not telling people what to create. We are providing the pieces and the platform so they can create and respond and act for themselves. If you think of journalism as the collection and dissemination of information, we were doing that. That information is going to stick with them much more than just another thing they read online.”
— MICHAEL BLANDING
Center for Investigative Reporting
What Oakland, California, residents think about police surveillance
By Cole Goins / August 18, 2015
What do you think about when you hear the word “surveillance?” Do you picture closed-circuit television cameras? Mass data collection by the National Security Agency? What about tools such as body cameras, license-plate readers and cellphone tracking devices used by your local police department? Did you even know those things existed?
Along with three local artists, The Center for Investigative Reporting posed those questions to residents in Oakland, California, in an experimental art-meets-journalism project dubbed “Eyes on Oakland.” Starting in April, we set out in the Mobile Arts Platform, a Ford Falcon van-turned-roving newsroom by collaborators Chris Treggiari and Peter Foucault, to visit neighborhoods across the city, inform residents about different types of surveillance technology used by local police and spark a dialogue about how they’re used.
Four months and a dozen pop-up events later, we had spoken with hundreds of our Oakland neighbors. Those conversations helped source an interactive installation at the Oakland Museum of California – our own artistic interpretation of the city’s Domain Awareness Center, a proposed surveillance hub for the Port of Oakland, which was scaled back from a proposed citywide system amid public outcry last year.
With these events as our backdrop, we visited the neighborhoods of Fruitvale, Temescal, Lake Merritt and the Uptown corridor on Telegraph Avenue. We set up at local events such as Friday Nights @ OMCA, the Malcolm X Jazz Arts Festival and YMCA Healthy Kids Day. We held a youth writing workshop at SoleSpace through the Off/Page Project, our collaboration with Youth Speaks.
During our travels, we tested visitors’ knowledge with our five-question quiz on local surveillance technology. Each participant was invited to answer the prompt “Surveillance is …” on one of our Eyes on Oakland cards, designed by Aaron McKenzie, which were screen-printed live on a custom table attached to the front of the van.
All told, we collected more than 120 completed quizzes and photo responses to our prompt, which we included in our installation at the Oakland Museum during the course of its three-month run. We had substantive, one-on-one interactions with each visitor about the tools their own police department uses to collect and store information.
We were pleasantly surprised by the variety and depth of residents’ responses. With such thoughtful interpretations such as “A tool that can cut” or “In your pocket,” Oaklanders illuminated the complexity of the surveillance debate, weighing public safety with privacy implications.
Visitors to the museum installation also were invited to write their own answers to “Surveillance is …” and place their responses on a giant map of Oakland, built by Treggiari, corresponding to where they live. One of 10 artworks in the “Who Is Oakland?” exhibit, our Eyes on Oakland piece invited residents not only to share their thoughts, but also to hear from their neighbors and take home print materials about different kinds of surveillance technology. It was a different kind of venue for a news organization to try to share information, but the breadth of the insights we heard revealed a deep engagement with the material we presented.
“Some of these big issues become like songs on the radio, and you become desensitized to them,” said Evelyn Orantes, the Oakland Museum’s curator of public practice. “But I feel that coming at these same issues through the entry point of art allows for a different kind of dialogue. And in the museum, these more informal learning environments are places to feel safe and have a debate. It makes it more interesting.”
In our conversations around town, we offered perspective about surveillance, but also heard personal stories about how different technologies intersected with residents’ day-to-day lives.
We heard from new parents in the Laurel District who installed their own closed-circuit camera system, which they say has helped reduce crime and loitering by their property.
A man in Temescal told us that he became interested in current methods of surveillance-aided detective work after someone was shot near his home.
Two young friends in Fruitvale expressed surprise and concern over the use of license-plate readers and said they’d think twice about owning a car because of them.
And when a mother in East Oakland said she opened her door at 6 a.m. one morning to police searching for a person of interest, she said she bristled when the officer turned on his body camera to record their interaction.
These are just a smattering of the voices we’ve heard. We hope that, along with our interactive presentation at the Oakland Museum, they inspire more discussions about the role of surveillance in our communities, a greater awareness of the different types of tools used by law enforcement and a better understanding of how they work.
And we’re not done yet. On Oct. 2, we’re teaming up with The Great Wall of Oakland to project our photo responses outdoors during Oakland First Fridays. There, we’ll host a free interactive conversation about Oakland’s forthcoming ordinance that will govern its surveillance technology.
New Project Confronts Citizens on Surveillance in Oakland
Apr 9, 2015
At the First Friday gallery walk in Uptown Oakland, Peter Foucault is doing live screen-printing on the hood of a tricked-out Ford Falcon van. But before the prints can even dry, he’s waving them at passers-by.
What he’s got is a short quiz, testing people’s knowledge about surveillance in the city.
The quiz starts off asking about the Domain Awareness Center — a controversial project to collect data across Oakland, scaled back last year in the face of community opposition. Then the test moves on to more general laws about surveillance.
“True or false? Surveillance cameras purchased by private citizens and neighborhood associations can be linked up to the Oakland Police Department’s network.”
“True or false? Private citizens can purchase license plate readers and can send data about the plates they scan to the Oakland Police Department.
The first is false, the second is true. But the point isn’t whether one’s answers are right or wrong.
“We give this to kind of prime people, get the conversation started,” Foucault tells a curious participant. “We just want to give you some education, get you some facts. Get you thinking in the mindset of surveillance and how it may or may not affect you.”
After answering the questions, participants can go to a makeshift recording booth inside the van to share their thoughts about surveillance.
“I have various opinions on surveillance,” says Greg Brenner, who’s visiting from Indianapolis. “When I need it, when I want to know what’s out in front of my business or shop, I think it’s a great thing. But I think its also an invasion of privacy. So I’m torn on the subject.”
Foucault says the project has elicited a wide range of answers, often based on where he has set up.
“People have a different take on how surveillance impacts their lives in a different way in Fruitvale than it’s happening downtown here,” he says. “We had people that say surveillance is protection, comfort, keeping people on their toes to just be aware of what’s happening in their neighborhoods. And then on the far end of the spectrum, there’s obviously the responses that are going to be surveillance is a little bit more invasive.”
The project is called “Eyes on Oakland” — a collaboration between Mobile Arts Platform and the Center for Investigative Reporting. “They’re giving us the content that we’re looking for and we’re giving them an experience,” says Aaron McKenzie of Mobile Arts Platform.
“Investigative reporting happens in many ways, and part of how we see engagement and work in journalism is talking to people in advance of what we even know a story will be,” says Meghann Farnsworth, director of distribution and engagement at CIR.
“So one of the goals here is to find out how much people know about surveillance. What information would they want to know more about, what issues do they care about? So that way, as our reporters and editors are looking at stories, we have some baseline of understanding (of) what Oakland residents know … what they’re interested about, and that can help influence our looking at different topics and issues.”
Participants can also fill out a card that says “Surveillance is —” by finishing the phrase . They then have their photo taken, with the card blocking their face — a reference to the concept of privacy.
Stephen Nienu fills in the blank with the word “dangerous.”
“I’m a political science major. I’m a person that researches and is somewhat aware with the things that are going on, such as surveillance and current events regarding the NSA, Snowden, etc. Surveillance is dangerous.”
“Some people may argue that it’s a necessary evil, but the point that we’re at right now, I think it’s a huge violation of privacy,” says Pele Tapaatoutai, who recently moved back to the Bay Area from New York City. She wrote “surveillance is … a major violation of privacy.”
Jared Mitchell, who grew up in Oakland, did poorly on the quiz, which he says scares him.
“I’ve got a lot to learn and a lot to research going forward,” he said. “It’s important that the citizens being surveyed and being watched, they should be aware of the means in which they’re being watched and the technologies that are being used to conduct the police activities that we pay for.
Unfortunately, there aren’t always those opportunities for that conversation to take place, so I think that them being on the streets and getting people engaged and even thinking in that direction is a beautiful thing.”
The recordings and answers from the public will become part of the “Who is Oakland” exhibit at the Oakland Museum, which opens Saturday, April 11.
Seattle, 50 Years After the Fair
Article from the New York Times
Painting the Space Needle “Galaxy Gold,” its original color, to celebrate the landmark’s 50th birthday.
By CHRISTOPHER HALL
Published: May 4, 2012
ON a recent morning, as wind and spitting rain lashed the Space Needle’s observation deck, the Seattle writer Knute Berger described the World’s Fair that opened far below, in Seattle Center, 50 years ago last month.
At the Chihuly Garden and Glass.
“The 1962 fair was a vision of the future, with the Space Needle, the Monorail, and pavilions devoted to a ‘Century 21’ theme,” said Mr. Berger, who visited the exposition as an 8-year-old and recently published a history of the Needle.
While the 605-foot Space Needle is the fair’s flashiest bequest to Seattle, providing the city with an icon recognized the world over, Seattle Center may be its most significant. Since 1962, this former fair site has evolved into a 74-acre campus of open space, repurposed fair buildings and newer structures that together host 12 million visitors and nearly 5,000 events each year. “Seattle Center is a typically eclectic Northwest place,” said its director, Robert Nellams, “part park, part cultural center, part community gathering ground.”
With Seattle having just embarked on the Next Fifty (www.seattlecenter.com), a six-month celebration of the fair and its legacy that runs until Oct. 21, Seattle Center is squarely in the spotlight. Dozens of temporary art installations, including a mobile pop-up gallery and performance space using a repurposed 1963 Ford Falcon van and Vespa, are planned. New guided tours cover buildings, fountains, hidden courtyards and permanent artworks like the shimmering “Seattle Mural,” a 60-foot-long abstract glass mosaic designed by the Northwest artist Paul Horiuchi for the fair and restored last year.
A free audio walking tour with ’60s music and stories from fair visitors is now available to cellphones or by download. And a passel of special events — among them the exhibition “Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs” at the Pacific Science Center (May 24 to Jan. 6) and the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s November debut of a new work by Mark Morris, a Seattle native — will supplement the roster of annual happenings like Bumbershoot and the multiculti Northwest Folklife Festival.
In the International Fountain Pavilion (the former Sweden Pavilion), an exhibition titled “The Future Remembered” gathers 300 fair artifacts, including some of the “Mad Men” outfits from the fair’s “Miracle of Modern American Fashion” shows. Among the 150 vintage photos is a shot of a bewildered-looking Elvis (in Seattle to film the musical lemon “It Happened at the World’s Fair”) presenting a ham to Washington’s governor, Albert Rosellini. The show runs through Oct. 21.
The fair’s 50th anniversary will also see physical changes to Seattle Center. In the $20 million Chihuly Garden and Glass, to open May 21, the phantasmagoric, vibrantly colored works of the glass artist Dale Chihuly and his studio flow through almost 17,000 square feet of galleries and spill into an adjoining garden. “The glasswork spans 50 years and tells the story of Dale’s career,” said Michelle Bufano, the project’s executive director. “It’s the first comprehensive and permanent survey of his work.”
In Center House, soon to be renamed Seattle Center Armory in honor of the building’s 1939 military origins, the once-gloomy food court will be brighter thanks to a dozen new vendors setting up shop between now and summer, including top Seattle mobile food purveyors Street Treats (build-your-own ice cream cookie sandwiches), Skillet (diner fare like burgers, and chicken-and-waffles), and Bigfood (grilled Caribbean-Indian flatbread sandwiches).
And though Seattleites may claim fealty to rain and skies that are 50 shades of gray, the food court’s new outdoor deck, accessed through a just-renovated, industrial-cool space of polished concrete floors and massive steel beams, is bound to be a sunny-day hit.
Here is an article about our upcoming exhibition that appeared in the SF Weekly:
Pop-Up Art Fun: The Traveling Mobile Arts Platform Hits SOMArts This Sunday
When art comes into a public space, it’s got to be accessible, right? And if its creators hope to invigorate a community, the experience has to operate at multiple scales, from the intimate to the universal. All this is understood by the people behind the Mobile Arts Platform (MAP), a traveling communal art space that for the past year has rolled up to neighborhood street festivals to bring art to the people, pop-up style.
(Look for it at SOMArts this Sunday afternoon from one to five p.m.)
MAP specializes in alternative ways to experience art in everyday life. Two interactive sculptures — conceived and transported by artists Peter Foucault and Chris Treggiari — are brought to festivals and the streets outside of galleries.
“It is our goal to inspire the passive viewer to become an active participant,” Foucault says. “By offering interactive projects, we invite the viewer to roll up his/her sleeves and take part in the making of an object.” At some of the neighborhood festivals, Foucault and Treggiari commissioned instructors to teach a craft, such as origami or creating stencils, and for the Potrero Festival, MAP partnered with The ‘Nabe, the Potrero Neighborhood House, to reach out to people in the community to star in a talent show.
The basic activities and parameters of each event in the MAP series are conceived beforehand, but most of the artwork is created on-site by the public. During last month’s event at the Precita Eyes Urban Youth Festival in La Raza Park, Foucault and Treggiari popped up a mobile stencil station where people created three-layer stenciled poster of the city’s skyline. “People loved the piece,” says Foucault. “It was amazing to see four-year-olds and eighty-year-olds from every imaginable background working side-by-side to spay paint in stencils.”
Locals are both the input and the output, making MAP a self-reinforcing platform, one that explores and expands what both art and community can be.
This Sunday marks the final event in the MAP series, the Pop-Up Wrap-Up at SOMArts for a one-day only exhibition. Part retr, tective of MAP’s past year and part live art making, there will be a stenciling station by artist James Gregg, a work from Precita Eyes muralist Miranda Bergman, a ready-made picketing project, and a reading of haiku submitted by the public at the Cherry Blossom festival.
Art Business Review by Alan Bamberger 7/o9/11
Million Fishes Arts Collective: Perfect Place/No Place – Re-imagining Utopia. Curated by the MicroClimate Collective.
Artists: Scott Kiernan, Matthew Parrott, John Urquhart, Patick Wilson, Yulia Pinkusevich, Reenie Charriere, Brett Goodroad, Anne Schnake, Sarah Ratchye, Peter Foucault and Chris Treggiari.
Review by RWM: Here is an artful agglomeration you are not likely to see anywhere else. Unusual materials used in a show which may be a bit too intellectual, but is memorable nonetheless. Big fun and odd surprises do not seem to answer all the problematic Utopian questions. Then again, they may never be answered no matter what.
Comment by AB: Peter Foucault and Chris Treggiari’s wiggy tricked out Mobile Arts Platform (MAP) van conversion is worth seeing if you happen to cross paths with it.
Peter Foucault & Chris Treggiari’s Mobile Arts Platform (MAP) side view.
Peter Foucault & Chris Treggiari Mobile Arts Platform interior.
The other half – Mobile Arts Platform by Peter Foucault & Chris Treggiari.
Peter Foucault and his Mobile Arts Platform (MAP).