Several times a year, Open Space publishes a new issue of its magazine. Edited in house or by invited guests, the contents of each are dedicated to a particular set of questions, themes, and concerns, and unfurl over the course of a few weeks or months.
When we put on clothes, we’re putting on so much more: ideologies, identities, economies, lineages. Even in the summer (sometimes especially, here), there’s no shortage of layers. Our garments illuminate the tension between the corporeal and the inorganic; they can draw us closer to one another or separate us from the values we reject. Fashion is, of course, about place, and the Bay holds myriad styles, many of them linked to histories and movements that have resonated around the world. But fashion is also fluid, allowing for play and experimentation and fantasy among communities and individuals. It’s an ever-changing, movable feast that allows us to be who we are — or who we want to be.
Our notions of community and identity shape and are shaped by local, national, and international sociopolitical contexts. The borders that frustrate and form us are alternately rigid and porous, tangible and unspoken; it can take generations to understand the ways in which cultures are fractured by (and reassemble around) them. For this issue, we turn to individuals, collectives, and organizations situated at various points along the Pacific Rim (a construct that's both an actual geographic area and a human conceit), so as to explore the inherent and metaphorical instability of places that rest on fault lines and partitions. Some instances are co-commissions; one small way of reaching across these often arbitrary boundaries.
From San Francisco’s foggy lowlands to the hot and dry outer reaches of inland counties, the Bay Area contains a dramatic array of microclimates, a fitting analogy for the multitudes of cultures and populations that make their home in the United States, which is likewise an amalgam of overlaps and collisions. We’re faced with a never-ending influx of information from a world too big to take in, yet seemingly ever-encroaching. The ecological tumult to which nature is subjected — and which itself becomes nature — mirrors our own fragility and perseverance, our capacities to adapt and resist. Our environments are immediate; so are the ways we relate to them, to ourselves, to what’s in reach.
Oakland could once be divided into the moneyed hills and the disinvested flatlands. Now wealth and poverty intermingle, drawing nearer in proximity as the chasm between them widens. All space is contested; songs and murals parse race and class as they cling to blocks and walls, vying for visibility. The tension erupts in the streets, and it simmers at the intersection of culture, city policy, and real estate. How many realities fit within city limits? Every corner is a test.
Digital platforms remake our connection to the everyday, and have assumed an outsize role in aesthetic and political mediation. With these new players come new critiques. Yet platforms seem to be more than just new institutions; something else is there. How do we respond?
That’s a line from Jack Spicer’s “Ten Poems for Downbeat,” written in 1965, just before the Los Angeles-born poet died, age forty, in San Francisco. Was it true then, is it true now? What are some ways to make sense of this place (which isn’t one place), in this time (when it seems like there’s so little time)? Speculative, subversive, meditative: here are a few attempts.
In astronomy, a standard candle is an object with a known brightness used to gauge the brightness of another, more distant object. As consumer technology becomes ever more compact and ubiquitous, we mediate ourselves and others in increasingly complex and combustible ways. How then to represent the interplay of self, machine, audience? Or the distance between relations, between frames, between present and past? What does it mean for future explorations when the nearest brightness is right at hand?
This issue takes on Wilmer Wilson's essay “Five Points on Straight Lines” as a point of departure. We are bound by lines; identities framed by sharp parameters of language, politics, nationhood, history. Arbitrary, often, in their composition despite their concrete consequences. Do these lines betray us? What lies on the other side of the rapture of that which is linear? Perhaps it is the fracture, the linebreak itself, that must inform our processes of cartography. Can we punctuate, unravel even, lineage(s) and all ...the seemingly objective forms delineated on a map?
These microhistories — all in and of the Bay, give or take — enumerate the local and the particular. They plumb the archive for the body and the body for the archive, unearthing tensions between the collected and recollected, included and excluded, participant and fugitive. They seek to celebrate, to complicate, to reconfigure. The narrator is unreliable, the spectator is emancipated, and the facts only side-eye the truth.
These words come from Barbara Einzig’s Distance Without Distance, a book that evades definition and genre as it pursues another way of being. The possibility of not doing, or doing the wrong thing — being still, resisting the oppressive solemnity of the canon. Letting go of what wants to be kept. The politics of losing, and of getting lost.
How have art institutions aimed to rectify — or at least to make visible — their historical exclusions? What new arrangements have been made, and with what results? In advance of SFMOMA’s imminent reopening after a three-year period of expansion, the collaborative project grupa o.k. (Julian Myers and Joanna Szupinska) surveys progressive or radical “turns” in existing museums.
Objects, ideas, publics, individuals, corporations. How does art complicate or reflect our sense of what it is to own, collect, or hold in common? Taking as our point of departure SFMOMA’s landmark partnership with the Fisher family, the inaugural issue of the new Open Space looks at questions of art and ownership, loosely described.