Tenderloin Proxy: Temporary Placeholders in Empty Lots

Due to the economic downturn there are a lot of empty lots and parcels scattered throughout the city where construction has been put on hold. Recognizing that these abandoned places are unsafe dead zones within the arteries of a thriving city, active city residents, local artists and architects contend that in the meantime, these sites can be occupied by alternative, temporary installations: such as pop-up retail spaces, restaurants, art pieces, gardens or community meeting places.

For the empty lots along the Octavia Boulevard architectural firm Envelope A&D have proposed some inspiring, vibrant alternatives to the currently dead zones.

With all the empty lots and abandoned storefronts prevalent throughout the Tenderloin, it would be wonderful to get a similar initiative started there. In the past, the local group, the Luggage Store, has made an excellent attempt to do just that with their project Tenderloin National Forest.


The Tenderloin National Forest is an amazing initiative to re-appropriate a neglected parcel of land in the Tenderloin community, which would otherwise, being left in its abandoned state would only increase drug traffic, crime and other illicit activities in the area.  The transformation and beautification of the alley into a park creates a positive meeting place for people to gather.

We would love to see more of this kind of projects in the Tenderloin. Here is a description of the Envelope A&D proposal for Hayes Valley as inspiration for some of the ideas that have been floating around:


“Envisioned with a lifespan of two to three years, proxy is an investigation into the potentials of impermanence. At the same time, the project seeks to re-establish the urban fabric through a combination of frame, fabric, mesh, wall and volume. As a temporary architecture, proxy makes visible many normally concealed aspects of architecture: power distribution, garbage and recycling collection, composting, water storage, and the objectification of individual spaces of habitation. Qualities of transparency, veiling and illuminance not easily achieved with more solid building materials are inherent to more lightweight and temporary structures.

The retail and food component of the project will be comprised of local San Francisco businesses and vendors primarily through small and portable “pop-up” style retail pods. These small scale, 180 square foot, spaces can be individually inhabited or can be combined together into a cluster of pods occupied by a single occupant. Over the lifespan of proxy, it is envisioned that these very small retail spaces will be inhabited by several different businesses or community groups. Sites for food carts and parking for food trucks will be provided to provide a diversity of food choices, all from local Slow Food vendors.


A partially covered interior courtyard exterior movie theater creates an enclosed volume of space within the site that can be used for covered exterior eating and gathering areas. This space links with an open eating courtyard served by food vendors. A glazed art-box will house rotating art installations curated by premier local curators, gallery owners and collectors. The art-box faces inward to the interior courtyard while it has the capacity to project video art pieces onto adjacent surfaces of the proxy construct.

proxy is conceived of with an ethic of sustainability and reuse. The southern face of the L site will sponsor a demonstration photovoltaic array for on-site power generation. A water collection will be used for irrigation of on-site plantings and the existing asphalt surface will be partially removed to allow for pervious paving in common areas. Retail pods and frames will be re-used or recycled after this inhabitation. Most other components will be rented or recycled after proxy is dismantled.”


Camille Utterback, 2009 MacArthur Fellow

Camille Utterback, one of the artists that will be showcased in GAFFTA’s inaugural show “OPEN”, was recently announced a recipient of the MacArthur Genius Grant.

Camille Utterback’s distinctive work showcases the rich potential of technology to create immersive environments; her installations combine interactivity with a visual experience that transforms the surrounding space. Most often her work showcases the audience’s interaction, as layers of information react to people’s movements and engages them in the creation of the imagery of her pieces.

Her work has been exhibited at galleries, festivals, and museums internationally including The New Museum of Contemporary Art, The American Museum of the Moving Image, New York; The NTT InterCommunication Center, Tokyo; The Seoul Metropolitan Museum of Art; The Netherlands Institute for Media Art; The Taipei Museum of Contemporary Art; The Center for Contemporary Art, Kiev, Ukraine; and the Ars Electronica Center, Austria. Utterback’s work is in private and public collections including The La Caixa Foundation in Barcelona, Spain.

Camille Utterback’s interactive video piece “Liquid Time” will be showcased at GAFFTA on October 1st. It will be the first featured work in the Tendorama Window Gallery Project, a series of rotating bi-monthly installations in the gallery’s prominent 15’ x 8’ front display windows facing Taylor Street. Utterback’s exploration is a series of pieces filmed in the surrounding neighborhood and projected back in the gallery window where the imagery of time, as well as space, is disrupted by the motions of passer-bys. This vibrant, site-specific window installation will feature video filmed in locations throughout the Tenderloin and will be viewable 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by residents and visitors of the Tenderloin.

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ShiftSpace to talk on Software Freedom Day (11/19)

ShiftSpace will be giving a talk at Software Freedom Day in NYC. Sep 19th 6-10pm @148 Lafayette St, 12th Floor.

“In New York City, Software Freedom Day will mark the launch of a series of quarterly Open Source / Open Culture events designed to engage free software hackers, creative commons artists, open government activists, and open science innovators.”

The non-profit company Software Freedom International coordinates SFD at a global level, providing support, giveaways and a point of collaboration, but volunteer teams around the world organize the local SFD events to impact their own communities.

To find out more information check out Software Freedom International.

GAFFTA video

Gray Area Foundation for the Arts to open in SF Oct 1st!


Gray Area Foundation for the Arts [GAFFTA] is a new non-profit media art organization set to open a 4,000 ft digital art and technology center in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District on October 1st, 2009. GAFFTA’s successful transformation of an abandoned adult theater into a state-of-the-art gallery space, studio facility and multimedia community center marks a milestone in the revitalization of the Tenderloin neighborhood into a vibrant art district, while also providing a much needed production and exhibition center for the Bay Area digital and progressive arts communities.

The Gallery’s inaugural public exhibition “OPEN” presents pioneering work in new media arts, design and technology. “OPEN” features the work of artists C.E.B Reas, Camille Utterback and Stamen Design. The multidisciplinary pieces highlighted in the groundbreaking exhibit range from prints and sculptures to interactive video, generative processes and cartography. Each work uniquely reflects GAFFTA’s core values of utilizing innovative technologies to promote collaboration, public interaction, resource-sharing and openness.

In tandem with our Grand Opening, artist C.E.B Reas will be here to introduce our first public workshop, which will be a two day immersion in creative coding using the Processing environment. This is a unique opportunity to learn the Processing environment with its co-creator on hand to give insight. Processing is a free open-source platform that has been instrumental in building a new creative community of coders and designers by providing a professional production tool facilitating the creation of dynamic projects. Capacity is extremely limited, offered on a first come, first serve basis. To register for this unique workshop please visit http://www.gaffta.org/2009/08/20/creative-coding-1/ or e-mail gdunne@gaffta.org

For more information on GAFFTA and to see our full schedule of opening events please visit: http://www.gaffta.org/2009/08/23/inaugural-exhibition-open/

GAFFTA is a non-profit organization who’s mission grows in momentum and thrives through community support. To learn more about how you can support the organization please visit http://gaffta.org/support. For general inquires please e-mail info@gaffta.org



Pianocktail interview at the ITP Winter Show for Vice TV.

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“bea and marla take an upper”

My friend Leslie and I just finished shooting a short film on super 8!!! We will be editing it and posting it online soon. Meanwhile we are excited to share with you some stills from the film!

In the short we play parodies of ourselves as two down-and-out girls, Bea Mabley and Marla Greco, once wealthy, now jobless and struggling to survive the recession. In our quest to make some money we sign up for a clinical test trial of a new, dubiously miraculous “happy pill”… madness and hilarity ensue. Our working title is “Bea and Marla Take an Upper…”