BARGE’s “Groundbreaking” – reflections

(more photos here)


The terms of analysis determine the terms of intervention. — Ultra-Red

What makes something ‘public art’? Can language use alone adequately alter the frames through which we look at a site, or the ‘art’ there? Is there a way to see the urban environment that’s not mediated by money? What counts as an ‘intervention’? Can conceptualism alone achieve anything ‘real’ in a landscape such as this one? If I’m just watching some people ‘work’ how can I tell if it’s art? Are they doing art or making it, or neither? If the goal is to liberate private space for the commons, shouldn’t they also be taking over the cafe next door and giving away all the food? Are a couple of seemingly self-critical questions an adequate way to engage the various problems that such a project produce? Who is this action or art for? If not towards an artwork or product, then towards what?

On Dec 5, as part of Southern Exposure’s “Passive/Aggressive: Public Art & Intervention Day”, BARGE performed “Groundbreaking,” a one-day ‘action’ on a privately-owned vacant lot near SoEx, in San Francisco’s Mission District. The site had previously been ‘tagged’ by BARGE a “Matta-Clark Park”, wherein off-limits private and public spaces become re-framed as (conceptual) parks, in order to highlight how spaces gets cordoned and fenced off from the public, and to suggest other possible uses for such sites. (They’re named after Gordon Matta-Clark’s “Fake Estates” project, where GMC bought up un-used property slices in the NY area, reframing such ‘odd lots’ as found public art.)

My thanks to Jessica Tully, Dillon Westbrook, Ariel Goldberg, Lara Durback, Cassie Smith, Courtney Fink & Maysoun Wazwaz at SoEx, and the other participants who pitched in labor and ideas and feedback and post-performance reflections. And my apologies for the length of the rest of this… (click here for full report)

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