Curatorial Projects > Let's Talk of a System (2010)

Let's Talk of a System

May 19 - July 3, 2010
Intersection for the Arts
San Francisco, CA

A group exhibition featuring work by April Banks, Sergio de la Torre, Suzanne Husky, Laura Parker, Favianna Rodriguez, James Reed, and Banker White.

Taking its inspiration and title from a quote by renowned theorist and artist Joseph Beuys - “Let's talk of a system that transforms all the social organisms into a work of art, in which the entire process of work is included…something in which the principle of production and consumption takes on a form of quality. It's a Gigantic project.” - this exhibition positions artists and the act of cultural production at the forefront of the burgeoning field of social entrepreneurialism, a field that utilizes entrepreneurial principles to organize, create, and manage projects that can effect social change. In this exhibition, issues of climate change, sustainable agriculture, transnational industry, fair trade, social justice, and youth empowerment form a broad foundation from which art can be seen as playing a crucial role in identifying and illustrating social issues, as well as providing creative, concrete solutions.

In its 45th anniversary year, Intersection for the Arts opens a new gallery space as part of a radical cross-sector collaboration in partnership with The Hub Bay Area (a co-working space, event series and business support tool for a global and local community of changemakers and social entrepreneurs) and TechShop (a membership-based do-it-yourself workshop that provides access to tools, equipment and instruction for creative communities). This unique collaboration continues Intersection's commitment to the powerful role arts and culture play in tackling the world's most pressing social, cultural, and environmental challenges.

Let’s Talk of a System opens the conversation of how to create meaningful social change in today’s world. Some of the work in the exhibition exposes economic, industrial and global systems that generate inequality, injustice, and unbalance; other work in the exhibition provides both generative ideas and concrete actions to manifest change. April Banks’ sculptural installation of hundreds of pounds of rice talks about the global economic and social systems that spawned food riots throughout dozens of countries in 2008. Sergio De La Torre & Vincky Funari’s award-winning media project Maquilapolis brings together factory workers in Tijuana, Mexico and community organizations in Mexico and the U.S. to collaborate on a project that depicts globalization through the eyes of the women who worked in the multinationally-owned factories that came to Mexico for cheap labor. The factory workers who appear in the project were involved in every stage of production, from planning to shooting, from scripting to outreach. These women reach beyond their daily struggle for survival to organize for change: confronting labor violations, environmental devastation, and urban chaos. Suzanne Husky takes a playful approach to climate change. Husky’s project was initially inspired during a recent artist residency in the Pyrenees Mountains, where she worked with scientists specializing in global warming in that part of Europe. She learned of the impact of rising temperatures on the trees in the Pyrenees, which would cause the leaves to fall later than normal, creating an unintended contribution to global warming, as the leaves would retain the heat in the forest longer than normal. Husky worked with a local choir to sing winter songs to the forest, to induce the trees into feeling that it was a colder temperature, allowing them to drop their leaves. In a series of new videos, Husky collaborates with a number of local musicians in performing original compositions in Bay Area forests and parks. The songs are written for the animals and insects, warning them of the impact of global warming and suggesting migration to mitigate the impact of rising temperatures. Laura Parker’s ongoing interactive sculptural installation Taste of Place focuses on the awareness of a particular place and the emotional connections one makes with it. Working over the years with dozens of independent Northern California small farmers to collect samples of soil where food is grown, Parker uses these soil samples to hold tasting events, where participants do not actually eat the soil, but rather develop the language and sensitivity to distinguish the scent and aromas of soil from different farms. Parker also provides samples of fresh produce grown from these soils, allowing participants to discover properties similar to both the food and earth. She illustrates the connection between the health of the land to the food grown in it, shares the amazing diversity of our regional farmlands, and provides a convincing context for supporting local, small farming. James Reed opens the discussion on climate change to involve participants from all walks of life. He received his Masters degree in Social Sculpture from Oxford Brookes University in the U.K., a multi-disciplinary field that views society as a whole as a work of art, to which each individual can contribute creatively in order to transform society or the environment. Using the gallery as gathering space and laboratory, Reed’s project, Agents of Change, provides a framework for people to experience both personal and collective senses of their ability to effect change through collaboration and dialogue processes. Participants work with pre-fabricated kits to stand along the waterfront in public space. The kits are comprised of life jackets, three-meter high measuring sticks (which indicates the potential level of how high the ocean will rise by 2107), and a small journal, and participants engage in dialogue with both the general public and with themselves about issues of climate change. Favianna Rodriguez has received awards and recognition for her vibrant, graphic posters that bring to life broad social issues such as immigrant rights, independent farming, American military actions, affordable housing, and education. Oftentimes working collaboratively with service and advocacy organizations to produce the overall design and content of these posters, Rodriguez’s work provides a degree of visibility to the movement that is invaluable. Banker White’s collaborative media project, called WeOwnTV, uses a community engaged curriculum to teach storytelling and video production techniques to young adults in Sierra Leone, Africa, many of whom were impacted by the decade long civil war in which 50,000 were killed and hundreds of thousands were forced to flee as refugees. White’s project provides the technical support, encouragement, and training that allows these young adults to creatively produce their own media and share their experiences and ideas with the world. The videos span the range of the participants’ telling their life stories to the creation of short fiction pieces that provide a glimpse into modern-day life in West Africa.

- Kevin B. Chen