Day 1: ​Arriving (late), Selecting a Concept, and Forming the SuperDuo!

A project log for Cultural Integrity (at the Dethrone Hackathon)

Merging art, crafts, and technology with Art Hack Day

criptastichackerCriptasticHacker 03/01/2024 at 11:090 Comments

Everyone respected my hacker alias and called me 'crip' when I arrived...even got a nametag: "Crip Lishus" - hellyeah!  (Given names are so boring and prescribed.  It's nice to reinvent ourselves and our identity to match what we like and how we are.)  It's meant to be one word, but it said first and last name so...

I had some stuff come up (back pain) that made me a little late to the first day of the event.  The invite said "6pm sharp" but man oh man, nobody is "sharp" for anything in SF!  However, I found out later I missed some pretty important details (woops).  I had assumed that groups would be evenly divided among participants, with all of us spaced out at different tables.  So I'd say 5-6 people a project was what it looked like.  

This gave me some concerns, as I wasn't sure how many people would want to do a political message.  From some of our chats at the table, it seemed folks were more interested in an experimental kind of message.  Stuff that was more casual in its approach to the title "Dethroned" and less literal in a socio-political sense. 

There were also ideas going around for homages to the kings and queens of silicon valley culture - the Overlords of Big Tech, as it were.  I thought it was a strange idea, honoring say, Mark Zuckerberg with a statue covered in toilet paper.  But, as I would learn later, the artist brain works in some cool and mysterious ways - and I actually loved what people came up with at the show.

Fortunately, one person on a similar vibe spoke up in their introduction.  When asked the prompt, "What does 'Dethrone' mean to you?" she answered,

'...Smashing the Patriarchy!'  

Immediately, I knew who I wanted my teammate to be :P

(Julia (pronounced "You-lee-uh"), striking a pose as we spray paint our throne outside Gray Area)

That first intro and discussion winded around different concepts, and someone brought up the idea of doing art in the community.  I loved that.  It felt strange being in this seperate space, apart from the vibrant world of the Mission right outside.  The Mission is world-famous for its art: Murals fill the streets here, music pours from our of cafes and cars, and it seems everyone has something to say and a unique life experience to share.  I wanted to be a part of that, and to share whatever we would create. 

The vibe wasn't ideal at first though, as the doors at the front were kept closed for security (I heard there was a stalking scare earlier), and every time I went outside to unmask and drink a soda or something, a little dog was yapping at me like crazy.  This poor fuzzy guy was just terrified of my wheelchair and no amount of pets and calming speak would change his mind.

One concept floating around was making a bench.  Something to highlight modern architecture and the uncomfortableness of seats in public space.  My original suggestion was a super fancy bench with plants, calming music, and a blue / purple color motif to create a pleasant kind of mini vacation outside  An example of what could be possible in a caring, better world. 

Julia (my soon-to-be-teammate) was into something actually uncomfortable though, admitting she was drawn to the more critical lense of politics.  Then she mentioned an artist (maybe thinking of James Hughes?) that had made deliberately uncomfortable furniture as a sort of protest against hostile architecture:

Voila!  Put 2:2 together and the concept for 'Cultural Integrity' was born :) 

However, no one had commited to it yet.  New ideas were popping up and I was the only person pushing for the outdoor "field trip" art idea.  The Mission was my comfort zone, although (understandably) most everyone else wanted to stay inside the nice space where the food, drinks, and security was.

After a while of discussion roundabout, I realized it was getting close to 9pm, when I had plans to drop off some fresh I had made juice for a friend in the area.  I told the group, "I really want to do something outside in the community.  Not sure if I could participate otherwise" - it was bit ultimatum-y I admit, but my heart was set on that and decisions weren't being made.  So I left it at that and went to do the late night juice dropoff (I'm obsessed with my new Breville juicer).  To be honest, I wasn't feeling super committed at this point, as much as I love the Gray Area space.  I was feeling tired, and a little out of my comfort zone in this first Hackathon.  If it's meant to be, it will happen - yeah?

I wearily drove back around 10pm, wondering if people were still going to be around.  If a concept isn't decided, will the show go on?  How many people will drop out the first night?  Are they night owls like me?

I had also been looking for my friend Alex Glow among the attendees - the only person I knew as a selected participant.  Not seeing them gave me some further commitment doubts, as I would be doing this entire project with strangers, even further out of my comfort zone.

But y'know what they say - a stranger is just a friend you haven't met yet :)

Coming back inside I saw discussions were still happening.  Our larger group had split into others and I found Julia among a small crowd.  She looked a bit confounded.

"You wanna just do the bench idea?" she asked.

"Sure!  But do we have enough people?"  I replied.

and that's when she told me...There was no group size requirement. Gah!  I could even do a solo project if I wanted to :o  Kids, don't be late to the first day of class.

Julia and I set up at a table in the back.  She broke out her laptop and I got a pen and paper (and showed her a 3D printed keychain, as proof of some competence :P).  The secret sauce to our duo is our complimentary talents: she's a whiz at utilitizing digital organizing methods, video editing, communications, coding (among many other things).  and I had shop supplies and soldering iron ready.  I drew pictures and jotted notes while she began forming a "to-do" list.

                                        (the original draft project idea with Julia)

We decided on a bus stop installation - to highlight existing architecture and also save time on the build.  I was stoaked for this because I love buses here and there were a bunch of bus shelter stops nearby.  We found an image of a local bus stop to reference:

2 items were in red, which meant that they were for me to do soon, in my night owl manufacturing capacities before tomorrow.  Julia, as it turns out, is a "morning person" [insert scream] and would be at the space in the, well, morning :P   One of our quickly discovered team super powers is our complimentary solo work times.  Throughout the event we'd strategize and build between our schedules and then seamlessly link up in the afternoon and evening for co-op mode!

Our brains seemed to sync up immediately with ideas.  Another participant, Amy, joined us for a bit too, and kindly offered to assist in other parts of the project.  I was begining to see a very cool and unexpected community vibe here - this wasn't going to be a cut-throat competition of artists in isolated projects.  This was something much cooler! 

We parted ways at midnight - Julia to a good nights sleep and me, to some afterhours manufacturing.  It was off to the races!

[To be continued...]