Day 2 (part 2) Rap Music & "Shopping"

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

Merging art, crafts, and technology with Art Hack Day

criptastichackerCriptasticHacker 03/04/2024 at 08:360 Comments

Julia and I rushed over to TAP plastics, hoping to get our acrylic sheet before closing. On the car ride over, I opened my CD case and asked Julia,

"is there any music thatyou'd like to hear?"

"You just have old people music, right?'" she said. She wasn't wrong -__-  Gotta appreciate that New York blunt-ness.

I put on some Run DMC, Tougher Than Leather (1988):

[ "Well my name is DMC, the all-time great (great)
I bust the most rhymes in New York state (state)!" ]

We were driving around Van Ness at this point, windows down, amp cranked, on a surprisingly sunny day.

"This is so California!" Julia said.

'Waddya mean?  We're listening to RUN-DMC!'

"I mean, driving around with the windows down, playing music..."

Her completely innocent comments prompted a mini-lecture about the importance of east and west coast rap differences.  As well as some 2pac songs later :)

We arrived at TAP in time.  Julia hopped out while I waited in the car, saving time by not unloading my wheelchair. She came back with a thin, 1/8" piece of gray acrylic. Certainly good enough!  It was $60, so I handed her $30 in cash ("you use cash?" says Julia).  We drove down to Gray Area and I scored a perfect parking spot in front of the US Bank on 23rd and Mission.

When we arrived back to Gray Area, the place was buzzing with makers.  It was really cool to be around that energy, so much motion and creativity in the air:

It was one project in particular though, that I have to credit with getting me truly excited and pumped for this event: Caroline Herman's creative altar to Elizabeth Holmes:

Caroline finished her project far ahead of everyone else. It served as a fountain of inspiration to me. This satirical take on the disgraced Silicon Valley entrepreneur-would-be scammer was complete with love notes, poetry, a guest book, and even printouts of court transcripts- brilliant and hilarious!

Julia and I sat down at the laptop to knock out our first deadline: the description.  I thought it was such a strange way to approach art - naming it before the project was just getting off the ground. Fortunately, we had a solid concept and were working well together.

Julia and I had this really cool "brain sync" moment where words and ideas just flowed together seamlessly for the description.  I've spent hours debating with musicians over a single lyric in a song before.  Yet here we were, trading off words, sentences, and grammatical bits with ease. Somehow, even with both our perfectionist artistic tendencies, we operated on such complementary wavelengths.  That we could be mostly strangers, but flow so well under stressful circumstances, was really friggin' cool!

We came up with the text:  

"Structural Integrity

Who is our city built for? Our art installation, Structural Integrity, points attention to the challenges forced our community by exaggerating the duality of public accommodations. One seat is inviting and comfortable, while it's antithetical made features painful spikes and other repelling technologies currently employed against the unhoused population. The emotional and tactile impact of Structural Integrity seeks to foster fresh discussions by exposing the juxtaposition of pain and pleasure in public space."

Julia got some duct tape to strap the three pillows together that we found in the space (thanks to Andre).  While she was doing this, I was peeling through my copies of the San Francisco Street Sheet- a wonderful local newspaper dedicated to homeless stories and social issues, which has been in print since 1989.  I also had some copies of the San Mateo Daily Journal, which proved very useful for taking jabs at Wall Street :P

Just then, we were approached by a photographer named Vincent.

"Can I photograph you two?" he asked.

'Sure' Julia said.

He began snapping shots of us assembling our project.

"Actually, we could use a photographer for our installation tomorrow..."   

Vincent agreed.  What I didn't know was that this humble guy was actually a top rate professional photographer with killer gear

(the photo Vincent took of us assmebling Cultural Integrity)

Julia assembled the fabric and began sewing the cover for the pillows.  I offered to help with some of it, feeling slightly embarrassed by the stereotypical division of labor here.  But we would collaborate on enough parts of the project that it didn't get at me for too long.

I actually had a lot of fun clipping out newspaper headlines. There was something so liberating about it, kind of like "Ad-busting."  Taking narratives that were tightly controlled and reformatting them to match the daily realities that we live through. Some examples were:

Americans embrace / the cycle of trauma.

Wall Street gets a / $69B acquisition

SMOG (from a car ad)

Human Rights / it's simple.

Don't Evict / Humanity.

Survival Skills

Disaster Preparedness Month

Make Extra Income / Artist Dies. (Julia came up with this one) 

(the newspaper clippings being assembled)

After getting a nice amount of mock-headlines together, I decided to go outside and salvage some extra cardboard for the gold spray-painted throne.  In the Mission, there are marketplaces that always leave cardboard boxes neatly folded up for recycling at the end of the day. I brought the gold spray paint can with me, scored some additional cardboard, and set up a spot near the intersection, just a few feet away from Gray Area.

The rebel in me always enjoys a little aerosol.  I got a little adrenaline rush spraying cardboard in public, in this [gasp!] unpermitted way.  Unfortunately, the cardboard wasn't taking very well to the gold paint. It looked kind of washed out.  As my attempts waned, I noticed there was a man behind me pushing a cart lined with a trash bag.

"What are you making?" he asked.

'It's an art project.  We're highlighting the way public space is being made deliberately uncomfortable for the homeless.'

"Good, remember the poor," the man said, before pushing his cart down the block.

I went to a corner store to grab a soda while the paint was drying.  (The event provided catered food trays and Canada Dry as the only non-alcoholic drink.  I need my 'murican Soda!)  The shop worker gave me a discount on the drink, just to be nice.  And on my way back, I ran into a happy couple that was handing out free pizza to people.  I took a couple slices - the last ingredient needed for hacking!  The Mission is so cool that way.

I brought the failed paint job inside and showed it to Julia.

"How's the sewing coming along? I'm not sure this is working out too well..."  

"Great!" she said, and then showed me the perfectly plushed throne seat.  I was feeling like I wasn't pulling my weight as a teammate just yet..

"This isn't turning out so well," I said, pointing to the painted cardboard.  "It's hard to tell if the cardboard is gold, or just more brown.'.

Looking for ideas, I wandered over to one of the artist installations, currently being put together by a UC Berkeley graduate named Jess.

"Where did you get that awesome white board?" I asked

'Oh, it's from Michael's Art Supply.' she said.

"Oh yeah, the one in Daly City?" 'Yeah!"

I chatted a bit with her team member Koi, a friend of Jess's and a fellow artist.  She's into biotech and some really cool fashion design.

Rolling over back to Julia, I proposed the idea of (yet another) materials run to get supplies.  She had finished the sewing, and with little debate, we embarked on another mini drive!

We played some more "old people" rap music on Digital Compact Disc (this time it was The Best of 2Pac) and arrived at Michael's Art Supply just 10 minutes before closing.  Julia was a little stressed, and likes very much to be early for important things.

"I'm Swiss!" she said.

I could tell her anxieties abated as soon as we went through the sliding doors.

We purchased 2 pieces of foam board (I wanted an extra for insurance) and some sparkled gold cardstock.  I was also eyeing a beautiful doormat with plants on it, but Julia talked me (erm, told me!) out of it.  One of our ongoing gags was my desire to have plants on the throne side of the exhibit, a holdover from my earlier, more nature-themed concept.

{the sparkled gold cardstock we picked up!  I think it was only $1.99)

"I think this is my favorite part of Hackathons," I said.

"What, shopping?" Julia replied.

"No it's not shopping, it's material runs" I retorted :)

We loaded up the car, and decided to make another stop at my place for LED programming stuff, before heading back to Gray Area.

[To be continued...]