On Wednesday, September 19, artists Lynn Marie Kirby and Alexis Petty will launch the culmination of the 24th Street Listening Project, a multifaceted endeavor with roots reaching back to 2009. The opening event will include an artist-led walk through the neighborhood and live performances at the Brava Theater, all focused on the colors, language, architecture, and inhabitants of a specific five blocks. The project is dense, complicated, and potentially impossible to see in its entirety, just like the neighborhood it works to document and describe.
Each of the many elements of the 24th Street Listening Project began with Kirby and Petty roaming the streets. Components then developed organically into complex narrative structures of different material form. Going door to door, the pair conducted “listening events,” taking notes by hand as then-strangers discussed new front steps, soccer games in Garfield Park, and physical changes on their streets. These stories appear as blocks of unpunctuated texts in the book companion to the project, also available at the opening event.
Alexis Petty and Lynn KirbyThese interactions led the duo down many disparate paths, into meetings with Friends of the Urban Forest, the San Francisco Department of Public Works, librarians, and local musicians. Meetings spawned additional collaborations, so many that the various aspects of 24th Street Listening Project cannot be distilled into a set list of discrete objects or events. The walk, titled Laguna Yellow after a particularly prevalent paint color, perhaps best embodies their research’s rich yield.
The walk is sponsored in part by Elastic City, a New York-based organization run by one of Kirby’s former students, Todd Shalom. Beginning at the Brava Theater, participants will visit Punjab, a Chinese restaurant with an Indian name, to gather fortune cookies from Judy, a friend made during the many meals Kirby and Petty ate here. The fortunes, read privately, will be used to create a framework through which to experience the rest of the walk.
Next stop: the Benjamin Moore paint store. During their time in the neighborhood, Kirby and Petty began matching building exteriors to Pantone colors and, in turn, Benjamin Moore paints. The 24th Street franchise features paint chips with names in both English and Spanish. “Bird’s egg,” a muted yellow, is also “huevo de pájaro.” “Caliente,” a deep red, remains “caliente.” Walk participants will choose three paint chips from the store, based on directions from the artists. As the walk progresses, participants will be asked to pay attention to the colors on the surfaces around them and any resulting connections to their own homes.
Kirby and Petty are especially sensitive to the projection of personal interests and observations onto another space. The “pigment poems,” sound exercises, and other group activities that combine to shape Laguna Yellow seek heighten this awareness in participants as well. Stopping outside the AA meeting house and under a sequoia at Garfield Square, the walk will circle back to the Brava Theater for the presentation of a live reading, a new video piece, musical performances, and a potted plant giveaway.
Funded by a San Francisco Arts Commission grant, the 24th Street Listening Project was originally proposed as a book documenting Kirby’s past listening projects. Unsatisfied with the static rehashing of past events, however, Kirby decided to create something new, a “live book” of mutable parts. As much about the present shape of the neighborhood as it is about memories of the neighborhood, the 24th Street Listening Project resists tidy summation. Instead, it encourages viewers, walk participants, and readers to acknowledge small moments of color and sound, welcome new interactions and follow the resulting threads wherever they may lead.
The Laguna Yellow walks will take place Wednesday, September 19, 2012 at 5pm and Saturday, September 22 at 2pm and 5pm. For tickets and more information visit elastic-city.org. For more information on the 24th Street Listening Project, visit 24thstreetlisteningproject.com.