Surveillance

“I didn’t feel anything when my husband shot me,” a woman is explaining to her companion as the accordion in the center of the bus plays silently. “It was like a, like a hot rod, you know? There was a pop and then it burned but I didn’t notice it right away. So what are you going to do today? Lay around on the bed all day? Do you want a hot chocolate? A croissant?” He sits there smiling shyly and then they kiss and she gets off at her stop. He’s still smiling as the bus turns the corner.

A few days ago, grousing about MUNI wait times, I didn’t mention that for all the subtle torments there are moments where you feel like you’ve climbed aboard some kind of rolling observation post. From here you’re privy to stories of people who reveal themselves without restraint. I open a book but it’s no use. Other words knead themselves in between Bruce Chatwin’s paragraphs. It’s a San Francisco bus that’s shuddering its way through Patagonia.

“I look up and, I’m on 16th right near the SPCA… I’m volunteering there. I don’t know, like 16th and Alabama. And I hear this boom! Right above me man, if I looked straight up, that’s where it was. A transformer blew and I was just booking and I went right into traffic and I look back and this cable is like a snake and it’s sparking everywhere. That was right where my head was. It was on the 20th so I keep telling everyone: that’s the day everyone got baked and I almost got fried.” This guy’s on the bus all the time. He laughs his head off over his joke and I try to calculate how many times he’s told it. He’s always on his cell phone, morning and afternoon, so I’m betting a lot of people got to hear it.

After leaving Toomey Tourell I was lured over to Polk St. by the temptation of a gallery I had never been to before. It took a while after disembarking from the 49 to get my bearings and retracing my steps I find a crowd of people leaving a nearby mosque, and the resplendent white of their matching apparel leaves me gaping in appreciation. I’ve got my camera with me and I’d love to take a picture, but I still can’t get over the apprehension that it seems a rude gesture. I’d imagine professional photographers build up a callous over their reservations. You have to be rude. There’s no other way to go about it.

I finally find Gallery Nineteen Eighty-Eight. If I could have fixed that number in my head rather than jumbling the digits the search would have gone much more smoothly. The show, The Watcher in the Woods, paired two complementary artists together (the exhibit closed on the 25th), Dan McCarthy and Daniel Danger. Strangely my friend Heidi and I compared notes and whereas she was drawn to McCarthy’s work (you can read her review over at Engineer’s Daughter), I gravitated toward the watchful spectres and deserted locales of Danger’s silkscreens.

Each are given long titles of sentences or sentence fragments in lower case, commentary of a speaker who may or may not appear within the work but have certainly fixed the scene firmly in their mind.
surveil1
Often the cityscapes, steeped in deep shadows are not just haunting but haunted. Hovering above the roofs of i’d sink to your streets if i wasn’t buried in your hands is the slim body of a dark presence, apparently halted in descent like a child dipping their foot dubiously in the edge of a pool. A towering giant walks astride billboards and chain link fences in two other pieces, bits of dangling streamers hanging from its body. In you push and pull like wolves at the door but all i hear is humming it is observed by a girl in the street below.
surveil2
Folklore and fantasy are replete with the tales of creatures from another world, just beyond our ken who, when not exasperating us with their pranks, are watching just around the corner or from behind the hedge. In Danger’s silkscreens, they still linger, but rather than seeming to have staked out hiding places in the urban sprawl, appear uneasy and uncomfortable, crowded out.
surveil3
In lock and key or latch key, a house you tricked empty four girls (or something else in their guise) lounge about an empty warehouse. If they are indeed supernatural in origin rather than bored teenage explorers, perhaps they’ve found haunting or predation squelched by urban blight. And maybe at last all these visitors from beyond the fields we know have simply lost interest in what they can observe and overhear of the world we’ve built for ourselves. The giant of you push and pull has a doubtful air about him, as if trying to decide for once and all whether to simply turn his back for good. The girl seems to hope otherwise.

View more images from the show here.

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2 Responses to “Surveillance”


  1. 1 Jen Warner May 11, 2009 at 7:06 am

    God I love these. Thank you, thank you, thank you.


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