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Digital Archive of San Francisco History at Foundsf.org

Recent Free Public Talks
Video Archive
Spring 2018 (January-June)

A place to meet and talk unmediated by corporations, official spokespeople, religion, political parties, or dogma.

All events are free.
At 518 Valencia Street, near 16th, in San Francisco (close to 16th Street BART)

podcast subscription To subscribe to our Talks as a podcast, paste the link into your favorite podcast software (iTunes, Podcast Addict, etc.)

May 23

Archives and Memory: New Ways of Making History

How do we “hold” (record/store) history now compared to the past? How do we “tell” history now, and has the relationship between archival sources and narrative arcs/presentation changed with digitalization? What do we learn from narration-free archival materials (a la Prelinger home movies, foundsf photo pages, etc.)? And popular attitudes towards history: who cares about footnotes? How are archivists beginning to shape new ways of making history public? Film archivist and librarian Rick Prelinger, and city archivist/librarian Susan Goldstein, scholar Howard Besser.

Photo: Smithsonian

May 9

Platform Cooperatives

More of our lives are being tightly integrated through the commercial social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Google, private corporations that are monetizing the enormous creative and cooperative activity that takes place there. A movement among tech workers and cooperative activists to create real alternatives through building self-managed platform cooperatives is taking shape. Yes, Virginia, there IS an alternative! The micro-rental economy masquerading as "sharing" is unmasked, and another way forward is explored. Neal Gorenflo of Shareable.net and Melissa Hoover, director of the Democracy at Work Institute, and Dennis Hayes (author and tech writer)

Video here.

May 5

2-4pm: Energy Plan for the Western Man: Art after Capitalism

Round table discussion with Elizabeth Thomas (curator), Sylvie Denis (author), Keith Hennessy (artist), and Andrew Mount (artist), Praba Pilar (artist/educator) at Shaping San Francisco, Eric Quezada Center for Culture and Politics (518 Valencia St, SF)

Each of the participant’s practice and individual work will be framed with an accent on the post-capitalist future. Largely drawing on themes that are present in Joseph Beuys work—e.g. his pioneering concept of social sculpture, money and universal basic income—we will use his figure to discuss the future of art and the future of art/artist/author/performer, post-capitalism. The first steps toward a post-capitalist practice involve the redefinition of art itself. Art after capitalism starts right now. Is the promised future artist’s emancipation providing only a contemplative respite from the exploitation, hierarchies and conflict present in the art world today? What does the future hold for artists, authors, performers? Will the artist abandon the authorial form? Will there be massive exodus from the museum/from the bookstore/from the performance venue? Will art finally merge with our lived experience? What new avenues can lead us toward an exit from our failed artistic paradigms? Will the rules of competition and money remain alive in the background and it is important to learn how to struggle absolutely for changes that are still only partial? Can we build a truly inclusive adequate, equitable and decentralized system that puts the artist/author/performer/curator at the forefront of this change?

Video here.


8:20pm–10:05pm San Francisco – Tiburon Boat Trip!

Multi-media Art ExperiencePIER 41 San Francisco (Please arrive 15 minutes prior to departure)

Join the Blue Collar Green Water Art & Culture Collective, for an hour-long multimedia art experience on the water. In addition to stunning views of the San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge, the evening will include readings, a short video screening, slideshow and animated video presentation on San Francisco waterfront history, presented by San Francisco Bay maritime working artists.

video here.

May 2

Do Androids Dream of Surplus Value?

Are There Marxist Robots?!? Kal Spelletich, robot-maker and long-time artist, professor, actor, and all around raconteur of machinic chaos and dissent combines with Chris Carlsson, a persistent critic of the Planetary Work Society, to confront our collective anxiety. As Nick Dyer-Witheford ably puts it: "Digital capital [is] making a planetary working class tasked with working itself out of job, toiling relentlessly to develop a system of robots and networks, networked robots and robot networks, for which the human is ultimately surplus to requirements... it is about a global proletariat caught up in a cybernetic vortex." What future for the labor theory of value in a world that expels human workers from production and is rapidly becoming more habitable for machines than people?

Video here.

April 25

Universal Basic Income, Is It time?

Touted by the tech industry as a way to preserve livelihoods in a time of automation replacing workers, Universal Basic Income (UBI) is not a new concept. As a poverty alleviation idea, it has resonance in the EPIC program of 1930s California, and similar ideas were floated by leaders of social movements of the 1960s, including MLK, Jr. and the Black Panthers in their Ten Point Program. Through a discussion of UBI we take a look at the nature of work and classifying invisible work as work, and open up a larger conversation around economic and racial inequalities. Proponents see UBI as a way to get at a new social contract in the U.S., one that builds trust and a chance for truth and reconciliation. Christian Nagler discusses his research into UBI, including performative economics, economic futurity and forecasting, and the divergent political ideologies held within the perceived prefigurative communitarian movement. Anne Price discusses how UBI differs from the social welfare system in being steeped in racial justice rather than race, and how her work at the Insight Center for Community Economic Development in Oakland is addressing economic security. Sandhya Anantharaman of the Universal Income Project, an advocate of Universal Basic Income, talks about the radical impacts it could have on society.

Video here.

Photo: From Christian Nagler's 2011-12 economic performance art project, "Market Fitness".

April 4

Insurgent Country Music and its Roots in the Golden State

With the twang of a steel guitar, the whine of a fiddle and the plunk of a banjo comes an instant association; the pick-up truck, the cowboy boots, the rolling hills, dusty fields, lonesome highways and the flag. For many, it has also come to signify conservatism, “traditional values,” American chauvinism, and even racism, bigotry and the confederate flag. Although one wouldn’t realize it from listening to today’s pop Country radio stations, Country music has been anything but a rightwing soundtrack. To the contrary, the roots of Country lie firmly in resistance to capital, freedom from government interference, and in defense of the right of workers, poor farmers, and the dispossessed to live their lives in dignity. Jesse and Glenda Drew will discuss the radical roots of Country, and explain how California is historically more central to Country music than Nashville. Also: special musical accompaniment!

Video here.

Photo: California migrant farmworkers during 1930s depression, still frame from Jesse and Glenda’s upcoming film Open Country: The History and Politics of Country Music.

March 28

Saving the Bay from “the Future”!

From the weird madness of the Reber Plan to dam both ends of the Bay into freshwater lakes in the 1950s to the Save the Bay movement of the early 1960s that helped create the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, we’ve come a long way in a half century. Today’s open shorelines, closed trash dumps, and returning wetlands honor and preserve our greatest public resource. Historian Chuck Wollenberg and Steve Goldbeck from BCDC.

Video here.

Image of Reber Plan

March 14

Art & Politics: Ilana Crispi — Tenderloin and Mission Dirt

Ilana Crispi is a Mission District ceramicist with a curiosity of what makes up a place. In her recent projects MISSION DIRT and TENDERLOIN DIRT she literally digs in to the earth to extract the soil and transform it, inviting residents to take a look at an invisible past and consider its future. Dirt taken from an excavated Boeddeker Park in 2013 became furniture and vessels to eat out of and created to give Tenderloin residents a direct connection to the soil under their feet. MISSION DIRT is an excavation of dirt along Valencia Street, through the firing of the physical material examining questions of home, history, geology, and ownership. As part of the project, you are invited to write or draw an experience, story, or favorite Mission District site.

This is part of a series of solo artists giving a behind-the-scenes and indepth look at what inspires them in the interrelationship between art and politics.

Video here.

Photo: Various concentrations of Mission Dirt fired by Ilana Crispi.

March 7

Resilient by Design: The Language of Water

The “Language of Water” is a vision to retrofit strategic locations of the Islais Creek Watershed to reduce flood risk and invest in real resiliency from sea level rise, drought, flooding and demonstrating the state of the art practices available to the agency or the cities. This proposal includes plans to create multi-purpose, distributed infrastructure for water supply, wastewater and stormwater treatment and the incorporation of creek daylighting and floodable spaces that make room for floodwaters. The team also explored the role of energy and water independence within neighborhoods and individual buildings as part of our toolkits for ensuring redundant and resilient water and drainage systems. Speakers include Patricia Algara of Base Landscape Architecture and Rosey Jencks, formerly of the SFPUC

Video here.

Photo: Rendering of Islais Creek Watershed plan

February 28

Art & Politics: Lou Dematteis

Lou Dematteis is an extraordinary social documentarian, photographer and filmmaker. He has been taking photographs of the Mission District since the 1970s, capturing the low-rider scene of that era, and being at the first Carnavals and leaving us a stunning visual record. He has also covered the Nicaraguan Revolution into the mid-1980s, the depradations of the multinational oil industry in the Amazon, and more recently has been making movies, with his “The Other Barrio” capturing the current displacement crisis in the Mission in a distinctly San Francisco noir tone.

This is part of a series of solo artists giving a behind-the-scenes and indepth look at what inspires them in the interrelationship between art and politics.

Video here.

Photo: Lou Dematteis

February 7

Building a Deep Map -- Beyond Buildings and Views

Celebrating the release of a new map of San Francisco, "Nature in the City" reflects a rich and fairly recent understanding of what comprises a place. An update of an original 2006 map, the rework includes a total of five maps, highlighting species that live alongside Homo sapiens, geology, gardening, restoration, and connections within the Bay-Delta. Mary Ellen Hannibal (author of Citizen Scientist), Rebecca Johnson (Academy of Sciences), and map artist Jane Kim highlight the making of the map, the contributions of citizen science to our broader knowledge of place, and how this collaboration expresses the kind of emergent creative work we all need to do together to meet the challenges of our day and going forward. Co-hosted by Nature in the City

Video here.

Photo: Anise Swallowtail feeding on a mallow flower growing among the industrial zone of Pier 70, by LisaRuth Elliott.

Dogpatch Then and Now

Few San Francisco neighborhoods have gone through as dramatic a change as Dogpatch. East of Potrero Hill, once an industrial neighborhood making warships, steel, sugar, rope, and more, where flimsy wooden structures teetered on long-gone hills, the area has had an arts renaissance that is now giving way to high-end condos, the encroaching medical/biotech industry, and even more grandiose plans for highrise development. A microcosm of San Francisco’s history from the 1860s to the present. With Glenn Lym, Steven Herraiz, and Marti McKee

Video here.

Photo: West on 20th Street, old Union Ironworks and Bethlehem Steel offices on right, by Chris Carlsson