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An intentionally slow day today and a chance to reflect and regroup. Strange how the brain fills up, a shame it doesn’t just keep on expanding to accomodate new material without the need to switch off and process. It is a cliche (but true) that nature is a great restorative, and my walk around a nearby nature reserve was just what was needed. The redwoods were truly impressive, even if, I suspect, relative babies compared to the real giants further afield, and the smell of pine and crunch of bark underfoot put everything in its rightful place. Deer, possibly turkeys, chipmunk-esque and micro-groundhog-style animals punctuated my walk, and thankfully no mountain lions made their presence known to me (“if you see one, stand your ground, make yourself big, make a lot of noise and fight back when attacked”.) I did wonder, half way round the trail, if today’s choice of red t-shirt was like pinning a target on myself, but thankfully not.

Redwoods are almost impossible to capture on camera: their scale just does not translate. Which made me think about the lived experience versus the tech experience and whether the two will ever truly integrate. Such questions are for another day however. Today was a chance to switch off Bill Gates and channel my inner David Attenborough instead.

A couple of busy days ahead, so the next post might be a little delayed.


After a quick visit to the Golden Gate bridge (traffic jams and a slightly disappointing vantage point) I made my way to the San Francisco Mint for Verse: The Art of The Future, an exhibition of augmented reality artworks. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to like this, as my previous (limited) experiences of headset-based realities had been clunky and underwhelming. But I loved it.

The aesthetic was not high art, definitely a fun steampunk vibe plus a dash of kitsch in the brick underground vaults with upholstered chairs and plenty of neon. I particularly liked the virtual portraits (available as NFTs) on the walls, but there was more than a hint of 70s prog rock album cover art about many of the exhibits themselves. This was dragons in dungeons.

To rewind: you put on a headset and the empty room leaps into life with moving 3d exhibits you can walk through and around. This was alive, joyful and a welcome escape (from reality?). I thought back to the contrasting stasis of my MOMA white cube experience. I would show you some pictures, but the app would not load on my phone (it is not yet available on the Play Store). Which neatly summed things up: unlike genuine reality (do we really have to start saying that now?) alternative realities remain glitchy and close out non-participants, for now at any rate. But this was impressive and I am sure that this technology will become more widespread as it matures.

I then went to the Exploratorium, where I met Kirstin Bach. The Exploratorium is like the Science Museum on steroids: every single exhibit is interactive and explorable. There are miniature tornados, geysers, rain and fog systems, plus all manner of optical illusions, life science exhibits and pulleys, levers and buttons. Again the atmosphere was one of delight and playfulness, created by the element of participation combined with some truly astonishing effects.

Probably Chelsea by Artist-In-Residence Heather Dewey-Hagborg at the Exploratorium

The Exploratorium hosts an artist residency programme and I wanted to find out more about how they work with artists and the interplay between art and science. Our conversation covered many aspects of the art/science continuum and it was striking that the same element of open enquiry that is fostered through the exhibits is also what drives many artists in their work.

Kirstin Bach in the parabolic listening dome

This was another good day; I once again forgot the photo, which is symptomatic of my brain now becoming pretty well full up. Luckily I have scheduled a day off tomorrow, no meetings planned and a chance to reflect and regroup.


Today the adrenaline started to wear off a bit and the jetlag pushed forwards, so I decided to start with an Uncle Joe special – broccoli and feta omelette with the largest hash brown I have ever seen. Plus (UK cafes take note) an endless supply of fresh coffee. I’m sure I saw cactus on the menu but I wasn’t in the mood for spicy; I will have to be back another time.

Thence to the Visual Philosophy art collective opposite the motel, where I had a chat with Joanna to find out more. There will be an open day this Saturday, so I shall keep my powder dry for now and report back further afterwards.

My afternoon meeting was pushed back, which gave me a chance to visit the very garage where a young Steve Jobs began the Apple revolution. It is a small, unassuming bungalow in a manicured residential district. I was curious to see who (apart from me) might turn up. Sure enough, after a couple of minutes another pilgrim drew up. I introduced myself, he was Oliver from Austria, an Apple fan(atic? – I think more of an enthusiast, but I like the word play) who was sad when Steve Jobs died and promised himself that if he was ever in the area he would pay a visit. And so it came to pass. “Have you been to the Computer Museum?” I asked, “it’s fantastic”. “No,” he said solemnly, “I don’t have the time. But when I return with my family we are all going to visit it.” Over the course of the next half hour several more visitors arrived to take the obligatory selfie. This is how religions (or cults?) begin, I found myself thinking. I noted the number plate of the car parked next to me.

And so to my afternoon meeting, with new media artist Scott Kildall. Scott comes from computing royalty; his father Gary is recognised as a leading pioneer of early microcomputing. Scott is an early adopter, exploring and exploiting tech to create work around his chosen themes. He is currently working with SETI (the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence) to create a participatory, NFT-based narrative in which participants are assigned a role on a trip to an exoplanet. The outcome of the trip is contingent: they may succeed or they may (virtually) vanish into the far reaches of outer space, never to be seen again. I liked Scott’s openness towards tech. We talked about the concerns around privacy and AI, and the differences in attitudes towards tech between the generations.

I once again failed to take a pic; I blame my jetlagged brain. I stopped off on the way home at the Smart & Final for some food to keep me going. I’m not sure if it was smart, but it will definitely be final.


My first meeting was with media artist Sharon Daniel. Sharon uses new media techniques to create interactive mixed media installations. She creates work that highlights social injustices and inequalities: this is art that aims to challenge opinions and change minds. We discussed how her approach differs from straightforward show-and-tell documentaries (it is all about the encounter and the opportunity for the viewer to make their own way through the material). Sharon told me about a woman who had been jailed for 5 years for passing a bad cheque and how Sharon’s way of presenting this material had made people rethink their views on the justice system.

Over an extremely fine Impossible (vegetarian) burger in an extremely photogenic part of town we also discussed the rise of the internet and big tech. My take home from our meeting was to think again about linear narratives: hypertext and the internet already encourage non-linear browsing and the hopping from one link to another; but this can be very fragmented and splintered. At the other end of the spectrum is the extended essay in which you start at the beginning and hope to still be there at the end. Is there a middle way through the maze?

Our enthusiasms ran away with us and I completely forgot to take the obligatory pic of self + victim.

I then headed a few blocks away (I am picking up the jargon with ease) to visit Shamsher Virk and the ZERO1 project, which is based in a magnificent 1920’s former cinema run by arts organisation Gray Area. There is a huge stage, plus seating area and upstairs project room where classes are taught on the latest tech(niques). ZERO1 is a community enterprise focussed on inclusion and opportunity, and part of our conversation centred on the question of who is designing the tech that is now central to our lives, and whose purpose does it serve? Shamsher told me about the Institute for The Future and the Centre for Humane Technology who are both actively researching this issue.

Shamsher also told me that many new media artists are now moving beyond simply the early adoption of the latest tech and seeing what it can do, towards a more nuanced approach in which they consider and critique the tech that is coming onstream. I loved Shamsher’s example of Lauren McCarthy who installed herself as a real life Alexa for a household, controlling their fridges, lights, heating and more. Super creepy, but art as it should be: very effective at making its point. I was also particularly taken by a project that Shamsher described in the aftermath of the Black Lives Matter protests. Some statues had been toppled during the protests, and artists used augmented reality tech to visualise alternative statues onto the now empty plinths.

This time I remembered the photo.

Thanks Sharon and Shamsher for two fascinating conversations.


Today’s main agenda item: a visit to the San Francisco Musem of Modern Art (SFMOMA) and a chance to find my way around the city. SFMOMA is one of the signature temples of modern art around the world: a bright, voluminous space housing many first-rank examples from the canon of western art orthodoxy. If you are looking for big names, big pictures and an amazing building in which to house them, look no further. There was the obligatory Warhol, an array of Matisses plus some sizeable Clyfford Still abstracts amongst many others. The Gerhard Richter paintings in particular were a standout, an astonishing range of styles and ideas with such a high degree of finish. I failed to take any snaps of them, however. Perhaps that is the ultimate mark of respect, to leave them in situ and not cart them off into cyberspace in bastardised form?

Poklong Anading

So far, so familiar. There was also a range of temporary exhibitions, of which I found myself drawn to ‘Constellations: Photographs in Dialogue’, and within this, the section on ‘Forms of Identity’ was nicely challenging. Poklong Anading’s series of portraits in which the subject shines sunlight via a mirror back at the camera in order to conceal their identities was particularly eye-catching.

Overall, (dare I say it?), I was disappointed; or rather, I left feeling that I wanted more. The museum could not have been more pleasing, but therein lies the problem. I found it insufficiently challenging. As I exited through the gift shop, my eyes alighted on a book entitled ‘Museum of the Future – Now What?’. I bought a copy. In the context of my visit, I wonder what the impact of digital technology will be on the traditional white cube experience. Will one subsume the other?

I finished the day with a nod to Guy Debord and a derive downtown. I think he would have been proud of me: quite by chance, and following what turned out to be incorrect directions from a stranger, I arrived at the seafront and at the ‘wrong’ bridge. I did, however, manage to locate the Google SF offices, which were very dull. Tech is never far away, however, as the Firefox monument showed. ‘Doing good is part of our code’, apparently.

Tomorrow, now fully acclimatised, I begin my programme of meetings with artists, to join the conversation. I can’t wait!