Enter the Void: Void California Exhibit Review

Katharine Read

Last week, the SocioFabrica creative team visited the California College of Arts Wattis Gallery located in the Potrero Hill neighborhood in San Francisco. The exhibit we visited, titled “Void California”, showcased punk-inflected media from the late 1970s and 80s.

From the exhibit summary:

The exhibition takes as its starting point the aftermath of the Vietnam War and Ronald Reagan’s first bid for the presidency. Under the leadership of Reagan, California had become ground zero for neoconservative attacks on the social contract as well as the context for an array of violent episodes, including the Manson Family murders, the SLA abductions and bombings, the assassination of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, and the Jonestown massacre. To some of those who lived through it, the future looked bleak — a void, indeed.

Tucked away behind another larger exhibit was one small, white room containing magazines, journals, newspapers, photos, film reels, handwritten scraps and discarded documents. These raw, starkly graphic artifacts are a time capsule of social commentary and disillusionment with the status quo: serious subject matter is tackled with a sarcastic yet bleakly humorous tone. Crude and violent imagery illustrates how hyperbolic art provided cathartic relief for the punk populace during a dark and hopeless time.

The SoFab team particularly enjoyed the film and sound montages which played on older CRT televisions. The equipment might not have been perfectly authentic to the time period, but older technology contributed to the vibe of the room. The clips playing on these televisions were more light-hearted than the physical media around the room, which set an interesting tone for viewing.

Though this exhibit has now concluded, we look forward to finding more to explore. Cheers!

Apr 18, 2016

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