A Visual Census: Imaging a More Perfect Union
Does art have the capacity to move people to action, deepen public discussions around civic agency, and serve as a vehicle to civic participation? This is the fundamental premise of Art+Action — a coalition for civic participation across art, creative, community, business, technology, philanthropy, and government sectors led by San Francisco’s Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs (OCEIA) and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA). Art+Action launched a city-wide arts-driven campaign, COME TO YOUR CENSUS, in an effort to galvanize communities to participate in the 2020 Census and receive their fair share of resources and representation.
COME TO YOUR CENSUS’s action plan consists of four pillars; a public media campaign, a city-wide arts takeover, the Bring the Census to the People initiative, and the open-to-all physical + digital headquarters. The SFUFF was invited to participate in the open-to-all physical and digital headquarters through YBCA’s in-person art and civic experience, Come to Your Census: Who Counts in America?, which examines the issues around the 2020 Census and its direct impact on each individual living in America.
A Visual Census
The SFUFF curated a series of four films, titled A Visual Census, to screen inside the YBCA gallery amongst a myriad of other physical engagements as part of Come to Your Census: Who Counts in America?. Due to the COVID19 pandemic the entire in-person art and civic experience was reimagined as a digital experience. To this end the SFUFF is proud to bring you A Visual Census as a multimedia essay. The exhibition turned essay weaves four seemingly disparate short films together to explore the role of stories, images, and emotions as they shape our perception of a population. We posit that a census reduces humanity to reasoned quantitative statistics, neglecting the emotion that underlays and is vital to healthy functioning communities. As you explore, we encourage you to think about how a census could be something more.
The following is an excerpt from A Visual Census :
Historically, central governments have used a census to determine the feasibility of war, accounting for military-aged males and the total area within their borders. Today censuses determine a community’s representation in government and the amount of socialized resources allocated to them. This is perhaps the most prevalent battleground in modern times, opening up a seemingly academic survey to manipulation, marginalization, partisan gamesmanship, and hostility towards minority groups.
You can access this program on YBCA’s website at this link.
As part of our ongoing participation in Come to Your Census: Who Counts in America? we also organized a panel with the leaders of Code Tenderloin and Imprint City, and the City of San Francisco’s Office of Civic Engagement & Immigrant Affairs (OCEIA), which was moderated by SFUFF’s Humanities Advisor and Professor of Philosophy Ronald Sundstrom. The panel was intended to discuss the power of the Census in supporting political representation, public resource allocation, and identifying and counting communities. An article on our initial thinking for the panel and an essay distilling the panels implications are forthcoming. Follow our publication and sign up for our newsletter (at the bottom of this page) to keep up-to-date with our work.
We are thrilled to embark on this two-year residency with YBCA, our treasured local arts institution that shares our commitment to civic engagement through arts and culture. Our residency at YBCA will reimagine a film program that centers storytelling and community voices to compel residents to be actively engaged in the making of our city.