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Ghost Busters

The experience of time’s passage takes place only due to the perception of change, and if the noticeable events don’t happen on their own then cultures have more than compensated by creating commemoration and rituals of marking time.

The most important of the commemorations are ritualized to ensure they are distinct from ordinal and ordinary experiences, but moreso that they keep bringing the past back to the present.

In the age of being green, mausoleums are an anachronism to everything socially or community-oriented except for the wealthy. Above-ground tombs and crypts don’t recycle the bodies out of existence but rather mimic preserving them in a last act of defiance against disappearance.

Taking up space monumentally that way is political. It's an occasion of someone's fierce intent, amplifying privilege earned or taken during their days amongst the living. In addition, they are barely concerned at all with their impact on further history; their intent is to stop time where they want it to be stopped.

But further, the Mausoleum organizes its exhibits specifically to call attention to the individuality of its contained guests – each and all of whom, however, have run a gauntlet of specific qualifications to get in.

The similarity of a mausoleum and a museum is pretty clear. But of course, the museum is holding not just the idea of its guest; it's holding the actual guest.

Still, like the mausoleum, the museum holds its content with the intent to remove it from the ongoing changes of passing time. Instead, it carves up time into segments that have only one purpose – to hold memory, of the importance of the entombed.

Here is where we might, by comparison, feel the difference between a museum and a gallery.

The gallery promotes awareness of its content specifically by arguing that the existence of its content gives importance to the time that we call Now. It is energetically discovering and showing how the particular importance that needs to be noted comes not from the past but from the present.

All that said, it's hard to prevent any one of them from trying to do another's job if somebody wants it to.

Ruins are in here too. Ruins convert museums into either mausoleums or galleries – depending on whether we are looking for the living or the dead.

In the history of cities and towns, imperialism, colonialism, larceny, and evolution all exploit ruins to some degree that we can point at on a spectrum of appropriation.

And on that same spectrum, art makes an appearance.


The entrance to Adeline Graffiti Palace is not walled. The walls merely leave openings vulnerable to being entered. The structure has an architecture of ruins. Things that remain standing or structurally stable are just the survivors of invasions, collisions and interventions, still signifying a kind of important role in the past but indifferent to the present, and which have not been undone.

In this location, almost entirely ignored by passersby on a major north-south route through Oakland, the spaces left formed by man’s or nature’s demolition offer a set of sightlines from one extraordinary vertical wall to another, and sometimes over them or through them. On display is an enormous collection of mid-to-large scale graffiti – not murals, graffiti. A giant graffti gallery. The emphasis in this space is not that so-and-so was here. It is that so-and-so is here.

Street artists have entirely repurposed the ruin of the original building. On encountering it myself, I immediately felt the tremendous pull of its dazzling overall visual array versus the resonance of any single part being given a good hard stare.

I've dubbed this a "palace". The first impression of this place is the overt organization of the display space created by the street artists’ wall writing – an expressed sensibility expected from professional exhibition planners or… interior designers. The works on view, by over a dozen different graffitists, gather together on the surfaces to create distinctive room-like areas within the outer confines of the site. One walks through the space in a way that is prepared by the raw ground paths letting the walls have their great felt scale.

The writers' and taggers' arrangements unabashedly celebrate the space with their display; they do not advocate, argue, or subvert anything in particular but instead make the entire location a sensory experience featuring size, color, scale and emotional energy. The images are not in the service of any other event; the site is not a host or facility for anything but making an impression on the person within it. Collectively, the works are an enclosed environment completely different from anything else near it, celebrating its own aesthetic force.

The Takeover

One compelling impulse was to thoroughly document the entire location in exhaustive detail, to protect against its future disappearance.

But another impulse, stronger and more personal, was to gain control over the force of its visual heterogeneity, by reorganizing my mental intake of its images within the perspective I chose with my camera. In effect I would be appropriating again what they had already appropriated.

Doing that immediately also brought up the ongoing artistic challenge of discerning what my work would be doing that their work was not already doing.

To me, that is largely referenced by any conversation that considers how documentary and landscape relate to each other. Some may say that it's about the difference between showing facts and showing a truth: editing will always do that, and using a camera is always editing visually.

But not always mentally. On that count here, I’m modeling another new order from what might too casually be presumed to be disorderly (i.e., unauthorized, unformal, and perhaps assertively blighting) - a presumption typical of those who neither made it nor want it.

And recognizing it as palatial – not a temple, not industrial, and not a park – is key to recognizing its community function, its social authority, and its legitimacy: it's a demonstrative sanctuary of a cultural aesthetic. The power of its display is significant as an event; it is a statement piece. Despite its off-road visibility, it is an emphatic announcement of the presence of its community.

But the entire thing is at extremely high risk of being suddenly non-existent in the foreseeable future. As a result, the photographs could become the ready-made memorial of not merely its prior existence but the importance of it.

Post-demolition, what will remain to be seen, actually seen with the photos, is wrapped up in the perspective that proxies my own presence there - documenting but also imagining.

To some, that will offer a vicarious experience otherwise out of their reach. To others, perhaps it will invoke suspicions of what other agenda may be attached to my selectivity.

I believe that the goal is to have both of those reactions occur together, creating a higher sensitivity and curiosity that will persist and, from then on, become part of the viewer’s own predisposition when observing their environment.

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