It’s an age-old paradox of urban living that no matter how much there is to do and see it’s a) impossible to experience it all and b) so easy to take it all for granted. And it’s really not such a stretch to figure out that the more we take for granted the more chance there is that one day those things we love will disappear.
Of course a certain amount of flux is healthy, and part of what makes a city vibrant is that it’s a place where new ideas and new energies take root and flourish far more readily than in more insular, more homogenous spaces. And for every street corner band that’s moved indoors, every homey café long gone, every poetry brawl, punk rock peepshow, robot sex symposium, marching band parade, and nomadic dance party that have dropped off the radar, there’s bound to be a new crew of upstart art-agonists rising up to fill the empty spaces, it’s just finding the will or time to seek them out that can be daunting. They’re worth the effort. But sometimes we don’t want to have to put in so much effort.
Like comfort food for the underground, some perennial events are still staking out the remnants of, if not the long-distant past, at least the 90s, where the foundations for much of what is now taken for granted were formed. The Clarion Alley Block Party is one such remnant, and still going strong, as Saturday’s event proved.
Since the late 1990s, Xara Thustra's art has been inseparable from resistance and community in San Francisco, providing many of the signature visual images of the anti-displacement and anti-war struggles of the era. His work first appeared as graffiti in the streets of the city during the height of the first dot-com boom and soon grew to include artistic collaboration with and in support of neighborhood organizations, like the Mission Anti-Displacement Coalition and the Coalition on Homelessness.
As his work evolved over time from agitprop street art into elaborate performance and filmmaking, Xara has collaborated with countless others on many now-legendary art events like the Anti-Capitalist Fashion Show, the 949 Market Squat, and the band Manhater, while contributing stunning murals to Clarion Alley Mural Project and the Mission Neighborhood Health Center (with Kyle Ranson). Xara appeared in the 2002 Bay Area Now show at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, but has since resisted overtures from the art world, and preferred to instead make work in spaces like Adobe Books, Needles and Pens, and, still, in the streets.
Thu/6 at a presentation of new work at Needles and Pens, Xara and friends will celebrate the release of the self-published, 500-page book, Friendship Between Artists is an Equation of Love and Survival. It's an epic photo documentation of the past 15 years of his work and collaborations in San Francisco. Note: this interview took place between Erick Lyle (in Brooklyn) and Xara Thustra (in the Redstone Building) over Skype ...