The last time artists Cristobal Martinez and Kade L. Twist talked about their collaborative work Postcommodity, they were in an auditorium in front of a live audience.
Now, the artists were invited to the Zoom stage on Oct. 22 as guests for the virtual speaker series Platform, the inaugural program from ConSortiUm, a new collaborative project of art museums and galleries from the California State University system.
Cindy Urrutia, director of the Center for Creativity and Arts at Fresno State and host of the event, said that ConSortiUm was created as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and a “deep-seeded desire” to keep the arts institutions meaningful and impactful.
Postcommodity is an interdisciplinary art collective which examines how the global market and the institutions that support it create a colonizing force. The art is meant to engage Indigenous voices to challenge these forces destabilizing communities in modern day.
Martinez, an associate professor and chair of the Art and Technology department at San Francisco State University, identifies as a mestizo of Chicano and Hispanic heritages of northern New Mexico where he was born.
Twist, a professor and head of the Master’s in Fine Arts program with an emphasis in art and social practice at Otis College of Art and Design, was born in Bakersfield and identifies as Cherokee with roots in Oklahoma.
A slideshow was presented of the Millennium Tower, a sinking high-rise building in Downtown San Francisco. In 2019, it was reported that it had sunk 18 inches and is leaning 14 inches to the west.
In response to the sinking and leaning of the building, Martinez and Twist created their piece “The Point of Final Collapse.” They installed long range acoustic devices that give out a call to prayer in the historic tower at the San Francisco Art Institute, which is 1.6 miles away from the Millenium Tower.
The devices subtly broadcasts an indeterminate and multi-channel sound composition by using algorithms to North Beach in San Francisco for a four-minute duration each day at 5:01 p.m., Martinez said.
A sample of the audio emitting from the Tower of the San Francisco Art Institute was played to the audience.
At first, what sounds like a whale singing underwater is heard. A person whispering messages of positivity, like “They’re so lucky to have you,” “I love you,” and “You deserve the best” plays next. Then, a loud purring of a cat plays with sounds like sirens going in and out of the recording.
Twist said that if the ambient volume of street noise is 70 decibels, then they can broadcast the audio at 65 decibels. It can sound as if someone from above is whispering into one’s ear and can come across as disturbing, due to the bouncing nature of the sound.
“They are military grade Sonic weapons that can transmit its signal up to seven miles and have that signal for seven miles be incredibly loud and brutal,” Twist said. “Yes, you want it to be so it can bring people to their knees. It can disrupt peaceful gatherings, it can disrupt First Amendment activities, but it can also be used to deliver Sonic beauty.”
Twist transitioned to one of their more recent works within Postcommodity, “Some People Reach While Others Clap” in Los Angeles that was exhibited in LAXART, a nonprofit visual art space.
“Just as LAXART is one of the pillars of the art community in L.A., L.A. also stands upon pillars of civilization built by the Tongva people and Chicano peoples in L.A.,” Twist said. “It’s hard to think of L.A. without thinking of indigenous people and Chicano people. It’s hard to think about the art world being what it is today without the achievements of Tongva people, Chicano people [and] Indigenous people.”
Martinez and Twist said that they had a vision to create a collective of low-rider builders from all over the city, but had difficulties negotiating with low-rider builders to engage with the contemporary art world.
After months of going to car shows, the artists finally found Edgar Hernandez, a Chicano business owner of Starlite Rod and Kustom, to collaborate with.
“We wanted something semiotically that could remind us of who we are and where we came from,” Twist said. “We wanted this to occupy the space in a way that was more substantial than hanging something on a wall or having a sculptural piece occupy the space.”
To register for future events of the six-part series, visit the Platform CSU Art Speaker Series webpage.