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Projects > Flower Interruption > San Francisco
Yogyakarta | Ubud | Tokyo | Drawings >




Site for Flower Interruption before action on morning of May 21, 2003, Jones/ McAllister/Market Streets, San Francisco, CA



Flower Interruption (2003), cutout paper flowers (painted with acrylic), performance/installation, Jones/ McAllister/Market Streets, San Francisco, CA



Flower Interruption (2003), cutout paper flowers (painted with acrylic), performance/installation, Jones/ McAllister/Market Streets, San Francisco, CA



Flower Interruption (2003), cutout paper flowers (painted with acrylic), performance/installation, Jones/ McAllister/Market Streets, San Francisco, CA



Woman picking up flowers, Flower Interruption (2003), cutout paper flowers (painted with acrylic), performance/installation, Jones/ McAllister/Market Streets, San Francisco, CA



Flower Interruption (2003), cutout paper flowers (painted with acrylic), performance/installation, Jones/ McAllister/Market Streets, San Francisco, CA



Jody picking up flowers, Flower Interruption (2003), cutout paper flowers (painted with acrylic), performance/installation, Jones/ McAllister/Market Streets, San Francisco, CA



Jody picking up flowers, Flower Interruption (2003), cutout paper flowers (painted with acrylic), performance/installation, Jones/ McAllister/Market Streets, San Francisco, CA




Jody picking up flowers, Flower Interruption (2003), cutout paper flowers (painted with acrylic), performance/installation, Jones/ McAllister/Market Streets, San Francisco, CA




Bug driving through flowers




Woman and Jody, Flower Interruption (2003), cutout paper flowers (painted with acrylic), performance/installation, Jones/ McAllister/Market Streets, San Francisco, CA




Jody with flowers, Flower Interruption (2003), cutout paper flowers (painted with acrylic), performance/installation, Jones/ McAllister/Market Streets, San Francisco, CA




Flower Interruption (2003), cutout paper flowers (painted with acrylic), performance/installation, Jones/ McAllister/Market Streets, San Francisco, CA




Cars driving through




Mentone Hotel, Jody’s home, San Francisco, CA




Entrance to Mentone Hotel, Jody’s home, San Francisco, CA




Jody’s room after installation (detail), Mentone Hotel, San Francisco, CA




Asian Art Musuem, Flowers collected at Interruption and now installed in the Museum's Education office





Thank You to the following for their help with the project:
Aaron Noble, Jill Weinberg Pfeiffer, Jacob Pfeiffer, Lisa Russ, Kevin Chen, Paige Cowett, Reanne Estrada, Julio Morales, Jennifer Wofford, Courtney Fink, Jeanne Batallones,
Ly Nguyen, Chris Durazo, Ada Chan, Carolyn Castaño, Andrew Schoultz, Carolyn Ryder Cooley and Doug




Flower Interruption (2003), cutout paper flowers (painted with acrylic), performance/installation, Jones/ McAllister/Market Streets, San Francisco, CA

In 2002/03 I launched Flower Interruption, a four-part series that developed as a playful response to the monotony of the everyday and business-as-usual routine. Flower Interruption was a strategy for breaking up the expected. It was also a rejection of corporate values and the surface aesthetics of capitalism. Working in opposition to corporate advertising, the interruptions offered a respite in the landscape from the onslaught of profit-driven messages, which have become the backdrop for defining global culture and lining the pockets of an elite few.

Beginning in the summer of 2002, I began hand-painting brightly-colored paper cutout flowers. I used acrylic paint on heavy printmaking paper that I glazed with a glossy "environmentally-friendly" polyurethane-type coating. In total I made eight-hundred flowers that ranged in size from 5" x 5" to 5' x 5.'

The flowers were installed in four locations: Tokyo, Japan, Ubud, Bali (Indonesia), Yogyakarta, Java (Indonesia), and San Francisco. The slick technicolor flowers were a striking contrast to the grit and gray of the city and a surreal addition to the tropical jungle of Bali. They appeared as though they had been air dropped in by a cartoon plane.


Flower Interruption (2003), cutout paper flowers (painted with acrylic), performance/installation, Jones/ McAllister/Market Streets, San Francisco, CA

The sites and the development of the project influenced one another throughout the process. I had never been to Japan and the opportunity arose when I decided to return for a second time to Indonesia (I had traveled to Ubud, Bali and Yogyakarta, Java in 2001); the layover was booked for Tokyo. Japanese art and culture have fascinated me and had an influence on my work for a long time, including my study of woodblock printing. Ubud is a popular tourist destination. It's also a world of contradictions and complexity - a lush tropical terrain with a Hindu culture that has a long tradition of music, performing arts and craftwork; and a booming consumer market through which the music, arts, and rituals that were once held sacred have become products and services created and performed for profit. Yogyakarta is my favorite city in Indonesia, though my first impression of Yogya was that it was an armpit - very polluted (the entire city has a brown/gray tinge to it), very overpopulated, and very poor. The US corporate presence is really only directly visible through the billboards that you see in Yogya for cigarette ads (as well as McDonalds, Pizza Hut, and Coke) and they're everywhere. San Francisco has been my home since 1994. My primary mode of transportation is walking. I walk 2-3 miles a day on average and I've become very familiar with the various routes from Nob Hill (where I live) to the South of Market (where I work with a number of non-profits) to the Mission District (where I have a studio and spend a good deal of time).

Because of time constraints, I spent the month before I left for Indonesia (and Tokyo) in 2002 painting the flowers I would take. I also had to take space and weight into account and since I needed to travel light, I was only able to carry a small portfolio with me. Therefore the flowers that I took were no larger than 14" x 18" and there were about 300 of these. I was able to paint larger flowers while I was in Yogyakarta since I was spending more time there and I was able to paint at my friends Samuel Indratma and Ade Tanesia's home. I also had to be careful with rationing the flowers out in Tokyo and Ubud so that I would still have a critical mass in Yogyakarta. The interruption in San Francisco was the largest and most planned out of the four. The flowers had a much greater range of size (up to 5 feet across) and there were 500 for one site. The SF project also became much more involved with the planning and creating phase, which took over eight months.


Flower Interruption (2003), cutout paper flowers (painted with acrylic), performance/installation, Jones/ McAllister/Market Streets, San Francisco, CA


While the general format and process for the Interruptions were the same, each event was quite distinct with new narratives created by the culture and environment it was presented in and the people who happened to stumble upon it. In addition the overall project (planning, creating, and presenting) had many different components and incarnations to it - from my own fantastical imaginary world in which I envisioned these flowers as playful superpower creatures taking on the world of the mundane to the unpredictable, yet playful and benign covert actions, to the actions themselves and the afterlife that grew from them. I chose to install the work on the ground (with the exception of the monkey forest outside of Ubud) in the roadbed so that the flowers became impossible to avoid and provided an unexpected and unfamiliar interface to negotiate the urban terrain. The flowers were stuck to the ground with heavy, double-sided foam tape. In all of the Interruptions (except Tokyo) outfits were worn during the performance/installations. In Ubud and Yogyakarta, I wore a very loud, sixties-style pant suit with platform sandals, a flowing hairpiece and large sunglasses. In San Francisco the Interruption crew wore orange traffic vests (also worn by SF Department of Public Works street crews).


Jody’s room after installation, Mentone Hotel, San Francisco, CA

San Francisco The Flower Interruption in San Francisco took place on Wednesday, May 21, 2003 at 6:15 am at the intersection of Jones, McAllister, and Market Streets. The site is surrounded by the now abandoned Hibernia Bank, the San Francisco Islamic Society, the Renoir Hotel (an SRO), a doughnut shop, and 24-hour check cashing shop. I worked for many months under the plan that I would install the flowers in the intersection of 7th and Market Streets. The location changed when I spent several early mornings (4:00 - 7:00 am) at the site and realized it would be impossible to pull off with the level of activity even at 4:00 am, including a good number of cop cars driving through the intersection and/or parking on the sidewalk of the Civic Center area. The new site at Jones, McAllister, and Market Streets was only half a block away, however because of the street formations (Jones and McAllister, which are perpendicular to each other, are both one way streets and the intersection is the end of Jones and the beginning of McAllister) the area is relatively deserted.

The planning for the San Francisco Interruption was an eight month process, which took on a life and world of its own. In addition to painting the 500 flowers, I made many site drawings with the flowers appearing as colorful surreal creatures exaggerated in proportion and dominating the black and white environment around them. I also photographed and made graphic drawings of the Interruptionists. Finally, I spent a considerable amount of time planning out the action itself: spending time on location to note the activity, lining up a crew of Interruptionists to assist in the installation, and developing an Action Plan for the morning of the Interruption.
The actual Interruption went quite smoothly and much faster than I had anticipated. I had 17 assistants, who had all received the Action Plan prior to the event. However, as it turned out, the process did not go exactly as planned and instead felt like five minutes of total chaos. We put on our vests and collectively scrambled to get the flowers down. There were a couple cars that drove through and we had to move for, but no cops during the installation. When we finished, it felt quite strange because the area was so quiet and deserted except for the flowers and there we were, a small crowd in our vests, unsure of what to do next. We took off our vest and just stood around waiting. There were a few other people hanging out around the area - mostly street people and a few early risers on their way to work.

As the morning moved on, a cast of characters rolled through and responded to the installation. A street cleaner on foot with a broom showed up briefly and went off on how "gay" the whole thing was, an older lady walked through and stopped to take it all in and then picked up just one flower to take with her, several folks in wheelchairs wheeled through and pulled them up, a gay couple with their Chihuahua wanted it to pose for pictures on the flowers, a dad driving his daughters to school yelled out how it was the best thing he'd seen in the area. At times the area seemed like a three ring circus, especially when two men in wheelchairs were both in the middle of the intersection trying to pick up the flowers while dodging traffic.

My favorite interaction was with a woman named Jody who showed up and started pulling the flowers up. She took off with one load (and a couple of pillows) in her arms and then returned a while later to collect more. We learned that she was on her way home from a methadone clinic when she came upon the flowers. She lives a few blocks away on Jones and Ellis in the Mentone Hotel, which recently had a fire in it. She was delighted to come upon the flowers and learn that they were free for the taking so that she could take them home to use to cover the fire damage on her walls. I asked if I could come over to take pictures of the installation when she finished putting it up and she said I could come over the following day. I did, and when I got to her room she had left a note for me saying: "Megan, Larry's still here. I didn't know he had 2 days off. He checked out at noon but he's spending tonight. I don't mean to run you around you know waste your time & bullshit. He'll be gone by noon tomorrow. I then go to lunch at St. Anthony's and home by 3:00 then 5:00-6:00 across the street I eat dinner at Glide. I'm sorry! I want you to see it." I went back on Friday at 3:00 and Jody was home -- she had hurried back from visiting a friend to clean her place up for us and she said she still wasn't done adding everything to the installation that she wanted, including a bunch of cutout cat pictures (she has four). Her space was quite small (just one room and a bathroom), yet very homey -- and now it's over the top with the flowers.

We left the Interruption at about 9:30 to get some breakfast. When we returned at 11:30, the whole thing was gone. I learned later that the cops had shown up and blocked the entire intersection off to bring in a clean up crew and a crowd had gathered and everyone had an opinion. I heard this from someone who works at the Asian Art Museum, who I learned later had come upon the installation and ended up picking up a bunch of the flowers to take back to the office with her (they're now up around the education office at the Museum). I also heard from someone else that several weeks later they saw a car in the area with one of the flowers on the dash board. The most recent, story came through my friend Glen who had contacted a real estate office to inquire about office space at 7th and Market. He asked the agent he spoke with if she had seen the interruption. She hadn't, but a man on the street gave her one of the flowers and she now has it up in her office. The work lives on.

Other Projects I have done that relate to this work include:
Produced by Marina Perez Wong for Megan Wilson
Bikes
Becaks
Flower Interruption Yogya Indonesia
Flower Interruption Bali Indonesia
Flower Interruption Tokyo Japan

Bungas