Department of Space and Land Reclamation: Migrant Signmakers
Robin Lasser, Adrienne Pao, John Trefethen, & Nora Raggio

The Migrant Signmakers project consisted of 35 street signs, performances, and public interventions designed and installed by participating artists for the Department of Space and Land Reclamation. Artists from around the country were invited to submit projects which utilized public space to address issues of public verses private ownership of the city. We chose to address issues surroundingcommodification and consumption of beauty in an urban environment.

San Francisco is well known as a destination city - a city that is desired by those who live in it and those who visit it from all over the world. It is a city known for beauty, fashion, wealth, and secret pleasures. Our collaborative group focused on the issue of desire in some of its diverse manifestations: lust, greed, fashion, fame, and capitalism. We re-visioned and asked our audience to re-vise and re-consider those aspects of desire by taking different actions in strategic aspects of the city.

We focused on three key areas of desire in San Francisco and took actions, both performative and stationary, using exact replications of the “No Parking” signs and “Crossing” signs. In each of these strategic points - one location each day – that encompassed 72 hours, the timeframe of reclamation, we subversively and overtly reclaimed space to challenge preconceived notions associated with desire and its relationship to place. Some of the signs were temporarily placed and camouflaged within their traditional locations. Other times, information was delivered through performance in crosswalks and via costuming ourselves as city maintenance workers. For example, we worked with placards that have text and image commenting upon desire in relation to the site in which the action occurs. A crosswalk performance deconstructing the word “consume” took place by street performers while the light was red and traffic was stopped.

In our first location, the Pacific Coast Stock Exchange at the intersection of Pine St. and Stockton St. in San Francisco, we worked with the aspect of desire: greed. Within our next location, Union Square, we worked with desire in regards to fashion and beauty, fame, notoriety, consumerism, and capitalism. In our last location, the "red light district" of San Francisco at the intersection of Columbus and Broadway, we explored desire around sexuality. Thus an intervention, documentation, and a commentary took place, revising the meaning of desire within San Francisco.