Tenderloin National Forest WITHOUT US

What is the difference between ‘imposing upon’ and ‘blending in’ with an environment?

Project Overview

What is the difference between ‘imposing upon’ and ‘blending in’ with an environment?  We had originally intended to pose this question in the frame of a ‘natural’ environment. However, we have come to the point of view that ‘natural’ includes you and me. Urban space, like humanity, is just another manifestation of nature.

In our first version at CounterPulse in SF, all of nature is seemingly erased within the theater.  We control the light and sound.  We do not expect the audience to initiate an interaction. Coming here the Tenderloin National Forest in SF, we are confronted by the realities of tenants in the spaces around us who might not enjoy our sound making.  We pass through a door where there is a community of people living their lives, and we quickly try to assimilate our art-making process to the particulars of this place.

In stark contrast to rehearsing in an isolated studio, here we are confronted with the varied responses to our work.  We are ignored or yelled at or encouraged or questioned.  We witnessed our host Darryl Smith gently trying to move a lady, asleep in this recently created forest.  Her response is violence towards him and to this space.  His response is to take it.  He lets her anger express itself and adds no fuel.  And then the moment is over.  She goes, under her own energy.

We fall short in one of the goals of this work: to learn the stories and understand the history and people who have inhabited this space, far back in time and currently.  We want to know the changes that have occurred here, prior to the last 20 years. For now, we are inspired by the cultivation of growing things in this concrete container, and the haven created for community gatherings.

We are asking art questions, simple questions and maybe some relevant questions.  We are listening.

Edited selections from the performance:

We are creating an approach for entering an unknown culture, working with local organizations and artists, to create something that blends our viewpoints.  The essence of this piece is about human impact on the rest of the ecosystem.  In some ways, we are researchers, working from materials and histories of a geographical space.  We are also intuitive beings and some of what we create comes from a subconscious place.

We are seeking a conversation.

About The Tenderloin National Forest, the site of this site-specific version:

Luggage Store Co-Artistic Directors/Artists Darryl Smith and Laurie Lazer of the luggage store have been working to transform Cohen Alley since 1989 from a place emblazed in a health-hazardous cesspool of bodily fluids and other dumped items, non-supervised open-air chemical experiments and illicit – criminal activities — to a vibrant community commons where people of all ages can gather for public art, performance, experimental art projects, and classes and activities… Driven by experimentation, cooperation, volunteerism and inclusion, dialogue and food.

Find out more at www.luggagestoregallery.org/tnf


“Without Us” was made possible with funding from the San Francisco Arts Commission’s Cultural Equity Grants program and from the Zellerbach Family Fund. Thank you very much to our funders!  Also, a special thank you to the Luggage Store for inviting us into the forest!

Cast is a mixture of students, community members and inkBoat members:

Dana Iova-Koga, 
Dylan Bolles
, Edward Schocker
, Jason Ditzian
, Suki O’Kane
, Peiling Kao
, Dohee Lee, 
Nadia Oka, 
Gretchen Jude, 
Jeanie-Aprille Tang, 
Joy Cosculluela, 
Katherine McGinity, 
Kim Ip, 
Lynn Huang
, Martha Coates, 
Sophia Colmenarez, 
Stephan Haluska, 
Trey Donovan, 
Darryl Smith

Photography: Pak Han

Videography: Kat Covell, Max Baloian, Chris Lewis-Smith

Set Technician: Frank Lee

Coordination: Bethany Schwarz

Direction: Shinichi Iova-Koga

Rehearsal Process:

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