The idea for the Arts Against the Sciences came from walks I used to take into Golden Gate Park, specifically the area known as The Concourse. It’s the symmetrical park flanked by the deYoung Museum on one side, the Museum of Natural Sciences on the other, and The Bandshell, or more historically accurate the Spreckel’s Temple of Music sitting on one of the other ends. The last end has some statue in it, I can’t remember now, but it’s US Grant or someone like that. I’m not just uninformed, I’m not interested in this aspect of the landscape, and I’m forgetful. Anyway, what’s more important for me about this space is how much I found the two museum buildings in opposition to one another, like poles on a magnet, or temples in an ancient Mexican landscape. In fact, the more I looked at the place from this lens, the more I saw aligning.
the de Young tower on the left / the templo mayor at Chichen Itza on the right.
In Paul Gillingham’s Cuautemoc’s Bones, the author retells the story of the finding- and subsequent disproving- of the bones of the last emperor of the Aztecs. In a remote village in central Mexico, rehabilitation work on the town church revealed a hidden grave under the altar. Some items with the cache identified the site as holding the most magnificent of treasures- the bones of Cuautemoc. Last seen wandering off into the southern jungles with his Spanish captors, the emperor was never to be seen again. Leaving a gaping hole in the history and psyche of a nation, the people of Mexico were ripe for re-connecting with the actual relics of their lost king. As the story swelled in the nation’s media, the veracity of the objects became more questionable. Long after the items were proven completely false, Gillingham wonders, “who makes worlds?” bringing into question our common need for sites of veneration, whether or not this coincides with the sanctioning of those sites by cultural elite “experts”.
With The Arts Against the Sciences, I pose this question by combining/comparing pieces of the legends of Aztlan and of the founding of Tenochtitlan, and overlaying them onto this site in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. What I found was that as I compared the legends with the actual site, more similarities began to present themselves, and rode my desire to find connections even further. Perhaps we find what we are looking for, or perhaps we find what we need to find.
As San Francisco goes through its rapid and dramatic transformation of neighborhoods through the influx of the high tech industry, the topic of ‘claiming land’, has become an increasingly relevant topic. As the art sector has had the most visible impact of this shift in demographics, naming the issue The Arts Against the Sciences calls this change one of the things it is.