Things would have turned out very different if Adam had had the right to bear arms and just shot the serpent.
I’d already written about the first two installations discussed in a fine column by architecture critic John King in the San Francisco Chronicle, so i made a foray to the Twitter building to see the third. Got rather more grist for a post than i’d expected.
I had wanted to see Chris Edmonds’ installation of salvaged post office boxes, but since i didn’t know where they were in the interior of the building, i elected to enter via the alley off 10th Street.
Well, in a display of its clout, Twitter has taken possession of the alley, landscaped it handsomely, and repurposed it as a private courtyard for the Twitterlings, so i got only a few feet into it on the Segway before i was hailed by a security guard. I stopped, pulled off my pack, and extracted my papers, which were in order and consisted of my DD214 to confirm my status as a veteran, my California drivers’ license to establish me as a resident, my California handicap permit to confirm that i was using the Segway as a mobility assistance device, and a memo from the San Francisco Police Chief explaining that San Francisco welcomed use of the Segway by disabled citizens. Together, they got me into the courtyard, a lovely space.
And then as i cruised slowly along, peering into the interiors on either side, i spotted the installation in the building that fronts on Market Street and rolled up to the doors, where i was stopped by another security guard and dug out my papers for his perusal. He was very nice about it, but letting me inside the building on the Segway was above his pay grade, so he called his supervisor, who arrived shortly and inspected the papers. Hmmmm. After a close examination of my documents he stepped aside and called a Higher Power, and after much muttering on the phone returned and said i could go in but cautioned me to be careful.
I reassured him i’d been on the Segway for ten years, was an expert in its operation, and, being 75 years old, had no need to go flying around at high speed. So i entered. Quite a handsome atrium.
And once in the atrium i noticed that to the left was the back entrance to The Market, the overpriced food emporium i’d checked out the other day. But been there, done that, so i glided slowly across toward the art installation on the far wall. Before i could get there, though, i was stopped again, this time by a security guard who’d seen me down the short hallway to the front door and come running to accost me. I showed her the paperwork and explained that it had been sufficient to get me past the first three security guards plus whoever the third guard had spoken to on the phone, and this satisfied her. So i moved on to the installation.
As i was photographing the installation, arranged in a pair of two 18×15 foot box grids on the walls flanking the entrance to the central atrium from the Market Street entrance, a woman who identified herself as the building manager and another security guard approached, talking over each other proclaiming that i couldn’t be in there.
So i pulled out all my paperwork again, explaining that i’d been lured into the building by Mr. King’s Chronicle article about the public artwork in front of which we stood and was wondering over his failure to explain that this publicly funded artwork could be enjoyed by all citizens except for disabled veterans, still keeping a light tone although by this time my smile was stretched a bit thin and i perhaps put a tiny bit of stress on the word “public”. Once again i passed muster.
Then i spotted a huge painting at the end of the hall to the right and rolled down to examine it. Turned out to be not all that interesting up close, but still, my eye was caught by an entertaining rustic wooden wall treatment on a hallway to the left.
Then i rolled down that hall only to find myself in a lobby fronting on Market Street which had good sculpture on its main wall as well as a free standing sculpture worth a photo.
But as i was photographing it, i heard a voice to my left saying “No no no.” He being the seventh person to accost me, i was muttering “Yes yes yes” as i rolled over to the guard at the desk and pulled out all my papers, explaining them as i went. When i got to the letter from the Chief of Police, the guard growled something to the effect that she wasn’t here, to which i responded rather loudly in an aggrieved tone, “What?!”
This drew another guard spouting something about how if i wasn’t nice to the guards they’d kick me out, to which i responded in my most patient tone that i was a bit shocked at being told by this guard, pointing, that the San Francisco Police Department did not have jurisdiction here and that this memo, brandishing it vigorously, made it clear that disabled folks could use Segways instead of wheelchairs if they were able to stand.
Some confusion ensued.
Which was ultimately cleared up when it was explained that what the guard at the desk was saying “No no no” about was not, like the first six, my using the Segway but rather my photographing the sculpture.
I was so gobsmacked by this ludicrous restriction that i had no response and just rolled off back down the hall i’d come up, back to the atrium, and then, still somewhat in shock, out the other hall toward the other Market Street entrance. The lobby there had a fine mural on the wall, but i’d barely got the camera out of my pocket when the guards there said i couldn’t take photos of it.
Worn down, i just left, marveling over the dichotomy between Twitter’s attitude toward photography of the art in its lobbies and Andy Pilara’s construction of a museum in which to display his art free for the public. Not only that, but Pilara has no objection to your taking photographs of the works he displays.
Twitter is in that building because they cut a sweet deal with the mayor, who’d been trying to get high class tenants into buildings on that rather seedy stretch of Market, so Twitter had enough leverage to get the mayor to exempt them from city payroll taxes on the multimillion dollar payouts to the employees when the company went public. Well, yes, can’t have the .001% paying taxes now can we?
And now, their knowing that they’re totally entitled makes them want to exercise that entitlement by preventing the public from taking pictures of handsome artwork in the lobbies After all, that artwork would be enjoyed more by the employees if it were not shared with the masses. The only reason they don’t stop people from photographing Chris Edmonds’ installation in the atrium is that it was paid for by a grant with taxpayer money.
The bitter irony here is that i was almost certainly the only person in either of those lobbies who did not have in his pocket, if not in his very hand, a smart phone capable of taking excellent photos. Do they shout at folks who look like they might be pointing their smart phones at the art?
If i were decades younger and an organizer, i’d get together fifty friends into a flash mob, infiltrate the lobby, and then at a signal have forty-nine of them start taking smart phone pics of the lobby art while the remaining one videoed the scene. As it is, i’ll just take a Valium and go to bed…and have a pleasant dream about someone else doing the mob thing.
But i don’t think i’ll take up Twittering. Not after being hassled by ten Twitterers in the course of a brief visit. And to be fair, the second guard i encountered was damn nice. While we were waiting for his supervisor to arrive, i told him that i was not so lame that i couldn’t park the Segway outside and walk as far as the installation on the opposite side of the atrium. He insisted that i wait for the supervisor, saying that i had every right to go in there on the Segway. So we played the Alphonse and Gaston game until the supervisor arrived, my insisting that i knew he was just doing his job and he insisting that i should go in on the Segway. And to keep being fair, none of the others was rude, and certainly they were not making up the rules they were hired to enforce. Oh no, the rules came from on high, from the ones who’re getting the free ride on taxes.