The scene: a protester blocking a miniature white Google shuttle bus, fly swatter in hand.
It’s just one in a series of toylike depictions of street protests in San Francisco that is the creation of two local artists and their sarcastic take on class conflict and urban life in the age of the Internet.
“Streetviews of San Francisco,” a series of dioramas all centered on Google buses created by Matteo Bittanti and Colleen Flaherty, can, appropriately, only be found online.
Their “show” went live Jan. 10 at colleo.org.
The playfulness is plentiful in what Bittanti, a California College of the Arts adjunct professor, and Flaherty, a painter, have created. For one, their website notes that the pieces — not for sale — will be on display at the Concrete Gallery, a virtual space itself. Even the title is an allusion to an option on Google’s online map.
The dioramas, redolent of images from a child’s toy train set, evoke the recent protests and blockades at Google shuttle stops in San Francisco and Oakland, and they span from the Mission district to Twitter’s headquarters on Market Street. Companies have for years chartered shuttles to take workers from various Bay Area cities to their headquarters, mostly on the Peninsula, but have recently become symbols for inequality and the focus of some furor.
All the scenes take place on a model of a laptop, with the tiny bus on a road where the keyboard belongs. Behind it, on screen, is a photo of a street as the backdrop (all taken from Google’s own Streetview).
In one piece, miniature protesters hold signs outside of Twitter’s headqaurters in front of the bus while Google employees sit behind the glass calmly reading, of all things, a newspaper. In between the protesters and the passenger buses stand riot-gear-clad police.
In another, set in the Mission, two black Tesla Roadsters are parked in front of the bus all alone, save for a lone man standing on the sidewalk.
Bittanti, who has lived in San Francisco for about a decade, said the pieces came from what he sees as increasing conflict in cities divided between the rich and everyone else.
But they are also a commentary on how we see the world through the lens of our machines, Bittanti said.
“We perceive reality through a screen,” he said. “There’s this dichotomy between inside and outside. There’s a real world outside that we are disconnected with, even if I have false intimacy with a screen.”