Artists Cristóbal Martínez and Kade L. Twist have their sights set on San Francisco’s Millennium Tower – literally.
Their collective Postcommodity’s sound installation “The Point of Collapse” focuses on the notoriously sinking downtown skyscraper, and calls for change.
The project, the culmination of two-year Postcommodity’s residency at the San Francisco Art Institute, uses algorithms to map the movement of the structurally compromised tower onto autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) audio.
Calling it a way they “put headphones on The City,” the result is a series of relaxing sounds broadcast in the direction of downtown San Francisco.
Launched on Nov. 15, 2019, “The Point of Final Collapse” plays every day at 5 p.m. for four minutes from the tower of San Francisco Art Institute’s Chestnut Street campus. While some have said it’s not loud enough to bother residential neighbors, and other passersby apparently have called it “terrifying,” the installation will continue until the Millennium Tower is “fixed or torn down.”
Since the coronavirus pandemic hit, the artists say, “The lockdown has reduced foot traffic and audience engagement, [but] the piece will continue as normal throughout the pandemic, and long after.”
Martínez, chair of Art and Technology at SFAI, and Twist, an associate professor at Otis College in Los Angeles, met while studying at the University of Arizona in the early 2000s.
The artists have a history of working with topics of social and cultural import. Martínez, who is Mestizo, and Twist, a member of the Cherokee nation, create art addressing what it means to be an indigenous person in the 21st century.
They were prepared when they came across stories about the problematic Millennium Tower. “At the time that we had accepted the project, neither of us were living in California,” they said. “The Millennium tower had identified us. It had global meaning.”
As revelations about the structural integrity of the Millennium Tower made the news, the artists thought, “This was our chance. It was something that spoke to us, it was something that was real, it was evolving. It was going to be a public taxpayer issue.”
Martínez and Twist knew they had big shoes to fill when they were offered a residency and commissioning project in 2016, funded by the Harker Institute. The artists felt the pressure of the challenge when they began to look at possible projects, saying, “We were searching for a metaphor that could hold the ambitions we were handed by the invitation.”
With “The Point of Final Collapse” receiving media attention at least nine local publications, press around their work continues to grow. It appears Martínez and Twist may have successfully fulfilled the challenge of their residency.
Despite the work they’ve done, the artists aren’t hopeful of seeing a change anytime soon.
Throughout the years they’ve spent working on this project, Twist and Martínez have witnessed how slowly change can happen with large projects.
“It’s not fixed until it’s fixed,” they said. The installation may be there for a long time yet. “[Fixing it] would be a tremendous engineering feat to be achieved,” they said. “We’ll see.”
IF YOU GO
The Point of Final Collapse
Presented by Postcommodity
Where: Tower, San Francisco Art Institute, 800 Chestnut St., S.F.
When: 5:01 p.m. daily until Millennium Tower is fixed or torn down