For Mission17's Visual/Cultural Criticism Residency, BARGE produced a site-specific installation and research office to present a visual archeology of the Mission and 17th Street environment, as part of an ongoing multi-media investigation into how we see, know, and understand our everyday urban spaces. For years, the giant "17 Reasons Why" sign stood atop the Thrift Town building on the corner of 17th and Mission Streets, functioning as a mysterious icon for many who identified with certain conceptions of the Mission as a vibrant and diverse cultural oasis not yet won over by the forces of gentrification. But what does it mean to identify with a sign? How do certain visual and semiotic practices get attached to structures of feeling, about a place, or a way of life? If there are indeed seventeen reasons why, then what might be the most compelling questions to ask of the site? With this exhibition and its related public programming, BARGE aimed to create a space for reflection on the complex intersections of place and memory, change and nostalgia, history and its representations. A critical poetics of materials evolved out of writing, maps, photography, video, sculpture, performance, and found materials providing the basis for a 'sampling' of the site and its environs, with the installation space functioning as a kind of laboratory for materialist (re)mixing.
In addition to a functioning 'research station' in the gallery space, foregrounding the work of the critic in the ongoing investigations of site (as opposed to simply presenting 'finished' art objects for display), BARGE curated and presented three public programs and performances, featuring local writers, artists, and activists who brought diverse perspectives on the multiple issues facing the Mission District today. Finally, a zine was produced at the end of the residency, to showcase some of the work that emerged over the course of the exhibition.