Friday, June 11, 2010

The Farm and Beats

In 1974 Bonnie Ora Sherk launched "The Farm", a 7 acre eco garden/art space, replete with animals, on the traffic meridians and underused spaces under a freeway overpass. It was/is a remaining farm house and warehouses of a real farm surrounded by the urban sprawl of San Francisco, on the edge of the Mission District and Potrero Hill. It was owned by the Goode family. The Goodes are a family living on a ranch in northern California and three of the siblings Eric, Chris and Jenny moved to New York City. Eric formed the famous nightclub Area with his brother, Chris. Area was known for its constantly changing themes and collaboration with artists of the time (Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, David Hockney, Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, and others). Jenny was Jean-Michel Basquiat's girlfriend.

I rented a space there with photographer Hal Fischer and we turned it into a darkroom and studio space. Neighbors included Mark Pauline and his Survival Research Lab (premier practitioner of "industrial performing arts") in a separate warehouse, Kush a street poet, and a mixture of musicians and artists. It was after I moved into the studio temporarily that I started taking part in caring for the animals and getting to know the other artists.  

Kush (Steven Kushner), a San Francisco street poet runs Cloud House and is publisher of Blake Times. Cloud House ranks as one of the most comprehensive collections of materials related to American poetry in existence. Every inch of space in his studio that wasn't devoted to walking was filled with poetry mementos and beat-inspired ephemera: a wax cylinder recording of Walt Whitman's voice; the ashes of beloved local poets Jack Micheline (Kushner's godfather) and Bob Kaufman; autographs and first-edition works by Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and others; and even videos of slam poetry revue (in the '90s alone, Kushner taped about a thousand poetry events). When looking for recordings of San Francisco beat poets they're at Cloud House. William Burroughs was a frequent visitor to parties. It was warehouse living conditions but a lot of fun.

It was through my friendship with Kush and Steve Abbott that I met these poets in San Francisco. As a teenager I'd loved the Mods and Beats for their style and unconventional writing. Needless to say I was a fan.

 Poster by Kush lists me as one of several MCs - sometime between 1984 and 86.

Cloud House is leaving the Bay Area - sorry to see this happen - read story by Peter Coyote.

I remember it always looking like this.

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