Tuesday, January 23, 2007


The WE Riders documentary installation presented the projects components in an interactive format. Viewers could explore printouts of all of the weblog entries, see our GPS routes and read all of the collected surveys. The only piece that we left out was our tandem; we still needed to ride! So we presented a full-scale cardboard mock-up.

Some special features of the installation: a 10 foot table in the shape of Oakland fabricated by Bruce Douglas, detailed analysis of the surveys created by Jason MacCannell, PhD, and documentary footage of our rides filmed by Erin Stamos.

As part of the exhibit, Jason gave a very informative presentation about his analysis and findings concerning the surveys. The event was well-attended; participates engaged in a lively discussion about the intersections of art and science.

We want to give a special thanks to Pro Arts staff and volunteers who helped to make this show into a reality. And thanks again to our master documenter, Pamela Palma.

WE Riders Analysis Report, Dr. Jason MacCannell

Excerpts from the Report's Introduction

"What have the WE Riders done? Though it sounds like a humorous accusation, the question is a serious one. Officially, the answer is “art”: arts funding supports it; art venues host it. While it is not a set of paintings on the wall, the documentation here fits the conventional definition of art more closely than some “conceptual” art. Here is a display, some distinctive patterns of visual design, and even a great deal of drawing, albeit not by the artists. If the artists themselves had produced the bulk of the works on display—nearly two hundred small sheets that include both drawings and writings—no one could question the “artistic” nature of the project. But the work is instead a collaboration between the artists and members of the public selected more or less haphazardly.

In this sense the project is more like social science than “art.” Instead of depicting their ostensible subjects, the sometimes elusive realms of West and East Oakland, the WE Riders mounted a survey, collecting eighty-one maps as well as a large volume of commentary. Every stage of the project has been lavishly documented, on paper, on a weblog, in digital photography, on video, and even in GPS point data from the rides. As a social scientist who met them quite by accident, I admit I was initially fooled by what Donna Haraway might call their scientific “drag.” It took some investigation to discover that their approach was entirely artistic.

… But my purpose here is not to judge the quality of the art, nor analyze the critique or celebration of science that some might see embedded in it. Rather, I intend to push the “science” of the WE Riders project as far as possible, treating their data as data, searching it for anything suggestive of a pattern or correspondences among its elements. In doing so I am quite conscious of blurring the boundary between art and science even further. By not asking a research question—“Where is East/West Oakland?” being too nebulous to count—the WE Riders have ensured that no answer will be found. There is no effect whose cause is sought, nor any stakeholders waiting to applaud or defy a politically important result. In the end the respondents became the scientists, the ones proferring hypotheses and presenting evidence.

… The portrait of Oakland and specifically these neighborhoods that emerges in the survey—a city divided by freeways, a city divided by a lake, a place with multitudinous pasts carried in the hearts of its residents, a place where the future seems to rumble like an angry faultline under the surface, a set of stops on the BART lines, a place that business and government desperately want changed, a place with Victorian houses and taco stands, a place where west is north and east is south—is a portrait as variable as the city itself that mere statistics could not achieve."

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


WE Riders has gotten the attention of several local journalists. The result: two very interesting articles in Oakland publications. Check out Matt Dibble's review of one of our West Oakland adventures in the Oakland Magazine.

You can also read Cecily Burt's timely article in the Oakland Tribune. She promoted our project in the 'Eye on the Arts' feature the day before our documentary installation opened at Pro Arts. The articles have brought in many people to see the show. In fact, the articles have encouraged people to visit our show who have never set foot in a gallery before!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


You Are Invited!
We are in high gear now, planning for our upcoming installation at Pro Arts Gallery, a long-time Oakland non-profit arts institution. They have been promoting local artists' work since the 1970s. They are located in Jack London Square (550 Second Street, near Cost Plus). We are very excited that they will be hosting our exhibit, which will document all aspects of the WE Riders's adventures. Plus, we are very pleased to present video footage by Erin Stamos, who has joined nearly all of our rides this past summer. In addition, geographer Jason MacCannell will present a fascinating analysis of the nearly 200 surveys that we collected.

The show will run from Saturday, September 9 through Sunday, October 8. Some special events to note (all are FREE!):
  • On 9/14 from 6:30-8:00PM,, we will present an off-site performance at the Yerba Beuna Center for the Arts in San Francisco. This performance is part of the Sampling Oakland exhibit that's up right now. We will be sharing the stage that night with several other very interesting Oakland artists. This event is curated by Sarah Lockhart from 21 Grand.
  • We will give a presentation about our work on Saturday, 9/23 from 1-3PM at Pro Arts.
  • And finally, join us in celebrating the project at a First Friday closing event at Pro Arts on Friday, 10/6 from 6-8PM.
If you have missed the chance so far to participate in our Where is West Oakland / Where is East Oakland survey, this is your opportunity! We are eager to continue collecting input during the installation.

We are sorry to say that for now, our rides are over. But stay tuned for future events...

Monday, August 07, 2006


We have been tracking all of our rides with a Garmin GPS so that we have accurate information about where we have traveled in the city. Here is a collection of all of our rides. We have also posted each route as the final entry for each ride's journal. You'll notice that there are no route maps for rides #1, #2 and #6: that is because we only collected surveys during these rides and didn't travel about the city.

Once we learn how, we will download our GPS info onto Google maps; then our routes will be overlaid onto a Satellite image of the city. If anyone has this skill and would like to help us with this process, please email us at: marksearch@sbcglobal.net. Thanks!

Sunday, August 06, 2006


The Riders:

Saturday was the perfect day for our second and final group ride to West Oakland: once the early morning fog was wisped away, the air was cool and the sun was warm. When we arrived at City Hall at 10AM, there was already a small cluster of riders gathered. We were joined by a newly formed bike team comprised of lawyers who work in downtown Oakland, a father-son bike duo (James, at 4 years, was our youngest rider!), two women who brought their small dogs along to ride, a city cartographer, and several other Oakland folks. All together, a diverse dozen made up our West Oakland group. We were very pleased with the turnout.

Before we took off, we spoke with everyone about the project, had people fill out surveys and answered questions. Some had found out about the project from our flyers, others from various websites or word of mouth.

Most people expressed a similar reason for joining the ride: to get to know West Oakland better. One rider said he came “to learn more about the city where I work.” For many, West Oakland is an area beyond their direct experience. One woman who joined our ride recently moved to West Oakland and plans to start an after-school art program. She wanted to find out where the neighborhood kids hang out.

The Route:

Once again, we planned this ride as a ‘best of’ tour, sampling some of the places we most enjoyed visiting on our previous West Oakland rides. From downtown, we rode on 14th Street, making a stop at the Ebony Art Museum, then on to Mandela Parkway to see the newly developed median park, ending up at the Mandela Farmers’ Market. From there we toured some local farms and ended up at the Pretty Lady for a delicious home grown lunch.

At the Mandela Farmers' Market:

We hung out at the market for a little while; people enjoyed meeting the vendors and sampling some of the delicious and very locally grown (West Oakland) produce.

We had an interesting conversation with Reggie, who met the last time we were at the market. He told us that this area of West Oakland is known as “Low Bottom”: “This is West Oakland, but people in the neighborhood, call it Low Bottom. The Low Bottom, they stereotype it, you know, as an area where there’s violence and corruption. But it’s really not like that here. People think the Low Bottom is bad, but it’s a good place to live.” He has lived here for many years. Reggie also told us that “People don’t really know West Oakland ‘til they come to West Oakland.” You can’t know a place from the outside.

One guy at the market proudly showed us his rig: he had decked out his rickshaw with a full sound system. He told us how he would modify our rig so that we could always travel with tunes. We were very impressed!

Riding in the Hood:

After the Mandela Market, we made our way to City Slicker Farms on Center and Peralta Streets. First we detoured to an OBUGS butterfly garden. There we met a neighbor who has been involved with bringing sorely needed community services to West Oakland. She has started a medical clinic and also, more recently, she has initiated a nutrition program at corner liquor stores. She teaches them how to use a blender to make nutritious and healthy fruit smoothies—this is in an effort to bring healthy food into the neighborhood. While West Oakland has been redlined by supermarkets, there are liquor stores on nearly every corner.

Standing in front of this neighbor’s home was a piece of indigenous sculpture: a local artist has carved portraits out of neighborhood tree stumps.

City Slicker Farm:

People really enjoyed visiting City Slicker Farms: it was full of activity that afternoon. Lots of folks were shopping from the vegetable cart, some farmers were composting, and another was working with the bees. We spent time walking around the farm and talking with neighbors. This was also a good opportunity for riders in the group to talk to each other about their local neighborhood concerns and interests.

We also had the honor of giving this little girl her first ever ride on a bike!

Next Stop: The Pretty Lady

Most people peeled off from the group at this point. But the adventure wasn’t over yet! We stopped at the Pretty Lady for a well-deserved lunch. Over sandwiches and potato salad, we took the chance to get to know some of the riders better. One member of the group lives in a well-established co-housing building at the Swan’s Market. It was interesting to hear about her experiences living in downtown. She has opted for a carless lifestyle and it is challenging for her to satisfy her daily needs locally. While Brown’s goal has been to move folks on into to downtown, the area is really not able to fully accommodate a self-sufficient urban lifestyle. Hungering for a sense a local community, she was very taken with the Pretty Lady and decided that it would become her routine breakfast joint.

Low Bottom:

We decided to visit Lobot Gallery on our way home. Created in 2003, it is a relatively new artist-run space, named after the Low Bottom. We had an interesting discussion with one of the resident artists about the space, their mission and philosophy. One of their goals is to provide affordable studio space to local and international emerging artists. They are also striving to be a part of the local neighborhood by providing classes in music, performance and art for local kids. They also make sure that all of their events are locally publicized. While many artists are moving to West Oakland for the (relatively) cheap warehouse space, they have a reputation for separating themselves from the community. The folks at Lobot want to counter this tendency.

We were shown an artifact of one of their recent events: the barbeque bicycle. They told us they ride to the Korean supermarket on 25th and Telegraph, stoke up the grill, and by the time they arrive back at the studio, yum, yum, yum, the chow is done!

The End:

On our way home, we wove through an area of new infill condos (which seem to feed many people’s perception of the gentrification of West Oakland). Then we rode under an amazing maze of multi-tiered freeways---not a spot we would like to be when the next ‘big one’ comes along. We touched on a corner of Emeryville and then we headed back to our neighborhood via 45th Street. We weren’t sure when we were leaving West Oakland and entering East Oakland. Maybe, as one person we surveyed had commented, “It’s all a state of mind.”