Shotgun Review

Until Today: Spectres for the International Hotel


By Shotgun Reviews October 8, 2010

Until Today: Spectres for the International Hotel, showing at the International Hotel, Manilatown Center, includes video, sculpture, and works on paper by Jerome Reyes. The exhibition grew out of community-based research and a series of conversations between Reyes, Julio César Morales, and Tammy Ko Robinson. Aptly titled, the exhibition reads like a ghost story of a time past. The layout of the space mimics the structure and experience of memory itself, a patchwork of specific moments that, together, color the memory of an event. In a dimly-lit room, a set of carefully crafted scenes evoke specters of the decades-long struggle over housing that unraveled at the site of the International Hotel in San Francisco beginning in the late 1960s. The exhibition is installed in the building that now stands on the site of the original hotel.

From the early 1900s through the ’60s, the I-Hotel housed low-income and elderly Filipino tenants. On August 4, 1977, at 3 a.m., three hundred police officers forcibly evicted all of the tenants. The event launched an intense fight for affordable housing for elderly Filipino populations in San Francisco. The battle ended with an order by Mayor Feinstein that any future development on the block must include affordable housing.

In Analgesia (and Armament) (2010), a video projection shows a pair of hands methodically slicing a melon. The video reenacts the moment just before the police broke into the I-Hotel, when community leader Wahat Tampao cut up a melon and handed it out to his neighbors. The video monumentalizes the seemingly simple act of collectivity that is integral to any act of resistance. Routes and Seasons (After Carlos Villa’s quilt of hope) (2009) is based on past tenants’ memories of the hotel.

Routes and Seasons (After Carlos Villa’s quilt of hope), 2009; wood, brick dust, bird feathers. Image courtesy of the artist and Julio César Morales.

On a raw wood table rests a cast fedora, the style worn by many of the hotel’s transient tenants. Reyes created the fedora using red dust from the bricks of the former I-Hotel building, using trace evidence to chronicle the site’s history. Lit by a single dangling lightbulb, the hat stands as a ghostly memorial to the tenants who passed through the old hotel and to those who devoted themselves to a battle over their home. Routes and Seasons capitalizes on the power of the evidentiary, as if to prove the veracity of the memories from which it was created. Together, the works in the exhibition stand as testament to the power and authority of collective memory.

 

Until Today: Spectres for the International Hotel is on view at the International Hotel, in San Francisco, through December 4, 2010.

 

Christy Wiles holds an MA in History and Theory of Contemporary Art from SFAI and a BA in Spanish Literature from Reed College.

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