December 10, 2016

"It is indescribably painful to see the death of our friends being used to attack the form of safety we have built in each other."

Says the letter from former residents of an Oakland warehouse arts institution, who are worried about the crackdown on artist collectives after the Ghost Ship fire.
"We are just a few days into a nightmare that is still unfolding," the letter said. "But already people outside of this community are calling for a crackdown on art spaces."
There's the safety imposed by outsiders — the safety of fire codes — and there's the safety collectivist artists have in each other — the safety of togetherness and low rent. 

"The atmosphere, the lighting, the spaciousness of that upstairs area, it felt like we were in a dream," said one San Francisco DJ:
"The reality is that people will make their art happen and will make these events happen, whether it's a safe space or not."
Safe space! 

The DJ repurposes a cultural buzz phrase.

ADDED: I'm picturing a movie, sold with a slogan like: Sometimes, the only safe space is the least safe space of all.

60 comments:

Sydney said...

The callous disregard for other people's safety is chilling. It would be one thing if the regulations were so strict that they provided very little benefit at a high cost, but we're just talking about having identifiable REAL exits and fire extinguishers, right?

tim in vermont said...

I blame the play Rent. A whole show about people refusing to pay any rent, and somehow, these were the heroes. You guys who say literature doesn't matter have no idea.

[MARK AND HALF OF COMPANY]
How do you leave the past behind
When it keeps finding ways to get to your heart
It reaches way down deep and tears you inside out
Till you're torn apart
Rent!
[ROGER AND OTHER HALF OF COMPANY]
How can you connect in an age
Where strangers, landlords, lovers
Your own blood cells betray
[ALL]
What binds the fabric together
When the raging, shifting winds of change
Keep ripping away
[BENNY]
Draw a line in the sand
And then make a stand
[ROGER]
Use your camera to spar
[MARK]
Use your guitar
[ALL]
When they act tough - you call their bluff
[MARK AND ROGER]
We're not gonna pay
[MARK AND ROGER WITH HALF OF COMPANY]
We're not gonna pay
[MARK AND ROGER WITH OTHER HALF OF COMPANY]
We're not gonna pay
[ALL]
Last year's rent
This year's rent
Next year's rent
Rent rent rent rent rent
We're not gonna pay rent
[ROGER AND MARK]
'Cause everything is rent!

tim in vermont said...

but we're just talking about having identifiable REAL exits and fire extinguishers, right?

Fascist!

traditionalguy said...

Burning Man done in town and called a safe space for art. That is so special.

Owen said...

They will always have the safe space between their ears.

Nothing mean or scary will ever get in there.

Sally327 said...

I never knew that squalor is so necessary to the realization of an artist's vision.

Anyway, I find it interesting, that artists want to be free from accountability for health and safety codes because those might interfere with art making and their sense of community. I think property owners might heartily endorse a loosening of those regulations as well, except for them it's about the money. Which the artists would probably condemn as an impure motive.


David said...

Most art and artists are ephemeral. Unfortunately places like this speed up the process.

sinz52 said...

It's a good demo of what's wrong with pure libertarianism.

You may want to be free of those pesky fire codes and other safety regulations. You may want to take the risk. But fires can spread to other buildings and hurt other people.

I've read libertarian critiques of zoning laws too. They think it's cool that a striptease joint or a brothel can be sited right next to a church, or a polluting factory that belches smog can be sited right next to your home.

In public health, there's also the concept of "herd immunity." If enough people get vaccinated, there won't be enough susceptible hosts to spread an epidemic. So even people who choose not to get vaccinated or who are allergic to the vaccine are protected.

All these situations are illustrations of scenarios that are inconsistent with the basic assumptions of laissez-faire capitalism: In any organized society, you don't have total freedom to go your own way.

Michael McClain said...

Not so safe for those burned alive.

Matthew Sablan said...

I feel bad for the people who died, but if this had been a factory where people burned to death due to lax enforcement of fire codes, we'd all be hearing a different tune.

Matthew Sablan said...

"It's a good demo of what's wrong with pure libertarianism."

-- Fire codes are literally some of the few things that many libertarians are fine with the government being involved in, because it is a legitimate public safety issue. Some libertarians go a bit farther, thinking that the private sector could easily certify fire safety like they do with electronics, but a good chunk of libertarians are fine with the government handling fire safety [provided it is done efficient and unobtrusively.]

William said...

There's a fine line between fatuity and idealism, and they're not threading it.

David Begley said...

The Mayor of Oakland should be recalled from office. The City knew about that disaster in the making for years.

hiswiserangel said...

As long as they are willing to sign a liability waiver releasing the owner,manager, and government employees I'm fine with them creating their "safe" spaces.

Laslo Spatula said...

The art installation "Flammable Materials In An Unsafe Environment" was one of the first things to be lost.

I am Laslo.

Ann Althouse said...

"So when they sing in the anthem of the show (a lie, really. Every song in the show is an anthem, delivered with adolescent earnestness. It’s like being trapped in the humid pages of a teenager’s diary), when they sing in the title anthem of the show, “We’re not gonna pay this year’s rent,” followed by a kind of barked cheer of “rent rent rent rent rent!,” my only question is: Well, why aren’t you going to pay this year’s rent? It seems that they’re not going to pay this year’s rent because rent is for losers and uncreative types. Rent is for Suits, while they are the last bastion of artistic purity. They have not sold out and yet their brilliance goes unacknowledged, so fuck you, yuppie scum!"

Rakoff, David (2010-09-21). Half Empty (p. 49). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

MayBee said...

Ok.

So how about if we just put out the word that if you live in or party at an artists' collective, you may die a fiery death. Then let people make up their own minds.

MayBee said...

Laslo Spatula said...
The art installation "Flammable Materials In An Unsafe Environment" was one of the first things to be lost.

I am Laslo.


Stoooooop. I don't want you to make me laugh at that.

Ann Althouse said...

Isn't it like parkour and then the guy falls 13 stories to his death?

Matthew Sablan said...

"So how about if we just put out the word that if you live in or party at an artists' collective, you may die a fiery death."

-- The problem is that neighboring people have no choice in the matter of dying in a fiery death.

rhhardin said...

If it's indescribably painful the artist must not be a writer.

rhhardin said...

The shortest path through the thesaurus from flammable to inflammable

flammable
inflammable

You see the safety problem.

Matthew Sablan said...

"The Mayor of Oakland should be recalled from office. The City knew about that disaster in the making for years."

-- It is amazing which disasters/obviously unsafe enterprises the government lets sit doing nothing about, and which ones they turn the IRS loose on.

Matthew Sablan said...

The Simpsons agree with rhhardin.

MayBee said...

The guy who ran this place was a gun-wielding, life-threatening, meth-head who had his kids taken from him by CPS, and he built a non-heated, intermittent electricity, one-toilet wooden living and party space in a unihabitable warehouse and charged others $1500/mo to live there. You call it a safe space, I say you are either being exploited or you make terrible life choices.

MayBee said...

-- It is amazing which disasters/obviously unsafe enterprises the government lets sit doing nothing about, and which ones they turn the IRS loose on.

Yes, Matthew Sablan, it is.

MadisonMan said...

The art installation "Flammable Materials In An Unsafe Environment" was one of the first things to be lost.

If there are awards for best lines thrown down at Althouse, this one should be in the running.

Laslo Spatula said...

MayBee said...
The guy who ran this place was a gun-wielding, life-threatening, meth-head who had his kids taken from him by CPS, and he built a non-heated, intermittent electricity, one-toilet wooden living and party space in a unihabitable warehouse and charged others $1500/mo to live there."

The Artist as Slumlord.

Everyone else were just extras in the film:

Screaming Guy #1
Screaming Guy #2
Screaming Girl
Guy on Fire #1
Barefoot Guy on Fire
Bald Guy with Tattoos on Fire
Guy with Nose Ring on Fire
White Guy with Dreadlocks on Fire
Black Guy on Fire #1

etc etc

I am Laslo.

Bob Boyd said...

'Lost in Safe Space'

"Reality Will Robinson!"


William said...

Some of Laslo's best one liners are closer to epitaphs than to epigrams.

mockturtle said...

Interesting that the MSM are blaming the lack of affordable housing in the Bay area.

gilbar said...

So, to
War is peace, Freedom is slavery, Ignorance is strength
We need to add a new one
Death trap is Safe Space?

Guildofcannonballs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Guildofcannonballs said...

"Safe space" is baseball slang for pussy.

After a few seasons, and thousands of dames aced, the ballplayers noticed fewer STD's (hence more RBI's) when they got "home safe" in the space race than when they stuck their "bat" into the "stink space," and often it was less painful than "teeth space" especially among the teenyboppers.

Homer McClarren Dodge IV writes about this in his seminal art/work "Deep Space 3000" for those interested in knowing more details.

Psota said...

People are talking about fire codes, but no one wants to discuss the other legal regime at work here: rent control. In San Francisco, a tenant is protected from eviction even if his unit is illegal. A guy living in the back room of his bicycle shop, for example, is tough to remove even though he is breaching his lease by being there. With these Oakland warehouses, there can dozens of residents, each of whom will resist eviction. Most landlords tolerate it because they don't have the resources ( or the stomach) to go through the process.

mockturtle said...

Most landlords tolerate it because they don't have the resources ( or the stomach) to go through the process.

Or maybe they just like collecting rent.

Susan said...

"It is indescribably painful to see the death of our friends being used to attack the form of safety we have built in each other."

As painful as burning to death I'd imagine.

Arthur James said...

Artistic expression has turned into perpetual adolescence. It is a theme I hammer away at that liberalism and the education system absolutely promotes immaturity and unrealistic individuals. 'Freedom is slavery'! Could it be considered a crime against humanity what the education system has perpetrated upon a generation? Look at the photos of those young people passing away. What chance did any of them have of living a happy responsible adult life?

Here is a funny video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKcWu0tsiZM The video is made by young people. Faith and hope in the young that they will see through the disturbed education system attempting to destroy.

Greg Hlatky said...

@ Matthew Sabian

I thought much the same thing. The owners of the Triangle Shirtwaist Shirtwaist Factory should have defended themselves on the grounds that if they put in safety exits they couldn't have employed so many poor women.

wildswan said...

"The art installation "Flammable Materials In An Unsafe Environment" was one of the first things to be lost."

It was performance art and no more lost than Hamlet when Hamlet is "over." Already another performance is being prepared. "It is indescribably painful to see the death of our friends being used to attack the form of safety we have built in each other."

Bad Lieutenant said...

Matthew Sablan said...
I feel bad for the people who died, but if this had been a factory where people burned to death due to lax enforcement of fire codes, we'd all be hearing a different tune.
12/10/16, 7:36 AM

Certainly, because the factory workers were productive, valuable human beings whose deaths were a loss to society, instead of a net benefit.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

I'm picturing a movie, sold with a slogan like:

In [a safe] space, no one can hear you scream...

EDH said...

"ADDED: I'm picturing a movie, sold with a slogan like: Sometimes, the only safe space is the least safe space of all."

In a woooorld of pampered pajama boys, super achieving "you-go" girls and "playdates," sometimes you need to break free of fire codes...

Dust Bunny Queen said...

There is such a thing as self responsibility. Yes. The landlord was horribly negligent in not following basic safety codes and standards.

However....no one forced these people to live in the squalid environment. No one was keeping them from cleaning up their own environment, clearing the crap out of the hallways and making sure that the exits were clear. It isn't like they were thrown into the Black Hole of Calcutta without their consent.

Tragedy. Yes. Avoidable. Yes. Take responsibility for your own stupid decisions to live in an obviously unsafe, unsanitary, unsane environment.

Michael K said...

California is heading for a wall at high speed. The cost of living in this state is such that I am leaving in a month.

People who are not internet wealthy, and that includes engineers living in $4000.month one bedroom apartments, are finding they cannot live a middle class life here unless they got on the merry-go-round 20 years ago.

I was talking to a couple of the employees of the place I work part time. It is the Los Angeles center for military recruits. Most of the staff are either active duty military or recent retirees working as civilians. The place is always short staffed by technicians and the reason was the topic of our conversation yesterday. One guy told me he has his stuff in storage and is living with a friend. He is from New Orleans where he has more stored belongings, including a speedboat, He cannot, on his salary, find a place he can afford to live. The center, also called a "MEPS" is in west LA near some of the most expensive real estate in California. One of the employees, who I noticed was not there anymore, lived in San Bernardino and has to get up at 4 o'clock to commute to work. She found another job closer to home.

San Francisco, if possible is worse. The economics of California don't work. Water is one example. The population has doubled in the past 40 years but no water storage has been built, The freeways and highways, which were the best in the nation when I arrive 60 years ago, are deteriorated and overcrowded.

Housing is crazy. I can't believe it will last and so I am moving. I am not the only one.

Michael K said...

"Take responsibility for your own stupid decisions to live in an obviously unsafe, unsanitary, unsane environment."

Those people were extra foolish but the ones who mostly died were the party goers. Those who lived their, as I have read, mostly got out because they knew where the exits were and were not above the first floor. Anyway, these firetraps are the only places these people can find at a price they can pay. We are back in the Depression for some areas. San Francisco is one.

John said...

A commenter here once coined the term phart for phoney art. I'd credit them if I knew who it was. I've been using the term ever since.

Seems apprpos here.

John Henry

Big Mike said...

So a fire trap is a safe space. Who knew?

buwaya puti said...

Ditto Michael, re SF.
We "got on the carousel" 30 years ago so are very well off re real estate, and we are well off in income anyway, but the dynamic is certainly evident.
The newcomers or the kids are in a bad way. There is a very steep income gradient in CA employment, and housing prices where the jobs are are ridiculous and take away most of the higher pay. CA cost of living is crazy.
We are doing what we can to permit work from cheaper locations (Redding, Chico, Sacramento, Fresno, Bakersfield) through well connected remote offices and home offices, but of course there are limits here, and our people log a lot of driving time.
As for artists - the bohemian life, the modern model born in the 19th century, always depended on cheap housing, being as these people were trying to be artists without masters, guilds or patrons. Hence no or inadequate means of support. "Rent" is just a rather crude modernized fantasy based on "La Boheme", which itself was based on a much older literary genre of gritty tales of Parisian "bohemian" and lower class life.
Its no mystery why San Francisco attracted so many bohemians, back in the 1950's-70s, because property had become relatively cheap due to the flight to the suburbs. This is easily traced in the collapse of school enrollments of the period. The trouble is that the bohemians insist on staying, out of pure nostalgia perhaps, while conditions have turned against them.

Jupiter said...

Matthew Sablan said...
"a good chunk of libertarians are fine with the government handling fire safety "

There are two aspects to the Libertarian critique of government. The first, which is fairly widely shared, involves the fact that governmental control of the choices we are allowed to make necessarily reduces our freedom. The second aspect, and to my mind the more important one, is that human beings do not magically cease to be selfish and incompetent the day they get a government job. There is a general assumption, especially among liberals, that whatever the government is called upon to do, it will do well and in a fair and even-handed fashion. "We have to have the government do it, because we can't trust the private sector!". But you can't trust the public sector, either. The government is nothing but a collection of human beings. The critical difference between a governmental agency and a private firm is that the private firm must convince you to pay for its services. The government agency forces you to pay at gunpoint. Why this should inspire trust is not clear to me.

Paddy O said...

Safe isn't defined in physical terms because the physical reality is assumed to be much less important than the inner experience. The rise of subjectivity has morphed into the absolutization of a person's individual sense of self, with that sense of self divorced from objective physical being.

This is rarely healthy but often encouraged by those who want to project their ego onto the world. But as the Bay Area experience shows, the physical world will sometimes reassert its fundamental truth. The earth moves, STDs kill, fire burns. Believing strong enough doesn't actually make a difference. Accepting the reality that leads to adaptation, safety, and protection does make a difference.

But people still want to be protected from reality and insist others bear the weight of that protection. It's the ultimate expression of privilege.

Bill Peschel said...

Jupiter: "The government agency forces you to pay at gunpoint. Why this should inspire trust is not clear to me."

I think of this every time I hear about a building collapse in Korea, India, Egypt where bribery has replaced inspections.

I don't know what it is about the dynamic in the U.S. and many other countries that lets this happen much less often. Whatever it is, we need to keep it up.

This discussion of Libertarianism in this thread demonstrates the weakness in our use of political language. You have one branch who you might term "absolutes" (no govt control) and another that would admit controls such as zoning and inspections. Yet they both claim the title Libertarian.

Same thing with Feminism. Most women are perfectly in sync with equal opportunity, equal pay, no discrimination. But then you read the works that The Other McCain has found -- the big works that are probably very influential -- and they're batshit crazy, well worth the mocking.

But if you criticize extreme feminism, people will only hear their version of it being attacked.

rcocean said...

Rent control is the only way to keep landlords from screwing everyone to the wall in their greedy quest for $$$.

People gotta live somewhere, and shouldn't have to be held up every month by some landlord who wants to make 150% on his investment every year.

Big Mike said...

@Laslo (8:05) are you suggesting that the whole thing was supposed to be thought of as performance art?

That could explain a number of things.

madAsHell said...

Rent control is the only way to keep landlords from screwing everyone to the wall in their greedy quest for $$$.

This is sarcasm.....no?

SukieTawdry said...

@MatthewSablan: "So how about if we just put out the word that if you live in or party at an artists' collective, you may die a fiery death."

-- The problem is that neighboring people have no choice in the matter of dying in a fiery death.


Or the firemen and other first responders who have to place themselves in precarious circumstances.

Jeff Teal said...

Compare the pain of losing their safe space to the pain of smoke inhalation and burning alive.Why are "artists" such arrogant egoists?And why should any first responder try and save the special snowflakes? but the first responders were ordered not to go into a burning building.

Jeff Teal said...

Compare the pain of losing their safe space to the pain of smoke inhalation and burning alive.Why are "artists" such arrogant egoists?And why should any first responder try and save the special snowflakes? but the first responders were ordered not to go into a burning building.

gbarto said...

A few years ago a bunch of kids died when a balcony fell off the side of an apartment building. The contractor who built it was licensed and the building passed inspection. Turns out the licensing agency didn't even look at lawsuits filed, much less Yelp reviews, before issuing a new license to anyone who'd ever got one once.

Regulations are not used here to keep people safe. They are used to enforce gentrification. Had the warehouse been in a place where its existence brought down the property values of someone with connections it would have been gone. It wasn't so it served as as a place where the baristas and super market checkers could barely afford to live because rent was $1500, not $2500 (you don't really think those people came up with rent money selling art, do you?).

gbarto said...

These people were artists the way your waiter in LA is an actor.