shooting corners

A corner is the place where two lines of different or similar dimensions meet at an angle, or the intersection of two edges. A corner can also be defined as a point for which there are two dominant and different edge directions in a local neighborhood of the point. –Wikipedia

Today I’ve been shooting corners. I started thinking about the corner pictured below, the corner of 47th Ave & 12th St in East Oakland, the site of multiple shootings that have wounded innocent by-standers and killed others.

I won’t go into describing the craziness that occurred once again outside my window Friday night as I was getting ready to meet friends, ironically, at the Film Noir Festival in San Francisco. This time a cop was shot –at the same corner where I witnessed the aftermath of another multiple shooting and killing at the end of October  –on the same street I heard the gunfire that murdered a man in July 2011. Three shootings in a year and a half?

I’m going to survey regulars who live and work here: What creative thing could be done to change the patterns of neglect and violence on our particular corner?

For example imagine a temporary, improvisational, mural covering the concrete building pictured above. It could start as a simple geometric pattern that allowed for tagging to happen.  Members of the community could then transform and incorporate tags as they occurred without obliterating them, into an ever-changing pattern and visual conversation.

Right now the “collaboration” between property owners on my street and taggers seems to be all or nothing. It’s a dysfunctional, non-communicative cycle of paint over / graffiti / over paint / graffiti –of business giving the street a blank slate.

Why not hold a visual conversation between the community and the taggers on the walls of the cement building at the corner of 47th Ave & 12th? What institutions would need to be on board – or not? Would it be dangerous? How would it be funded? Who owns the building? Who is the community? Who are the taggers? Would it work?

I’m not sure this is the answer. Maybe 10 foot strips of wild California poppies outlining the corner would do the trick, but certainly some kind of restorative visual intervention could be tried to alter the rhythm of attention on this corner –to shift the current pattern of desolation that seems to invite violence, and death.

This chain of thought led me to shoot some of my own corners…

interior corners…

and exterior corners of my environment.



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9 Responses to shooting corners

  1. sherrilynn says:

    Candy Chang’s project is absolutely amazing. Thanks Erin & Tonya for bringing it up. I spent a lot of time looking at her website. I had heard of the project before but hadn’t taken the opportunity to explore it. There is even a kit that can be ordered! It may be something for our corner.

    It may also not work on our corner because it’s such an industrial area that there isn’t a lot of pedestrian traffic – but one block up there is a lot of activity so perhaps something could be done one block away that would change things down here. Not sure.

    I continue to ask my neighbors what to do. Some have suggested a psychic blessing for the street, or perhaps a parade with a psychic blessing!

  2. Janet says:

    Oh my Sherri Lynn. This is a tough project to take on. Good for you for wanting to try and I hope you find many partners and supporters and have success. I love the “Before I Die” project. It may or may not be right for your situation though.

  3. Kristin L says:

    I too looked at Cindy Chang’s work and am now quite inspired. She has an amazing ability to find ways to engage the community. So simple, yet to meaningful. The Before I Die project reminds me of the First Amendment monument we have here in Charlottesville: Usually it is covered in greetings, names, quotes, etc. It’s not nearly as deep as Cindy’s work, but it is a fun and interactive part of our downtown neighborhood.

    • sherrilynn says:

      Thanks Kristin. I like the giant slate chalk board idea too. I bet your neighborhood is a little nicer than mine. Actually the problem here is that it is an industrial area and there aren’t a lot of neighbors.

  4. Brenda says:

    how about murals? check out how murals transformed a poor neighbourhood in Havana, Cuba at It’s called Muraleando.
    She’s a Winnipeg based artist who travels there annually to teach art.

  5. Beth says:

    What a contrast between the peace & beauty inside your corners & the chaotic beauty outside. Be safe! The Corner needs a cleansing of some sort.

  6. That is a scary situation. I followed Erin’s suggestion and looked at Candy Chang’s work. Agree that might work well.

  7. Erin Wilson says:

    I really love your take on corners, and the implied reality that you set out and go, not knowing what will happen when you hit the intersection of your intended path and another.

    In case you don’t know Candy Chang’s work, check out her Before I die project. Might be a poignant spot for it.

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