Defenestration, by Brian Goggin converts an abandoned SRO (single room occupancy) hotel at the intersection of 6th and Howard in San Francisco into a public sculpture. Frozen in perpetual escape from the upper-story windows, furniture (including armoires, lamps, chairs, even a grandfather clock) clings to the building. Installed in 1997, last year (2010) it received a bit of a touch-up: the wood furniture had begun to rot, the upholstery had taken a beating from years in the weather, and the many lamps that once lit-up, no longer did. It faces an uncertain future. The San Francisco Redevelopment Agency will be tearing the building down to make way for affordable housing. The project timeline hasn’t yet been set, so have a visit before it all comes down.
The first time I saw this piece, a few years after it went up, it already looked a little downtrodden – as if the furniture had become shabby in order to match the exterior of the building. It’s attractive to me not only for the character of each of these inanimate (and, at the same time, very animate) furnishings, but also for its life story. The artist had the idea for it long before he had the building. He asked around, and, shockingly, no owners of buildings that were currently occupied wanted to let him bolt furniture to the exterior of their buildings (despite Goggin’s reassurances that it wouldn’t affect the residents). I can relate heartily: having spent many years approaching people with requests that are far outside those that they normally consider. He finally secured the location by sending a fax to a number posted outside a vacant building. The owner’s daughter responded: ‘The building owner is traveling abroad, but if you come install it while he’s away, he might not make you take it down.’