telegraph avenue at about 29th st

All the Corners of Telegraph Avenue, Facing West

In college I took a class on experimental film that made me fall in love with the kind of work made by people like Ernie Gehr and Hollis Frampton (and lots of others–we even saw films made by women, as much as experimental film, like experimental music, or other weird/alt/outsider stuff, tends to be a sausage fest). I thought for sure that I would become a structuralist filmmaker and live in a loft in Chelsea making films about my toenails or something.

The only real output to come from this period was a film I made in 2006 with the simple precept of shooting a few frames from every single corner of Telegraph Avenue, which runs from downtown Oakland up to the UC Berkeley campus. It originally followed the telegraph line (hence the name) from Oakland to Berkeley, and later saw various transit incarnations (horse-drawn car, streetcar, buses, private cars) funneling workers from Berkeley to the ferry terminals in Oakland and Emeryville. By the time I lived in Oakland in the early 2000s, the street was a microcosm of the changes and difficulties facing the Bay Area–gentrification, neglect, police malfeasance, real estate speculation, and more. It continues to reflect these same challenges, but the face of the street has morphed for the most part into a squeakier-cleaner version of the Oakland-Berkeley corridor.

telegraph at 52nd street
A palm that's probably still there, at 52nd St. Oakland

At this point, in 2020, the speculation has paid off for investors who picked apart Oakland after the 2008 recession and luxury high rise after condo after beergarden continue to sprout like the fruit of some hideous capitalist fungus (yeesh). Anyway, the tech invasion over the last decade has ramped up the speed of Telegraph transitioning into a zone for a certain class of yuppie, to the exclusion of those who had made communities here in the preceding decades.

telegraph in Oakland

Of course this includes the communities of color who have been pushed out by rising rents and home prices, as well as the (mostly white?) artist communities that found a hub along Telegraph in the 90s and 2000s. The Oakland Art Murmur that started around a cluster of galleries and artist-run spaces on or near Telegraph and 24th St. has morphed into a phenomenon that is totally unrecognizable, if totally commodifiable.

telegraph at 23rd street
This shop actually looks exactly the same today

Near to my heart was the demise of the venerable 21 Grand, where my little mind was blown repeatedly by experimental music, films, punk stuff, etc. This element of the ever-churning Machinery of the New of course took a real shit-dive in the wake of the Ghost Ship fire and ensuing clampdown on alternative spaces (read: cheap real estate for new condos).

2519 telegraph
Not totally sure what's here right now. Some gnarly construction according to Google Street View... Econo Jam Records was here for a sec?

Anyway, here’s the film. Let’s think about The West, sunsets, endings, beginnings, reflections, and exclusions.