‘Revolving Doors’ exhibit sheds literal light on housing crisis in San Francisco

Chris Fraser/Courtesy

“Revolving Doors” is a camera obscura-type installation art that comprises six pivoting doors capable of rotating up to 90 degrees in either direction. When you are working your way through the room, the darkness of the enclosed space at San Francisco Camerawork is offset by the art enthusiasts brightly discussing color and architecture.

It is easy for any viewer to immerse himself or herself in the comfort and quietness that the exhibit provides. Lights of subtractive colors, such as cyan, magenta, yellow and orange, enter through the crevices when the all the doors are closed and project slivers of luminescence inside. The color shafts seemingly and poignantly offer those who are inside a tiny perspective of the external world — something that artist Chris Fraser was conscious of when he crafted his installations.

The narrow rays of light, all hopeful and bright, beam brighter, bigger and more exciting when viewed at a close proximity. The colors even seem to blend with one another and create new palettes.The installation, which was funded by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, easily cements itself as one of the most intriguing displays of modern visual art, thanks not only to the ingenuity of Fraser and the breathtaking nature of the colors themselves but also to what the revolving doors represent.

His newest installation allegorically deals with the changing nature of the neighborhood of San Francisco and the pathfinders who make the city residentially attractive to newcomers. Despite being based out of Oakland, Fraser finds immense inspiration within the city of the Golden Gate and specifically, the architecture of San Francisco Camerawork’s gallery. The gallery’s pivoting windows and the view of the noisy and bustling Market Street add a depth to the exhibit that goes far beyond spatial relations.

For Fraser, “Revolving Doors” is deeply political.

Engaging in the themes of reception and eviction, Fraser said, the exhibit is about “being a good neighbor.” He further added, “Although there’s opportunity for play (in San Francisco), you have to be mindful of the people around you.”

Like the city itself, there is a duality to “Revolving Doors” — a name that hints at the current housing crisis occurring in San Francisco, where rental prices have skyrocketed since the technology boom and longtime residents must face eviction or relocation. The exhibit somehow represents a survival of the fittest: the one who can easily adapt to the constantly changing crowd takes a spot inside.

“There’s no place (in San Francisco) for anybody who feels desperate for life anymore,” Fraser said when the exhibit opened in the beginning of February. He feels that artists are becoming excluded from the city to a greater extent.

“I don’t know a single artist in the Bay Area who isn’t thinking about this right now. I think we all feel a responsibility to (express) how the Bay Area is changing,” Fraser continued. San Francisco has long been a mecca for artists, and their dwindling ability to afford housing could potentially affect the culture of the city.

Although he initially pursued photography, Fraser realized that taking photographs didn’t suit with his true artistic vision. “I just like the way the camera helped me see the world,” he explained. “So I started making spaces where other people could come in and have a very similar experience of the world with the camera that I was having privately.”

“Revolving Doors” is an experience that not only provides infinite jest but also awakens an awareness of the social conditions of a much beloved city. When the space starts to fill in quickly, the whole gallery has the ability to turn into a vivarium of sophisticated and diverse inhabitants with a primary goal of celebrating the aesthetic achievement of the installation and art in general, much like the city itself.

“Revolving Doors” offers a colorful escape from the sometimes harsh realities in the streets of San Francisco, but it also won’t let you leave without a firm understanding of how and why this antagonism exists in the first place.

Revolving Doors will be on display until Saturday. 

Contact Majick Tadepa at [email protected]