Standing on Howard Street in front of a wall of graffiti, look up and try not to flinch. A grandfather clock appears to be falling out of the window of the abandoned tenement building. Upon a second look, you see that the grandfather clock is bent, twisted and, luckily for the pedestrians on the busy street below, not falling at all. Beds, clocks, bureaus, floor lamps and other furniture hang on the outside of the building creating a surreal experience for the viewer. The furniture is secured with earthquake-proof brackets that are rumored to be stronger than the building itself. The artist, Brian Goggin, who, according to his artist statement, looks for inspiration in “unexpected locations or methods of presenting the work,” created this site-specific installation on the abandoned and graffitied Hotel Hugo building at the edge of one of San Francisco roughest neighborhoods. In 1997, with the help of over 100 volunteers and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, Goggin built “Defenestration” using cast-off, abandoned or found-on-the-street furniture to reflect “the harsh experience of many members of the community.”
The installation was only supposed to last one year. Fifteen years and one restoration later, in 2012, it is still delighting visitors and passers-by.
The first level of the building has also been transformed into a gallery for rotating exhibits by street muralists and artists.
Alas, as of 2014, Defenestration has been, dismantled. However, “There is also talk of installing some of the pieces on buildings along the Sixth Street corridor.”
Know Before You Go
From the Powell St. Muni/Bart Sation. Turn Right off of Market, walk two block down 4th St. Turn Right on Howard and walk two blocks to Howard.