Histories are written in books and in journalism, but also, within our social consciousness. Places themselves hold traces of the past and have their own form of documentation. Oral Histories are processes that uplift the stories told by first hand witnesses. We know that often these forms of histories tell us deep truths that we could never read or know through textbooks. As we extend our thinking around whose voices and what forms of storytelling are valid, articulate, and valuable, consider the Sun. For any given place that hosted a settlement of people, was the site of a natural disaster, a whimsical discovery or a significant turn in civil rights history, the Sun was there, at that exact moment. The Sun has witnessed each of the seminal events in our social consciousness, and still has so much to say.
The Solar History project maps sites with significant histories in the San Francisco Bay Area, drawing from a range of reference points: from geological histories to cultural, personal and socio-political ones.
With a notepad and writing utensils, I travel to these sites, listening to and documenting the story the Sun has to share. As with any storyteller, the Sun’s story evolves as it tells it over and over again. It changes depending on the audience who is listening to it, the size of the stage and the context of the environment.
But as our constant witness, the first hand account of local histories as told by the sun is worth listening to and recording.
I have documented Solar Histories as told at Coyote Hills, Castro Camera, Fort Point, Drake’s Beach, CCA Oakland Campus, Earthquake Trail, the first headquarters of the Black Panther Party, Mission Basilica and 151 Hubbell Street, SF.
With variable dimensions, the media includes sunlight speaking through grass and leaves, parking meters and traffic lights, the foot of a statue of the Virgin Mary and a cup of chex mix, the chains and wheel spokes of a cannon, the wind and the shadows of myself and passersby; paper, pencils, marker, sharpies, colored pencil, charcoal