There are 2,976 feet of gutters lined with repurposed tombstones in San Francisco’s Buena Vista Park. San Francisco’s cemeteries have been sites of contention, preservation, and eventually erasure. While the cemeteries were mostly relocated, many tombstones were broken apart and repurposed for utilitarian means, rather than their original commemorative ones. The majority of Buena Vista’s archive is conserved while being hidden, as the broken stone’s text is facing downward, presenting an unexpected contradiction of preservation. The tension of visible and concealed surfaces is what makes the site of Buena Vista park such a potent metaphor for the inaccessibility of public memory for the dispossessed generations of San Francisco.
This work is a component of Kate Laster’s MA thesis in collaboration with Steph Kudisch, as Hevra Kadisha.
On March 30th, 2019 Laster led a generative sound walk and intervention through Buena Vista Park as continuation of the piece LET THE RIVER LEAD YOU. Bay Area artists, students and organizers were invited to join in the procession through movement and sound. The sounds that were emitted were guttural -- hums, throaty murmurs and hollers. Participants were instructed to be present in the space while also considering memory.
The performance was a synthesis of intensive research channeled into a procession. Movement is a way to slow time to focus on those who are celebrating, grieving and resisting. Subversive knowledge presents information about the past that has been silenced, giving contexts for the present, and challenging how onlookers interact with location. The collective performance of STONES SPEAK was a way to share subversive knowledge of Buena Vista Park.