Refuge in Refuse: Homesteading Art & Culture Project, February 12–March 14, 2015


For more than two decades artists, recreationalists, and the homeless have shared the Albany Bulb, a decommissioned landfill peninsula located along the east shore of the San Francisco Bay, creating infrastructure and exploring borders between public and private urban space. The group exhibition Refuge in Refuse: Homesteading Art & Culture Project includes stories, video, photography, painting, sculpture, interventions, and 3D scans reflecting the intersections of urban planning, landscape architecture, archaeology, art, ecology and community at the Bulb.

Refuge in Refuse is the 2nd of 3 SOMArts Commons Curatorial Residency exhibitions in 2015, but residency recipients Robin Lasser, Danielle Siembieda and Barbara Boissevain envision their role differently than the word “curator” may imply.

“The spirit of the Albany Bulb has always embraced the wild, unsanctioned and off-leash and underscores the question: who owns the right to do what in public space? We are not ‘curating’ the artworks included in Refuge in Refuse–– we are connecting and gathering vantage points from those who have a stake in the Bulb,” said Lasser, who counts herself among those, but acknowledges, “Those with the most at stake are, of course, the people who have made this landfill not only their home, but a significant destination point brimming with vitality and culture.”


Refuge in Refuse, which opens with a reception, film screening and short talks on Thursday, February 12th, places an emphasis on storytelling and cultural production by Bulb residents, who provide insights into a unique ecosystem on the brink of change. In May, 2013 the Albany City Council voted to transfer the Bulb from the City of Albany to the California State Park system, marking the end of the high-profile eviction battle between City of Albany officials and a group of housing advocates representing the Bulb’s otherwise homeless residents. The residents were evicted April 25, 2014.

Over a dozen former residents who were displaced are represented in Refuge in Refuse as contributing artists, collaborators, and subjects in the artworks and investigations of others. A digital film screening during the opening event and looping in the gallery during the run of the exhibition, “Where Do You Go When It Rains?” provides a glimpse of the triumph of the human spirit at the Bulb. The film was written, produced, directed, and edited collectively by former residents Katherine Cody, Jimbow the Hobow, Andy Kreamer, Phyl Lewis, Chester Mounten and Amber Whitson, who, with the exception of Andy who left years before, were forced by police to leave the Bulb.

Refuge in Refuse utilizes audio stories, video, photography, painting, sculpture, interventions, and 3D scans collected at the Bulb and shares these assets in the SOMArts exhibition and, publicly, in two versions of interactive and mobile media: website (, and augmented reality. The exhibition includes investigations of the Bulb across disciplines, including visual art and media, urban planning, landscape architecture and contemporary archaeology mapping systems.

Refuge in Refuse partnered with an architectural surveying company, F3 & Associates, to do 3D Scanning of residents and structures at the Bulb before their eviction and demolition in mid-2014. The virtual models scanned in October 2013 will be indefinitely available through any augmented reality viewing device, regardless of what is built or destroyed in their place. Artist Danielle Siembieda leads this effort.


Judith Leinen and Robin Lasser offer an interactive, mobile installation including wall- mounted mandalas printed on metal, sculptural bike–like zoetropes (pre-film animation devices) animating portraits of Bulb residents. Lasser’s film and large scale photography also appear in the exhibition, highlighting the stories of the Bulb’s residents. Still and moving images depict creative collaborations between Lasser and the former residents as they participate in landfill fashion shows, boxing matches in the Bulb’s gladiator pit, and Tamara Robinson’s performance as Elphaba Thropp, the Wicked Witch of the West, melting at Mad Marc’s castle window.

Other exhibition highlights include excerpts from The Atlas of the Albany Bulb, a project of the U.C. Berkeley Global Urban Humanities Initiative, generously supported by Cal Humanities and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Project director Susan Moffat and collaborating U.C. Berkeley students and faculty are recording the physical, visual and oral history of a place where nature and human culture collide and combine in complicated ways. This group of students of art, city planning, architecture, geography, biology, information design, and contemporary archaeology has worked with Bulb residents to create maps, videos, and self-narrated slideshows that reflect their intimate knowledge of the Bulb.

Barbara Boissevain exhibits two inkjet prints on mylar that illuminate two millennia of the Bulb’s history in terms of biodiversity and surrounding tidal systems. The work interrogates the human occupation of the bulb and surrounding shoreline, and invites discourse regarding how humans and various plant and animal species may coexist in balance at the Bulb in the future.

The projects mentioned above are by no means an exhaustive list of what you will see in the show–– experience the rest in-person! Scroll down for a list of accompanying events & exhibiting artists.

Accompanying Events Include:


Refuge in Refuse Opening Reception
Thursday, February 12, 6–9pm at SOMArts. Free admission.
Visual art opening features 3 film screenings beginning at 6pm, 7pm and 8pm, and informal chats with former Albany bulb residents, participating artists, and other experts about the Bulb, and curbside tours of LavaMae’s mobile showers for the homeless in re-purposed MUNI buses.
More info:


Workshop: Building Mobile Shelters
Saturday, February 21, 11am–5pm at SOMArts. Free admission.
Artist Greg Kloehn guides practical instruction about how to build a small mobile home from reclaimed and dumpstered materials.
More info:


Community, Art & Culture Were Here: Augmented Reality Tour of Albany Bulb
Saturday, February 28, 1pm–3pm. Free admission.
Meets at the Albany Bulb, 1 Buchanan Street, Albany California at the parking lot entrance near bird sculptures. Bring your charged phone or tablet.
Refuge in Refuse organizers lead a walking tour of the creations, realities and archives of the Albany Bulb. Learn about the history of the art & community that once flourished at the Bulb.
More info:


Adopt a Sign at the Albany Bulb
Saturday, April 25, 1pm–3pm. Free admission.
Meets at the Albany Bulb, 1 Buchanan Street, Albany California at the parking lot entrance near bird sculptures.
On the 1-year anniversary of the eviction of the residents of the Albany Bulb, adopt one of many artist-created park signs that tells the story of a former resident and participate in an interventionist artwork by installing the signs at former campsites.
More info:


Film Screenings on Public Access Television
Click here for details. 

April Anthony
James Lee Bailey
Barbara Boissevain
Danielle Evans
Randi Johnsen (with Berkeley Landscape Architecture students: Karly Ann Behncke, Emanuel Oliver Gonzales, Sara Harmon, Jonathan Marc Heyneman Hallet, Penelope Louise Leggett, Wenjie Yang and Ruyang “Ivy” Xie)
Greg Kloehn
Andy Kreamer (with Katherine Cody, Jimbow the Hobow, Phyl Lewis, Chester Mounten and Amber Whitson)
Robin Lasser
Judith Leinen
Tomas McCabe
Susan Moffat and Laurie Wilke (with U.C. Berkeley, San Jose State University and Sonoma State students: Wolfgang Alders, Thomas Banghart, Heather Bromfield, Christina Carolus, Mario Castillo, Ann Danis, Kat Eichner, Albert Gonzales, Wolfgang Alders Daniel Gonzales, Christina Gossman, Mike Grone, Leah Humphreys, Naphtalie Jeanty, Katie Kinkopf, Kushal Lachhwani, Sandra Lee, Christina Lew, Lisa Lomitola, Scott Lyons, Lana Salman,Tori Sandsor, Alyssa Scott, Allison Sherdeon, Julia Tierney, Trent Trombley, Valerie Upp, Ashley Zaragoza; additional collaborators include: Patty Donald, Dawn Kooyumjian, Marc Mattonen, Patricia Moore, Jill Posner, Stephanie Ringstad and Tamara Robinson)
Doniece Sandoval
Danielle Siembieda
SNIFF (Scott Hewitt, Bruce Rayburn, David Ryan, Scott “Buddy” Meadows, Osha Neumann)

SOMArts’ exhibition programs are generously supported by the San Francisco Arts Commission, The San Francisco Foundation and individual donors, and are sponsored in part by a grant from Grants for the Arts.SOMArts is sponsored in part by a grant from Grants for the Arts.

F3 & Associates, San Jose State University, and General Graphics supported Refuge in Refuse with printing discounts.

Images top to bottom: “Tamara as the Wicked Witch of the West Melting at Mad Marc’s Castle Window” Mandala, 48 x 48 inch backlit photograph / Zoetrope Bike Sculpture and Mandalas, room size installation. 2014. Artworks by Judith Leinen + Robin Lasser with former resident Tamara Robinson, 2014; “Boxer Bob with Sugar Ray at Landfill Mansion” 32 x 50 inch archival ink jet photograph by Robin Lasser, 2014; “Landfill Sculpture by Osha Neumann”, 33 x 70 inch point cloud 3D Image by F3 and Associates with Robin Lasser and Danielle Siembieda, 2014