In a recent ploy at protesting the ever-rising cost of living in the Bay Area, artists Erik Schmitt and Nick Bushman have taken credit for a shiny new form of vandalism: turning objects on the street gold.
23-karat gold, to be specific. Schmitt and Bushman teamed up for this project they call “Gilded Cities”, the mission of which is to cover manholes and poles in literal gold as a means to confront the world with a physical manifestation of the San Francisco Bay Area’s absurd cost of living.
As enchanting as a golden sewer pipe is, I don’t see it solving the housing shortage or stalling the rampant gentrification. Furthermore, when I investigated the sites in person, I found the pieces to be extraordinarily unassuming. They blend quite nicely into their surrounding cityscapes and many are tucked away in back alleyways getting little foot traffic. These pieces are intended to make a strong political statement, but so far they haven’t made any waves. If anything, I wonder whether these festooned pipes and drains won’t instead raise property values. The project as a whole seems counter-intuitive to me, and as a minimum-wage earning resident of the city, I can’t help but wish the fiscal resources invested in this project were applied virtually anywhere else.
// The art can be found at 87 Sycamore St., Mission; gildedcities.org