UCSC Part 3: The Search for Life in Distant Galaxies

The last work that I’m going to talk about is my current project, The Search for Life in Distant Galaxies.

The Search for Life in Distant Galaxies, plays with the idea of queer space and time more than any of my previous work. It is a series of walking tours and downloadable videos that will be available for your mobile devices or you can simply experience it on your home computers. It’s about San Francisco’s Tenderloin district and takes place simultaneously in the past, present and future. The Tenderloin was where the West Coast version of the LGBT movement was incubated. The main story is about a gay man who is being evicted from his apartment that has been his home for 40 years. It’s basically a day in his life.

The project contains a text based narrative that is linear, 16 video sections, a series of sketch books presented in galleries, and a series of maps that link the site to other locations on the web. These other modules are non-linear.

This is one of the maps for this project—a Google map of Gay Bars in the Tenderloin in 1968. This was the year before the Stonewall Riot in New York that historically marks the beginning of the Gay Movement.

Each of the map interfaces like this one will be “drifts” through space and time.

Each of the maps’ hyperlinks will be connected to a story line that can be accessed in multiple ways.

I’ve been doing my primary research at the GLBT historical society. If you haven’t been there, it’s worth the visit. Probably the most significant experience that I had while doing my research was finding a photo-scrapbook of a young gay man that was created in 1968—the very year that I was trying to capture in the story. I have used this scrapbook as one of my primary references for this project.

scrapbook image from Search for Life in Distant Galaxies

Another page from the scrapbook.

scrapbook image from Search for Life in Distant Galaxies

A third page.

scrapbook image from Search for Life in Distant Galaxies

I’d like to show you some of the video modules that I have completed. I don’t want to show the interface yet because the project doesn’t launch until June and I’m still working things out. The first video is the Chalkboard. It belongs to Ed Marker, the main character in the piece and hangs in the entrance way to his apartment and opens up the theme of the story.

The next section is the part about his friend James and gives a little background about when and why he moved to San Francisco. It introduces the main character.

Ed Marker, the main character, thinks that there are time portals that can connect him to the past and the future. He has spent years mappings these phenomena.

The next section gives us a clue about the origin of his idea for mapping the mysteries of the Tenderloin. It’s called “The Part about Vertigo.”

Wormholes is an abstract piece that I hope gives a sense of moving through space and time. This piece was originally created in 2003 and retitled for The Search for Life project.


The main character time trips back to 1968. I’m trying to give the viewer an impression of the period and not write a history.

Still image from Rudy Lemcke's Gay Pool Party 1968

1968 was the year before Stonewall and it was a time before Gay liberation had gelled into a fixed idea. This was the time and the feeling that I am trying to access in the past in order to show the incubation of the queer community.

Allen Ginsberg was chanting in Golden Gate Park, Janis Joplin was playing at the Filmore West, Drag Queens were stomping around in the Tenderloin, the Vietnam War was in full bloom and there was violent unrest everywhere in the world.

This final clip shows one moment in the summer of 1968.

The Search for Life in Distant Galaxies will premier in June 2010. Please tune in.

still from The Part About James remixed by Rudy Lemcke

Thank you.

NOTE: Please visit the completed project. The Search for Life in Distant Galaxies.

Introduction | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3