Pickpocket Almanack: Fall 2009

Courses take place between October 1 and December 11, 2009.

Pickpocket Almanack is an experimental school without walls. Each season, under the direction of independent curator Joseph del Pesco, a temporary faculty comprised of artists, designers, writers, and filmmakers creates theme-based courses by selecting from a diverse series of scheduled public Bay Area events, including lectures, screenings, workshops, and panels. Each course takes these events out of context and gives them a new thematic frame, providing a set of journeys through Bay Area cultural life, as well as some new connections and unexpected discoveries, led by some of the community's most distinctive cultural figures. Faculty for the fall season includes Les Blank, Jens Hoffmann, Ben Kinmont, Beth Lisick, and Rick and Megan Prelinger. 

Discussion is conducted online, with participants and faculty meeting in person at the end of each season. There are no age or experience requirements, and all courses are free and not for credit (tickets may be required for some programs and events). Participants may enroll in a maximum of two courses per season; space may be limited for some courses. Enrollment for the fall season (October through December 2009) begins on September 23.

View courses and sign up at

Joseph del Pesco is an independent curator, art journalist, regular collaborator, and web-media producer. He has organized curatorial projects at Artists Space in New York; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco; Galerie Analix in Geneva, Switzerland; the Rooseum in Malmö, Sweden; Articule in Montréal, Canada; the Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada; and the Nelson Gallery at the University of California, Davis. He has contributed interviews, reviews, and other texts to Flash Art, X-Tra, Proximity, Fillip, and NUKE magazines and Art in America's website.

Les Blank is a prize-winning independent filmmaker, best known for a series of poetic films that led Time magazine critic Jay Cocks to write, "I can't believe that anyone interested in movies or America...could watch Blank's work without feeling they'd been granted a casual, soft-spoken revelation." John Rockwell, writing in The New York Times, added, "Blank is a documentarian of folk cultures who transforms anthropology into art." His many films include Garlic Is as Good as Ten Mothers (about Alice Waters and other Bay Area garlic fanatics) and Burden of Dreams (about the making of Werner Herzog's Fitzcarraldo).

Jens Hoffmann is the director of the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco. From 2003 to 2007 Hoffmann was the director of exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. He has curated over three dozen exhibitions internationally since 1997 and written more than 150 articles. Hoffmann also is a faculty member of the Curatorial Studies Program of Goldsmiths College, University of London, and a visiting professor at the Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti in Milan. He currently is an adjunct curator at Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno (CAAM), Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, and a guest curator at the Presentation House Gallery, Vancouver.

Ben Kinmont is interested in interpersonal communication as a means of addressing the problems of contemporary society. His sculptures and actions attempt to establish a direct, personal relationship between the artist and the viewer, using the work as a mediator. To create his art, Kinmont typically goes on the street and engages in a dialogue with any passerby who demonstrates interest in his proposals. His actions range from washing dishes in a museum restaurant to receiving strangers at his home and asking passersby on the street to consider casual conversation a form of art.

Beth Lisick is a writer, performer, and arts organizer from the San Francisco Bay Area. Her books include The New York Times best-selling comic memoir Everybody Into the Pool and the gonzo self-help manifesto Helping Me Help Myself. Lisick has toured the U.S. and Europe as a solo spoken-word performer, frontperson for the band the Beth Lisick Ordeal, and member of the groundbreaking female road show Sister Spit. Her other projects include comedic performances for the stage and screen with Tara Jepsen, curating the monthly Porchlight Storytelling Series with Arline Klatte, and teaching creative writing to young adults. She recently played the female lead in Frazer Bradshaw’s award-winning feature film Everything Strange and New and is currently working on a new film with the director.

Megan Shaw Prelinger is a writer and artist whose works interpret American political and geographic history. She works primarily in text, both as an independent scholar and as the cofounder of the Prelinger Library, an experimental research library in San Francisco where she is architect of the library's information design. Among her works are: Promise and Response: Documenting the Atomic Era, a text installation (Simnuke Exhibit, 2005); Collective Action: A Bad Subjects Anthology (Pluto Press, 2004), which she coedited; Homeland Security, a two-channel multimedia installation (2003); the short movie Releases (2002); and The Landscape Coin, a multiple work in brass (2000).

Rick Prelinger founded Prelinger Archives, a collection of advertising, educational, industrial, and amateur films, in 1982. In 2002, the film collection was acquired by the Library of Congress. Prelinger partnered with the Internet Archive to put 2,000 of his films online for free viewing, downloading, and reuse. He is active around intellectual property and archival issues, sits on the National Film Preservation Board, and is a board member of the Internet Archive and San Francisco Cinematheque. He recently completed Panorama Ephemera, an all-archival feature film. Prelinger and his spouse Megan recently opened the Prelinger Library, an appropriation-friendly private research library in San Francisco.

Image courtesy of Joseph del Pesco.

Pickpocket Almanack is commissioned by SFMOMA and curated by Joseph del Pesco.