Chris Basmajian / News /

Christian L. Frock presents

"Moment Magnitude"
A site-specific guerrilla video projection by Chris Basmajian

Saturday, October 17
6:30 (sunset) - 8pm

Loma Prieta Memorial Park
14th Street and Mandela Parkway
Oakland, California

Project Description: For this collaboration with Invisible Venue (IV), Chris Basmajian has mined the legacy of the Loma Prieta earthquake by incorporating varied recollections of the event in the production of a text-based video. "Moment Magnitude," the resulting work will be presented in an unsanctioned public screening in the West Oakland memorial park along Mandela Parkway at sunset, on the evening of the 20th anniversary of the quake.

Personal recollections were solicited in an open call to the Invisible Venue and community. To emphasize the fleeting quality of memory, submissions were limited to 140 text characters--a limitation that bears further significance in current communication technologies, such as Twitter and text messaging, and draws a sharp measure for how much has changed in the 20 years that have passed since 1989. Indeed, this observation is brought into sharp focus as the recollections are markedly absent of references to the technologies that we rely upon so heavily today--such as cell phones, digital voice mail, text messaging, or email--but rather recall previously essential and now completely outmoded tools such as payphones. Further exploring the relationship of time to the subject and the medium, Basmajian combines contemporary video footage of areas that suffered severe damage with memories in the form of narrative text, including images of the Bay Bridge and the area of Oakland that housed the collapsed Cypress Street Viaduct on the Nimitz Freeway. These 15 second segments match the duration the '89 quake and seem unending when compared with the speed of communication today. The project takes its title, Moment Magnitude, from the standardized seismological measuring system that evaluates the strength of an earthquake. Moment magnitude replaced the Richter magnitude scale as the preferred incremental measurement in the 1970s, though the later term is still circulated in popular vernacular . In this exploration of text and language as moving image, Basmajian further mines an area of inquisition common to his larger practice and, in so doing, highlights the intrinsic relationships of memory, place, and image.

Chris Basmajian is an interactive video artist based in San Francisco, California. His work combines time-based media with live action to produce generative effects, and often explores the formal aspects of text as a communication tool. Basmajian's work has been exhibited extensively, in venues such as FILE 2009 Electronic Language International Festival, Ruth Cardoso Cultural Center, Sao Paulo, Brazil; Arche Time: Cross Disciplinary Conference and Exhibition on Time, The Tank Space for Performing and Visual Arts, New York, New York; and International Forum Art Tech Media Cordoba, Cordoba, Spain. He is most widely recognized as the creator of "Attention Hog," a popular casual game that capitalizes on the social and psychological trends prevalent in social-networking media.

Excerpted from Wikipedia: The Loma Prieta earthquake was a major earthquake that struck the San Francisco Bay Area on October 17, 1989 at 5:04pm (PST.) Caused by a slip along the San Andreas Fault, the temblor lasted 10 - 15 seconds and measured 6.9 on the moment magnitude scale (Richter magnitude scale 7.0.) The quake killed 63 people throughout northern California, injured some 3,757 and left several thousands of people homeless. The highest concentration of injuries occurred in the failure of the Cypress Street Viaduct on the Nimitz Freeway, where a double-deck portion of the freeway collapsed, crushing the cars on the lower deck. One 50-foot section of the San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge also collapsed, leading to a single fatality on the bridge. The earthquake occurred during the warm up for the third game of the 1989 World Series, coincidentally featuring both of the Bay Area's Major League Baseball teams. Because of game-related sports coverage, this was the first major earthquake in America to have its initial jolt broadcast live on television.

Partial support for Invisible Venue is provided by funds from an Alternative Exposure Grant (2008), a funding program developed by San Francisco non-profit artist space Southern Exposure in conjunction with The Andy Warhol Foundation to support independent initiatives in contemporary art.

Special thanks to those who contributed recollections: Shireen Advani Lee, Sandow Birk, Glenn Carlson, DeWitt Cheng, Marilynn Fowler, Christian L. Frock, David Frock, Charles Gute, Glen Helfand, Jeremy Hight, Jeanie Hoff, Kareen Hunter, Otis Kriegel, Steve Lambert, John Lehnus, Amber Maclean, Susan O'Malley, Eric Murphy, Klari Reis, Fanny Retsek, Benjamin Salles, Linda Schanfein, Aaron Stienstra, Meagan Young

For more information, please visit or email

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Invisible Venue collaborates with artists to present art in unexpected settings.


October 2009