A San Francisco conceptual artist wanted to comment on the vast amount of empty real estate sitting unused in the city right now — while lots of people, including artists and the homeless, could be using it. So, she made a replica of a Spirit Halloween Store banner and used it on Monday to cover up Google's SF office sign on the Embarcadero.
Artist Danielle Baskin, who's becoming known for satirizing tech culture with her "viral art," says the idea for the Spirit Halloween piece came about after she got evicted from a studio space she had on Market Street.
As she tells SFGate, "I've spent a lot of time thinking about unused real estate in San Francisco. So many people wish they had a wood shop, or space to make things. And there's just so many empty weird lobbies with chairs that no one sits in, and offices where the employees don't even come to work because they're welcome to work from home anytime."
From an earlier sign-making business, Baskin has a large-format printer which she used to make the same sort of flimsy banner that Spirit stores usually use when they temporarily occupy vacant retail space for the pre-Halloween season. And the piece included some performance art involving a group of friends all pretending to be Spirit store staffers, waiting for the public to try to come shop for costumes.
She noted how the performance aspect, with her fake Spirit Halloween staffers, didn't really play out so well given what a ghost town the whole downtown area is these days. "Which is actually where Spirit Halloween comes in," Baskin says. "It's like the grim reaper of dying industries." And that's ironic given that the logo is an actual grim reaper.
Today we opened a Spirit Halloween at the vacant Google Headquarters. pic.twitter.com/xwomb6Xlec— Danielle Baskin (@djbaskin) September 20, 2021
This real estate is in a great location and it’s sitting there empty. Had to jump on the opportunity. Join us! (Sorry, again for the appearance while we remodel.) 👻🚧 pic.twitter.com/0kWMnNF2ka— Danielle Baskin (@djbaskin) September 20, 2021
"It’s going to be a great Halloween shopping season and I’m glad we’re putting this empty office to a better use," Baskin cheekily tweeted.
Earlier this year, Baskin lampooned Twitter culture with another piece, Blue Check Homes. She created a fake website and tweeted an advertisement for a service that installs a "verified" blue checkmark crest on the front of your Bay Area home to let passersby know that you're "an authentic public figure."
You can now get a Verified Badge crest on your Bay Area home if you're an influencer, public figure, or represent a brand. https://t.co/SyoURdSGe7 pic.twitter.com/H1Sz3gwBdL— Danielle Baskin (@djbaskin) January 30, 2021
Baskin appears right at home in the Bay Area tech world, though, even as she satirizes it. In August, she hid some floppy disks around the city advertising a mock, dial-up-era game called Cofounder Quest, which appears to be her unique way of recruiting an engineer to help her "make tools for easy-to-build voice-chat apps" — based on the success of the app she already made, Dialup, which randomly connects people for phone conversations around the world.
I made a game called Cofounder Quest to find a new collaborator! I'm hiding the game on floppy disks all over the city in places where a software engineer is likely to stumble into it. ⚡️— Danielle Baskin (@djbaskin) August 25, 2021
Maybe this is just another elaborate prank, but she actually does seem to want to create a company out of this concept — and she says with the game she's looking "cast a wide net" and find the ideal collaborator to build this new company.
Unfortunately, the Spirit Halloween sign came down almost as soon as it went up. Google still has some security staff at work, and they removed and confiscated the sign. Baskin says she'd still love to repurpose it, so she tells any Googlers who are listening, "If you see a 10' sign with a grim reaper in a closet at 345 Spear St., please return it. Thanks!"
Top image courtesy of Danielle Baskin