The halls of the studios are quiet today—a door is open to the wood shop—someone is walking back and forth with a large slab of plywood—but it is early in the day and I feel quiet—not ready to talk to people—down the hallway the walls are white—the ceiling is white—there is a 3 foot gap between the walls height and the ceiling—on the ledges materials of shapes are stored—above Truong’s door are white balls—hundreds of them—too high for me to ascertain if the object is heavy—light—synthetic—natural. Truong informs me later this afternoon that he collects any material when it is in bulk—“the material will eventually show me a way into it”—his studio is filled with repeating materials because for him “art repeats itself.”

Truong Tran Studio 6
Truong Tran Studio 6

I read this morning an article about hypocrisy—Hannah Arendt is mentioned—how she regarded the question of relationship between being and appearance an ancient metaphysical problem—these words are triggered when I look up at the strange balls hanging precariously on the ledge above Truong’s door—I get caught on the words ‘being and appearance’—the article was referring to people—to hypocrisy of thinking—but I’m standing under some strange material and my eye can’t inform me accurately of what it sees—to know it I must touch it.

Often I am trying to touch the material of thought—this is impossible—there is no physical sense that can actually touch a thought—it can’t be smelled, seen, heard or tasted—yet an artist will spend hours turning thought or experience into an object—Truong has been working with the social predicament of the artist as “targeted and yet invisible”—out of hundreds of bowls that he collected for two years he cuts and builds Bullseyes—this is what is at the heart of the problem—“targeted because the physical space that we inhabit represents the potential wealth that is just waiting to be claimed and in claiming that space, we are removed and erased from the culture of this city—invisible because we have so little or no power in this equation.”

Truong's space
Truong’s space

Artists work alone—and this community for Truong is “The ecosystem”—“a place where things grow organically”—someone might have a skill—or material that can be shared—Robert walks in—looking for wood filler—Truong is writing again—his new work is written in 2nd person in order to step out of himself—we have moved from white ping pong balls to language structures—the internal eye versus the external eye—an idea alone is never as powerful as an idea exchanged—and this maze of studios is a complex ecosystem of physical and metaphysical material being borrowed or shared by stepping into the hall.


a friend befriended on facebook sends you a package of expired pills the note she writes reads something for your art you separate them by colors you save them inside prescription bottles these amber colored bottles you’ve been saving them for years for when some friend befriended on facebook sends you a bag of expired pills you can still read the names on printed labels crossed out with black sharpies this makes you feel strange strangely invasive you think about the young guy in lynch’s blue velvet he’s sitting in a closet in his underwear watching you remember as a teenager owning a vhs copy rewinding the scene you’re replaying it again you replay it again you save the pills for some future art project for when you need you need to explore addiction as art

Truong Tran

More about Truong Tran:

About STUDIO 17: The Artists’ Space by Alex Nichols

At the end of June—a community of over 70 artists—at the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District—must leave STUDIO 17 to make way for high-cost working space. This blog will catalog the end of this community above Thrift Town (on Mission &17th Street) and what it means. To understand what is being lost—I will spend the next two months carefully observing how artists work in their space—to give an intimate look at the inside of this community.

More about Alex Nichols:

Read more:

Feature on Alex Nichols and STUDIO 17: The Artists’ Space

How the journey began… STUDIO 17: The Artists’ Space by Alex Nichols

More Featured Artists:

Lucinda Buxton Martin

Rick D’Elia

Jeffrey Martin


Daniel Lichtenberg

Ellen Rosenthal

Lauren Marchetti

Adam Barry

Lexie Bouwsma

Denise Laws

Andy Vogt

Qinmin Liu

Truong Tran

Kate Nichols

Published on April 1, 2015

Published by Alex Nichols

Alex Nichols is a San Francisco based interdisciplinary artist and writer who deconstructs the experience of self, tracks the perceived and performs the narrated idea of self through a disarming physicality, rigor and humor. Her current projects utilize video, monologue, performance, and installation, reconstructing the physical boxes, strings and language of constraints.

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