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SFMOMA Presents Pickpocket Almanack: Free School Without Walls Offers Innovative Course Series to Public

SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- Continuing its position as a catalyst for learning and inspiration in the Bay Area, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) is pleased to announce Pickpocket Almanack, a new experimental educational program launching in October 2009 that offers courses to the public, free of charge. Commissioned by SFMOMA and overseen by independent curator Joseph del Pesco, the project assembles a temporary faculty of artists, designers, writers, and filmmakers who choose from already-scheduled Bay Area events (such as lectures, screenings, and workshops) and then create their own curriculum, essentially lifting the events out of context and giving them a new thematic frame. As a result, students can experience a completely different angle on the city's usual educational opportunities and discover unexpected connections as drawn by some of the Bay Area's most distinctive cultural figures.

The first Pickpocket Almanack session begins this fall (October to December) with courses designed by filmmaker Les Blank; Director of the Wattis Institute at California College of the Arts Jens Hoffman; artist Ben Kinmont; and artists/filmmakers Rick and Megan Shaw Prelinger. Beginning September 23, individuals will be able to view course descriptions and enroll through the project's website (

Although class discussion will be conducted primarily online, participants will have the opportunity to meet in person with faculty at the end of each session. There are no age or experience requirements to participate in the program, 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. Each new academic season will bring a new set of instructors and class offerings, making the Pickpocket Almanack an innovative addition to the cultural vitality that defines San Francisco.

From its earliest days, SFMOMA has taken a progressive approach to educational programming by inviting new forms of exchange between the museum and the public. The museum serves tens of thousands of students each year, offering direct exposure to art and artists through lectures, film programs, live and interactive art performances, and family days for audiences of all ages.

Pickpocket Almanack
Commissioned by SFMOMA; curated by Joseph del Pesco

Pickpocket Almanack is a free, experimental school without walls. Each season, a temporary faculty of artists, designers, writers, and filmmakers creates theme-based courses by selecting from a menu of scheduled public Bay Area events, such as lectures, screenings, workshops, and panels. Take a journey through Bay Area cultural life while making some new connections and unexpected discoveries.

Participation is free and open to the public.
Registration for the fall semester (October to December 2009) begins September 23.

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.

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.

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