From Issue 2.3 - December 1995/January 1996

848 Celebrates 4 Years

848 Community Space has become an instituion in San Francisco, exemplifying what many of us think of as the "San Francisco model" of radical sexual politics, performance and practice. 848 celebrated its 4-year anniversary November 19-21 with an art exhibit and performance festival, and has recently published its first book, More Out Than In.

848 has gone through several changes in recent months. Harrassment from the city has continued regarding occupancy limits and fire-code restrictions. Many of 848's events have proven so popular that they are regularly sold out or overcrowded. After a slow summer, 848 has decided to shift to focused cycles of activity rather than a continuous stream of events. The group is interested in getting more people to produce events, and will be starting monthly workgroup meetings.

The community is looking for more capacious quarters, but will remain at 848 Divisadero until a new space can be found. Two performance fests are in the works: Class and Crime in Winter 1996, and Sex Work in Spring 1996. For more information about 848 or its events, call (415) 922-285.

More Out Than In

Review by Cooljurk

With December's Vanity Fair featuring stars from vintage television shows wearing latex and leather, decked out in whips, chains, and handcuffs, you know that the dream of sexual liberation through SM and fetish has taken a hellish detour. Picture Mary Tyler Moore, ever perky at 60, in a rubber catsuit straddling a graying, pudgy Dick Van Dyke sporting a leather vest and a tattoo. The hope that SM and other "subversive" practices could liberate the soul and establish a radical community is looking more and more like the hallucination of a lunatic.

Yet one nexus of desire in San Francisco has managed to keep alive a utopian, radical sexual politic -- 848 Community Space. 848's recent book of essays, More Out Than In, contains some of the best writing to date on what deeply entwined radical sexualities -- touching and transforming us on every level from friendship to art to love -- can do for a community.

Written by pro-sex orgasm artists like Annie Sprinkle and Frank Moore as well as more suspicious members of the community, More Out Than In airs the debate that has bubbled up among the sweating, thrusting hordes of 848: where is all this sex leading us?

848 is the Biosphere of Sexual Liberation, a self-proclaimed "urban site for Art, Spirit, Sex and Justice" nestled in the Fillmore district. Performance art, multi-gendered pagan sex parties, and other sex-related salons and exhibits create a space and a community devoted, in good San Francisco style, to the body and its demands. Dressed up in a vague, new-age, make-your-own-altar spirituality, leftist-anarchist political language, radical feminist sensibility, and the recovery-group paradigm of the 1980's, 848 has attempted to rebuild sexuality as a locus of connection, healing, and liberation. And in the process, it has built the new urban family -- close, incestuous, and often bickering.

More Out Than In displays a hippy-dippy pro-sex optimism (the "one good orgasm can destroy fascism" argument), as well as a nuanced stance against runaway sexuality that we can learn from. As a sex-club where the lights stay on and the participants know each others' names, 848 is attempting to break the boundary between private and public. But the emphasis on sex and the bias towards a pansexual, SM-inclusive experience of desire have angered some people, who see 848 moving away from work on race, class, and other issues.

Self-congratulatory, embarassingly open, and bitingly sharp, More Out Than In is the work of a group of people who have experienced the full impact of sex radical theory. Whether their masturbatory art has moved 848 closer to liberation or kept it locked in adolescence is an issue that is never settled. But one thing is sure -- as SM/fetish culture becomes more drained of its radical nature by haute bottom feeders like Vanity Fair, places like 848 remain the lonely outposts of sexual liberationists. With their sights set high and their rhetoric turned up loud, 848 practices what it preaches.

Cooljurk is a Bay Area writer who can be reached by email at cooljurk@sirius.com.

© 1995, Cuir Underground

Last updated: 16 December 1995