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Arts Commission Building Flashes Morse Code Messages From Ex-SF Artists

Straight at City Hall, no less

That flickering light in the Arts Commission building is not an indication that they need to pay their PG&E bill. Rather, it’s a message from your former neighbors.

Beginning on Friday and on display through September 2, the commission's window gallery features Wish You Could Have Seen This, an installation from local artist Ma Li featuring flashing Morse code messages from onetime San Francisco artists who, for various and sundry reasons, have had to move out of town.

Presently, the lights are beeping missives from about 20 people, although more will be added as the installation expands over coming weeks. After 8 p.m., the lights give way in favor of a slideshow of the featured artists’ work.

Some of these are creatives that Li (a San Francisco Art Institute graduate originally from Fuzhou, China) knew personally, while others are strangers commissioned through her Instagram account.

If you want to know what everybody is saying (and don‘t have the luck to have worked in the Signal Corps), a sign in the nearby window has instructions for downloading an app to translate the flashes. Although the press release describes the contributors as "displaced," SFAC Galleries Director Meg Shiffler is quick to point out that they left town for a variety of reasons, not just the cost of living.

"This piece represents a variety of circumstances, not just violent exile," says Shiffler.

The fact that the messages are being flashed straight at City Hall is, likewise, probably owing as much to the coincidence of the two buildings' relative positions as to pointed political commentary.

Of course, this being 2016, there are certainly some unwilling exiles in the bunch somewhere. If you want to know how many, well, just stand back decipher what they have to say.