Ocean Beach Comfort Station Artist Defends Use of Quotes from the OB Rag

by on October 5, 2012 · 7 comments

in Civil Rights, Culture, Environment, History, Media, Ocean Beach, San Diego

Artist Shinpei Takeda finishes the ceiling at the Brighton Ave. Comfort Station.

I used some texts  from the OB Rag because
a grassroots citizen-driven publication like that is
a testament to Ocean Beach’s spirit of freedom

Shinpei Takeda, the artist who designed and produced the artistic and newly-constructed comfort station on the beach at the foot of Brighton Avenue, has come out and defended his use of quotes from the OB Rag. And in doing so, he calls for the beginning “of a dialogue” on “individual freedom of ideas, opinions and artist expressions.”

Takeda earned a nomination for an Orchid Award from the San Diego Architecture Foundation for the artwork of the comfort station, which will be announced this month.

In a brand new post at sdnews.com – the online version of the Beacon – Takeda has responded to some accusations made recently by an OB man upset with some of the quotes, which was reported by the newspaper.  The artist declares:

I am writing this as a response to an article that appeared in The Peninsula Beacon on Sept. 20, with a hope that this is a beginning of a dialogue so that we can communicate while respecting each other’s individual freedom of ideas, opinions and artist expressions.

Takeda says he holds this belief very strongly – as he prepares to depart for an exhibit in Beijing, China, “where”, he says, “artworks are sometimes censored and banned from public view.” In his statement, he says he wants to “clarify” important elements of his artwork on the ceiling of the new public restroom. He says:

I did not make the artwork to write an accurate or general history of Ocean Beach, nor to commemorate the 125-year anniversary of Ocean Beach.  I am not equipped to write an accurate history of Ocean Beach, nor do I deserve to do so just having lived there for five years of my life.

On another point, Takeda says he never intended “to hurt nor to offend anyone,” and continued that he ” always believed in art’s capacity to start a dialogue and heal rather than hurting people.”

Takeda’s defense of his ceiling artwork reached a peak with these words:

In my work, I utilized words and texts to describe some of the things that I felt were important. I used some texts (not all) from the OB Rag because a grassroots citizen-driven publication like that is a testament to Ocean Beach’s spirit of freedom, not because I agree with what they say, their views and their accuracy.

The artist wants it to be known that he didn’t actually quote articles from the OB Rag, but instead:

“… used these texts as a pool of vocabularies and defragmented them in ripple shapes so that they intersect with the vocabularies from the writers whose name appear on the Ocean Beach’s streets.

I felt that these mixes of vocabularies of past and present create new meanings and new interpretation, and perhaps a new proposal for the future.

Takeda hopes the restroom and the artwork will last a long time, so when it’s looked at in 2 or 3 decades from now, people will “remember the most random and beautiful moments as well as some difficult moments of Ocean Beach.”

He goes on to explain that when he lived in OB, he “was extremely sad about incidents involving shootings,” and that he was not blaming anyone, but “wanted to share [his] feeling … that these things had to happen.”  And he feels “strongly that the only way these things do not happen again is by not forgetting them.”

Takeda sees art as “a perfect platform to talk and think about these difficult and sometimes painful memories.”

He ends his statement by saying that it was a great honor to work on the artwork as OB is such an important place for him. “After all,” he said:

“I learned and put into practice the Obecean spirit of freedom when I was living nine houses away from the bathroom on Brighton Avenue.  From the living room of this apartment, I co-founded The AJA Project, a nonprofit that works with refugee children using photography which 12 years later is still thriving as one of the most innovative social organization in San Diego.”

Here, at the OB Rag, Shinpei Takeda’s words moved us so much that we had to publicize them, even though we had not up to now responded to the accusations that the OB Rag quotes used were somehow ‘not OB-enough’.

Jeff Russell, the OB resident who has taken his complaints about the “quotes” to the OB Town Council – which to their credit pretty much ignored him and cut him off – and now to the OB Planning Board, appears to be leading a one-man campaign against the artwork.

We say to Jeff, “dude, there are so many other more important problems in this village and city than to get upset about an art design that was vetted over two years ago by the OB Planning Board. Plus, you’re not correct – some of the fragments used by the artist do reflect a part of OB’s history that needs some sunlight. And what if people come to the OB Rag out of curiosity – we have many, many articles on the history of Ocean Beach. Plus, members of our staff couldn’t even find the quotes when we first looked. So, we say to you, Jeff, you are making ‘much ado about nothing’.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Debbie October 5, 2012 at 12:07 pm

Thank you OBRAG for your Blog.

Mr. Russell is entitled to his opinion. After all, his opinion is just that, his opinion. May I suggest Mr. Russell do some writings/stories for the OBRAG which are informative and share info on it’s residents, businesses, happenings, history, challenges etc.

The bathroom is Takeda’s project. Let’s respect Takeda’s work it and take care of this resource. Maybe the next bathroom with have quotes published in the RAG from Mr. Russell’s writing???? Ya just never know :-)


OB Mercy October 5, 2012 at 4:08 pm

After listening to Jeff Russell speak at the Town Council Meeting, I’m kinda doubting he would be writing for the Rag. He wanted to censor an artist, does that sound like someone who would write for the Rag? Not likely.

Here is a link to the article I wrote about him for The Reader. Read what I wrote about the impromptu survey I did at the Brighton Comfort Station…geez, can we just call it what it is? A bathroom!


Debbie October 5, 2012 at 6:13 pm

Many people don’t agree with all that the rag publishes or stands for but that does not mean one cannot share something interesting or constructive.


La Playa Heritage October 5, 2012 at 8:37 pm

Yo Con Bob.
Rally with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa

Saturday morning October 6, 2012
Time: 8 to 10 am.
Location Old Town State Park
El Fandango Restaurant
2734 Calhoun Street



jim grant October 6, 2012 at 7:55 am

Seems to me the artist used the comfort station to make a statement about personal expression . I just wonder if the things he put on the ceiling were pre approved …They seem to be negative and that puts a bad spin on Ocean Beach.
However if he submitted a list of the fragmented sentences or mock up of what he was going to install you cant fault him.


Jettyboy October 6, 2012 at 10:02 am

So could you guys post the quotes in question on the Rag somewhere so we can all read ’em. Sorry if they have been posted I missed them somehow.


Jettyboy October 6, 2012 at 10:06 am

Never mind, I found them.


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