We've come to rely so heavily on photos for documenting every event that our brains sometimes confuse real memories with photographic ones. Those of us born after the advent of color film may even think of our parents' childhoods as having existed in black-and-white. It's hard to say whether pictures improve or retard our natural memory, but one thing is certain: They've changed the way we live.
Humanities West is zooming in on this subject with "Lens Culture: The Impact of Photography on Modern Life." This full-day lecture and performance program features visually aided presentations by several speakers, including SFMOMA Senior Curator of Photography Sandra Phillips, Getty Museum Curator of Photographs Dr. Weston Naef, and the guy who repaired the Hubble Space Telescope, NASA astronaut Dr. John R. Grunsfeld. Plus, local photographer Tracy Storer demonstrates instant color portraiture by taking snapshots of two audience members with a rare 20-inch-by-24-inch Polaroid camera. Get caught in the frame beginning at 10 a.m. at the Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness (at Grove), S.F. Tickets are $20-35; call 392-4400 or visit www.humanitieswest.org.
-- Karen Macklin
Amusement parks mark particularly scenic spots with signs urging tourists to whip out their cameras. Fortunately, Golden Gate Park officials have eschewed such methods, and judging by the hordes of shutterbugs circling the Conservatory of Flowers they hardly need to resort to tacky placards. The Conservatory celebrates the innumerable photos taken on its premises with "Snapshots and Souvenirs: 125 Years of the Conservatory of Flowers," an exhibit culled from the personal collections of Bay Area residents. The show runs through December, so you'll have plenty of time to check it out -- but take our advice and head out for a look-see any weekend in April to also catch "Tropical Traditions," a cool series of demonstrations of international floral crafts, at which visitors can witness noted artists producing Thai fruit carvings, Chinese straw weavings, and Hawaiian leis. "Snapshots" opens at 9 a.m. on April 1; "Tropical Traditions" runs from 1 to 4 p.m. each Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in April at the Conservatory of Flowers, 100 JFK (at Stanyan), S.F. Admission is free-$5; call 666-7001 or visit www.conservatoryofflowers.org.
-- Joyce Slaton
Say It Loud
Tongue-tied no more
Marlon Riggs' powerful late-'80s documentaries Ethnic Notions and Color Adjustment are now considered classic analyses of racial stereotyping and mass media. But the East Bay filmmaker achieved his greatest (albeit unwanted) notoriety with 1988's Tongues Untied, a meditation on black homosexuality that earned the enmity of the right for receiving both NEA funding and a PBS broadcast. The highlight of that firestorm -- which extended all the way to Congress -- was Riggs' eminently reasonable and fiercely eloquent response in the press. His voice was silenced by his death from AIDS in 1994, but its calm, determined viewpoint has never been missed more than it is now. "We need to bring personal struggle into the political, social, and cultural struggle," he said in a 1989 interview. "It's not sufficient to wage war just with the demons within." UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism, where Riggs studied and taught, marks the 10th anniversary of his death with a weekend of films and remembrances by peers and former students, including Jon Else and Oscar nominee Sam Green.
"Remembering Marlon Riggs" kicks off on Friday, April 2, with an $8 screening of Tongues Untied at 7:30 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive, 2575 Bancroft (at Bowditch), Berkeley. Several of Riggs' former students salute their mentor with clips of their own work Saturday at 7:30 p.m., and Karen Everett's portrait of Riggs, I Shall Not Be Removed, screens Sunday at 6:30 p.m., followed by a discussion of his legacy. The latter two events are free and take place in North Gate Hall, Room 105, Hearst & Euclid, on the UC Berkeley campus. Call (510) 642-5249 or visit www.journalism.berkeley.edu.
-- Michael Fox
Once upon a time, an unknown artist's odd new work was exhibited alongside van Gogh's and Gauguin's famous pieces. At the time, 1914, Pablo Picasso was nobody, but he outsold the older painters -- and you know the rest. A local auction house presents a modern re-enactment of this stunt at the "Art Slug Fest," featuring several young American artists up against Rembrandt and other masters, starting at 1 p.m. at Studio Z, 314 11th St. (at Folsom), S.F. Admission is $3; call 567-6689 or visit http://studioz.tv/.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
There was a time when being sent to the doghouse was an act of punishment. But at Petchitecture, being exiled to one of the stellar creations made for our furry friends would be a privilege. Top-notch designers and architects present their hound-habitat dreams at this charity event. Bring your pooch and indulge in eats, drinks, and doggy digs at 7 p.m. at the Gift Center Pavilion, 888 Brannan (at Eighth Street), S.F. Admission is $65; call 677-8688 or visit www.pawssf.org.
-- Sunny Andersen