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Know Your Street Art: Bound Together - March 8, 2018 - SF Weekly
SF Weekly

Know Your Street Art: Bound Together

Mural by Susan Greene

In an interview for the 2010 book Satiristas: Comedians, Contrarians, Raconteurs & Vulgarians, comedian George Carlin said “fucking” is a word that — in the right hands — can add “punch” and “effect” to a joke. People who walk by the Bound Together anarchist collective bookstore on Haight Street see Carlin’s word a lot on the store’s sidewalk sign, which a store volunteer has turned into a constantly revolving display of darkly humorous vitriol and political invective that Carlin himself would have approved of.

The volunteer, a poet and artist who goes by the moniker Reverend Eggking, displays such chalk-written ditties as “Please Don’t Make Me Fuck the American Flag!” and “For Many Fucking Pigs, Black Lives Splatter.” Eggking changes the sign’s words whenever he works at Bound Together, which also houses two other noteworthy art projects: Painter Susan Greene’s mural, Anarchists of the Americas, which has been there for two decades and fronts the store’s eastern outside wall, and a collection of old posters that adorn the store’s inside upper walls, which include one of a mechanized man that uses a humorous truism to critique capitalism: “Working to pay off the car so I can drive to work to pay off the house so I can rest and be ready to work again.” 

Who says anarchism can’t be both serious and funny?

Art by thereverendeggking.com. Photo by Jonathan Curiel

“I come from a very dark, humorous space,” Eggking, 42, tells SF Weekly. “I really do try to focus on the light.  … And [the sign] is in chalk! And it’s less than 10 words! It’s eight words or seven words! And chalk is the most non-invasive graffiti instrument there is. No city worker has to get paid to paint over something. I think everyone should be walking around with chalk leaving notes for each other everywhere.”

Eggking, who’s a fan of Carlin — along with others who had an anarchistic bent, including Lenny Bruce, John Lennon, Nina Simone, and Tupac Shakur — has volunteered at Bound Together since last summer. One of the store’s many other volunteers helped inspire his “American Flag” wording, but he says another volunteer thinks his sign language is too “barbaric” and negative. Each volunteer who works a shift at the store gets to write a new saying for the sidewalk sign, though the volunteers can also put out a more conventional sidewalk sign. Still, the store, which has operated at its current location for more than 30 years, is anything but conventional. Greene’s mural, for example, features well-known anarchists like Emma Goldman, Nicola Sacco, and Bartolomeo Vanzetti — but also lesser-known local figures like Audrey Goodfriend, who co-founded Berkeley’s Walden Center and School. And Greene painted two cats into the mural — felines belonging to Tom Alder, who has been part of the bookstore for decades.

“Those are Tom Alder’s cats, and he lives behind the bookstore — so I was honoring his cats,” says Greene, who has updated the mural over the years and has plans to add more people and an audio component. “The mural is about making anarchist history in the Americas more visible. The idea is that the mural gets added to as time goes by. We’re going to add Jean Pauline [a volunteer at the bookstore], who died in 2016. And I want to add another anarchist, Francesca Rosa, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2016 as well, and wrote this really amazing book of magic realism that’s a romp through purgatory, The Divine Comedy of Carlo Tresca. And I’m working on a portrait of [Tresca]. He was executed in Manhattan in the 1940s. When he died, people strew red carnations all over the sidewalk.”

With its assemblage of outdoor and indoor art pieces, Bound Together is a de facto art gallery — a gallery in a throwback building where anarchism will always be alive, even as the city of San Francisco gets prettified with new buildings and peopled with new residents who might know nothing about anarchism or even care what it is.

“How many millions of innocent victims have died for the American flag?” asks Eggking, turning serious as he cites the genocide of Native Americans, the history of slavery, and other transgressions. “So I say fuck the American flag, and the imperial nature of it.”