For five years, Herakut’s art fable has overlooked McCoppin Street. The German duo — comprised of Jasmin Siddiqui (Hera) and Falk Lehmann (Akut) — put up the work in 2012, on what was then a large wall in the FLAX art-supply store’s rear parking lot. FLAX moved in 2016, and a nine-story, multi-use building is going up in its place — construction that will completely cover up When We Can Let Go of Our Fears We Are Safe.
“That’s going to disappear in a couple of months,” a construction worker told SF Weekly on a recent Sunday afternoon. “No more,” he said, waving his hand in the direction of Herakut’s art.
When We Can Let Go of Our Fears We Are Safe is part of Herakut’s “Giant Storybook” project that took them around Germany and the world — including Mannheim, Melbourne, Kathmandu, Toronto, Miami, and Lexington, Ky. — to make different scenes involving characters from an epic story about Earth’s beginning and evolution. Herakut began the series with two Giant Twins, newly born, who shaped the planet’s surfaces. One twin recognized the connections between all living beings. The other didn’t, and thought of himself apart from everything. Joining them in the series were a Creative Spirit, a boy named Jay, a girl named Lily who had superpowers of forgiveness, monkeys, and a host of other big-eyed characters.
Each piece featured a poetic aphorism that became its de facto title, as in the Frankfurt mural work called There Is Something Better Than Perfection. The organization WallSpaceSF helped arrange for When We Can Let Go of Our Fears We Are Safe, which was the project’s seventh piece. Its appearance was cause for celebration — not just for San Francisco’s street-art community but among the scores of FLAX customers and passersby who encountered the painting by chance and found inspiration in its message and in Herakut’s drawing style. “Breathtaking” is how one fan described the work in an online assessment.
Herakut, which planned to turn their “Giant Storybook” murals into a published children’s book, is still going strong, and SF Weekly contacted the duo to ask about the mural’s imminent demise — but Jasmin Siddiqui said in an email that they were busier than ever, and the paper didn’t hear from her again before our publication deadline.
Herakut’s series is about finding balance in a world of turmoil. Since FLAX’s shutdown on Market Street, taggers have added new imagery to Herakut’s original work. A barbed-wire fence encloses the parking lot while construction continues on the property, which will include some below-market-rate apartments, a restaurant, a fitness center, and a community garden.
To get a good view of When We Can Let Go of Our Fears We Are Safe, people have to look from across the street or from between openings of the barbed-wire gate. The construction workers seem happy to speak with passersby. One told SF Weekly he liked Herakut’s mural and that he’d be almost sad to see it go. But he has a job to do. And when he and his coworkers are finally done, the only way to experience When We Can Let Go of Our Fears We Are Safe will be through online images or anything published. In person, the chance to see Herakut’s original work will be gone — a chapter finished as more housing is built in a city that needs it as much as it needs good art.