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Cristóbal Martínez


A Generative Sound Art Installation 


March 6th - May 1st, 2021

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Image © Ian Montgomery, 2018

An immersive quadraphonic sound installation and character fiction, constructed as a memory of the 2018 Camp Fire and a reflection on our ideological response to the climate catastrophe we’ve caused.

In our SOMA West gallery

323 10th St. @ Folsom

San Francisco, CA

Tuesday - Friday, 11:00 - 4:00

or by appointment 


On-Line Releases of Stereo Sound Sculptures

every two weeks, Wednesdays, throughout the run of the show

(co-presented with Gray Area)

Telematic, Gray Area, and the artist invite you to listen to the following using a pair of headphones, earbuds, or a set of nice speakers in order to better experience the audio fidelity of this work.



Streaming Now


March 10th Brutal Streets


March 24th Like Black Lung


April 7th The Interiority of Orange, Red, and Yellow


April 21st Nerve Impulses While Under


On November 8, 2018, the deadliest fire in the history of California came to life northeast of Chico in the drought-stricken Sierra foothills. This event, known as the Camp Fire, ripped through over 153,336 acres of land, destroyed 12,637 homes, left tens of thousands of people homeless, and killed 85 people. Most of this destruction occurred within just four hours of the fire starting.  Days later the specter of this fire would descend upon the City of San Francisco, CA.


Two years later smoke returned to haunt San Francisco. On September 9-12, 2020, a group of Northern California wildfires canvased the city with plumes of smoke and red, orange, and yellow skies. This infernal season burned over four million acres (6,250 square miles) of land, taking hundreds of homes and 31 lives. Scientific research suggests that the burning is tied to higher temperatures due to climate change.


When Dreams Are Reality is an immersive, quadraphonic, and multi-directional sound environment of experimental timbres recorded from the artist’s performances of analog synthesizers, electric guitar, and bass guitar. These audio recordings are arranged and performed live by a set of generative computer algorithms. This real-time computer- driven installation yields combinations of sonic events that never repeat. However, despite its stochastic nature, the overall composition yields a certain mood, experience, and spirit of time and place. When Dreams Are Reality is a three-dimensional sound installation augmented with subtle lighting set to quiet umber hues. Upon entering the installation, audiences have the opportunity to sit down on a bench to reflect on a sonic memory of when dense smoke engulfed San Francisco."


An important component of When Dreams Are Reality is the artist statement itself. This text is a character fiction — a San Franciscan’s self-implicating story of affective solitude, reflection, and response to experiencing the sight, smell, and breath of unhealthy air. To cope with the consequences of regional fires, the city dweller responds to the awesome aftereffects of local destruction in a manner consistent with the dominating worldview by which the city is fueled and fueling. The sonic memory itself belongs to the City of San Francisco as a living entity choked by smoke, as witnessed by the story’s character.


Artist Talk


About Cristóbal Martínez


Cristóbal Martínez is an artist and scholar, who works as Chair of the Art and Technology Program at the San Francisco Art Institute.  He is a founding member of the artist-hacker performance ensemble Radio Healer.  He collaborates with composer Guillermo Galindo as the experimental electronic music duet, Red Culebra; and he is a member of the interdisciplinary Indigenous art collective Postcommodity.  His work has been featured at leading national and international venues, including Art in General (NY), LAXArt (LA), the Art Institute of Chicago, the Carnegie Museum of Art (Pitt), the Whitney Biennial (NY), documenta 14 (Kasel/Athens), and the historic land art installation Repellent Fence at the U.S./Mexico border in Arizona.  With a special interest in sound, Martinez conjures generative metaphors that call attention to sites of social, cultural, ecological, and economic anxiety – activating them to produce powerful aesthetic encounters, which provoke self-reflection, dialogue, and public pedagogy.  Through this work, he aspires to render legible human dilemmas, social amnesias, taboos, fears, and desires, challenging audiences to confront otherwise unpalatable difficulties in themselves, others, and the world.  In 2015 Martinez completed his PhD in Rhetoric, Composition, and Linguistics at Arizona State University. 

Presented By:

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