x = independently organized TED event

Theme: A Suspension of Disbelief

San Francisco, CA, United States
December 1st, 2010

View photos from the event on Flickr

About this event

We chose the name Alcatraz because of the sense of mystery that Alcatraz invokes. It is a mythic place of opposites, dualities, and polarities: it has held dangerous criminals, and also been a site for cultural revolution when indigenous peoples assembled and occupied the island in the late 60's. Did inmates ever escape from Alcatraz? And what becomes of it now as it has transitioned from a prison into a national park? And how has this transition changed the symbology of Alcatraz as an icon in the American consciousness?  

In a similar vein the theme, "A Suspension of Disbelief," really is a state of faith... In my mind as an Artist this is the place I want to bring my viewer to. I want my viewer to lose themselves (while retaining their critical mind) and become immersed in the experience. Clearly there are many methods to get an audience or community to suspend disbelief. I think it can also be a personal journey where the individual can see the beautiful potential of an environment, community, or situation that seems doomed. How does a person suspend their critical voice in prison and believe in the possibility of freedom, or even universal principles of justice, when they have been wrongly imprisoned? How does one look to an alley full of trash and envision that as a site for a community forest and cultural center? At what point does someone see the potential to take musical instruments that have been used in the same way for centuries and see how those instruments might be re-combined, re-constructed to evolve the craft of instrument building?  These are examples of a deep belief in the potential of the individual but also signal in that change-maker's faith in the potential of human beings to grow, evolve, and see beauty where none might exist presently.

Confirmed Speakers

  • Eben Bayer
    Eben Bayer co-invented MycoBond, a technology that uses a filamentous fungi to transform agricultural waste products into strong composite materials. Their products require less energy to create because they're quite literally grown. Equally compelling, at the end of their useful life, they can be home-composted or even used as garden mulch. Eben will be coming from NY to premier a talk called "Drinking Trees" at TEDxAlcatraz.
  • Peter Gregson
    Peter Gregson is a cellist, composer and pioneer of contemporary music. He has performed widely in the UK and the US. He was recently commissioned by Bowers & Wilkins and Peter Gabriel to record an album of original music for acoustic and electric cellos. Selected performances for 2010 include performances at the MIT Media Lab, The Roundhouse, The Future Gallery, The 92nd St Y, The Lab Gallery, The Queen's Hall and Kings Place. He plays a Colin Irving acoustic cello, a custom five string Eric Jensen electric cello and is an Apogee Electronics Artist. Peter is coming from London to premier a talk called "Soundscapes" at TEDxAlcatraz.
  • John Carter
    Founder and Executive Director of Aliança da Terra, a Brazilian producer-based conservation NGO, John was introduced to Brazil by his Brazilian wife. As a pilot with over 3000 accumulated flight hours in the southern Amazon, John and his wife manage multiple ranching operations in Mato Grosso. They founded Brazilian Adventure Travel, a backcountry tour operator in Mato Grosso that served as a precursor to their conservation work, winning the Outside Magazine 2006 Trip of the Year for South America. Aliança da Terra has appeared or been profiled recently in The New York Times, The Economist, The Late Show, NBC Nightly News, Time, BBC, Financial Times, and Outside Magazine. The experiences of living on the Amazon frontier gave John the vision for a new conservation model, culminating in Aliança da Terra. At TEDxAlcatraz, he will premier a talk called "Hope Ranch."
  • Miwa Matreyek
    A visual artist who received a standing ovation after a performance on the main stage of Oxford’s TEDGlobal, Miwa will offer a spectacular live escape from reality. She joins us for the evening from Southern California.
  • Iyeoka Okoawo
    Iyeoka Ivie Okoawo was the encore performer for TEDx Alcatraz 2010, taking the stage after midnight and re-energizing the crowd then in their fifth hour in their seats. She is a poet and recording artist, a 2010 TED Global Fellow, the 2nd place 2009 Individual World Poetry Slam Champion, and a spokesperson for the Amenawon Foundation. By channeling her first-generation Nigerian-American culture and ancestral influences, she delivers an authentic and inspiring message of healing through accessing the power of the moment.
  • James Nash
    Guitarist and composer. James Nash is a guitarist and composer renowned for his blazing technique and improvisational spirit. Described by the Washington Post as a "musical maelstrom," James has performed throughout North America with his band, festival heroes The Waybacks, and in collaboration with artists such as Joan Osborne, Michelle Shocked, and Bob Weir.
  • Michael May
    London's Calling. Thousands of London'ers sought community with music & dance the night after their city's 2007 terrorist bombings. TEDxAlcatraz enthusiastically premiers an opening mix and talk by London DJ Mikey Four, aka TEDster & senior software engineer Michael May.
  • Simon Christen
    Simon is a professional animator at Pixar and an aspiring photographer, focussing on "urban exploring." During high school in Bern, Switzerland, he was introduced to computer graphics (CG) and quickly became fascinated ultimately earning a BFA in Animation, and working at Disney and Pixar studios. His passion for photography started by browsing portfolios he admired; wondering how their photos were taken, processed, and treated. Eventually he began to experiment. “Photography combines two of my passions; being outdoors and CG. Photography is also the perfect creative balance to animation for me. Animation forces me to study movement in great detail, where as photography focuses on a split second in time”.
  • Robert King
    Robert Hillary King, a member of the Black Panther Party, spent 32 years in Angola Prison - 29 of those years were in solitary confinement. He was 18 when he entered for a robbery conviction. He maintains his innocence. King, plus two other Black Panthers, dubbed the Angola 3, were put into solitary confinement for decades. Since his release, Robert Hillary King has worked to build international recognition for the Angola 3. King was received as a guest and dignitary by the African National Congress in South Africa, and has spoken with Desmond Tutu. Amnesty International has added them to their 'watch list' of "political prisoners". King recently published, “From the Bottom of the Heap: The Autobiography of Robert Hillary King” and is known for his pralines, which he started making in solitary confinement.
  • Daniel Berkman
    Daniel Berkman is a San Francisco based composer, multi-instrumentalist and innovator of the Kora (a 21 stringed harp/lute from West Africa). His early recordings "Heartstrings" and "Feverdreams" highlighted his use of electronic devices and loop boxes to transform his Kora in real time in live performance. Daniel has carried the Kora further into the future with the Gravikord (a 21 stringed, stainless steel electric kora) which he manipulates, loops and transfigures with laptop, looping software and other devices to create an entirely new world music! Daniel is also a solo electronic artist under the moniker "Colfax" and just released his debut album, "Tape" on
  • Larissa Sand
    Larissa Sand is principal of Sand Studios, a multidisciplinary architecture, interior design and lighting design office in San Francisco. The studio houses its own fabrication facility. At TEDxAlcatraz, Larissa walks us through her recent project creating a new kind of San Francisco medicinal marijuana dispensary, with a design goal of compassionate care for its patients. This project was profiled in The New York Times, Arts & Culture Sunday edition, in "Splendor in the Grass." Sand holds degrees in Art History and Fine Arts from Brown University, and in Architecture from the UC Berkeley's College of Environmental Design.
  • Andrew Jones
    In his art and in his life, Android Jones seeks to expand the infinite boundaries of reality. He is a techno-mystic visual pioneer of digital art. He draws on a classical background of academic and traditional skills to interface with the machine, communicate to the mind and connect to the heart. Android takes advantage of multiple mediums of creative expression to further push art history forward into the future. Harnessing the power of electricity Andrew bends light to shape dreams.
  • Michael Zuckerman
    Michael Zuckerman is the founder of 3rdSpaces, Director of Sustainability for San Francisco’s Temple Nightclub, and Chairman of the Kyebando Green Age in Kampala, Uganda. Under his guidance Temple has established industry best practices in resource conservation boasting an 89% diversion from landfill rate and was named Treehugger’s Greenest Nightclub in the World in 2009. Mike’s goal is to implement similar initiatives in all of the venues in SF and beyond. Mike was an original advisory council member for the Business Council on Climate Change. His sustainability best practices have been covered in the media including the NY Times, WSJ and Boston Globe.
  • Teru Kuwayama
    Teru Kuwayama is from New York City and received a B.A. from the State University of New York at Albany and published his first photographs in Maximum Rock’n'Roll, a Bay Area-based international punk rock fanzine. In 1998, he began working as a contributing photographer for Life magazine, and then for publications including Time, Newsweek, National Geographic and Outside. Since 2001, his work has focused on conflict and the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Kashmir. He co-founded, a Web-based network of media, military, aid and development personnel serving more than 40,000 members. In 2007, he launched Battlespace, a traveling group exhibition of photographs from Iraq and Afghanistan. His work is featured in Esquire’s “The Best and Brightest” of 2004 and has earned awards including, a 2009 Dorothea Lange-Paul Taylor Prize, a 2002 New York Foundation for the Arts Award and the 1999 Alexis Award for World Peace. Kuwayama was also an 2006 Alicia Patterson Foundation fellow, a 2010 Stanford Knight fellow and a 2010 TEDGlobal fellow.
  • Alisa Rose
    Violinist, improviser, and composer, Alisa Rose, pursues music across many genres in pursuit of honest expression. Alisa combines the spark of creativity and spontaneity found in small ensembles with artful innovation. She is a member of Quartet San Francisco who was nominated for a Grammy in 2009, and the Real Vocal String Quartet. Her diverse appearances include performances with Michelle Shocked at “Féile an Phobail” in Belfast, Ireland, with A.J. Roach and the Strange Pilgrims on PBS’s “Song of the Mountains,” and at the Blue Highways Festival in Utrecht, Netherlands, with the Keisa Duo at Carnegie Hall, and with the bluegrass band 49 Special at the 2009 Rockygrass Festival where they took first prize in the band competition in 2008.
  • Bob Weir
    Bob Weir is an American singer, songwriter, and guitarist, most recognized as a founding member of the Grateful Dead. After the Grateful Dead disbanded, Weir performed with The Other Ones, later known as The Dead, together with other former members of the Grateful Dead. Weir also founded and played in several other bands during and after his career with the Grateful Dead, including Kingfish, the Bob Weir Band, Bobby and the Midnites, RatDog, and his newest band Furthur. He is the founder of the Furthur Foundation and Rex Foundation, philanthropic organizations supporting progressive non-profit organizations.

Venue and Details

Temple NightClub
540 Howard Street
San Francisco, CA, 94105
United States
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This event occurred in the past.
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Organizer 173219

Gregory Miller
San Francisco, CA, United States

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Gregory Miller
David Gurman
Co-curator, Art
James Nash
Co-curator, Music
Michael Zuckerman
Chief Sustainability Officer
Jay Boren
Michal Habdank-Kolaczkowski
Mary Anne Masterson
Eric Berlow
Charlie Sheldon
Rhett Butler
Global Conservation Advisor

Past TEDxAlcatraz Events

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