Actions, Conversations and Intersections
Barnsdall Arts Center ,
Jan 24, 2010 - Apr 18, 2010
Los Angeles, CA, USA
Luck of the crowd: Review of Actions, Conversations and Intersections
by Rodrigo Marti
The ‘mini survey’ exhibition of Los Angeles based participatory art Actions, Conversations and Intersections, organized by curator team Edith Abeyta and Michael Lewis Miller at the Los Angeles Municipal Gallery at Barnsdall Art Park in Hollywood differentiated between two types of works, those created before the exhibition, what Lewis Miller called the ‘historical’ area and those occurring during the exhibition's three month residency, the ‘actions’ area. The exhibition that ended April 18th, 2010 is Miller’s fourth and most elaborate exhibition concerned with participatory projects. The first having taken place over a decade ago, this exhibit has taken on a huge array of artists and non-artist projects into a brimming program of events and activities. Outside a short curatorial statement, found on its online and largely archival website, the exhibit's interest in engagement was achieved by a generally light didactic presence. The only formal statement describing the exhibition is found in a flyer: “A dynamic and performative interchange blurring the boundaries between visitors, artists, and cultural producers. Please join us every weekend for new interactive and participatory projects and more.”
The homage to Allan Kaprow’s (the progenitor of ‘happenings) and his insistence in keeping the parameters between ‘ “art and life as fluid and indistinct as possible” ’ is appropriately integrated (Scott 2010, 1). The exhibition title wall greeted visitors in the form of a calendar listing the ‘actions’ programmed for the duration of the exhibition, where each day's events were tidily displayed on handing chits available as take home reminders for visitors. While several of the installed or ‘historical’ projects functioned well, it was the ‘actions’ area that distinguished Action, Conversations and Intersections (A.C.&I.) from the standard or traditional gallery experience. While some efforts didn’t seem to push further than a neutral or agreeable statement, it was the projects with the largest participatory and collaborative ambitions, informed and consisting of several disciplinary or social spheres, that took center stage. In a similar way, it was the programming committed to activating and involving diverse constituencies, especially those stepping outside into the Hollywood neighborhoods, that seem to inject the exhibition with the vitality necessary to blur boundaries and create new intersections within art. A subtext for the exhibit might read: “the art context as a space for the building a sense of communality and community”.
There were three major kinds of blurring that occured in the exhibit, namely: between art and audience, between the gallery parameters inside and outside the exhibit and between artist and non-artist. I was able to take part in several of the ‘actions’ during the exhibit's three-month long residency. I perused the stands at the 2nd annual Anarchist Bookfair; joined a group of 7 cyclists lead by the Bikehaus cycling group on an architectural tour up Laurel Canyon and along Mulholland Drive in the Hollywood Hills ‘to clear our heads’ while simultaneously filling them with LA’s unique architectural history; I found myself enjoying the excitement and nervous energy of would-be-crooners at ‘Pedestal and the All-Girl-Band’s’ Karaoke Mixtape: the prologue. I ended with the surprisingly enjoyable and cathartic intervention by James Balsam called Safety is on the Shore, an action that transformed the exhibition screening room - normally screening videos by the LA Urban Rangers, Fallen Fruit and others - towards a dimly lit darkroom where visitors were politely informed by a mock police officer of one simple rule: when in the dark room everyone must continually make a noise. On one particular night, the show brought in different people from all over the city to see works by figures outside the art world such as Noam Chomsky, Emma Goldman, Pierre Koenig, John Lautner all the while giving the crowds over to thumping tunes of the Cure mashed-up with Outkast. The pristine whiteness of the gallery was routinely interrupted by the warm and messy combination of crowds, and at times, even a celebration.