Project 6

A series on the impact of arts in Angelenos’ lives or… vice versa?

The second decade of the XXI is starting in turmoil. The economic crisis is taken over countries around the world and its citizens are starting to rise up. “I am mad as hell and I am not going to take it anymore”. The line that Peter Finch screamed in Sidney Lumet’ s masterpiece ‘Network’ it seems more current than ever, even if it is thirty years old. Are the different expressions of culture affected in any way by the thick economical and political air we are breathing? And is the concept of culture itself changing because the way we are choosing to live or act?

Art theoretic Nicolas Bourriaud writes: “Artistic activity is a game, whose forms, patterns and functions develop and evolve according to periods and social contexts; it is not an immutable essence. The role of artworks is no longer to form imaginary and utopian realties, but to actually be ways of living and models of action within the existing real, whatever the scale chosen by the artist. Nowadays, modernity extends into the practices of cultural do-it-yourself and recycling, into the invention of the everyday and the development of time lived”.

I am very interested in that approach since the concept of art is been loosing up it’s conceptual borders for the whole past century and it is acquiring new meanings in the new one. Are flash mobs a new form of art? People taking off their clothes in Wall Street to protest the state of the economy, is that a form of art? Is it a fake New York Times announcing the end of all wars a form of art? Could immigration issues transform themselves into art as Tania Bruguera is showing us in Queens?

More and more we see that art is becoming relational, it’s not anymore the object that matters but the relationship created among different actors who don’t necessary always call themselves artist but call themselves artists but produce culture as an antidote to a reality that they don’t like or at least they don’t agree with. Sometimes they are trying to change that reality, and sometimes they just aim to have it acknowledged by others.

I propose to explore different realms of the Los Angeles universe that aren’t necessary conceived as art but whose main characters lifestyles are having a certain impact in our culture. The project would employ different media tools for each story, from print, to pictures, podcast, slideshows and video.

I envision a series of themes to be explored perhaps combined with proposals made by other fellows:

1/The art of living as a catalyst for change: Los Angeles Intentional Communities, it’s their way of life a new art form?
Thousands of communes sprouted across the US in the 60’s and 70’s, and even if the term fell in disgrace during the mid-seventies, Los Angeles communal living is again on the rise. Now they are called Intentional Communites. Pooling resources is a way of survival in a mostly hostile urban environment in which people get together to create modern utopias committed to be a force for good in their neighborhoods. The idea would be to explore three of those communities (Synchronicity, Sugar Shack and Gaia Shanga) to see to what degree their way of living is an effective catalysts of change, or whether they’re isolated anecdotes in the big city.

2/The art of being as a way of looking: Latinos making Latinos looking at themselves.
I would like to follow for a few days two young Latino artists whose work is making Latino communities examine themselves in empowering ways: graffiti artist Ernesto Yerena and filmmaker Yolanda Cruz. In the tradition of the Chicano movement but way ahead from it there is a whole new generation of Latino visual artists and creators that are trying to make other Latinos think about their own identities. The Latino population in Los Angeles is 47%. Yet, we barely hear any stories related to their culture in the mainstream media, as if half of the population didn’t exist. In a city devoted to Hollywood stars and glamour, how do Latino artists live and work? The idea would be to report on their lives as well as on their work, because in both cases their existence as activists is directly reflected on their art and films. The immigration issue in Yerena’s case and the Latino identity in Cruz’s are their main focus of investigation but in both cases these themselves are intertwined their own lives.

3/The art of eating as a way to digest difference: is there anything left after dessert?
Could food be a way of helping communities understand each other? With the greatest variety of cuisine in the country, Los Angeles kitchens could be the perfect labs to teach diversity. My idea would be to invite three teenagers from very different ethnic backgrounds on a culinary tour with Jonathan Gold to see how they deal with the differences and how food can create a way to learn about ‘the other’. It could also be complemented with a story on one of the Melting Pot Tours and the impact on the crowd that takes them.