For anyone familiar with Los Angeles, it’s a United States city that appears nestled at the epicentre of everything that’s true and toxic of modern civilisation. Dreamed into existence and bewitching in its potentiality, it’s a place of extreme wealth and greater poverty plunged into a duplicitous aura of Machiavellian enterprise and New Age mysticism. Berlin-based artist and producer Steven Warwick (aka Heatsick) seems to sense this, responding to a three-month residency in the affluent westside suburb of Pacific Palisades as a starting point for his installation-performance ‘REENGINEERING VILLA AURORA’ (2015).
Performed on March 14 at its namesake Villa Aurora and titled along with his 2013 Heatsick album release RE-ENGINEERING, Warwick ended his stay with a presentation of what the artist himself calls a “noir installation and soundtrack to LA” within the natural rustic lifestyle signifiers of a California villa that sits in “parallel to a lot of pollution and toxicity.”
Hence, the theme of consumption, consumerism and self-destruction in an exhibition ‘menu’ that lists “fresh sage”, “shooting range posters from LA Gun Club” and “two custom made self-realization pillows” as part of the package. Collaborator and past Villa Aurora resident Ulrich Krieger plays anxious experimental saxophone to Warwick’s doom-laden low keys on the salon’s in-house organ, while lingering underneath the hour-long live performance is a SoCal ‘soundtrack’. It’s a collage of field recordings from Cafe Gratitude (“100% organic plant-based restaurant”) and Malibu’s famous Zuma Beach, as well as infamous icons of American Dream dereliction, Salton Sea, Slab City squatters colony and the “habitable, extensible artwork in progress” of East Jesus.
Carrying on with his ongoing explorations into fully immersive live performance that goes beyond the audiovisual and into olfaction, an exhibition flunky sprays Comme des Garçons perfume on the lounging listeners in the Villa Aurora salon. The artist (and his menu) attests to the fragrance smelling of “burning plastic” while the room is imbued with the scents and signifiers of “two rainbow coloured umbrellas”, “dried lavender flowers” and “one reclining chair with Cypress Hill/ Manic Street Preachers collage t-shirt”. There’s actual taste too (rather than just the à la carte allusion to it), where an “artisanal guilt-free cocktail w/ caramel and apple infused macha ice green tea” called ‘I AM … CUTE’ could either be green like verdant plant life or a slimy algal bloom (“also available with vodka”).
So, here are some things that can be bought, sensed and experienced, while an uncredited projection plays a short film with the fish bones and pollution of the salinity-blighted Salton Sea: Welcome to LA, and say hello to the future. **
Performance photos, top-right.