The exhibition title is a reference to the Berlin project space set up in 2014 by Rudolph to host a “constantly evolving constellation of residents”. The aim of the project, and exhibition, is to invite artists, poets and theorists to enter into a collaborative dialogue that explores the “experience of duration and the creative synergy of a falling point as well as a place of life.”
In the midst of global immiseration, Los Angeles hosted the 10th Olympic Games in 1932, being the only city willing to do so in such economic frailty during the Great Depression. Following a population increase of nearly one million residents from the 19th to the 20th century, the organizing committee in the Californian city sought to use the games as an opportunity for financial gain through tourist attraction, instantiating the first use of the Olympic Village to house athletes. Constituted by a series of 20-by-20 foot cottages spread out over 300-acres in the Baldwin Hills neighborhood, the constructed community exemplified an early use of liberal multiculturalism as a means of accruing capital. The cottages and furnishings were dismantled and sold following the closing ceremony – medal winners operated as salesmen, including an athlete who was housed in one structure accessible to the public so that buyers could inspect the units prior to purchasing. Situated in a fraught, speculative attention-economy, the contemporary art fair might operate similarly as this first Olympic Village. As an event, both claim that the recombinant material of a city par excellence are the objects symbolic of and associated with some spectacular name, displayed until the closing reception and then subsumed into whatever collection.
The eventually dismantled Olympian housing unit is an effective metonym for the art work within the booth, wherein boosterism [or self promotion] incorporates international observers, collectors and nervous gallerists underneath Los Angeles’s hand-waving to activate claims to status as an indelible hub for art and culture. Despite this boosterism’s proclivity for assembling a tense, puzzling crowd, Art Los Angeles Contemporary (ALAC) continued its eighth year at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica and ran from January 26 to 29. This year saw the successful second iteration of Freeways, a section of the fair dedicated to more nascent galleries less than four years old. While the presence of Los Angeles galleries were apparent amongst the main exhibitors, solid booths from Cologne, Hong Kong and São Paulo showed significant footing. Additionally, the ALAC Theatre hosted the performance and lecture series ANYTHING YOU SOW, focusing on “the notion of Los Angeles as a city whose newness is contingent upon a constant retelling of the past.”
Clages, based in Cologne, exhibited a solo booth by Claus Richter. Richter’s work is multi-planar, a wooden sculptural element interfacing with a print on fabric. The booth shows three editions of a cartoon-like, nefarious figure, slouching with top-hat and red eyes standing before a guarded portal, like if a child’s pop-up book ended with sinister unresolve. Chadwick Rantanen exhibited works at Oslo-based gallery Standard’s booth, including a series of small, motion-activated bird sculptures (cardinals, bluebirds, robins, finches) that audibly chirped. Kayne Griffin Corcoran displayed small watercolor paintings by David Lynch hung salon-style. Mostly created throughout the late 2000s, Lynch’s paintings conjure blurred subjects situated in abjection, invoking forms that are in clear association to his work in film but sublimated differently.
In the Freeways section of the fair, Los Angeles-based gallery Jenny’s exhibited a series of glazed ceramic sculptures by Liz Craft. ‘Mi Vida Loca’ by Craft is inscribed with the phrase “us girls gotta learn computers” is framed around a doll’s severed body. This work feels appropriate, situated in a political moment where Silicon Valley advocates for marginalized people — so long as they surrender their labor to them — in tandem with protest signs seen at recent demonstrations and marches that read “TEACH A WOMAN TO CODE.” Park View, also based in Los Angeles, showed oil paintings by Autumn Ramsey and photographs by Buck Ellison. ‘Upper School Greenhouse, Marin Country Day School, Tiburon, California’ by Ellison is a photo of vegetable leaves with the white stems in the center of the work. The title makes reference to a private kindergarten-through-eighth grade school in Marin County, California, one of the wealthiest areas in America. Queer Thoughts, the only New York gallery in Freeways, exhibited a solo booth by Puppies Puppies, who also contributed a series of performances throughout the fair. The booth showed Puppies Puppies’ oft-used Voldemort character sleeping on a mattress amongst a detritus of twigs and small branches, in similar conversation to his 2014 performance piece ‘Voldemort On Lunesta.’
In the editor’s note to the third issue of the Art Los Angeles Reader, an examination of interior spaces in the city, Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal asks, “what better place to study the freaky parallax of interior space than Los Angeles, a city best known for playing itself in the movies?” In the case of the contemporary art fair and Los Angeles as a cultural production center, this parallax might operate as an inability to collapse disparate perspectives on art’s potential irretrievability as genuinely discursive or fully resigning to its operation as luxury market. Although these transactions, works, performances and panels may exist under the building of a temporary village only to be torn down, ALAC continues to maintain programming that feels less like a marked event and more of a productive rupture in business as usual.**
Protected under Los Angeles’ historical preservation codes, 9800 S Sepulveda Blvd lies as a vacant testament to 1960s Los Angeles, one where the junction of freeways, air travel and mass mechanization correlated with greater personal and economic mobility. The nine-story building was designed by Welton Beckett, the architect responsible for the Capitol Records and Theme buildings, as part of a larger development skirting the LAX airport. It is this backdrop of surplus modernism that provides the setting for the 9800 group exhibition, occupying eight floors of the empty building with more than one hundred artists’ works, performances and site-specific installations including Rachel Lord, Zoe Crosher, Khalid Al Gharabali + Fatima Al Qadiri, Sam Lipp and many more.
As part of the show, nearly every floor is taken over by a certain curator or organization. Three spaces are particularly noteworthy, starting with J. Shyan Rahimi’s curated lobby and basement titled If I Did It that alludes to varying displays of concealment, deception and entrapment echoing the title of O.J. Simpson’s memoir. This narrative is loosely drawn on the ground floor with a text-based piece ‘Burning Questions?’ (2015) by Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal mounted on multiple acrylic panels describing her descent into a web-based pop-up subscription service. Above her work hang video pieces by Simone Niquille depicting distorted, digital masks of Britney Spears and other pop icons. Further on, an installation by Sean Raspet vaporizes synthetic sugar that, when inhaled, creates a sensation of sweetness deep in the throat.
In the basement, the scale of the work grows more ambitious. A videogame by Ryan Trecartin and Lizzie Fitch’s Witness 360 + Fitch + Trecartin Studio allows you to fly as a drone around a Masonic Temple and, in another room, Doug Rickard’s selection of banned Youtube videos depict an underbelly of illicit behavior across the globe. Yet perhaps the best illumination of the relationship between concealment and malfeasance is a room occupied by an installation by Encyclopedia Inc. featuring an overlapping audio soundtrack of Arabic and English. These recordings were ostensibly used to justify the evidence of Iraq’s acquisition of uranium concentrate ‘Yellowcake’ in the lead-up to the United States’ 2003 invasion of Iraq. For a selection of work rooted in the concept of questionable motives, it is the best demonstration of an illicit intent lost within the process of the dissemination of meaning.
On the fourth floor, is a selection of much more modest works curated by Parisians Pierre-Alexandre Mateos and Charles Teyssou. As opposed to the other floors, Mateos and Teyssou’s exhibition includes no Los Angeles artists, instead focusing on relational works with instructions, performances or non-classifiable activity. The opening night featured Luis Miguel Bendaña and a room ringed with Maraschino cherries in small communion glasses, as well as a performance by Puppies Puppies consisting of a massive yellow python meandering about a central room. In one corner office, French designer Item Idem has set up an installation of a stack of LED lights, which capriciously turn off when the door is opened. In another darkened corner office, internet artist sstmrt’s soundtrack plays into the empty room, a sequence of bronchial coughing, wheezing, sobbing, urination and possibly even sex. This soundtrack, combined with the office’s outlook of Sepulveda Blvd and onto the tarmac of LAX, projects a visceral impression of Los Angeles’ ceaseless urbanity, one of both musing alienation and diffused impersonality.
On the rooftop, Matthew Doyle’s sound installation ‘SSB[39!], Leq i.i.d.’ (2015) utilizes the data generated from decibel meters monitoring community noise levels around the airport. Developed in collaboration with Sam Wolk, the program uses permutations of the data with the input of a rooftop microphone to sends impulses of white noise across three speakers on from there to the sun deck, creating particularly cacophonous blasts when Santa Ana gusts hit the building. The embrace of this noise data network, with its variable streams, vectors and paths, is in many ways a recognition of the arbitrary functionality of Los Angeles and its lost modernist promise. 9800 S Sepulveda Blvd, as a relic of a uniform spatial awareness, has been replaced by the ubiquity of other forms of uniform connectivity, a dialogue that 9800 successfully addresses in spite of its bewildering scale. **