Original photo by kla4067 on Flickr
Luke Fischbeck, one half of Californian group Lucky Dragons, gives an insider's perspective (minus the celebrity star map) of L.A.
Los Angeles has seasons–dull, lumbering seasons that seem to move backwards and forwards, persisting and echoing into one-another, arriving late and never completely gone. There is, however, a sense of time moving, erasing itself into hundreds of possible seasons, or less-than-seasons, forgotten mood swings, like earthquakes, fires, desert wind, gloom, mudslides, rain, growth. It is not, contrary to appearance, all simultaneity and perpetual present here. That said, there are people and places here that seem to have been here forever, or to only have recently arrived, or to be on the rise, or ready to depart. It becomes difficult to say precisely where (or when) you are–in relation to other times and places–how you got there, and where you are going. Here are the people and places that hold the city together for me, help define its current situation, and prepare it for the future:
The Los Angeles River
51 miles long, with both its source and its outlet to the ocean inside the city limits, the LA river is not really a river, but a flood plain, once prone to wild seasonal shifts in its path, now almost entirely encased in concrete in order to train its course. The few areas where the concrete has been removed have been quickly repopulated with plant life, birds, and fish. The river presents an environmental challenge, a potential green space connecting each of the different ecological zones (mountains, basins, hills, beaches), and a unifying thread for an otherwise fractured city. At the moment, as a barely-contained wildness, a toxic no-mans land, and a shared space meandering through the city without apparent logic, the river is a great place to go to consider LA's available future.
Location: 47 South Main Street, Los Angeles
For 12 years and counting, this non-profit, volunteer-run music venue / art space / community centre has provided an extremely nourishing and supportive foundation for local and touring bands. Since it is curated on a peer-to-peer basis (volunteers and bands set up the shows, decide the art content, provide vegan snacks), styles overlap and coexist, experimentation is thoughtfully received, and an engaged audience is built-in to the system. Literally all-ages (in every aspect, from audience to staff to performers) and enduringly stable, the smell has not only helped establish many current LA bands, but also a thriving do-it-yourself cultural economy.
Location: 943 n. broadway #203, Los Angeles
Located on the second floor of a mini-mall in Chinatown, ooga booga is an inspiring example of what a store can be. Collaborative by nature–the shop's inventory is a tightly-curated selection of fashion, books, records, art multiples and more gleaned from other stores and galleries (opening ceremony, bless, iko iko, china art objects, etc) as well as artists, designers, small presses and labels–ooga booga is perfect as a first-stop for visitors to LA in need of orientation. Founded 6 years ago by Wendy Yao, operated day-to-day by Max Krivitsky and a rotating cast of amazing interns, whoever is here will have good advice for you.
The Public School
Location: 951 Chung King Road, Los Angeles
Based on a simple idea–a school with no curriculum, where anyone can propose a class, and anyone can offer to teach a class–The Public School has grown over the last few years into a regular site for welcoming discourse and knowledge sharing, from casual reading groups to technical primers, how-to's and topical colloquia. Most classes take place at Telic Arts Exchange, in the middle of chinatown's gallery district, but as an organizational model, branches of The Public School have convened in other cities as well, sharing reading lists, class proposals, and a constant questioning of what education can and should be–and how best to openly offer it to an interested public.
The Mountain School of Arts
Location: 475 Gin Ling Way, Los Angeles
Almost completely contrary to the model offered by The Public School, The Mountain School is a free art school, open by application only, that meets in the back room of a bar. Founded by artists Piero Golia and Eric Wesley, the students, teachers, and curriculum are brought together in opaque ways to discuss a diverse and murky array of topics such as architecture, publishing, cooking, space exploration, or writing about one's own art without ever showing it to anyone. What this school does really well is to bring an incredibly interesting and confused group of students to Los Angeles from all over the earth, in order to create small-scale, low-key discussions (most of which are possible to drop in on, even without enrolling as a student) with an incredibly interesting and confused group of artists, writers, curators, scientists, etc.
Location: 510 Bernard St in Chinatown, Los Angeles
Maybe a tiding of things to come, or an anomaly that we can enjoy for the time being, Human Resources is a collectively-run gallery that chooses to focus entirely on performance art. Their definition of performance art is broad and inclusive, and the programming attracts a diverse range of performers and audiences from touring punk bands to 60's-style happenings to dance parties to poetic improvisations…
Non-commercial almost by nature, this bright successor to previous for-profit endeavours that have occupied the same Chinatown location suggests the foundation of a new way of doing things… if given the chance!
Location: 1200 D North Alvarado, Los Angeles
Hyperactively democratic, and with an acute sense of humour, machine project stands in the middle of fine art / continuing education / do-it-yourself crafts / cooking / technology / everything. The small storefront gallery, plus the more recently added basement lab, are densely programmed with classes and workshops, presentations and performances, all interspersed with artist residencies and rotating exhibitions. The gallery has a vibrant presence off-site as well, serving as a conduit for the organization of events at more high-profile arts centres around town. Self-described as "post-profit", machine project's particular model for a contemporary arts centre on a neighbourhood scale is something very close to the heart of how LA manages to function.
Location: 4519 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles
A somewhat sprawling collective of djs, musicians, and organizers gathered as an internet radio station, Dublab is quite simply the embodiment of pure enthusiasm for music. There is no genre of music that they do not have strong love for, and subsequently, deeply felt curiosity and circumspect good taste. Inspiringly legitimate as a business, with something amazing being planned at every moment, Dublab seems to be continuously expanding, while all the while deeply rooted in this community.
Grown / Total Freedom / Nguzunguzu / Wildness
Wildness was a weekly dj night / performance series that took place in a popular latino transgender bar in the MacArthur Park neighbourhood. Radically inclusive, as well as producing / introducing some of the most compelling dancefloor sounds in LA, the party was disbanded following a dispute among the bar's owners. Briefly resurfacing in various transformations, (most recently as the ongoing "Grown" series, an after-hours version that's more for sitting down and having a conversation) the individual organizers continue to present a compelling case for the liberating potential of a nightclub.
Cali and Jenna Thornhill DeWitt run Teenage Teardrops, a record label and book publishing house, as well as Witch Hat, a parallel imprint that seems to focus more on the fine art side of things, conceptual cassettes and collage editions… whatever the distinction is, they have an easy-going steadiness, a goofball sense of humour, and a broad shared aesthetic that represents LA underground well. Their blog, on the witch hat site, is the best in-progress document of this time that I can point to.
Luke Fischbeck is one half the of the Los Angeles-based duo Lucky Dragons, working collaboratively in sound, performance, drawing and design.
Lucky Dragons aesthetic plays with ways of connecting high and low technology as a means towards fostering creative social equality — as well as the mystical power of everyday people, places, and things.
Within the context of live performance LD audience members cooperate amongst themselves, building up fragile networks held together by skin contact, unfamiliar language, temporary logic, the spirit of celebration, and things that work but you don't know why.
Lucky Dragons have presented interactive performances and installations in a wide variety of contexts-including MOCA Los Angeles, The Smell, Smithsonian's Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Whitney Museum of American Art (as part of the 2008 Whitney Biennial), The Kitchen and PS1 in New York, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, REDCAT and LACMA in Los Angeles, Frankfurt's Schirn Kunsthalle, ICA London, ICA Philadelphia, and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.
Their sister projects include "sumi ink club"- a weekly collaborative drawing society, and "glaciers of nice"- a small press and internet community.