Join us this Saturday August 8th, 3pm to 7pm to view the LAForum Summer Exhibition’s 20 new works in person.
Then, join us online for the opening reception, Saturday August 8th, 7pm to 9pm.
As part of the lead up to the opening of LAForum’s Summer Exhibition, “Every. Thing. Changes.” we interview each of the 20 participants in their collaborative groups, or “families.” The following E.T.C. “family” of participants interviewed here are: Anthony Carfello (editor and educator), Loren Adams (architect), Orhan Ayyuce (architect), Tory J. Lowitz (artist), and Jakob Sellaoui (architect). Find out more about each of them and their work at www.everythingchanges2020.org
The newly commissioned texts and visual works exhibited in “Every. Thing. Changes.” were developed over the spring of 2020, and are the outcomes of a “call and response” process between five initial writers, their texts, and the visual responses of designers and artists.
Anthony, you’re co-editor at Georgia and many of our readers know your past exhibition work at the MAK Center. The topic LAForum gave you to ponder was “L.A. in the ‘20s”. What does a vision of next-decade L.A. look like to you?
AC: I recall a panel discussion at Occidental College in 2015 about the 25th anniversary of the publication of Mike Davis’s City of Quartz. There was a congratulatory atmosphere throughout the entire event, as each participant highlighted the ways in which L.A. had “improved” or “corrected” the sociopolitical rot at the city’s core that Davis has described so poignantly. No one bothered with all that had gone unchanged since 1990, or that which had become worse. I thought again about this in 2017 when my class considered the results of Loyola Marymount’s quinquennial survey showing that people believed L.A. was headed for another uprising. Discussing this LAForum initiative with Wendy and Nina — in the midst of all the precarity and inequality amplified by the global pandemic and the protests and actions for Black lives following so many recent tragedies — again asserted how little has been remedied and how much remains to be questioned in this decade.
Loren, Orhan, and Tory, what are you producing for the exhibition in response to Anthony’s text?
LA: Anthony and I share a common interest in uncovering the rules that govern our access to urban space – and in finding ways to break, subvert, or resist those rules if/when they no longer serve us. I was especially drawn to his mention of “the crucial word choice, ‘riot’ or ‘uprising’” in Anna Deavere Smith’s play Twilight: Los Angeles 1992. Language really is an instrument of power.
Lately I’ve been especially interested in the language of regulation in the built environment. I think that the specific things we choose to regulate – and the method by which we choose to measure compliance – tell a story about what we, as a society, collectively value. I’d like to see a reorientation of those values away from capital and towards public good. So, in response to Anthony’s text I’ve decided to use a bespoke deep learning text generator ‘bot — trained on Los Angeles-specific literary sources – to re-write planning regulations. This is one iteration in an ongoing project called “Regulatory Nonsense,” which asks: What could our cities be if regulations were written by poets, choreographers, philosophers, an A.I.? If we embrace linguistic ambiguity, would the language of our built environment begin to reflect the novel, poetic language of its regulations? Would it facilitate architecture that better serves our communities?
OA: I am organizing a public forum with a few invited guests on a bus stop on the intersection of Santa Monica Boulevard and Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills, from 10am to 12pm on Saturday the 8th.
TJL: I am crafting ten copies of a fictitious restaurant menu. The restaurant is called Délice Intangible. The menu implies an intangible, exotic cuisine that is specifically curated to the tenants of the property in Anthony’s text.
JS: Architecture for the greater part is in the “yes business.” Obliging and serving the demands of political and economic environments. The “success” of our behaviors and corresponding spaces are often determined by their economic efficiency. The project, “A Space For Doing Nothing” alludes to the notion of “refusal,” by proposing a temporal architectural space for a neglected hill-site staircase in El Sereno. A tent structure gives shelter, frames a view and “refuses” to be more — or less — than a place of momentary pause.
On Saturday August 8th the public can visit your work in various sites around town, so for a sneak peek, how are you translating Anthony’s text to a site?
LA: The “site” of my project is really the suite of standards, codes, policies, and regulatory documents that have become the rules of engagement for our profession. I’d argue that this regulatory landscape is the “site” of all projects in architectural practice nowadays – design intention is always subservient to regulatory compliance, and regulatory compliance is typically driven by fiscal risk. I am especially interested in the form that “instruction” takes. Regulations are a kind of instruction, and instructions aren’t “facts” – they are cultural artefacts. They are designed and constructed. They are products of judgement. Think: Michael Sorkin and Sol LeWitt, paired with the clumsy joy of an “I Forced A Bot” meme.
OA: In this text, Anthony talks about various people with different interactions with the city. So, I am taking on these issues and asking selected guests to reflect on them such as: income inequality, housing, domestic workers and public transportation.
TJL: The translation is the menu itself. By its very existence, it implies inequality while deliberately offering food to particular demography.
JS: Instead of translating an idea to a site, I like to think of it as a response. In this sense, a text or a site are equal suggestions for a possible direction. What I do is spatially relate these – sometimes opposing – conditions, that then eventually becomes the project.
Some exhibition participants have worked very closely together, exchanging ideas and adapting their designs to the others’ development of the works. Others not so much. How did you all work? And did that change once the pandemic hit?
TJL: Yes, regarding printing, availability, and tone mostly.
LA: I’m currently based in Melbourne, Australia, so remote collaboration isn’t new for me – in many ways the global shift to predominantly online modes of work have allowed me to more easily reconnect with my people across the Pacific. I grew up in a small town in Western Australia, which isn’t close to anything — it’s 100kms from one of the most isolated capital cities in the world. So it’s nice to still have access to opportunities without needing to be physically present or geographically co-located. The optimist in me hopes that this will lead to far greater equity of access in the longer term, especially for those of us with mobility issues or carer’s responsibilities.
That being said, I’ve been housebound for more than 4 months now – trying to grapple with the collapse of the two industries that I rely on to pay my bills (architecture and higher education) – and I’m exhausted. In Victoria, we have just returned to Stage 3 restrictions for another 6 weeks following a spike in COVID cases from community transmission and a further lockdown to Stage 4 is looming. Critical creative practice feels more urgent and needed now, but I’m finding that it takes a back seat to the pragmatics of day-to-day survival.
OA: Sure, what that conditions have not been influenced? Both the pandemic and social unrest weren’t yet happening when I agreed to take on this project. And, these events forced some changes and formulations on realizing the work. However, the location did not change. I am happy about that.
JS:In some ways the day-to-day work is for the greater part still the same. Being involved in projects that — even before the pandemic — are remote, where collaborations across borders are inevitable, has already set the directions for a method that is based in trust but also long Skype calls. What has changes is the awareness and direction of focus. Within all the difficulty and uncertainty there has been a positive side effect in the sense that certain assumptions have been challenged. A reality-check on what mattered before and still matters and also what doesn’t.
Unlike the way exhibitions are usually organized, the current situation demanded from us all to somehow “allow” uncertainty — not only as a conceptual frame — but a daily reality to be part of the show. The optimism and generosity for each other was not just a very humbling but also inspiring experience.
AC: As this group is not so much in direct collaboration as it is in dialogue, I’d just say that it’s been nice to have a reason to check in. More exhibitions should make room for mutation in response to surrounding conditions.