As part of the lead up to the opening of LAForum’s Summer Exhibition, “Every. Thing. Changes.” we will interview each of the 20 participants in their collaborative groups, or “families.” The following E.T.C. “family” of participants interviewed here are: Terry Wolverton (novelist and poet), Yvonne Estrada (poet and photographer), and Yara Feghali and Viviane El Kmati (multidisciplinary designers).
The newly commissioned texts and visual works exhibited in “Every. Thing. Changes.” were developed over the course of spring 2020, and are the outcomes of a “call and response” process between five initial L.A.-based writers, their texts, and the visual responses of designers and artists.
Terry, the topic given to the writers to ponder was “L.A. in the ‘20s” how did you decide to approach the topic? And what does the vision of the future, next-decade L.A. look like to you?
TW: I moved to Los Angeles to take part at the Woman’s Building and spent 13 years there making art and activism in collaboration with an immensely talented and subversive group of artists. It is always and forever my “home” in L.A. But Los Angeles in the 20s, fraught with gentrification, income inequality and now a global pandemic, is no longer a city that can foster such a dynamic home. I fear what that will mean to women of my generation as well as the new generation of feminist activists.
Yvonne, Yara and Viviane, what are you producing for the exhibition and what do you want folks to know most about your response to Terry’s text?
YE: I am producing a visual piece that will hopefully create a feeling of solidarity among all women—many of whom know nothing about the Woman’s Building, yet are just as freed by the work that was done there. I hope to give all the artists that came from that time and place credit for this perceived freedom.
YF: Viviane and I were inspired by Terry’s story and wanted to dig inside our personal arrival to Los Angeles and how we were also looking for a community. We started asking ourselves what were the visual cues that gave us this sense of belonging in a city that we had just met?
VEK: We are producing an immersive video-wall about a woman’s journey driving through LA’s neighborhoods in search of her queer community. We want visitors to be able to identify with Amal, the woman narrating the road diary, and to invoke belonging and alienation through her visual story.
And how are you translating Terry’s text to a site and/or to a formal idea?
YE: I am using photographs of doorways of the actual physical building that was the Woman’s Building, and collaging some of my existing photos of women/girls. These will hopefully be photoshopped to appear as though pouring forth from said doorways at a fast pace.
VF: Our first encounter with Los Angeles was through its residential neighborhoods. Because of traffic our Uber drove away from the highway, so we were looking at an endless variety of single-story houses.
VEK: This is where the project really takes form, we are looking at around 20 different residential neighborhoods in L.A. to tease out the particularities of their domestic front porches. We are focusing on stereotypical symbols of queer culture and their manifestation on the houses’ front porch.
Has the pandemic quarantine or creating and collaborating remotely influenced your production?
YE: Fortunately I am using my own collection of photographs and am doing digital work, so I’ll say no.
YF: It has definitely influenced the installation format. We initially wanted the projection to be experienced in an enclosed immersive space were people would gather and form their community while watching the short diary together. Well, this is not possible anymore due to the pandemic!
VEK: So, we thought the second-best thing that would keep everyone safe and still enjoy a similar experience would be one’s own car. The idea is that you can drive into the space, park and stay in your car. The visitor experiences the film diary through their own car windows as if they were themselves driving through the reconstructed queer neighborhoods.
Question for all of you: What’s been the most surprising thing about the collaboration or the development of the exhibition in general?
TW: The de-centralizing of the exhibition location has been a wonderful innovation in response to the restrictions of the pandemic. Los Angeles is such a de-centralized city anyway and locating various parts of the exhibit in neighborhoods is a great reflection of that.
YE: I would say it is the way the exhibition will be viewed by people in specific settings that become part of the pieces.
YF: It is amazing to work with such wonderful women! Talking with Wendy [Gilmartin], Nina [Briggs] and the LAForum team has been wonderful. I am happy to see a whole project being directed by women. Also being chosen to respond to Terry’s text has been a pleasure. We are lucky to get to work with ideas we believe in and align with.
VEK: We are also excited about the turn the exhibition format has taken. The way it is adapting to the current pandemic and responding in a provocative and creative proposal.