Join us 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: Viva Padilla (poet, editor), Lorena Garcia (landscape architect), Polaris Castillo (artist) and Cameron Stallones (musician and artist). 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.
Viva, you’re a poet, editor and founder of Dryland literary journal. The topic LAForum gave you to ponder was “L.A. in the ‘20s”. What does that vision of next-decade L.A. look like to you?
VP: When I was first thinking about L.A. in the 20s, we were in pre-pandemic times. I wanted to physically explore spaces that were important to me growing up that have themselves changed in the past 20 years. My idea was to go by train and bus, and write as a I traveled between these spaces. These places and the people moving through them (mainly Black and Brown) are not usually depicted in L.A. literature; I wanted to bring that to my piece. Sadly, once the pandemic hit I had to come up with a new plan so I did a pandemic-friendly variation on this where I drove the city. I started in one of the poorest areas of L.A., South Central L.A. where I grew up, and took myself all the way to its polar opposite to Beverly Hills and Brentwood.
L.A. is a metropolis addicted to making itself unknown. It does this even with its people. I imagine that in the next decade we’ll continue to lose more and more people to displacement, gentrification, the housing crisis — the only thing that might stop this is the Big One hits and the transplants go home. This might just make things affordable for those of us native to L.A. and literary — who’ve been dreaming of living somewhere like Bunker Hill.
Lorena, Polaris, and Cameron, what are you producing for the exhibition in response to Viva’s text?
LG: I am creating a series of vessels as elements in the street landscape for people to present tributes to their memories, to people, or to historic events. The installation is accompanied by a visual piece where, starting from Viva´s experiences, I navigate through my own map of memories, along with visions of the vases splashed throughout the urban grid, following the hypnotizing tunes by Sun Araw, which is Cameron’s band.
PC: I’m producing a hand drawn illustration that I’m taking into Photoshop and Illustrator to create a digital piece that feels like a postcard. Viva’s text captures a wide range of ideas and scenes from a well lived life. My goal is to embody the text emotionally through image, which is the challenge. I want to literally take bits and pieces from the text and translate them visually, as poetry can be filled with abstract metaphors. To give these metaphors a visual can make that abstraction stronger, while surrounding it with a living, breathing world.
CS: I’m mostly a musician and audio producer, and I’m working with a new coalition here in L.A. building an educational arts and culture FM radio station called LOOKOUT FM. When I read Viva’s piece I was really taken with her ability to evoke such specific feelings of place with really potent fragments of imagery. One of our projects at LOOKOUT FM is to produce poetry and other literature for radio, so I decided to produce a short radio piece from her poem, composing some original music and sound design around a recording she provided me. It’s such an evocative piece of writing! I didn’t want the audio environment to be a 1-to-1 illustration, so I worked to find an emotional language that was compatible but not literal.
On Saturday August 8th from 3pm to 7pm the public can visit your work in various sites around town, so for a sneak peek, how are you translating Viva’s text to the site (at Bestor Architects)?
LG: Viva´s poem is so beautiful and powerful. Immediately, after a first read, you feel the vigor to direct through your own psycho-geography of the city. For me, at the same time, it conveys nostalgia, loneliness and solitude. We are all struggling with very sad circumstances, so I started to work in concepts as memories and tributes, within the urban grid.
I think that a tribute object, accessible to the people, is a very necessary element nowadays in our cities and of course I am not talking about monuments, I’m talking about objects that belong to the communities, where they can express and share their joys and sorrows. I decided to make the vases with simple non-uniform shapes and neutral colors. Like a version of a non-perfect everyday object. I didn’t spend a long time in the design of the piece or create a beautiful glaze, I ran away from the impression of a pottery exhibition or any other distraction from the idea of just having — scattered around the city — a communal and personal honoring of sites. For the afternoon on Saturday the 8th, the exhibition site will be that place.
PC: With the ongoing challenges of the world and the pandemic, I’m still working out the best possible way to present the piece. I’d like it to be as simple and straightforward as possible so viewers can really take in the detail of the work. The drawing will be displayed at the site and also postcards of the drawing will be available for visitors to take with them or to mail to a friend with a personal note.
CS: Sound design has always been a real interest of mine, I made a record a few years ago that really explored “space design” as a compositional tool for music, some of the songs being “rooms” and others being “corridors,” based on how they moved or didn’t move. Viva’s piece really felt like a corridor, a series of images that are passing by and giving a certain quality to a few moments, so I tried to build the piece with a feeling of being carried along, peering into different descriptive moments. Visitors to the exhibition site can tune into the FM station and hear the piece.
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?
LG: Definitely, the pandemic quarantine has influenced the production. Probably I wouldn’t be doing this piece if we were not in these tough times. In terms of work, I chose a coil technique to shape the vases since it is a technique that I can do in my house. I hadn’t used this technique before so it has been a totally new and very joyful experiment.
Like all of us, I’ve found myself waking one day feeling no urgency in anything related to my work, just waiting to stop and listen the world, and then the next day, finding relief in being able to focus on projects. Thus, the production has taken double time than in normal conditions.
PC: The quarantine has influenced the work a bit, but not too much. I think the intent behind it before starting it was a fun challenge. Viva and I had initially agreed on sending each other random fragments of inspiration (letters, texts, images, trinkets, etc.) as a way to spark ideas. She also sent me a recording of herself reciting the poem. Ultimately, though, the influence from that simple intention I think washed over to my mind and what I wound up creating.
CS: Yes definitely, I’ve been unable to work with the band since lockdown, there’s not a great digital solution for playing together unfortunately due to lag. So I’ve been working on different sorts of projects that don’t require playing live together, but it’s been discouraging to not be able to.
Question for all of you: What’s been the most surprising thing about the exhibition for you so far?
VP: For me it was how natural it all felt. We worked on this as the pandemic and the uprisings were starting, and it seemed uncertain that we’d have an exhibition. However, Wendy and Nina never put too much pressure on the project which I think really helped us in finding our footing first before going forward with our ideas. With Lorena, Polaris, Cameron — it was more like we were all on the same episode of the Twilight Zone, so we were all on the same page from the start which made the whole thing come together and make sense.
PC: The most surprising thing about the development of the exhibition has been the emphasis on a collective effort. Because of the pandemic, we’ve done a number of zoom calls and kept each other in the loop regarding what we’re up to, how we’re executing, and keeping each other informed on what the show will be, despite its many evolutions. I’ve been part of group art shows before, but this is a really nice and different way of letting everybody in on the presentation.
LG: Viva´s text is so universal and easy to identify with, we haven’t needed long conversations. I felt from the beginning very close to it. I think that for the four of us, and with the generosity and kindness of Nina and Wendy, the process has been very mellow and pleasing. And there is a lot to say in these days.
CS: I’m super enthusiastic about the exquisite corpse concept at the foundation of the exhibition, it’s been so interesting to see all the different angles people have brought to each prompt. It’s not often people ask for such direct engagement with other people in a show, I’ve really enjoyed it!