Tales of a City /

The Tear-Catcher / Tel Aviv

What catches my eye first upon landing at Ben Gurion International Airport, and after having been asked twice if I hold an Israeli passport, is a selfie station with sand and a fake background of tourists playing matcot, the popular Israeli paddle ball game.

Back in the 1990s, when my siblings and I would visit our family in Israel, we would play matcot all day long on the beach. Our grandma used to watch us — she would sigh and complain, with her inimitable Ashkenazi sense of humor, that Israel is just a great country to dry laundry outside.

The shuttle takes me directly to Jerusalem, where I am on the jury for Zoom, a newly founded art prize that distinguishes one young Israeli artist each year. Many of the finalists address their own identities as Israelis, living in a complex country with controversial politics. Some of them are Mizrahi or Sephardic or Palestinian, and their works question how to exist within an Arabic culture in a country at war with Arabs. This year’s prize recipient, Dor Zlekha Levy, mentions Andalusia as an example of a moment and place in history when Muslims, Christians and Jews lived together in peace. One of his videos depicts a Jewish cantor wearing a kippa and performing, in Arabic, a song by the iconic Egyptian singer Abdel Halim Hafez. Later that night, a performance in the garden brings on stage a charismatic Palestinian singer dressed in a full black hijab and heavy makeup, rapping like a goddess. My head suddenly feels a bit dizzy — is it the memory of a scene in East Jerusalem this morning, when I tried to enter the famous Al-Aqsa Mosque, which I had visited a few times as a teenager, and was told that access has now been banned for non-Muslims?

The next day Tali Cherizli, the director of Artis, takes us for a Bauhaus architecture tour along Rothschild Boulevard. “It is our Strasse,” she says, with a smile. The buildings are stunning, and their concrete rigidity blends beautifully with the palm trees planted along the road. The Jewish architects who fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s brought with them the Bauhaus prerogatives of functionality and accessibility, some principles that perfectly fit the original socialist ideals of the Jewish state. At lunch at the Tel Aviv Museum restaurant, a delicious labne with za’atar, the traditional Middle Eastern yogurt topped with thyme and sesame, reminds me how much I’ve enjoyed the food while traveling in Israel, Syria and Lebanon. I think about Beirut and realize how much cultural dynamism, criticism, and feeling of constant tension link the Lebanese capital to Tel Aviv, and how inconceivable it is to imagine that a young Israeli will never be able to visit Beirut, and neither a young Lebanese, Tel Aviv.

In the afternoon, the taxi takes me to Bat Yam, a suburb of Tel Aviv rapidly developed in the 1960s to absorb the flow of immigrants coming to Israel. I indicate to the driver the street where my grandparents lived after they were expelled from Poland in 1968. I find the front door, but realize that I’m unable to read any of the current inhabitants’ names in Hebrew. I sit on the sidewalk and try to picture what was on my grandparents’ minds while they strolled along the modest streets of Bat Yam — after leaving behind the elegant houses of Warsaw. Did they sometimes miss the lush winter snow of the city they knew they would never see again?

At a café in Jaffa, I meet with Eyal Sagui Bizawe, an Israeli filmmaker of Egyptian origin who produced The Arab Movie, a documentary on the tradition of broadcasting Arabic movies on Israel’s Channel 1 every Friday afternoon, before Shabbat. How far are we now from the multiculturalism of the region in the 1920s through ’40s, when countless famous Egyptian musicians and dancers were actually Jews, and casually traveled between Cairo, Tripoli, Jerusalem and Damascus? I walk around the neighborhood and stop by Azoulay, one of the best record stores in the country if not the region, established a few decades ago by Moroccan immigrants who missed Arabic tunes so much that they decided to start importing music from all over the region, also producing the work of Israeli singers.

Back at home in Los Angeles I listen to the remarkably produced LPs of the 1970s Israeli folk-funk singer Grazia, alongside tracks by musicians Googoosh, Selda Bağcan and Fairuz. Every day I am reminded that they (we) have far more in common than that which divides them (us).

by Martha Kirszenbaum

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The Golden Sands / Las Vegas

The autumn setting sun merges with a flow of lights over the dry California desert as we drive into Las Vegas. It is a Saturday in November, and the distinctive voice of young rapper Rich The Kid is blasting: “I buy you diamonds, buy you diamonds.” We stroll along Caesar’s Palace, the shiny Eiffel Tower, and golden Trump Tower.

We’re staying in Downtown Vegas, a once-bustling historical part of the city surrounded by older casinos and modernist neon signs. At the blackjack tables of the Golden Nugget, I witness a sparkle in the dark blue eyes of artist Ed Fornieles as his turn to bet approaches, reminding me of Viennese writer Stefan Zweig’s striking 1927 short story “Twenty-Four Hours in the Life of a Woman.” The novella traces an English widow through a single day as she becomes mesmerized by the almost suicidal, reckless gambling of a young Polish diplomat she spies one evening in Monte Carlo. From this first spark of interest, she is drawn into his troubled, unstable life, and ultimately, the unflinching depiction of his obsessive addiction.

The next morning, we head back to the Strip. A world capital of gambling, Las Vegas was originally not only supposed to imitate amusement parks, but also to conform its urban appearance to the playful desire of its tourists. In the 1990s, as Vegas was becoming a common destination for American families, the Strip, technically a four-mile stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard South, became a public theater of reproductions of famous architectural landmarks, such as the Luxor’s Sphinx and the Venetian’s imitation of the Italian city. Their baroque displays provide a kaleidoscopic, vertiginously seductive effect. As we walk into the Venetian, its fantastical, artificially backlit real canals and fake Italian sky make artist Jesse Stecklow comment that it might be the best work of art he has seen in a long time.

Later that day, a panel titled “Think Vegas” — a discussion of the artistic potential of the city, its visual history, economic development and transactional experiences — takes place in the context of the opening of an artist residency at the Plaza Hotel, developed by the London-based Zabludowicz Collection. As I try to concentrate on the almost exclusively male panel (sometimes referred to by female writers as a “manel”), I keep recalling my favorite scene in Terry Gilliam’s 1998 Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, based on the eponymous novel by Hunter S. Thompson. Lucy, played by Christina Ricci, is tripping on acid and showing Duke and Gonzo her numerous portraits of Barbara Streisand in her pink hotel room. Interestingly, that same afternoon, art historian Libby Lumpkin, who also started Vegas’s very first private art collection, Steve Wynn’s at his Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art, emphasizes the role of art institutions and public education versus private initiatives. If Vegas is a city of winners, is there room for any type of failure, an element so inherent and relevant to the creative process?

The next morning we drive into the desert to visit Michael Heizer’s installation Double Negative (1969–70), which consists of a 1,500-foot-long trench in the earth, created by the displacement of 200,000 tons of rock. The work essentially consists of what is not there and what has been displaced, and the immense void brutally contrasts with the sound and fury of Vegas. Upon our arrival on the site, artist Jon Rafman asks in laughter, “ Is it land, or land art?” I recall how Nevada, America’s principal on-continent nuclear weapons test site from 1951 to 1992, has often been considered a suburb of Los Angeles.

It’s no surprise that we find no contemporary art museum in Las Vegas. We end up at the Neon Museum, a cemetery of vintage artifacts and piles of old signs that testify to the visual heritage of the city. In their infamous 1972 essay “Learning from Las Vegas,” Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi analyze how commercial and popular architecture, in its exuberance and expressivity, has fundamentally shaped American popular culture. They call for architects to be more receptive to the tastes and values of “common” people and less immodest in their erections of “heroic,” self-aggrandizing monuments. The most striking of the old Vegas neon signs reads Sahara, and resembles the entrance of an Arabian palace, if not a mosque, surrounded by two glorious glass camels. During the same weekend that an American business magnate, the owner of the tallest golden hotel in the city, claimed that Muslims should be banned from entering the U.S. — the same weekend that the French far-right nationalist and anti-immigration party Front National has prevailed in the first round of regional elections — I’ve fallen for this abandoned, broken, lush neon of Middle Eastern influence. Vive le Sahara!

by Martha Kirszenbaum

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Beyond the Underground / Warsaw

Krszysztof Kieślowski captured the labyrinthine passages underneath Warsaw’s city center in his television feature Pedestrian Subway. It was 1973.

The main character, a teacher arriving from the countryside, notices an estranged wife through the window of an underground flower shop where she now works. This sense of alienation dwells in the station; for as long as I can remember, exiting the train at Warsaw Central and rushing into the unfinished underground maze has felt like a desperate search for a familiar face in the crowd.

Walking out onto the street, a golden, Central-European autumn greets me as the leaves twist in the Royal Park Łazienki, right down the hill from the Center for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle. The castle was rebuilt in 1974, two decades after the city was entirely destroyed during World War II. As a curator in residence at the museum a few years ago, the colorful trees fascinated me with their contrast to the brutal grayness of Poland’s socialist realist architecture.

My first night in town, I bump into Piotr Łakomy on the steps of Zachęta National Gallery. He is a finalist for the Deutsche Bank Art Prize, the main distinction for young Polish artists. As we discuss the efficiency of his sculptural installation in the shape of a dismantled body, I realize that he might be one of the few artists from Poznań, in Poland’s western region, who have yet to move to Warsaw. We talk about coldness, and how this term is associated with art, music and ultimately Eastern Europe. In the caves of the Academy of Fine Arts, we’re drinking Zubrówka vodka mixed with apple juice, and we’re spinning with our hands up to West Coast tunes played by Michał Woliński, the founder of the “talking-pictures” magazine Piktogram and the eponymous gallery located in an industrial zone in Praga, on the other side of the river Vistula. This reminds me of summer camp in the 1990s in the stunning lake region of Mazury, when my fellow campers would black out the main reception room of a large house situated in the middle of the countryside and dance to Polish metal music all day instead of going swimming.

As I cross my doorstep in the early morning, my grandpa walks out of his room and tenderly proposes black tea. We sit at the table and watch the first news of the day: the Prime minister announces that Poland may now accept two thousand Syrian refugees from the recent crisis, but only Christians.

The next morning, bus #122 takes me from the grandparents’ home, an elegant 1960s building situated in Żoliborz, among the eldest orchards of the city. We stroll along Muranów, which once served as the heart of the Warsaw Ghetto, from which both my grandmas have miraculously escaped. We dive into Nowy Świat, the prominent street of the New World, anchored by the historical Hotel Bristol, and the Holy Cross Church where Chopin’s heart remains sheltered and conserved. To my left emerges the University of Warsaw, from which my dad was expelled in 1968, before he lost his citizenship and moved to Paris as a political refugee. What’s the difference between a Syrian migrant today and my stateless father then?

The curator of the iconic Foksal Gallery is waiting at Café Blikle, an old-school bakery that has been serving the same rose-flavored donuts for decades. At the gallery she gives a tour of the remarkable exhibition of sketchbooks, drafts and notes by Tadeusz Kantor, the major figure of postwar Polish theater. Later that afternoon, I spend some time at the Avant-Garde Institute, also known as the studio of Edward Krasiński, the avant-garde conceptualist renowned for having used blue tape in his happenings and performances throughout the 1960s and 1970s — a gesture that came to be defined as the “blue line.” I walk toward the Museum of Modern Art, located in a former furniture store that interestingly faces the impressive Palace of Culture and Science, Warsaw’s 1955 hallmark and an unforgettable present from Stalin to the Poles. Marta Kołakowska, the founder of Leto Gallery, meets me at the Museum cafe. The real estate boom in the neighborhood of Praga, where her gallery has been located for the past few years, is forcing her to change location. “Just like in Brooklyn, East London and Paris?” I ask. “Well,” she smiles, “it’s nothing other than neo-liberal Warsaw. Blow up my town.”

The tramway rides along the modernist buildings and old neon signs surrounding Hala Mirowska and Krochmalna Street, made famous by Isaac Bashevis Singer in his fantastic tales and novels depicting the pre-war Jewish Warsaw and that have embellished my childhood imagination with their colorful heroines — Shosha, Yentl, Hadassah. They’re a dreamlike remembrance of a city that no longer exists and yet reinvents itself constantly in a whisper of modernity.

by Martha Kirszenbaum

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The Familiar Stranger / Tehran

“You came from a strange, unknown city; you came on a white horse of kindness,” sings the velvet voice of Iranian pop-star Googoosh, the mesmerizing singer, dancer and actress silenced by the Islamic regime in 1979.

I land at Tehran International Airport at three in the morning after a long journey from Los Angeles via the shiny Gulf hub Dubai. The next day my Polish mother, who spent her 1970s in Paris surrounded by Iranian friends, and whose fascination with Persian culture punctuated my childhood, orders breakfast in a seamless Farsi at the hotel restaurant.

Googoosh’s Gharibe Ashena [Familiar Stranger] resonates all over the taxi as we cruise along the tree-lined Valiasr Boulevard, passing modern malls, luxurious villas and the Alborz Mountains on the horizon. As we drive by Cinema Africa, a remarkable 1964 building with a constructivist green façade, I think about the significance of car interiors in Iranian films, as private spaces where things can be freely said and done. Abbas Kiarostami gave a beautiful talk about his movie Ten at MoMA a few years ago, describing the relief of entering a car in Tehran. Jafar Panahi was recently awarded the Golden Lion at the Berlinale for his film Taxi Tehran, a documentary-fiction set inside of a taxi driven by Panahi himself, and starring Tehranis talking about their lives.

My fascination with Iranian women keeps growing day after day. Famous is their beauty; less so the fierceness in their eyes, the determination of their silhouettes and their endless tactics to exist under the hijabs of the Islamic Republic. I recall Marjane Satrapi’s humorous and heartbreaking description of her veiled childhood in the blossoming Islamic Republic in the graphic novel Persepolis. There are 1001 ways of being head-covered in Tehran – some black chadors for sure, especially in the south of the city, but also colorful long scarves, stylish patterns and white outfits. Women use color as a form of resistance, and as a bold opposition to darkness in all of its tones and motifs.

We head to the Abgineh Museum of Glassware and Ceramics, located in an old Qajar edifice in the city center. Here you encounter a collection of blown-glass artifacts and ceramics, but with the particularity of a stunning modernist display of pedestals and vitrines made of steel and chrome, and designed in 1978 by Viennese architect Hans Hollein. Later I meet with artist Shabahang Tayyari at the café nestled inside Iranshahr Park. We talk about absurdity, isolation and the frustration of perceiving the world though TV, the Internet and social networks, while not being able to get a travel visa. Iran seems so outside of our globalized world, yet so close to us with its sophistication. We hop a taxi to Vahid Sharifian’s studio, where a large pool table officiates among his sculptures and the classical miniatures painted by his grandfather. He owns a stunning collection of outfits and costumes, from the Qajar period until today. We drink tea while watching a slide projection of hundreds of portraits he took with the women who visited his studio during the years his passport was confiscated.

The next day Shervin, a musician and art editor, and his architect friend Abi take me on a tour around Ferdowsi Square, where you see the most prominent propaganda murals adorning the walls of several buildings. The street iconography of Tehran is stupefying: on the one hand, street art is an obvious means of political propaganda, with large murals depicting armies of martyrs from the Iran and Iraq war, the hidden Imam, and Ayatollahs Khomeini and Khamenei, whose pictures are everywhere; no doubt, big brothers are watching you always. On the other hand, and just as I was leaving the country, the mayor of the city replaced all the commercial banners with reproductions of Picasso, Van Gogh and Rembrandt paintings. We finish the day at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Laleh Park, built in 1977 under the urge of Queen Farah Diba. Renowned for its exceptional abstract-expressionist and postwar collection, notably of Robert Rauschenberg’s paintings, since the Revolution these works have been very rarely, if ever, exhibited.

The white horse of kindness takes me back to the airport, and I remember that one of my mother’s friends used to say that we, Westerners, could never ever live in Iran — not because of the regime or the Islamic law, nor because of the language, but simply because people in Iran are too nice, too delicate and too attentive to others, and that we would never be able to stand it. A feeling of strange familiarity overwhelms me when it is time to leave the softness and complexity of Tehran.

by Martha Kirszenbaum

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The Vancouver Model

I land in Vancouver on a fairly gray and cold mid-March afternoon. The taxi passes skyscrapers amid a backdrop of emerald-green trees and glaring blue mountains on the north shore.

As we drive down Davie Street, I recall the very first minutes of Hookers on Davie, the 1983 documentary by Janis Cole and Holly Dale, depicting Vancouver’s West End at a time when the neighborhood was a beacon for the city’s sex workers. My room at the historic Sylvia Hotel, at the foot of Davie, overlooks the very chic English Bay and its impeccable joggers. That night, we head over to a screening and reading at Model, an artist-run space and the studio of several local artists in the Downtown Eastside. Andrew Berardini delivers an intense excerpt from his upcoming book on colors, concluding with his definition of Puce: “A smashed flea filled with your blood stains puce.” This is followed by “Fetish and Figure,” a film program I put together on the fetishization of objects and bodies, which begins with Kenneth Anger’s 1947 short film Puce Moment.

The legendary Vancouver rain catches us the following morning while I prepare my afternoon talk on the iconography of 1968 in Polish posters and French affiches for Presentation House Gallery’s Countercultures Forum, organized by curators Helga Pakasaar and Jesse McKee. The conference is an eclectic ensemble of presentations by local writers, such as Michael Turner, and international speakers, like the sound-art Estonian punk-star KIWA. He looks just like the secret son of Julian Assange and David Bowie, and he blows my mind with his illustrated history of soviet underground music. Vancouver-based artist Isabelle Pauwels bring the day to a close with a rather uncanny reading. Her unimpressed detachment and wry humor echo some works in the gallery’s exhibition on the historic Vancouver collective the Mainstreeters; notably the unforgettable covers of a short-lived magazine from the early 1980s, aptly named L’Ennui.

The next day we’re visiting Isabelle in her flat in New Westminster, a historical city located outside of Vancouver. As we drive onto a street of suburban houses from the 1970s, Jesse’s riot grrrl compilation blasts emptyspaces:brokenplaces/letloose (fight song) by female punk rock band Red in Reverse, and it feels like we’re suddenly transported to the Pacific Northwest of the 1990s. Back to the city, it is time to see Tiziana La Melia’s exhibition “Innocence at Home” presented at CSA Space, where she painted over plates of metal shaped as birds and fish, backlit with hollow LEDs. Tiziana is definitely one of the most appealing young painters in Vancouver, and she shares a studio with Rebecca Brewer, with whom we discussed the feeling of guilt at being a female painter. Her roughly human-shaped cubist paintings on felt are admirable. We’re walking down Chinatown, the neighborhood that the hotel clerk recommended we not visit (pointing to a Starbucks on the map instead), and we’re with artist Ron Tran who is working on his upcoming exhibition at the non-profit space 221A, for which he will reinterpret merchandise from several stores in the neighborhood. In the courtyard of 221A, Ken Lum has installed a miniature Vancouver Special — the archetypal post-war Vancouver family home, with its faux brick and stucco — scaled relative to its 1970s property value. Heading further into East Van, we pass by Lum’s neon cross, entitled Monument for East Vancouver, that is mysteriously floating above the intersection of two roads in this traditionally working-class neighborhood. The work seems to echo the popular American “Jesus Saves” neon, except here it mimics a local gang tag and is filled with a Vancouver-specific mixture of sarcasm and local pride. An apocalyptic silver sunset greets us in the parking lot of Geoffrey Farmer’s studio. The magic man of “the couve” serves us tea and cakes and shares his enthusiasm about Merce Cunningham’s performance staged in 1972 at the Shiraz Festival of Arts in Iran. He talks about Los Angeles a lot, and I can’t stop thinking how opposite the two jewels of the west seem to me: sparkle vs. shadow; loud vs. hidden; gold vs. emerald.

Vancouver bids farewell with an unexpected parapraxis from a movie script: a lost car, a missed flight, a serendipitous re-direction to Kitsilano Beach and a dramatic sunset by the edge of the city of glass. I guess this is what happens when a place is too charming and a host too caring. Later that night we reverse the fortune, visiting Tamara Henderson and Julia Freyer’s joyfully messy studio, on the eve of their production for a collaborative exhibition at ICA Philadelphia. The journey ends a second time at the Pelican, a restaurant on East Hastings, a cult nightspot for northwestern night owls. It rains again. Run and catch your plane.

by Martha Kirszenbaum

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Los Angeles, year zero

Winter in America

I land at LAX from Paris in a hazy mid-January 2014 afternoon with some summer clothes, many books on Los Angeles, a few vinyls, Flaubert, Polish poetry and my dad’s Leica.

I haven’t slept; I’m haunted by the somber sparkle inside my mom’s eye at Roissy Airport as I was waving goodbye. I am here to start a new life with Fahrenheit, a 2,500-square-foot exhibition space and artist residency in the industrial part of downtown. I barely know the city, and still confuse the 101 Freeway with the 110 and the 10 when driving from Highland Park — where I settled down in a little house surrounded by Mexican families — to downtown, where Fahrenheit is opening its doors. Our neighbors from Night Gallery were the first audacious ladies to move to this area located at the intersection of Boyle Heights, Vernon and the Fashion District. Today galleries, spaces and artist studios are extensively developing in the neighborhood.

The paint is still wet and the Internet barely working when on January 30 we open Fahrenheit’s first exhibition, “Far and High,” presenting the works of Felix Gonzales-Torres, Laure Prouvost, David Douard and Tamara Henderson, among others. It’s the art fair weekend, thousands of visitors from out of town show up for the first edition of Paramount Ranch, and ultimately to our opening. The crowd is so thick and the tequila so tasty that two of my friends have to save me from passing out from emotion. Later we drive around town blasting the new Beyoncé and local DJs Nguzunguzu in a white convertible Volvo. Yes, Paris seems strangely far away.

Spring was never waiting for us, dear

Fahrenheit’s first artist-in-residence, Julien Prévieux, has arrived for a two-month stay to produce a performance starring local dancers and a musician. It is about time to make new friends. The Mountain School of Art students are spreading around town, and I decide to hit the road with one of them, French sculptor Caroline Mesquita. We drive through the dusty southwest, run on mesmerizing white sand dunes and observe triumphant yet lonely cactuses. We end up in Marfa, where I presented a film series at Fieldwork, and head back to LA blasting Dory Previn’s Hollywood-inspired depressing folk and admiring Frank Lloyd Wright’s angled buildings.

From May to July Fahrenheit devotes its program to performances, screenings and talks. Julien Prévieux’s dance piece gathers a large and very diverse audience. It also starts to get hotter and hotter, and my Polish blood demands a rest. I flee north to The Banff Centre, a charming retreat nestled in the Canadian Rockies, where the gallery’s curator whispers with a fashionably unimpressed smile: “Don’t worry, it will only take you about two years to get used to the West Coast.” When I return to LA, I learn that Fahrenheit’s benefit auction has raised enough to finance the entire upcoming program for the year. In June I fly to Europe and while sitting at a terrace in Berlin I overhear a young man chatting with his friend: “It seems like everyone is moving to LA! Have you checked this new space, Fahrenheit?” I smile to myself. I feel proud, I guess. Later this month, a glimpse of doubt darkens my Los Angeles blue sky — and what if I am not made for this Californian life, its individualistic culture and social isolation? What if my French-Polish soul will always win over my work ambitions?

Summer in the city

Fahrenheit’s second exhibition,“The Space Between Us,” opens mid-July and explores how the line extends beyond flatness into physical space through the construction of fluid and indefinite movement. It presents the work of Caroline Mesquita, Polish artist Piotr Łakomy and Los Angeles-based Aaron Garber-Maikovska. French writer and curator Dorothée Dupuis arrives in town for a two-month sojourn as a critic-in-residence and Fahrenheit helps her develop her blog Terremoto. That summer in LA, it seems like everyone I know comes to visit, and Fahrenheit does not even close for a holiday. Swiss curator Tenzing Barshee spends a few weeks here. He notes everything he experiences in his diary: our drives to Malibu blasting FKA Twigs’ Two Weeks, dancing to the purple moonlight and watching MacArthur Park melting in the dark. We take him to the legendary cocktail bar Musso & Frank, where I once interviewed Kenneth Anger and where the founders of Freedman Fitzpatrick and Château Shatto are waiting for us with some Europeans and locals. “I am standing in the sun,” sings French singer Amanda Lear. And what if LA’s fading golden light was in fact the ultimate backdrop for artistic encounters and interactions in 2014?

Autumn leaves

From freeways to highways, from east to west, through hills and canyons, I can’t stop driving. The epic iPod is blasting Randy Crawford’s Street Life, the song that is featured in Tarantino’s Jackie Brown and the 1984 Canadian documentary Hookers on Davie. It inspires Fahrenheit’s fall exhibition that features street films by two avant-garde filmmakers, Michel Auder and Józef Robakowski. I’m under the impression that the show is weirdly received, and I realize that LA, with its visual culture shaped by Hollywood and television, is a complex ground for the reception of avant-garde filmmaking. While shadows of doubt are breaking over my head, Andrew Berardini (whom I tease by calling him the voice of our generation) finds the exact words to appease my intellectual fears, and his ongoing support feels priceless.

October means FIAC time in Paris and the Marcel Duchamp Prize awards, for which Julien Prévieux has been preselected with the performance work we produced at Fahrenheit. Not one woman is nominated for the prize, so I decide to boycott the ceremony and stay in bed when I receive a text message from Elisabeth Forney, the impressive woman who is behind Fahrenheit and the FLAX Foundation: “C’est Julien.” He just won the Prize.

Back to LA,  artist-in-residence David Douard starts his large-scale production for an exhibition to open at the end of January 2015, with Liz Craft and Jesse Stecklow. Meanwhile it’s already Thanksgiving and Jesse McKee, the Canadian curator, is back in town. We hop into my car and drive straight to Death Valley. Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack for The Sicilian Clan plays full volume just as we enter Zabriskie Point, and I recall Thom Andersen’s beautiful documentary Los Angeles Plays Itself, which begins with the words: “This is the city: Los Angeles, California. They make movies here. I live here.”

by Martha Kirszenbaum

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