What are these notes about?

Notes on Looking is a creative writing platform for the Los Angeles art community.

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Suite 216

Suite 216 is a letter project. It’s an opportunity to write a goodbye, or share a goodbye that has yet to be communicated

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Most recent notes on looking…

Late Superbloom

“…and I turned around in that house which was like a shallow garden and all my fears collapsed upon me like a landslide of flowers and I ran screaming at the top of my lungs outside and down the stairs.” – Richard Brautigan 1. At some point I realized most of southern California is the same: the same outdoor strip malls, same plants, same sunlight driving in sideways in the early evening. April is just as boring in Long Beach (where I live) as it is in San Diego (where I used to live). I have lived here, alone, in a room downtown for eight months; my hair has grown four inches. I used to be afraid to leave my window open. I still sometimes sleep with the light on. Living alone in a new city is complicated for someone who loves solitude and people equally. I am still depressed, as I have been since I was sixteen, and it catches up to me at night but in a new, lonely adult way, especially when I’m on the bus headed home, watching neon light streak past the window, stepping off at my stop that’s recently become overgrown with bougainvilleas. When I cross the street to my block, I am caught by the sight of a big pink bush – it’s new, I’ve never noticed it before. It speaks to me. I am tiredly mesmerized, bleary eyed. I stare and wonder what type of flower it is. Rhaphiolepis indica, Indian Hawthorn. Its variety? A “Ballerina”. A Ballerina bush. A sprig of it was carried here from China some hundreds of... read more

Lita Albuquerque 20/20: Accelerando

Lita Albuquerque’s 20/20: Accelerando tells the story of a mythical space traveler who crashes to Paleolithic Earth. Suffering amnesia, she regains her identity and purpose through communion with unspoiled Nature. Each of the USC Fisher Museum’s three galleries is dominated by a monumental projection showing slightly different versions of Albuquerque’s film, in an approximately 30-minute loop. The work is set to a dramatic score of spoken word and rhythmic beats; the spectacle of theater is in full effect. Walking into darkness from the main entrance, you are immediately confronted by the first of the projections. An extended take of the female protagonist anchors this video. Cropped tight to her face—pale skin with uncanny blue eyes and now big as a house—the projection is framed as a portrait on a free-standing wall. Her bleach-blonde hair flows out to either side, spilling on to the gallery wall behind. The result shifts between flatness and form. The left gallery houses an installation: a deep field of salt stretches from the screen forward into the room. The field is dotted with Albuquerque’s signature globes; larger, more complex, glass apparatuses stand individually and a paper scroll of cryptic writing splits the field. The feeling is alchemical. To the right, a single projection fills a floor-to-ceiling wall set diagonal to the space. The only light is the video. Thematically and visually, Accelerando culls liberally from the totems of the New Age: sacred geometry, cosmic consciousness, ancient astronauts, neo-pagan spirituality, and wise, indigenous medicine men. Visually, the work awes with high-def images of lush and fantastic locales, aerial shots of majestic nature, and the untamed fury of... read more

Ragen Moss: A Rregular Shaped Tool

As a child, our shed always provided endless avenues of exploration. It wasn’t really our shed though, it was a part of the property where we lived that my mother managed. This storage room was built on top of the native Luiseño people’s land, who had lived there hundreds of years before. Rocks pock marked by holes surround the adobe structures, in which I was raised. Some of these pits are a foot deep, even to this day, I see these holes and think of a most basic tool that was used to create them, a stone, and then all I can think of is time. They are traces of women grinding acorns that fell from the same trees which stand there today; their depth a result of a repetitive, but completely necessary action. When I was young, the hills were littered with matates and other stone tools used by the indigenous people. These tools would often find their way into the shed among various other outmoded or overused instruments from the late 19th  century Spanish colonizer’s farming days. Old shovels without handles, bent sickles and rusted pitch forks, alongside new functional tools that continue the work of tending to and shaping the land, accentuating its curves and challenging the natural order, the same way the older tools, abandoned, and now reduced to objects, once did. Ragen Moss’s exhibition, A Rregular Shaped Tool, at LA><art combines writing and painting inside of bulbous lacquered plastic sculptures that merely hint at representation. Full of contained gestures, Moss’s pieces occupy two identical rooms side by side. Some pieces hang from the ceiling, gently... read more

Beautiful Intervention

Turing the poetics of painting into the poetics of language, or into a poem, can come from admiring beauty. Elaine Scarry argues that, “Beauty brings copies of itself into being. It makes us draw it, take photographs of it, or describe it to other people. Sometimes it gives rise to exact replication and other times to resemblances and still other times to things whose connection to the original site of inspiration is unrecognizable.” It is the feeling caused by an experience of beauty that comes, hopefully, into a new being. Earlier this year, the Guggenheim in New York exhibited a survey of paintings, or works on/in/about canvas, by Alberto Burri. He played not only with surfaces, but with the materials of his canvasses; sometimes besmirching them with dark scorched marks, scarring some with “melted and charred plastic”[1].  Earlier he worked with resin and pigment, adding depth to surface. In the middle period, he worked other textiles—burlap and linen, common household fibers, some of which were manufactured in the town where he grew up—onto, into the canvasses. The most tender canvas has, twisted into a ropey shape and sewn into the upper corner, a nightgown. The canvas itself had been torn or cut to allow the nightgown a place between its two parts. What kind of intervention into the canvas is this? It is a scrap of vulnerability, for which space has been—is it violently? or completely?—made. Sewn into place, the canvas and nightgown/slip have been stitched, or sutured, together. The canvas is the main body. The slip is the vulnerability, the graft. Does the completed work contain a wound?... read more

EYE-DEE- QUE (Something like an Asclepeion): A conversation with Matt Wardell

David Bell: It’s funny—these new discoveries in modern medicine. It seems every month there is a new super food that suddenly nobody has ever heard of such as broccoli or kale; or some fresh scientific evidence is revealed that shows exercise is good for you, and you shouldn’t drink every night, or smoke cigarettes in bed. It’s interesting though how some of the older remedies for good health stick around over the ages, like eating broccoli and kale, exercising and not smoking in bed. Bodies have specificity to them in terms of what they need and what they don’t. One man’s daily diet could kill another. Some individuals go into anaphylactic shock at the mere sight of a crustacean, while others drag their tongues along the bottom of the ocean without consequence. Los Angeles is diverse in its healing and health practices. Among many other options you can get a massage in Thai Town, head to the WI Spa in Korea town, avoid the Westside, get your tarot reading in the Valley, or live comfortable and stress free off your family’s trust in a new loft in Downtown. A few weeks ago I met you at your show EYE-DEE-QUE (Something like an Asclepeion) at Baik Art in Culver City. We walked across the street to get lunch at Subway, but after I ordered my sandwich (Black Forest Ham on Honey Oat) you decided you weren’t going to eat anything. Do you know something I don’t? Matt Wardell: I felt a little bad about that. There is the whole Jared SNAFU, but no. Actually, during all of installation I was... read more

Sweet Salt, Seagulls, Flamingos, At the Grocery Store

  Sweet Salt   Worker bees, the bees who collect pollen are female. Transform pollen into honey. Before black sage blooms it looks like a succulent. Cold, and hard as if from the mesozoic era and then from its circle of leaves appear purple blossoms. Black sage grows in the deserts of Southern and Baja California. While collecting pollen from its flowers, half the hive may die from the heat and lack of water. In a spoonful, you can taste the hovering desperation of the bees without hydration. To make bread the only ingredients you need are: water, flour, yeast, and salt. Bread in Tuscany is made without salt. One story blames the lack of salt in Tuscan bread to widespread poverty in the Middle Ages, poverty in which salt was too expensive a commodity. Tuscan bread or pane tuscano is known throughout Italy for being unsalted, sciocco. This words also means: silly, foolish, stupid, daft, insipid, tasteless, nitwit, noodle. Cooks rely on salt to preserve meat. Enhance flavor. A Czech fairy tale begins: A king had three daughters. He asked them how much they loved him. The eldest replied, more than gold. The middle, more than silver and all the jewels in the world. The youngest said, I love you more than salt.   Seagulls, Flamingos, Atwater   Crouching on the curb in atwater Seagulls circling above us. What are they doing here, we wonder, there’s no water. I tell them to fly west. There’s flamingos in the middle of Bolivia, I say. The sun is glaring. Cacti overflow from a green dumpster. They visit a lake in... read more

The Sexual Bronze Show

Ordering dinner was the worst idea; we should have just had a quick drink. We met for one reason, and it’s definitely not going to happen here. We both finger our foods, swirling the ingredients into each other on our plates, leaving us with two comminlged pools of indistinguishable goo; somehow it’s reassuring—it’s the only sign that we are on the same page. Bettina Hubby’s exhibition, The Sexual Bronze Show, at Klowden Mann left me feeling like I was on the wrong side of a joke. It can be quite upsetting to be the only one in the room that doesn’t understand what is going on; it was fitting then, that I was the only one in the room. We live with immediate remedies for ignorance; who hasn’t Google searched a term moments after pretending to understand what someone is talking about? With so much information at our fingertips, rote learning nowadays seems less relevant. Many people have replaced flirting with liking and swiping, and have created online personas for themselves that match their offline personalities as much as a lemon matches a clothespin. Do you know Daniela? Yeah, I follow her on Instagram. That’s not what I asked. Matthew Barney brought last year to a close with his bro’d out extruded bronzes forged as underwater cum shots. Bettina Hubby begins this year with life-like, wickedly twisted, diminutive bronze pairings that sit atop thirteen svelte pedestals. Each pillar stands as a separate little island, holding aloft two seemingly disparate objects, a ravioli and a gourd, or a yellow dishwashing glove and a roll of sausages. They coyly sit with... read more

in unison taisha paggett with WXPT: The School for the Movement of the Technicolor People

And for the first time in a long time, I’m back in my body. I’m standing at the edge of a room. My feet together, half on cold grey flooring, half supported by brown fuzzy carpet. I let the weight of my body fall into my heels as I breathe low into my belly. I look down. I look up. I look at the eyes of the bodies in the circle. I know this space. Not as intimately as the WXPT company members, but as someone who was invited to share in an experience. I’m guided by the voice of taisha paggett and in response my body changes energy. There’s an impulse, a motivation, and I’m left experiencing an awareness I haven’t felt in a long time. This project, company, and school, in its exploration of personal and collective identity and politics, is a continual discovery of aliveness. Last month I had the pleasure of attending performances, classes, and rehearsals with taisha paggett and WXPT’s School for the Movement of the Technicolor People. In collaboration with Ashley Hunt and Kim Zumpfe, LACE was completely transformed into a dance school and rehearsal space. During a conversation hosted by at land’s edge, paggett discusses an interest in “opening things up” as she explains the different installation choices in the space. Hearing this, my mind journeys to the scene of paggett attempting to bust through a wall with her hands during the opening performance of the school. paggett’s intention seems clear and direct. The body breaking through walls. “Through” suggests a movement of the body from one place to another without interruption.... read more

Sweet 16

Nothing changes in the New Year; or, at least, nothing goes away and disappears on its own. It’s that time again. Make resolutions. Launch efforts to “better” our lives and fix the failures of the previous year as we enter the new one. Stop drinking. Stop smoking. Stop for the entire year or six months or just the singular month of January. Well, it’s been a hell of a week. It’s been raining, maybe a few days off will do the trick, bottoms up! Find fulfillment in new ways—a job change, a healthier diet, a revamped sex life, a vow of celibacy; or hope nothing changes (gun advocates) and look to the year ahead as a chance to find solid ground, settle down as they say, read a little more and hope this isn’t the year when an earthquake wipes out half the population of Brooklyn, I mean Downtown Los Angeles, I mean DTLA. It’s the New Year and galleries already have their schedule of exhibitions set; go online and see who is going to be showing when and where. Set your entire calendar for art outings in 2016. This isn’t to say there won’t be any surprises. There’ll be many: new galleries, pop-up shows, impromptu performances, an abundance of writing (I hope). Spaces will close. Some will expand. Certain artists will show the same old thing. So-and-so will pick up a paint brush again, Did you hear that she is working in clay now? She should have stuck to doing those portraits! Oh, the gossip is to die for. There will be shows where the work doesn’t live... read more