Rebecca Bruno, a building a body. Bye Bye Broadway
“The next motha fucker that says some racist shit to me, I’m gonna cut his ass up and spray my pepper spray in his wounds,” she shouted. “Everyone is racist,” said the man wearing the reflective vest next to her. She looked at him dumfounded. His face did not look up from the sidewalk, he just continued pulling cigarette butts between the curb and the street into his bin with his battered broom. “You, me, everyone,” he said softly.
I remember having three to four bags in each hand, glass piercing through at various places, black plastic and black holes, holding them stiffly outward to avoid contact with the sides of my calves, a beer wine mixture dripping from the bottom corners; bulging pastry decoratoring tips, an evidential trail leading back to the guilty party. Halfway down the steps, the plastic overextended itself and the previous night’s debris cascaded forth in front of me in a wave of shattering bottles, gnarled cans, and limp wet cigarettes. For weeks I was reminded of the incident, my rubber soles kissing the sticky stairwell as I came and went, muah!
The mysterious and wingless silver fish with a life span of up to 8 years outruns its predators; no problem with its slick zigzag movements. Yet, with appendages that lack radical escape ability on vertical surfaces, it’s best it stays horizontal to the floor. If you were to end its life, it disappears with little trace and without cleanup, simply blow the remaining pinch of dust and poof it’s gone!
She asked me if I had the building manager’s number and if I knew where the broom was. I gave her the number but wasn’t sure who took the broom. An hour or so later, after she had finished cleaning the bathrooms, she asked me if I had the new owner’s number. I told her, “Sorry I don’t.” “Couldn’t you reach the building manager?” I asked, confused. She said he said he wasn’t in charge of the building any longer. I knew what that meant, and asked if I could give her some money, she squinted her eyes tight and smiled warmly, but waved her hand in refusal. I watched her walk down the steps with her broom. I could only imagine that her smile faded before she reached the door, the last time she’d leave this place.
I always enjoyed dancing in this building, sliding my feet along the ground, the tiny material built up over the years crepitating under my feet between spins and turns. She reminded me of these moments and other moments where bodies and floor and walls and corners unite; sweat and spilled drinks pattering the absorbent wood below. She stuck her nose down into the crevices, the places where a quick clean up doesn’t reach, the places often avoided but occasionally visited lovingly and obsessively when the smoke and mirrors that once functioned so well, become overwhelming to maintain and the holes that at first appeared bottomless, become mounds that hinder movement.
Slowly rolling from her abdomen around to her side and on over to her back four times over, she scales the wide hallway from wall to wall. Her silver spandex onesie pulsates and grips her at times, accentuating her curves and contracting when she folds. It acts as a loose and animate extra skin, crinkling and stretching like dependable reusable foil along her focused, elegant yet firm, and sometimes startling movements; she exists in multiple layers. Her body outfits the space, trying it on like a stubborn shopper, zipped up and tied in front of a full length mirror.
I came up the steps where her head rested many times not knowing what to expect: blood, vomit, broken lights and a pitch black hallway, a hole punched through my wall, leaving a peephole into my life; all potential threats to an imaginary stable environment. She leans her head over the edge of the landing, her hair grazing the first step, her body now pressed and wrapped around the railing, her eyes blind to the audience that watches her from behind, greeting the people entering, with a smile.
I watched Rebecca Bruno bask in and around the space which I have called home for the better part of three years; it was impossibly comforting to witness given that the space itself has been far from that. However, it holds important memories to many of us who have occupied it; slept in teepees, made art, run gallery spaces and critique groups, or throw dinner parties without a sink. We shared in its decrepitude, showing people the roof and watching the “pigeon hotel” turn into a ridiculously expensive apartment building; laughing and toasting, knowing all too well it would never last, because we were the new pigeon hotel. It’s not that Downtown Los Angeles was “safer” or “better” before the major wave of gentrification had pushed through (us artists being the first wave). It was the opposite. But like a feline in a field of catnip, Rebecca slathered herself about with graceful abandon the way an artist would when occupying an empty building in an impoverished area. The same way an investor does after the artists are asked to leave and richer more artsy people are invited to come. The artist sees past the dust and the holes in the wall, the investor sees past the crime and the homelessness on the street; knowing all too well that like the dust that’s swept up before them, they will find a way to make it all disappear in order to feel comfortable enough to roll around in what they have created and call it home.
Cheers! to 435 S Broadway, the closing of Dave Gallery (again) and to all of the Artists that participated in FADEINFADEOUT organized by Jimena Sarno on August 23 2015. Its been a good run, but there is always more to come.
Check out more from Rebecca Bruno
(High quality images exist in both links.)