Cell Phone Stories: You Are Here

The latest contributor to our series Cell Phone Stories is Kianga Ford, assistant professor of new genres at Parsons. Kianga took the escalator ascending BCAM as her starting point for the first episode in her multi-part audio series, titled “You Are Here… a movement, an act, an episode, an ecology.” This is what she has to say about the project:

I often study places in the big sense… neighborhoods, cities, migration patterns. The invitation to look at LACMA as an institutional place with distinct geographic boundaries was a motivating challenge. I discovered that, in many ways, it is a place that parallels the big world—it has its own system of interconnected people, discourses, and economies. When I began, I thought it would be an interesting occasion to consider some of the archetypes of the museum—the curators, the guards, the visitors, the artists, the benefactors—who often occupy different physical spaces and represent different ideological stakes in the machine of the museum. Over the course of the last six months, I have spent a good deal of time here at LACMA and had a host of long and short conversations with anyone who’s had a few minutes to spare. I’ve talked to visiting Australians who compare LACMA to museums at home, Angelenos who’ve reflected on LACMA within the greater art ecology of L.A., stay-at-home moms who use the museum as a break in daily routine, guards who are art-interested and those who are not, frequent visitors who have never actually been inside the museum, and folks for whom LACMA is a part of the neighborhood and, in some cases, their daily lives. I’ve come to understand it not just as a location for art but for debates and events that have little to do with the visual and that punctuate the seasons in the lives of the people who live in the neighborhoods that surround the campus. I’ve also seen it become a stage for questions of community and domain that extend well beyond its immediate environs.

I’ve chosen a fairly multifaceted approach to my “episodes.” I begin by combining two versions of the vision toward LACMA’s future, in a “remix,” if you will, of the words of its optimistic director, Michael Govan, who reflects on LACMA’s situation within Los Angeles on the occasion of BCAM’s opening in his text, “Where We Are.” The suggested listening location of this audio piece pairs it with Renzo Piano’s equally optimistic ascent into the sky and viewing platform which looks out from BCAM and onto a horizon that includes the 99 Cent Store, the Hollywood sign and the famous Park La Brea apartments. The score, provided by collaborating artist Preston Poe, reinforces the text’s expansive view. The episodes to come will highlight some of the relationships that I’ve come to see as important here, between LACMA and elsewhere, between the art and the context. Tune in for episodes two and three, which will focus on the Japanese pavilion and the LACMA grounds.

Listen to the piece here. To experience the piece on site, dial 888 465-1048 as you step onto the escalator at BCAM. To take part in the Cell Phone Stories series, text “lacma” to 67553.

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