Our Selfies, Ourselves

April 10, 2014

This Saturday, LACMA’s hosting a symposium that examines our shared fascination (obsession?) with the selfie. While the word selfie was first publicly used over 10 years ago in 2002 by an Australian discussing his dissolvable stitches on a science forum (this is disputed), it is, without doubt, part of parlance today. Your 11-year-old neighbor probably utters the word daily. Your grandparents probably know what it means. (Full disclosure: I was puzzled when I first heard the word, way late in the game in 2012, when the “Texts from Hillary” meme was circulating. I’m sure this ages me.) When Oxford Dictionaries named selfie its Word of the Year in 2013, we all knew the concept formally entered polite society.

Apparently there’s a song about it too, but we’re not going to go there.*

Despite the fact that the popularity of selfies seems recent, its concept isn’t new. There have been countless self-portraits throughout the history of art. While the mechanics behind the making of these self-portraits differ from those that we associate with the contemporary selfie, these portraits essentially featured the subject looking back at her/himself.

Jean-Louis Forain, Self-Portrait, 1922, Mr. and Mrs. George Gard De Sylva Collection

Sir Anthony van Dyck, Self-Portrait, 1626–32, Los Angeles County Fund

We’re certain that neither Jean-Louis Forain nor Sir Anthony van Dyck pointed an Instagram-loaded iPhone in front of their faces to snap these self-portraits. But we do know that these were studied portraits in which the artist-subject carefully considered himself: specific angles of the tilt of the head that would best capture mood, carefully groomed facial hair to communicate distinction to peers, selective omitting of less complementary elements.

When photography came along in the mid-1800s, so did a bevy of self-portraits. These two examples of self-portraits below tell me that these artists relished in seeing themselves through the lens. André-Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri coyly positions his left hand on his hirsute face, knee resting just so on a decorative chair. James Van Der Zee appears confident in his portrait, dressed in what appears to be a casual suit that he tops off with a tidy straw hat.

André-Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri, Self-Portrait, c. 1860, The Audrey and Sydney Irmas Collection

James Van Der Zee, Self-Portrait in Boater Hat, c. 1925, The Audrey and Sydney Irmas Collection

These carefully crafted self-portraits hail from the Audrey and Sidney Irmas Collection, on which the symposium will be based. There’s a rich collection of self-portraits by photographers from the 19th and 20th centuries, all experimenting with the now-vintage notion of the selfie. Join in on a discussion on Saturday with noted writers, thinkers, curators, entrepreneurs, and artists to interrogate the selfie on all levels.

1 pm: Panel Discussion 
Moderator: Susan Bright, curator, writer, and professor at School of the Visual Arts
Nathan Jurgenson, contributing editor at The New Inquiry, researcher at Snapchat, and PhD student at the University of Maryland
Aimée Morrison, associate professor, English language and literature, University of Waterloo
Sean Rad, founder and CEO, Tinder

2:30 pm: Break

3 pm: Conversations
Amanda Ross-Ho, artist, and Michael Ned Holte, writer, independent curator, and faculty at the California Institute of the Arts

Heather Cassils, artist, and Jack Halberstam, professor of American studies and ethnicity, gender studies, comparative literature, and English at the University of Southern California
Ilene Segalove, artist, and Michael Renov, professor of critical studies at the University of Southern California

7 pm: Film screening, I Am Comic
Opening with comedian Adam Grabowski
2010, 87 minutes, directed by Jordan Brady

Many a selfie has been created at LACMA by our visitors and fans. Here are a few to whet your palate in preparation for Saturday’s event.

With installation of the cabana featuring the 1969 film LIONS LOVE (…AND LIES) by Agnès Varda, as seen in the exhibition  Agnès Varda in Californialand, courtesy of untitledalbum_x

Courtesy of ‏@jessalyn_p  on Twitter

With Chris Burden’s Urban Light, courtesy of ‏@jessalyn_p

Courtesy of  HariNd Arvati

With Andy Warhol’s Campbell Soup Can, courtesy of HariNd Arvati

*Just in case you wanted to go there.

Linda Theung, editor
Maritza Lerman Yoes, Social Media Manager


Announcing Art + Technology Lab Artist Grant Awards

April 9, 2014

Drum roll . . . we are excited to announce the first round of Art + Technology Lab awards!

Last December, we announced the new Art + Technology program and issued the first call for proposals. By the end of January, we had received more than 450 proposals from artists, architects, designers, and developers from all over the world, involving everything from drones and data visualization to rockets, robotics, sonification, and sensors. LACMA curators, staff, and Art + Technology advisory board members reviewed them, looking for projects that are experimental and address issues at the intersection of culture and technology, provide opportunities for public engagement, and produce data, methods of models that might be of interest to other artists and technology developers.

It was an admittedly agonizing process to select the half-dozen projects that will be in development in the first year, and there were many, many worthy proposals beyond those chosen for funding this year. We hope all of those who submitted such thoughtful proposals will become part of the growing community of artists, scientists, and technology developers forming around the Lab.

We are pleased to announce that the first awards will go to the following projects. Each of these projects will unfold over the coming year, with talks, demonstrations, and presentations of prototypes at LACMA. We’ll also be documenting the process at lacma.org/lab, so watch that space for opportunities to engage online and at the museum.

Object of desire, wearable computer for performance, 2006

Taeyoon Choi, Object of desire, wearable computer for performance, 2006.

Taeyoon Choi and E Roon Kang, based in New York and Seoul, Korea, will develop a project titled In Search of Personalized Time, creating devices and method to allow users to set their own time. Over the course of several months, they will be developing prototypes, a performance, and a workshop. Choi is cofounder of the School for Poetic Computation and directs the Making Lab, a community makerspace run by artists in South Korea. Kang operates an interdisciplinary design studio, Math Practice, and is a TED Fellow, and has been a research fellow at SENSEable City Laboratory at MIT.

EEG AR_ Things We Have Lost, Visualization, John Craig Freeman, image courtesy of the artist, 2013_1

John Craig Freeman, EEG AR Things We Have Lost.

John Craig Freeman will draw on crowdsourcing, augmented reality, and EEG (electroencephalography) technology in a project titled Things We Have Lost. The artist will interview people on the streets of Los Angeles about things, tangible or intangible, that they have lost, creating a database of lost objects. A later performance at LACMA will allow participants to “conjure” virtual objects using brainwave technology and augmented reality. Freeman is a founding member of the collective Manifest.AR, whose work seeks to expand the notion of public space by exploring how digital networked technology is transforming our sense of place.

A Piece of the Pie Chart, Switzerland Edition, on display at  Stadtgalerie Bern in Bern, Switzerland, November 2013_5

Annina Rüst, A Piece of the Pie Chart, Switzerland Edition, on display at the Stadtgalerie Bern, November 2013

Annina Rüst will develop a project called A Piece of the Pie Chart, inspired by the cover of LACMA’s 1971 Report on the Technology Program at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which exclusively shows men. A Piece of the Pie Chart, a continuation and evolution of a work that Rüst showed last winter in Switzerland, is an interactive robotic gallery installation. Rüst teaches at Syracuse University and creates electronic objects and software art.

Rocket Abaco 1

Tavares Strachan, Blast Off #4, 2011-12, Duratran print, light box, Rocket: Glass, Bahamas sugar fuel cell 15” x 73 ½” x 23 ¾” © Tavares Strachan. A series of glass rockets built from locally produced glass were launched into the sky using local sugarcane fuel as the propellant. This was one of the first missions of BASEC, The Bahamas Aerospace and Sea Exploration Center.

Tavares Strachan will develop a project called Lift Off, conducting experiments using glass rockets powered by alternative, locally sourced fuels; the project may also involve students from local schools. Recently, Strachan represented the Bahamas at the 2013 Venice Biennale and his work was featured at the 2013 Lyon Biennale. Recurring themes in Strachan’s work include invisibility, displacement, and the capacity of people and matter to withstand inhospitable environments.

Stromatolites #1211-0512 (2,000 - 3,000 years old; Carbla Station, Western Australia)

Rachel Sussman, from The Oldest Living Things in the World, University of Chicago Press, 2014.

Rachel Sussman will be supported in her pursuit of a project titled The Poetics of Space, facilitated by exposure to Art + Technology Lab advisors from Jet Propulsion Laboratory and SpaceX. The Poetics of Space will scrutinize astrophysical and astronomical data to investigate the capacity and limits of human modes of perception in relation to deep time and deep space. Sussman is a photographer, a writer, and a TED speaker whose recent book, The Oldest Living Things in the World, was published in 2014.

The awards include monetary and in-kind support, made possible by Accenture, DAQRI and NVIDIA, with additional support from Gensler, Google, and SpaceX. Professor Ken Goldberg of UC Berkeley and artist Dan Goods, visual strategist at Jet Propulsion Labs are also participating as advisors. Additional support is provided by the LACMA Director’s Circle. Seed funding for the development of the Art and Technology Lab at LACMA was provided by LACMA Trustee David Bohnett and the Los Angeles County Productivity Investment Fund.

The Art + Technology Lab will continue to fund projects on an annual basis; the next call for proposals will be issued next winter. Meanwhile, join the mailing list by sending your name to lab@lacma.org; we’ll keep you updated with news of events and future opportunities.

We look forward to welcoming you at the Lab!

Amy McCabe Heibel, Vice President, Technology, Web & Digital Media

Art & Music Series: Meredith Monk

April 7, 2014

The second installment of 2014′s Art & Music Series features composer, singer, filmmaker, choreographer, and director Meredith Monk. The polyvalent artist was a member of a circle of the then-obscure but now-revered composers in the 1960s who experimented within a scene that married art, music, and happenings. Alex Ross of the New Yorker writes, “If Monk is seeking a place in the classical firmament, classical music has much to learn from her. She conveys a fundamental humanity and humility that is rare in new-music circles. She is a brainy artist but never a cerebral one; she shapes her ideas to the grain of the voice and the contours of the body.”

Given Monk’s established relationship with visual and performing artists, it is only fitting that she perform in the context of an art space. On the occasion of the recently opened exhibition, Helen Pashgian: Light Invisible, which features the work of the pioneering Light and Space artist, Helen Pashgian, she will offer an aural complement to the ethereal and haunting installation. Monk, herself a pioneer in what is now called “extended vocal technique,” will be joined by Katie Geissinger, a member of her Vocal Ensemble. Mitch Glickman, director of music programs at LACMA, spoke to Monk in advance of her upcoming performance, which takes place next Friday, April 11, at the Bing Theater.

Meredith Monk, photographed by Jesse Frohman

Meredith Monk, photographed by Jesse Frohman

Mitch Glickman: When was the last time you performed in Los Angeles?

Meredith Monk: In January 2013 with On Behalf of Nature, a music-theater work co-commissioned by the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA. Prior to that, I performed with the Los Angeles Master Chorale in 2010 at Disney Hall.

MG: Can you talk about the repertoire on the program?

Photo by Peter Ross

Photo by Peter Ross

MM: What I tried to do with this program is to perform songs that are new to Los Angeles. The concert closes with the piece “between song” (from impermanence) that has never been performed in L.A. and Katie and I will be joined by two wonderful L.A. musicians, Richard Valitutto and Brian Walsh, for this final number. Other new pieces to the L.A. audience include “Madwoman’s Vision,” selections from Volcano Songs, “Prayer II” from The Politics of Quiet, “Choosing Companions” from ATLAS, and selections from Light Songs. While there is material on the concert that spans over 40 years, I am always uncovering and rediscovering these songs.

MG: On this concert, another wonderful vocalist, Katie Geissinger will be featured. How did you first meet?

MM: I’ve known Katie since 1990 when she auditioned for my production of ATLAS: an opera in 3 parts, presented by Houston Grand Opera. It was a large audition process, and Katie was a stand out. She has been part of Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble ever since. There is a wonderful trust and connection that we share and over the years, we have toured as a duo all throughout Europe.

MG: This Art & Music concert celebrates our new exhibition Helen Pashgian: Light Invisible. Pashgian is a trailblazing sculptor whose primary medium is light, not dissimilar to your work as a trailblazing artist whose primary medium is sound. Who were the trailblazers in your life?

Photo by David Garland

Photo by David Garland

When I was growing up, I vividly remember the great actress and comedienne, Imogene Coca. Now she may not be your typical trailblazer, but her work with physical comedy and characterization left a big impression on me. Jean Cocteau was another trailblazer that had a big influence on me. His integration of different mediums let me know that this kind of work was possible. Maya Deren’s work was also very influential to me for illustrating the displacement of time and space inherent in film language. Musically speaking, the work of Bela Bartok, Erik Satie, and Frederic Mompou had a major impact on me. They were trailblazers in their day and I was fortunate enough to have a teacher that let me play contemporary composers such as Bartok, as opposed to focusing on more traditional classical composers. These were composers that helped shaped my ear.

This Weekend at LACMA: 13th-Annual Young Directors Night, CicLAvia’s Iconic Wilshire Boulevard, Free Talks, Films, Tours, and More!

April 4, 2014

Make the most of your weekend with LACMA. Friday night, film buffs will have a field day with a new 35mm print of The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years at 7:30 pm, presented by Academy @ LACMA, in the second part of an unflinching portrayal of Los Angeles’s underground music scenes. For our neighbors to the east in Montebello, the LACMA9 Art+Film Lab arrives for four weeks of free film workshops, an oral history project, and outdoor film screenings. It all starts off with the Opening-Night Celebration at 6 pm on Friday, followed by the screening of La Bamba at 8 pm. Saturday, check out the freshest in filmmaking talent at the 13th-Annual Young Directors Night at 7:30 pm, hosted by Elvis Mitchell. Tickets are available online and at the door.

Still from The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years (detail), 1988, © New Line Cinema

Still from The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years (detail), 1988, © New Line Cinema

Learn a thing or two during on Saturday afternoon at 3 pm at the free lecture Art and Music—Songs in the Key of Los Angeles, with USC Professor Josh Kun, director of the Popular Music Project, as he speaks about the countless odes to L.A. he uncovered from the L.A. Public Library sheet-music bank. All the while, free, docent-led tours offer guests the chance to better understand and appreciate works in our galleries, like a look at the new exhibition Helen Pashgian: Light Invisible on Saturday at 1 pm or Latin American Art on Sunday at 3 pm.

Stephen Dean, Volta, 2002–3, Collection of William and Ruth True, Seattle, Courtesy of the artist and Baldwin gallery, Aspen, © Stephen Dean

Once Sunday rolls around expect crowds and longer travel times to LACMA, as CicLAvia takes over Wilshire Boulevard from 9 am to 4 pm. At the museum visitors have plenty to choose from, including Calder and Abstraction: From Avant-Garde to Iconic, Fútbol: The Beautiful Game, and Visions of the South. On the same day we welcome residents from Monterey Park, who will enjoy free general admission as part of the Art+Film Lab. See their stories in the Bing theater during Nicole Miller: Believing is Seeing from 12:30 to 2:30 pm. On your way to LACMA, stop at our satellite gallery at Charles White Elementary for Public Hours of Kaz Oshiro: Chasing Ghosts from noon to 4:30 pm. All that, plus our usual offerings of Andell Family Sunday at 12:30 pm and Sundays Live with the Afro-American Chamber Music Society Orchestra at 6 pm. The weekend is what you make of it!

Roberto Ayala



See Kaz Oshiro: Chasing Ghosts During CicLAvia

April 3, 2014

The CicLAvia route on Sunday, April 6, runs between downtown L.A. and LACMA. Riders are sure to encounter a myriad of sights along the route: from high rises in the civic center to the density of Koreatown and MacArthur Park to the built-up thoroughfare of Wilshire Boulevard.

CicLAvia’s Iconic Wilshire Boulevard route

Between the two bookends of the route is Charles White Elementary School, where the exhibition Kaz Oshiro: Chasing Ghosts is currently on view. The show features the work of this Los Angeles–based artist, who uses techniques of trickery to create objects out of canvas that, at first sight, appear like their real-life analogues. Oshiro also worked with students to create works commissioned for this installation. The artist also selected a number of works from other artists, including Lee Krasner, John Altoon, and Mark Grotjahn to complement his works on view.

Install shot of Kaz Oshiro: Chasing Ghosts, 2014, Los Angeles County Museum of Art   Artist Kaz Oshiro works with a student on a collaborative painting project.

Artist Kaz Oshiro works with a student on a collaborative painting project.

Students use brushes and squeeze-bottles to contribute to Oshiro’s collaborative wall painting.

Students use brushes and squeeze-bottles to contribute to Oshiro’s collaborative wall painting.

The school will be open for CicLAvia visitors from noon to 4:30 pm on Sunday. The project is part of an ongoing collaboration between LACMA and Charles White Elementary School, of which Kaz Oshiro is the sixth installment. The unique space—an art gallery within an elementary school—has served as a site not only for the display of art, but also to allow students to interact with and create works of art.

Mobile Mural Lab,  a truck that acts as a big canvas that visitors can paint on, will be on-site to further the idea of working on a large scale. Participants can contribute to the truck mural using nontraditional objects. To keep with the cycling theme of CicLAvia, participants can use old tires to roll paint onto the mural. Everyone is encouraged to visit both LACMA and Charles White on this day and kids will receive a special prize for making both trips! Each site will have its own special art making project that you can present at the other location to redeem a prize.

Kaz Oshiro, Dumpster (Yellow with Blue Swoosh), 2010, gift of Steven Hull and Tami Demaree, Yasmine Benyamini, and Samuel Kashani

CicLAvia fosters community connection by making the big city of Los Angeles accessible via the scale of the human body (bike and foot). LACMA is also working to weave together this large community by extending its collection and its work with artists beyond the museum and into neighborhoods throughout the city. Be sure to check out Oshiro’s playful and deceptive sculptures, have a bite at a nearby food truck, and continue on to LACMA, where we’ll be waiting to say hello.

Linda Theung, editor

A Night for L.A.’s Young Directors

April 1, 2014

It’s not unusual to find a film screening at LACMA on a Saturday night—but this weekend, we’ll be celebrating emerging filmmakers at the 13th-annual Young Directors Night—an event dedicated to showcasing up-and-coming talent.

Hundreds of films are sent to LACMA for consideration in this event every year, and this year was no exception. Eight unique shorts have been selected from over 160 submissions, giving eight young directors the chance to see their work on the well-loved silver screen of LACMA’s Bing Theater.

The featured films and their directors are:

Twenty-Two Date Palm Way, directed by Tamar Levine

Twenty-Two Date Palm Way, directed by Tamar Levine

The last moments of a woman’s life—a swirl of personal memories and fragments of beauty routines as felt and seen in reflections, all leading to the moment of her death.

Me + Her, directed by Joseph Oxford

When Jack and Jill of Cardboard City are separated by Jill’s untimely death, Jack goes on a journey to mend his (literally) broken heart.

Boys of Soweto, directed by Meja Shoba

Boys of Soweto, directed by Meja Shoba

Six men wait for the chance to catch the attention of a beautiful woman.

Bunion, directed by Jessica Sanders

Bunion, directed by Jessica Sanders

Bunion is a short comedy about a man, his foot and finding happiness. Inspired by an actual bunion.

Kepler X-47, directed by Erin Li

Kepler X-47, directed by Erin Li

A woman volunteers to live in a human zoo on an alien planet but soon realizes that life is not what she expected.

Drum-Off, by Miles Crawford

The same argument, but different.

Out of the Blue, by Margot Ye

Out of the Blue, by Margot Ye

LOS ANGELES, 1959: Scarlett is a recluse with an extraordinary ability: she sees sound and hears color. Jack is a recovering addict and jazz pianist who has lost his creative compass. As neighbors, the two begin to intermingle. Jack finds his muse, and Scarlett finds the courage to leave her apartment.

Mr. Bear, by Andres Rosende

It’s Christmas again: family, presents, parties . . . the worst time of the year for Steve. Driving through New York City for Christmas Eve dinner, his car breaks down and he accidentally stumbles upon a crime scene. Mistaken for the notorious cleaner, Mr. Bear, Steve has to face a difficult choice: dismember and get rid of some bodies or become a corpse himself.

Following the screening, host Elvis Mitchell (Film Independent at LACMA curator and host of KCRW’s The Treatment) will take the stage with our directors, leading them in a conversation that promises to shed light into each distinct process. Audience and artists alike will head to the outdoor plaza for a celebratory reception, featuring late-night access to the just-opened exhibition Helen Pashgian: Light Invisible. Complimentary wine and dessert will be served (plus, we’ll have a full cash bar) and the “Art of Film” award will be presented to the best in show.

For more details and tickets, visit lacma.org.

Meghan McCauley, New Members Manager

Bojagi: A Community Textile Project

March 31, 2014

In the Boone Children’s Gallery, from now through June 30, you can be a part of something big. So big, in fact, that you might contribute to a world record! From Monday through Friday, one table in this drop-in art-making space is dedicated to the art of bojagi—a Korean patchwork textile that is used for wrapping gifts and important documents. Unlike some American patchwork traditions like quilting bees, bojagi are usually sewn together by just one single maker; most often a resourceful woman using what fabric scraps she had at hand. In the spirit of collaboration, however, we are breaking tradition by inviting as many hands as possible to contribute to the creation of a community-made work of art.

Boone Children's Gallery staff and collaborators working on the community bojagi

Boone Children’s Gallery staff and collaborators working on the community bojagi

You can be a part of this exciting new project by visiting the Boone Children’s Gallery during the week (open until 5 pm daily) to stitch together a few squares (or more!) of provided fabric. We also invite people to bring their own clean fabric, which can be brand new or remnants from a past project, or even cut from a retired garment. No sewing experience is needed, as Boone Children’s Gallery staff are there to guide you through the entire process. In fact, recently six-year-old twins, who had never sewn before, came in with their father. They stayed for two hours and quickly became sewing ninjas—whipping out stitches faster than a seasoned seamstress. Don’t worry if the kids in your group are too young to safely hold a needle, they can still be a part of the community effort by drawing on fabric that you, or Boone staff, can attach to the larger textile.

Very young children can contribute by painting or drawing on fabric.

Very young children can contribute by painting or drawing on fabric.

Our consultant on the project is San Francisco Bay Area–artist Youngmin Lee. She patiently taught us how to sew, gave us tips for teaching bojagi to kids, and shared the history of this art form that was widely popular during the Joseon Dynasty (1392–1910) and remains a Korean tradition still to this day. You too can have the unique experience of working with Youngmin as she is leading monthly bojagi workshops in April, May, and June. She will teach you sewing techniques as you contribute to the community piece and will get you started on your own Korean-inspired textile to take home. All materials are provided and the workshops are free! To sign up for a workshop, call the Ticket Office at 323 857-6010 or click here.

The patchwork textile reflects the diversity of visitors to the Boone Children’s Gallery.

The patchwork textile reflects the diversity of visitors to the Boone Children’s Gallery.

So far over 100 people have added to the bojagi. We hope it grows to be the biggest bojagi ever recorded in history! At the end of the project, we will hang the bojagi in the Boone Children’s Gallery for everyone to see. The art work will be a public display of the diversity of ages, experiences, stories, and memories of all those who contributed to it. I read somewhere that wrapping a gift in bojagi ensures that it is given with love. This project came with a lot of passion and love from staff and everyone who has contributed to it so far. The next step: what will we wrap with it?


Karen Satzman, Director, Youth and Family Programs


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