Review

Arto Lindsay, Rirkrit Tiravanija, and West of Rome Public Projects: Trespass Parade

West of Rome / Broadway
Los Angeles
Travis Diehl

One person can never see a city. You can miss it, hate it, or realize that it’s taken something from you, but you can’t go somewhere and look at it and just see it empirically. It has to be informed, imagined, by many people at a time. It’s an everyday group hallucination. –Bernadette Corporation, Reena Spaulings1

 

An Urban Hallucination

Stranger than the cave man and the sugar queen, the red aliens, the troop of zombie mimes, the anarchists, the immigration activists, and the protest signs was the emptiness that preceded, suffused, and followed the parade. I walked down the middle of a vacant Broadway. Police blocked traffic, and somewhere around the corner on Venice, like an impending hallucination, were the Trespass Parade floats. Soon they were rolling through downtown Los Angeles along the historic Broadway corridor, joined by a growing crowd of some two hundred dancers and marchers, a mixture of the militant and the carnivalesque. Arto Lindsay and his band led the way on a mobile stage, pumping the streets full of sludgy Brazilian and beatbox rhythms steeped in New York noise. Videographers and Freeline skaters darted everywhere.

Arto Lindsay, Rirkrit Tiravanija, and West of Rome Public Projects, <em>Trespass Parade</em>, October 2, 2011, Los Angeles.

Arto Lindsay, Rirkrit Tiravanija, and West of Rome Public Projects, Trespass Parade, October 2, 2011, Los Angeles. Courtesy of West of Rome Public Art, Pasadena, Ca. Photo: Tina Hosseinzadeh.

It was a fun art parade that at times seemed to occupy an interstitial city, to exist between and within the regimentation of everyday life. The police, as they ushered Trespass from block to block, appeared banal yet out of place. Indeed, in its ambivalence towards the realities of Los Angeles—the deployment of power in particular —Trespass exemplified the surreal complacency in which art of this kind—relational art, public art—has entrenched itself. The press release described the parade, organized by Lindsay, Rirkrit Tiravanija, and West of Rome Public Projects, as “a catalyst for change” between “a high-octane roster of important local artists, the resident Downtown population, and the architecture in the area. The project invites Los Angeles to gather and occupy the streets of our city as an act of community activism in this time of world turmoil…”2 Yet despite its name, Trespass Parade began by asking permission, then proceeded within the parameters designated for precisely such actions. “An event programmer and an urban planner lurk behind every relational artist,” writes John Kelsey, “and these practitioners’ proposals to re-appropriate common space were always elaborated in a strict and conscious relation to the fact of functionalized, policed space.”3 Part of the opening festivities of the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time initiative—sponsored by Bank of America—Trespass was billed as the only PST event to occur in public space. This fact either suggests that public art has been in some way terminally problematized, or underscores the need for art to be more than an empty placeholder for direct action.

Trespass called itself a parade, but rhetorically and formally aligned itself with the demonstration. Its generalized, blanket politics succeeded all too well in aestheticizing a political form already cordoned off and under siege. Lindsay has organized several parades in recent years—in Venice for the 2009 Biennale; in Salvador, Brazil, for Matthew Barney’s video de lama lamiña; and most recently with Rirkrit Tiravanija for the 2010 Nuit Blanche in Paris. Trespass also recalls Pierre Huyghe’s Streamside Day parade, held in celebration of an invented holiday.4 Huyghe purported to generate a sense of common origin for a bland housing development more or less devoid of specific history. Los Angeles, on the other hand, is already dense with psychic residue. Along a route shared by past May Day marches, and joined by protesters from Occupy L.A. at City Hall a few blocks away, Trespass moved forward in the belief that any action is better than no action—that in the aftermath of idealism, “anyactionwhatever” is good enough.

Footnotes

  1. Bernadette Corporation, Reena Spaulings (New York: Semiotext(e), 2004), vii.
  2. http://trespassparade.org/ wp-content/uploads/2011/09/ trespass-Parade-Party-Press- release_09142011.pdf.
  3. “It was never either/or. It was always brief glimpses of the one within the other.” Kelsey’s text refers to an exhibition at the Guggenheim in New York that attempted to canonize a group of “relational” artists, including Rirkrit Tiravanija, Pierre Huyghe, Angela Bulloch, Carsten Höller, Liam Gillick, Philippe Parreno, Maurizio Catellan, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Douglas Gordon, and Jorge Pardo. The exhibition was anticlimactic insofar as the artists for the most part presented a series of vacancies or “pure possibilities.” For example, Pardo installed a blank movie marquee over the museum’s entrance. John Kelsey, “theanyspacewhatever,” Artforum (March 2009), 236–67.
  4. One scene in the video portion of Huyghe’s project shows streamside residents illuminated by red and blue police lights. Huyghe, while operating in a contradictory position similar to that of Trespass, does so explicitly. Interviewed in October, he states, “it is obviously difficult to define oneself after a post-modern period where we all became extremely self-conscious and aware about the consequences of our actions. This is why conclusions should be suspended but the tension should remain.” George Baker, “An Interview with Pierre Huyghe,” October 110, (Fall 2004), 80–106.