History of Course
The parade followed a path up the Broadway corridor overlapping that of the May Day march, which since 2008 has progressed from the intersection at Olympic on Broadway towards City Hall. One group behind Lindsay’s band held up letters to spell “ILLEGAL?” and “OCCUPY,” a kind of afterimage or flashback of the 2011 May Day rally, which focused heavily on immigration reform. The implicit demonstration haunted the parade like the lingering warmth of thousands of politicized bodies. When it comes to direct political action, however, it’s unclear what art provides that the May Day rally can’t.
Framing itself within the beautiful historic architecture of the old Theater District, Trespass Parade began at the L.A. Mart, where the Art Platform Los Angeles art fair was in progress, and terminated at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Both institutions sponsored the event. New marchers gathered and artists gave speeches at stops along the route in front of several other landmarks— Clifton’s Cafeteria, the Eastern building, and the Bradbury Building. Perhaps the route was less unbounded than it appeared, determined in part by the wishes of certain sponsors or by the permitting process. May Day marchers no longer have the luxury of choosing their site. The annual rally had previously been held in Macarthur Park, one of the city’s densest neighborhoods, but after police there arrested and beat hundreds of May Day demonstrators in 2007, the route was relegated to downtown. The Broadway corridor is sparsely populated, out of sight, easily blocked off, and as such is the site of resistance preferred by the LAPD.
Excess ≠ Success
Tiravanija’s most visible contribution to Trespass was a series of white t-shirts printed with slogans coined by himself and dozens of Los Angeles artists. The shirts, in Tiravanija’s words, “reflect the limitless possibilities of free speech,” and include: “THE SUPREME COURT IS A TERRIBLE THING TO WASTE,” “I’M NOT TRYING TO DESTROY YOU,” “DON’T CURRY, BE HAPPY,” and “EXCESS ≠ SUCCESS.”5 It’s remarkable that so many artists—a long list of local politically active art makers and Southern California standbys, including John Baldessari, Barbara Kruger, Andrea Bowers, Chris Burden, Edgar Arceneaux, Walead Beshty, My Barbarian, Jeffery Vallance —the list goes on—accepted the invitation to engage with such a circumscribed form. While individually they are interesting and even radical artists in their own right, here in concert, under the Trespass / Rirkrit Tiravanija / Arto Lindsay / West of Rome label, the sheer number of slogans tumbled together into a generalized “progressive message.” For Tiravanija, it would seem the simple fact of expression is enough. Kruger’s slogan, “TALK IS CHEAP, FREE SPEECH IS PRICELESS,” exchanges “free speech” for “action.” Indeed, in its ambiguous positivity, this phrase encapsulates the undifferentiated position of Trespass. The parade upheld a politics of the anyactionwhatever that could be anything, produce anything, mean anything—an entirely potential action.
- In a blasé promotional video produced by West of Rome, we see Tiravanija in a restaurant reading the San Francisco Chronicle. One headline is visible: “‘No new taxes’—Just higher fees on services.” He puts down the paper, as if finally noticing the camera, and struggles through a few awkward and disengaged lines describing his upcoming project. “I’d like to tell you about this project I’m doing…. it’s called ‘Trespass.’” This last word is followed by a dramatic pause. “Trespass.” Tiravanija glances off camera; perhaps this is all he really has to say on the subject. This embarrassing clip hints at the depth of engagement behind the anyactionwhatever. http://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=C3qvC5l11uy.↵