Affect and the City

Did Trespass enter into the aesthetics of a collectively hallucinated city? If it did, was this enough? Like Tiravanija’s protest wallpaper, Trespass Parade functioned as a kind of protest-themed decoration of shared urban space. West of Rome Public Projects has made similar interventions in the past. For an ongoing project series called Women in the City, the group commissioned artists such as Jenny Holzer and Cindy Sherman to produce outdoor artworks in the form of billboards or wheat-pasted posters. The idea was to insert women artists into an urban environment designed by men. And so, as Renzo Piano designed the Broad wing at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Barbara Kruger embellished the elevator, Trespass Parade trespassed nowhere, but decorated wherever it was allowed.

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: Charchi Stinson.

At the back of the parade, a couple of projects tested the limits of Trespass itself. Dawn Kasper blasted skronking noise from the back of a pickup truck loaded with gear and crumpled paper, overwhelming everything in earshot. Members of the Newspaper Reading Club, organized by Fiona Connor and Michala Paludan, walked down the road with newspapers in front of their faces, presenting sheets of intimate and illegible type, in contrast to the usual loud and pithy protest sign.10 Of course, these and all other entries blended into the general fray, as did the anti-slogans on some of the shirts—Beshty’s “DOLOREM IPSUM,” for example. Like free market capitalism, the parade had the capacity to subsume all opposition.

Occupy L.A.

Something surrounded this mobile zone of art, sex, action, and revolution. It was the city of Los Angeles: Skid Row to the east, with one of the highest concentrations of police in the world; a “revitalized downtown” to the west, boasting high-rise artist lofts starting in the low $300Ks; to the south, the fashion district and the American Apparel factory; and to the north, the Los Angeles civic center. The parade moved northward on Broadway to 1st Street then turned west towards the Walt Disney Concert Hall. As the parade rounded the corner, Chris Kraus interviewed long-time collaborator Sylvére Lotringer on the top of a float. “We’re working in a system that wants us dead,” said Lotringer. “This is only a first step—a symbolic step.” Meanwhile, marchers dressed as rabbits rolled a huge chunk of fake log up Bunker Hill—a symbolic final push.

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.

Here the parade was joined by demonstrators from Occupy L.A., an extension of the Occupy Wall Street protest in New York, who had just spent their first night on the front lawn of City Hall. They led the marchers in a few chants (“Banks got bailed out, we got sold out,” and “We are the 99%!”) then went back to their camp. The parade dissipated, the floats vanished, and organizers shooed people back out of the street. Punk-jazz orchestra Killsonic performed in the MOCA courtyard. Meanwhile a meeting was in progress on the grass crammed with tents, blankets, and signs. At an earlier rally at Pershing Square, a few occupy L.A. demonstrators had cheered the sheriff for providing security. Dozens of protesters left in anger, maintaining that under no circumstances are the police our friends. Police brutality is real, they said. Just wait. Here too the issue seemed to be collusion with established limits: whether to accept the security and traffic control provided by the LAPD, or whether to reject any connection whatsoever to those sworn to the defense of capitalism. As Lakshmi Luthra points out, “Protest can make conspicuous the difference between the people and the state, and compel the police to reveal what side they are on. If society is not a self-identical whole, ‘Protect and Serve’ becomes a hopelessly vague slogan.”11 One sign read, “THE 99% INCLUDES THE COPS”—after all, the fantasies of those in power also shape the group-hallucinated city. The Occupy movement struggled to articulate its position while remaining as inclusive as possible. Meanwhile, Trespass succeeded so well in affirming the self-evident value of taking a position—anypositionwhatever—that radical difference was leveled out and effectively concealed—a maneuver that could only benefit the powerful.

Footnotes

  1. One recalls Tiravanija’s prop newspaper in his Trespass promo spot.
  2. Lakshmi Luthra, email to the author, October 25, 2011.
Further Reading