Sunday, November 22, 2009

Big City Forum #10

Eames Demetrios

Big City Forum invites you to a round table conversation about place and its context. How does context impact our sense of place? How does language impact our sense of perception in general, but especially of place? Participants will join in direct dialogue around these issues with a dynamic and visionary pair of presenters.

Tuesday, Dec. 1,2009
7 - 9 pm

Santa Monica Museum of Art
2525 Michigan Ave., Bergamot Station
Santa Monica, CA 90404

Eames Demetrios, Eames Foundation & Kcymaerxthaere Project
Jennifer Siegal, Office of Mobile Design (OMD)

Eames Demetrios is the creator of Kymaerica and the Kcymaerxthaere, an alternate history of the world. He is the grandson of the legendary husband-and-wife design team Charles and Ray Eames.

The Kcymaerxthaere is "a global work of three-dimensional fiction" that overlays alternative stories onto the physical world. Eames Demetrios, the project's Geographer-at-Large, travels the world exploring stories of imaginary peoples, movements, even physical laws -- and then memorializing these stories on bronze plaques. Kymaerica, which Demetrios references in the talk, is one area within Kcymaerxthaere.

Demetrios is active in preserving the Eames legacy, as principal of the Eames Office, a clearinghouse of resources for researching, shopping and exploring the work of these legendary creative people. Demetrios was instrumental in creating the interactive version of the Eames' groundbreaking film Powers of Ten. Demetrios also curates the online, with a new film each month on Design, Architecture and Sustainability.

Jennifer Siegal is known for her work in creating the prefab home of the 21st century. She is founder and principal of the Los Angeles’ based firm Office of Mobile Design (OMD), which is dedicated to the design and construction of responsible, sustainable, and precision-built structures.

She earned a master’s degree from the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) in 1994 and was a 2003 Loeb Fellow at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, where she explored the use of intelligent, kinetic, and lightweight materials. In 1997 she was the architect-in-residence at the Chinati Foundation and in 2004 a fellow at the MacDowell Colony in her hometown, Peterborough, New Hampshire.

Her innovative mobile structures include customized, prefab, green, modernist homes; the Mobile EcoLab used to teach students about the environment; and the Portable Construction Training Center created for the Venice Community Housing Corporation. Her most recent work is a modern, modular home product line called Take Home.

In 2003 Esquire named her one of the design world’s “Best and Brightest” and the Architectural League of New York included her in the acclaimed “Emerging Voices” program. Her recent built project The Country School, the first green prefab school, was recognized as one of the five best buildings in Los Angeles in 2007.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Big City Forum #9

Monica Nouwens

PATTERNS Architecture

Big City Forum #9
Monica Nouwens – Photography
Marcelo Spina, Georgina Huljich, - PATTERNS Architecture
Ted Kane – Polar Inertia journal

Thursday, Nov. 12th, 2009

4:00 - 6:00 pm
Otis College of Art & Design
9045 Lincoln Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90045
(310) 665-6800

An event featuring Monica Nouwens, Marcelo Spina, and Ted Kane in a conversation focused on issues about shaping and mapping the urban landscape.

Monica Nouwens is an LA based photographer whose work has been exhibited at the Netherlands Architecture Institute, Stedelijk Museum Helmond, on Trafalgar Square for World Aids Day and with her mentor Marlene Dumas at Gallery Paul Andriesse in Amsterdam. Nouwens is a lecturer at Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) and the University of California Irvine. Monica Nouwens was born in the Netherlands. She completed a postgraduate fellowship in Art Media Studies at Rijksakademie in Amsterdam and ultimately attended the California Institute of the Arts exchange program for film and photography where she acquired a fascination with California’s urban landscapes.

PATTERNS is a design research architectural practice based in Los Angeles and operating globally. Founded in 1999 and headed by Co-principals Marcelo Spina and Georgina Huljich, PATTERNS work has gained international recognition for its innovative approach to design and architecture that fuses advanced computation with an extensive understanding of form, tectonics and materials. PATTERNS’s vision is to generate innovative spatial forms that actively engage, enhance and influences the body, constantly challenging its relationship to the built environment akin to the complexity of contemporary life. PATTERNS Co-Principal Marcelo Spina is one of the nominees for the Prestigious Ordos Prize, the most important architectural prize for an emergent architect to emerge from Asia.

Ted Kane is an architect, photographer, and writer working between Los Angeles and Shanghai. He holds a Bachelors of Architecture from the University of Kentucky and a Masters of Architecture from UCLA. Ted is the founder and editor of Polar Inertia, an online journal devoted to urban and nomadic and research (, that is published 3 times per year. Ted’s urban research and photographs have been recently featured in the journal 306090 Dimension,as well as the book The Infrastructural city: networked ecologies in Los Angeles, and his own book Polar Inertia: Migrating Urban systems published in 2008. Ted is also a licensed architect at the firm Morphosis, where he is the project architect for the Giant Headquarters Building in Shanghai, China.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Big City Forum #8

Big City Forum #8


Alexandra Grant

Michael Pinto

Thursday, October 15, 2009

7 – 9 pm

6:30 pm reception

Neutra VDL Research House

2300 Silverlake Blvd.

Los Angeles, CA 90039

An event featuring Alexandra Grant and Michael Pinto in a conversation focused on issues around practices related to community renovation and activism, and sustainable urbanism.

Alexandra Grant is a text-based artist who uses language and networks of words as the basis for her work in painting, drawing and sculpture. Her work has been the subject of shows at the Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles), the Contemporary Museum (Baltimore), and galleries in the US and abroad. Grant’s work maps language in different media: from intricate wire filigree sculptures to large scale drawing/paintings on paper. She investigates translation not only from language to language, but also from text to image, spoken language to written word, and representations in two dimensions to three dimensional objects
Grant is currently at work on a public art collaboration with Watts House Project in Los Angeles, an artist-driven redevelopment of the homes across the street from Watts Towers. She is also preparing a second solo show with Honor Fraser Gallery in 2010.

Michael Pinto is an architect, educator, and community activist. Michael teaches at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) where he is also coordinating of SCI-Arc’s Community Design Program, which engages students in researching and constructing design-build projects for nonprofit and civic agencies. Additionally, Michael is Design Principal at Osborn Architects, where he steers design toward an expressive functionalism: work highly influenced by the realities of program, structure, and building technology while aspiring to beauty, simplicity, and harmony with nature.

Michael is the founder of Project Food / LA, a group of educators, chefs, artists, architects, planners, nutritionists, growers, and caring individuals concerned with improving access to healthy food choices in underserved communities. The organization grew out of Michael’s research on the relationship between urban infrastructure and food systems. In service of larger projects focusing on infrastructure, planning and sustainable urbanism, Michael founded Intercision, a global collective of like –minded practices. The collective includes architects, engineers, ecologists, and planners interested in radically rethinking contemporary urban models. Michael holds a Bachelor of Architecture from Penn State University, and a Master of Architecture from SCI-Arc.

A contribution of $10 will be asked towards the renovation campaign for the Neutra VDL House.

Big City Forum is an interdisciplinary project and collective network of leaders, formed to sustain efforts in the creative community that promote the civic and cultural vitality of metropolitan and urban communities. Through various formats such as gatherings, symposiums, exhibitions, and special events, Big City Forum fosters dialogue and engagement around capacity-building approaches that engender cultural growth and community transformation, Ultimately, Big City Forum functions as an “idea lab” to develop new solutions to key problems that impact contemporary urban centers.

Big City Forum events are BY INVITATION ONLY

Please rsvp to this event at:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Big City Forum #7

Big City Forum #7

A conversation about our relationship to city and place...

Tom Marble
Zoe Crosher
Will Wright

Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2009
7 – 9 pm
6:30 private reception

Fifth Floor Gallery

502 Chung King Cour
LA , CA 90012

Tom Marble

Tom Marble is an architect and urbanist living and working in Los Angeles. After obtaining degrees from UC Berkeley and Yale, Tom worked on a variety of projects at a number of scales for firms as diverse as SOM and Rios Associates, Morphosis and The Irvine Company. In 2001, he opened his own practice, Marble Architecture which, initially focused on residential work, has expanded to include conceptual urbanism, public art, and writing. With his book, “After the city, this,” recently published by the Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Urban Design, Tom embarked on a new line of inquiry, employing urban forensics to investigate the death of the public realm and to determine how individuals and cities use the massive media of architecture and infrastructure to communicate their values in a preverbal, often ambiguous language.

Zoe Crosher

Playing with fictional documentary, the fantasy of expectation and the false promise of travel, an obsession with transience, and the reconsidered archive, Zoe Crosher's work has been shown internationally in Vancouver, Rotterdam, Los Angeles, and New York City. She completed her MFA at the California Institute of the Arts in the Photography and Integrated Media Programs. As Julian Myers writes, “Crosher’s method works through the difficulty of taking pictures of Los Angeles, and what she understands as its resistance to being pictured." This obsession with capturing the imaginary of LA began with photographing planes coming in to land from each motel along the forgotten strip of Century Boulevard by LAX, captured in the series, Out The Window (LAX) (2001-05). Her interest in, “a place that moves in shifts and perpetual motion, with no real center, no point of concentration,” now informs the series LA-Like (2004-), a body of work inspired by the sun-drenched noir of Raymond Chandler and F.Scott Fitzgerald, anoydyne boosterism of Helen Hunt Jackson and the other early salesmen of the Los Angeles proto-myth.

Will Wright

Director, Government & Public Affairs 
AIA Los Angeles 

At AIA Los Angeles, Will Wright plans, coordinates, and implements the advocacy, legislative, and outreach initiatives and programs of The American Institute of Architects, Los Angeles Chapter. He serves as a liaison between local civic & municipal leaders and the AIA/LA's Political Outreach Committee, which is a board committee integrated with the Urban Design Committee, the Committee on the Environment (AIA/LA COTE), the Building Performance & Regulations Committee and the Professional Practice Committee with the mission of reviewing and influencing local government policies and regulations pertaining to issues that impact the built and natural environments. In 2007, Will Wright served on four separate steering committees to organize a broad range of events: the Public Space LA! urban open space summit, Park(ing) Day LA, Canstruction LA and AIA/LA Legislative Day. 

Will Wright received a BFA from Southern Methodist University before moving to The City of Los Angeles in 1995. He later went on to receive an MFA from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. In his spare time, Will enjoys reading the likes of Chandler, Faulkner, Cormac McCarthy & Dennis Johnson, hiking the San Gabriel Mountains with his dog Lexington, collecting seeds from native California plants and xeriscape gardening in his backyard in Silver Lake, California.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Big City Forum 6

shizu saldamando

Gary Garay

Big City Forum and Evil Monito Magazine present - Mas Entradas!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009
7 - 9 pm
Evil Monito Studio
1830 Echo Park Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90026

An event featuring Shizu Saldamando, Gary Garay, and Josh Kun in a conversation focused on issues of cultural identity and narrative, and the complex interplay of authenticity, fluidity, and cultural crossover. The event, moderated by Kun, will feature Saldamando's painting and drawing series and Garay's mixed media and DJ projects, highlighting significant concepts in each participant's body of work.

Shizu Saldamando was born and raised in San Francisco's Mission district. After receiving her B.A. from UCLA's School of Arts and Architecture in 2000, she attended ArtOmi International Artist Colony in upstate New York in 2002 and thereafter went on to earn an MFA from California Institute of the Arts in 2005. Saldamando has exhibited her work in both painting- and experimental media exhibitions through out the country, including the Freeways Festival of Experimental Media Arts (Los Angeles); the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (San Francisco); the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum (Chicago); and most recently, the Phantom Sightings Exhibition (LACMA).

Gary Garay received his B.FA from the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles. He has exhibited paintings, sculptures, and mixed media projects at venues like the New Image Art Gallery, Tropico De Nopal Gallery, Miami Art Basel, and the Scion Gallery. His work was included in the recent Phantom Sightings Exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Under the moniker DJ Ganas, Garay is also engaged in a musicology project, and showcases an encyclopedic collection of Latin American music through the weekly "Mas Exitos" event at the Verdugo Bar in Highland Park, CA.

Josh Kun, a PhD graduate in Ethnic Studies from UC Berkeley, taught at UC Riverside as an Associate Professor of English and today is an Associate Professor of Communication and Journalism (with a joint appointment in the Department of American Studies and Ethnicity) at USC's Annenberg School for Communication. Professor Kun's research focuses on the arts and politics of cultural connection, with an emphasis on popular music, the cultures of globalization, the US-Mexico border, and Jewish-American musical history. He is director of The Popular Music Project ( at Annenberg's Norman Lear Center and co-editor of the book series "Refiguring American Music" for Duke University Press. A former Arts Writers Fellow with The Sundance Institute and past fellow of the Ucross Foundation and The Mesa Refuge, he is the author of Audiotopia: Music, Race, and America (UC Press), which won a 2006 American Book Award. He is co-author of And You Shall Know Us By The Trail of Our Vinyl: The Jewish Past As Told By The Records We've Loved and Lost (Crown, 2008),

Big City Forum is an interdisciplinary project and collective network of leaders, formed to sustain efforts in the creative community that promote the civic and cultural vitality of metropolitan and urban communities. Through various formats such as gatherings, symposiums, exhibitions, and special events, Big City Forum fosters dialogue and engagement around capacity-building approaches that engender cultural growth and community transformation, Ultimately, Big City Forum functions as an “idea lab” to develop new solutions to key problems that impact contemporary urban centers.

Evil Monito Magazine
is an early pioneer of internet journalism that challenges the ‘traditional’ ways an online publication functions. As an L.A.-based magazine founded in 2001, EM provides in-depth stories that discuss contemporary pop culture -- ranging from music and fashion to film, politics, and beyond -- through intelligent dialogue. Aside from its journalistic endeavors, EM has worked with Creative Recreation, K-Swiss, and Kangol, among others. This later led to distribution of various lifestyle co-branded products, which has included articles like footwear, headwear, bicycles and vinyl toys. In mid-2007, EM officially established a modular studio in Echo Park, where it hosts a variety of events, including art shows, film screenings, retail pop-up experiments, and live music performances. Not only does EM provide particular contexts for Los Angeles’ vibrant niche culture, it also strives to participate in and be engaged with the community around it.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Big City Forum #5

Big City Forum 5

Design as a catalyst for change...

Tuesday, June 30, 7 - 9 pm
(check-in and refreshments 6:30 pm)

Art Center College of Design
1700 Lida Street
Pasadena,CA 91103
Faculty Lounge


-Alissa Walker

-Designmatters at Art Center

Alissa Walker writes about design, architecture, travel and Los Angeles for publications like Fast Company, ReadyMade, Sunset, I.D., Print, Design Observer, Core77, LA Weekly and the Los Angeles Times. She is the associate producer for the public radio show "DnA: Design and Architecture," hosted by Frances Anderton and a frequent collaborator with GOOD, most recently as co-curator, with Casey Caplowe, of a program called GOOD Design LA, where designers work with civic leaders to propose solutions to urban problems. With Haily Zaki and Marissa Gluck, she co-hosts the monthly party de LaB, which brings together designers and design fans living and working east of La Brea. Alissa lives in a royal blue house in Silver Lake where she throws ice cream socials, tends to a drought-tolerant garden, writes infrequently but obsessively on her blog, Gelatobaby, and relishes life in LA without a car. She can't wait to talk about gelato, design and change with all the new friends she's made at Big City Forum.

DESIGNMATTERS The world today faces challenges of unprecedented scale and complexity—including urban congestion, depleted natural resources, housing shortages and crises in education and healthcare. Solutions to these challenges increasingly require collaborations offering diverse approaches and perspectives. Because mankind lives in a designed world, designers are pivotal to the success of these collaborations. Public awareness of the importance of design beyond mere consumerism and style is rapidly growing, and design is now an equal partner with many enterprises, including business, medicine, science, technology and urban planning.

A college-wide initiative launched in 2001, Designmatters is a social impact program that embraces global engagement and projects of social relevance through design education. Through research, advocacy and action, Designmatters strives to engage students, faculty and staff in an ongoing exploration of the links between design and issues of social and humanitarian importance.

-Mariana Amatullo, Director Designmatters
-Sean Donohue, Director of Research, Humanities & Design Sciences
Full-Time Faculty Member, Media Design Graduate Program, Art Center

Big City Forum is a project designed to push forth a creative cities agenda and help foster dialogue around sustainable creative communities. It seeks to link up the intersections, relationships, and shared interests between urban planning, economic development, education, architecture, art and design, cultural exchange, and community activism. Furthermore it hopes to help foster the idea of mapping creative spaces and places in which these conversations can take place. Potentially this web of dialogue can develop into an “idea lab” in which new collaborations, projects, actions can be shaped. Meetings are by invitation only and take place across Los Angeles, highlighting the efforts of cultural and community activism within the big city.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Big City Forum #4, May 19, 2009

A conversation about strategies for civic engagement

Big City Forum 4
Tuesday, May 19th from 7 - 9 pm (check-in and refreshments 6:30 pm).
727 south spring street
downtown los angeles, ca 90014
213 627 9563

Public Matters and James Rojas

Public Matters generates innovative, artistic, place-based projects that build creative, civic and social capital in communities. Our projects develop creative community leaders. We engage residents in the creation of media-based neighborhood narratives that illuminate its history, character and conditions and integrate the results with broader civic processes, advocacy efforts and community initiatives. Our work addresses social issues through long-term educational projects. Our interdisciplinary approach is creative and analytical, left-brained and right-brained. We establish long-term sustainable programs that evolve beyond our initial involvement and are ultimately shaped by the community and its needs.

Mike Blockstein, Pr incipal, is a visual artist and educator working in cross-disciplinary community-based public art projects that utilize a sense of place as a mechanism to address social, cultural and built environments. Connecting artistic processes, leadership development and civic engagement, he has created and led projects nationally with youth, community development and arts organizations. Among his projects is A Chinatown Banquet, a nationally recognized art, education, and leadership development project about Boston Chinatown in conjunction with the Asian Community Development Corporation. The former Executive Director of Southern Exposure, a San Francisco nonprofit artists organization, and a former Board President of the National Association of Artists' Organizations (NAAO), Mike holds a Masters in Public Administration from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

Reanne Estrada is an internationally exhibiting visual artist whose diverse practice includes installation, performance, video and public art. She worked for nine years as an educator and in cause-related marketing, design, and curatorial programming at Creative Growth Art Center, an internationally recognized studio and gallery for artists with disabilities. Her public art projects emphasize a collaborative approach and focus on community narratives in Asian American communities. Reanne has an A.B. in Visual and Environmental Studies from Harvard University.

James Rojas is an urban planner, community activist, and artist. He is one of the few nationally recognized urban planners to examine U.S. Latino cultural influences on urban planning/design. He holds a Master of City Planning and a Master of Science of Architecture Studies from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His influential thesis on the Latino built environment has been widely cited. Growing out of his research, Mr. Rojas founded the Latino Urban Forum (LUF), a volunteer advocacy group, dedicated to understanding and improving the built environment of Los Angeles' Latino communities.
Design Based Urban Planning (DBUP) is a new initiative developed by James Rojas designed to engage underserved communities and children in the planning process. DBUP breaks down the planning process into simple terms and helps participants translate conceptual planning ideas into physical forms. DBUP serves as a valuable tool to inform and educate constituents about the value of planning through two primary methods.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Big City Forum #3 - April 23, 2009

The Institute for Figuring

Ball-Nogues Studio

A conversation around poetic approaches to materiality.

Big City Forum 3:
Thursday, April 23rd from 5 – 7 pm (check-in and refreshments 4:30 pm).
The Craft & Folk Art Museum, 5814 Wilshire Boulevard (at Curson), Los Angeles, CA 90036, 323.937.4230


Margaret Wertheim of The Institute for Figuring: The Institute For Figuring is an organization dedicated to the poetic and aesthetic dimensions of science, mathematics and the technical arts. The Institute’s interests are twofold: the manifestation of figures in the world around us and the figurative technologies that humans have developed through the ages. From the physics of snowflakes and the hyperbolic geometry of sea slugs, to the mathematics of paper folding, the tiling patterns of Islamic mosaics and graphical models of the human mind, the Institute takes as its purview a complex ecology of figuring.

Benjamin Ball of Ball-Nogues Studio: Ball-Nogues Studio is an integrated design and fabrication practice that creates experimental built environments to enhance and celebrate the potential for social interaction through sensation, spectacle and physical engagement while striving to infuse the matter of the built environment with a downstream purpose. To achieve these results, we work with unusual materials, develop new digital tools, and apply architectural techniques in unorthodox ways. We share an enthusiasm for the fabrication process as it relates to the built object both physically and poetically by letting the properties, limitations, and economic scenarios associated with a material guide a structure’s ultimate form while developing methods to extend the intertwined boundaries of a material’s aesthetics, physical potential and lifecycle.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Interview w/ g727

york chang, adrian rivas, pilar tompkins, james rojas

Big City Forum interviews g727 partners


g727 seeks to generate dialogues on artistic representations and interpretations of the urban landscape. The building blocks of a city comprise more than simply buildings, streets, and sidewalks. They equally encompass personal experience, collective memory and narratives. These are the less tangible, but no less integral elements that transform mere infrastructure into place. Through photography, painting, writing and video installations, artists open our eyes to these elements and heighten our awareness of what makes a place a place. g727 welcomes these artists to its space to help us all better understand the complex nature of cities and the urban condition.

Co-Founded by Adrian Rivas and James Rojas
Planned Community Space Partners:
Pilar Tompkins and York Chang

The team:

Pilar Tompkins (PT): Curator of the Claremont Museum of Art and director of the Artist Pension Trust's Latin American Branch (APT: Mexico City)focusing on contemporary art.

York Chang (YC): Is a working artist and former political organizer. He was appointed by Mayor Antonio Villarraigosa to the Cultural Affairs Commission of Los Angeles. York is highly invested in the intersection between arts, politics, and urbanism.

Adrian Rivas (AR): Alongside James Rojas, Adrian is one of the founders of g727 and is currently the owner and director. He is also a highly regarded art framer by galleries and many contemporary artists.

James Rojas (JR): Has an urban planning degree from MIT and a strong record of community activism in Los Angeles. Currently works as a planner for the Metropolitan Transit Authority of the City of LA.

BCF. Tell me how you all came together around g727:

JR. I originally came upon the space more than seven years ago when I saw it up for lease. I ended up making many phone calls speaking to people about what the space could be turned into (coffee house, retail, etc), but I knew Adrian from way back when, and the moment I spoke to him we settled on the idea of a gallery type of space. From the beginning we were always interested in the idea of fusing the world of planning with the arts and I think working with Adrian has always brought the perspective of the artist. One of the main questions for me has always been how do you put together a show that balances both aesthetic integrity but also it's larger context to other issues. Personally I've become more of an artist in my approach to planning learning to use aesthetic strategies to re-imagine the way most city departments and different stakeholders deal with issues of urbanism.

YC. I had known Adrian for many years and started coming to a lot of events at g727 on a regular basis and was drawn to the energy of the space. My interest has always been in enabling and supporting artists doing work in the public realm. I liked the idea of having a physical space or location from which to base a kind of public activism with artists, planners, activists and advance ideas about Los Angeles. It's interesting because Adrian brings a very rigorous approach to curating, perhaps from his background as framer, framing best ideas and what artists are presenting. There's a beautiful congruence to what he does, not operating in the non-profit paradigm, which then does not have be grant driven or dependent upon it. I became more involved with g727 as a way to help move projects forward through various stages of development and help put a plan of action into place.

PT. I met Adrian and was part of of the Outings show that dealt with male/male use of public spaces. Having a curatorial background I was drawn to the convergence of art and urbanism and how artists chronicle the way the city is used. I originally led some panel discussions for these shows and then had initial conversations about getting involved in the space. There was also a great of confluence with the Vexing: Female Voices from East LA Punk show I curated at the Claremont Museum of Art in May 2008. Adrian's show on East LA DJ culture from the 70's here at g727 had a similar attempt to uncover a historical moment often left out of art historical archives. I think my contributions are on a supportive basis, writing, networking, and developing a larger presence for the gallery.

AR. My background is as an arts framer and I had built up many relationships with a lot of contemporary artists, especially from the Mexican American community. When James got in touch with me about the space I was intrigued on how to turn it into a gallery or more of a hub space for research based activities. I guess you could say my obsession is to think about how art and other research based strategies begin to reflect on the reality of the city itself. The space has never operated as a for profit model, it really operates more at a loss for each show, but we feel that we don't have much to lose financially and have always been honest with artists about both our goals and our means. Somehow though we've managed to support the space for all these years.

BCF. What have been some of the influences or significant directions for the curatorial program?

AR. Not so much influences but shows that had an impact outside of the gallery, I would say the South Central Farmer's Photo Exhibition that we did in 2004 pointed to a certain synergy between the goals of the gallery and what is happening out on the street. We had a photographer who made it very easy since he had shot Cesar Chavez back in the day, so this gave him credibility to record what was happening with the South Central farm and bring a great deal of authenticity to the project. Working with Gronk has also been an influence on the tone and direction of the gallery. His studio is in the same complex as g727 so he's been a great help in various ways, helping to support the gallery by donating originals to sell, providing exposure to his many contacts in the art world, and just serving as an example of artistic integrity and commitment. I also should mention Hugo Hopping, an artist who resides in both East Los Angeles and Copenhagen, Denmark, a great mind who's been critical in helping us think about how communities see their city and creating language for their concerns.

PT Going back to Adrian's passion which has to do with documenting historical moments outside of a central or singular narrative, I think the DJ Culture of East LA exhibition demonstrated his enthusiasm for bringing together separate threads into a cohesive overview. Unlike the Vexing show which had institutional support from the Claremont Art Museum, Adrian was able to convince people to self archive and give value to cultural artifacts, such as old party fliers from the 70's, that were for the most part seen as throwaways from a long lost era. The show was able to give people that participated in this vibrant culture in East LA a way to understand and frame that moment in more meaningful ways.

BCF. What do you believe g727 contributes to the current moment?

YC. I see g727's program as an exercise in epistemology; there's an awareness of how people gain experience of the urban experience as collectively shared layers of meaning. Therefore art brings a starting point into the larger narrative of the city, and this space could be a place where various people can bring convergence to these narratives.

The space itself has become an interdisciplinary platform that's developed organically through a momentum which has been built collectively. And I think this marriage of urban planning and art is very relevant right now as something that artists see as way to meaningfully engage with the world around them. There's also a synergy with various artists' groups that are focused around service aesthetics and contribute to social engagement at an exchange level.

The city of Los Angeles is going through massive change right now in terms of density, population growth, and the type of infrastructure that can provide a more livable city within those changes. I think a lot of artists are trying to deal with those issues and creative or more collective approaches to solving those problems. I believe it's part of a much larger momentum within the dynamic of the city.

BCF. How does the space begin to transform or engage with a larger community outside of its walls?

JR. Through my work with the Latino Urban Forum I help to get people involved and reach a much larger constituency through my weekly updates on issues surrounding planning and urbanism and intersections with the arts. In addition Latino urbanism is about new ways of art, architecture and urbanism that we celebrate in the gallery. We keep the shows simple but provocative, not conceptual. We host naciementos of Latino front yards during Christmas time and other events of this nature.  We had a show Latino Visions which celebrated all the Latinos who graduated in architecture from USC, UCLA, Woodbury and other southern California universities to give them more exposure.

Also, the city model workshop that I facilitate goes out and engages with a multitude of participants throughout the city. This interactive, hands-on approach developed from the ideas tested out at g727 and offers a way for disengaged audiences and under-served communities to gain a direct interest in issues around planning and urbanism that affect their daily lives. It almost puts forth the notion of how do I create my own utopia and actively shape that. If this space (g727) allows for this then it creates an opening for much greater engagement to take place.

BCF. What's in the future for g727?

I think between the four of us there's enough recognition about the collective talents involved and how each of us can contribute to the development of the space. There is no board of directors that has been formed yet because I think it's important for all decision makers to be physically connected to the space. The most important thing is that g727 continues to reflect back on the city and what is the physical essence of this place, and continues to maintain the mission of talking about urbanism.

We have an upcoming series that continues to focus on Los Angeles itself as a site for ideas. For example how do you map people's experiences of Los Angeles based on ideas that shape experiences for different constituencies? We can bring people together and have a forum to map out their ideas visually and draw connections on how we can all participate in this visual map of experiences in Los Angeles....basically a document as a starting point.
© 2009, Big City Forum

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Crooked Beat

I recently had a preview of new works on paper created over the last year.

Here's the artists' statement:

Searching for the crooked beat,
the sound scientists burning up the acetate,
mountain calls from Jajouka to the streets of Abbis Ababa,
the Black Ark is glowing like quicksilver,
inside the mad scratch is cutting and erasing,
unmoored and adrift, the old phantom slip gives it away,
down the labyrinth
the walls can speak, the books buried underneath -
in townships, shantys, barrancas, ghettoes, the persistent
echo remains,
a griot's chant over contagious magic.

Leonardo Bravo, 2009

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Big City Forum - March 3rd, 2009

Big City Forum is honored to present an informal conversation with Stephanie Smith of Ecoshack, and Jenna Didier and Oliver Hess of Materials & Applications.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009
4 - 6 pm

Echo Park Film Center
1200 N. Alvarado Street (@ Sunset Blvd)
Los Angeles, CA 90026


Stephanie Smith/Ecoshack

Ecoshack began in 2003 as an experimental design lab in Joshua Tree, CA. Today it's also an LA-based design studio inspired by the ad hoc, indigenous and archetypal typologies typically found at the fringes of society.

Ecoshack designs and builds small-scale, modular projects that invent new ways to live lightly on the earth. The Nomad Yurt was recently nominated for a Cooper-Hewitt “People’s Design Award." Other projects include ecovillages, beekeeper’s huts, tipis and tent cities.

It also just launched 'Wanna Start a Commune?', a social design project recently called “startlingly basic and wholly actionable, it’s a bright spot in a dark time…” by the New York Times.

Ecoshack founder Stephanie Smith is a champion of light and nomadic lifestyles. Her ideas on low-impact design, mass production and alternative forms of community have made her “one to watch” in the worlds of architecture, design and culture.

Jenna Didier

Jenna Didier is in pursuit of a new approach to the built environment. A lifelong interest in the creation and use of public spaces led her to Los Angeles and a career in water feature design and public art. The trajectory of her career begins with the development of technical skills in robotics, engineering, and metal fabrication to create mechanical effects, sculpture, and architectural water features, and has evolved into an active engagement in place-making for communities. She now has a vigorous speaking schedule that takes her to speak across the county, most recently at MIT, Taliesin West, the Dwell on Design conference in Los Angeles, AIA Mobius LA Conference, and TED-LA, with Oliver Hess.

In 2002, Ms. Didier founded a non-profit outdoor exhibition space in Los Angeles called Materials & Applications(M&A). This facility mounts two temporary installations a year that showcase architecture and landscapes by firms or individuals that wish to demonstrate a new or emergent material or technique. M&A has won three AIA Design Honor Awards for their exhibits (2005, 2006, and 2007), and the top award for environmental design from I.D. Magazine in 2006. Their exhibitions have been featured in many publications – such as the New York Times, The Architectural Record,and Dwell – television, radio, and major design websites.
Ms. Didier created M&A in order that it be a driving force to increase public participation in the built environment by inspiring visitors with a fresh interest in their surroundings-while they experience the latest ideas in architectural design and theory. The aim: to push the application of materials beyond what typical limits of commercial, residential and traditional gallery-based projects allow towards a
more flourishing, living architecture. This year, Ms. Didier created and produced through M&A a new workshop series, website, and bilingual brochure for the Los Angeles Environmental Affairs Department to help small business and property owners learn to install strategies for storm water management that result in energy savings and reduce the urban heat island effect.

Oliver Hess

Oliver Hess works constructing responsive environments and the technical systems that support those. He uses the skills he has developed in his work to create art that has been displayed in galleries around the globe and to assist other artists, architects and designers with new media installations. He is Co-Director of Materials & Applications (M&A) where he oversees technical aspects of the installations and often collaborates on the design development of installations. He teaches in the Environmental Design department at Art Center College of
Design and is a partner in the art and design collaborative infranatural.

At the non-profit research center M&A, Oliver has worked on many award winning environmental experiments which blend the disciplines of architecture, art and design, all the while developing a volunteer community of builders and experimenters excited to take on the challenges of repairing the flagging sense of public space in
Southern California and the world. Through continued experiments to optimize design, prototype, fabricate and release a variety of structures, Oliver has honed his technical and creative skills. With his wife, Jenna Didier under the name infranatural, he works collaboratively to achieve large-scale public art. Currently the work produced by infranatural involves a blend of spatial modulations which use technology to augment a visitor's sense of their environment.

Before and After the Fall

With the final waves of consumerism, speculation, and materialism finally washing over us, we are faced with poring over the remains of a system in a slow pattern of collapse. What felt like the go-go era just a few months back is now beginning to appear as the phantasmagoria of smoke and mirrors that was sold and marketed as the age of consumption. At this juncture and among the wreckage, new approaches to collective action must be found. Ones that provide the opportunity to regain a sense of community, and nurture the inherent value of participating in strategies, processes, and actions that point to a more sustainable model built on the remains of the old.

Indeed this approach is what the arts best signify, the emergence of potentiality, of new forms, of a space in which the dominant can be renegotiated and bypassed. With this in mind Big City Forum hopes to be a space in which we can tap into the wealth of innovative approaches represented by the group and push forth an agenda that calls for framing complex issues through dialogue and collaborative inquiry. Ultimately the goal is to sidestep scholarly discourse and identify action oriented projects that begin to permeate the space of the everyday. New networks of collaboration to be nurtured that imbue these practices into areas that demand reinvention and innovation, such as our crumbling public education system...imagine if the multiplicity of projects presented can be developed as new content and curriculum to engage students in meaningful, real life learning...hmm.