Thursday, April 09, 2009

LA Community Space Redux

I'm collaborating with Archana down in Bangalore about the idea of creating a large temporary structure as community exhibition space for the artists there. She asked me to write about my experiences with community spaces in Los Angeles.

In 2003 I became interested in helping the independent film community in Los Angeles take advantage of internet distribution to introduce their work to the world at Large. At Burningman I had seen a large school bus with 'The Los Angeles Filmmakers Coop' spray painted across its side in full Graffiti style. Tao Ruspoli, the owner of the bus, had been operating a mobile film studio and training center out of the bus in Venice Beach, but was eager to move into a larger fixed space.

After some search we rented a beautiful old powerhouse in Venice beach which was just one large 1500 sq ft. space with 20 ft ceilings. We needed a way to separate the space into studios where people could work on their projects, while leaving the space open for exhibitions, parties, performances, trainings, etc. Since we had a short term lease on the space we could not make fixed changes to the space. The solution we found was to build a second story out of warehouse shelving called pallet racks. This way we installed 6 elevated studio areas and one chill-out section while leaving the ground floor open for more public gatherings.

We operated the space for 6 months and a vital community of artists, performers and filmmakers came to spend alot of time there. While individuals had personal areas to work from there was no visual or sound barriers separating the different sections of the space. So, everyone got sucked into any drama happening anywhere. Looking back on it, we all felt like it was a wonderful space for socializing and connecting with people, but not particularly conducive to work.

Determined to fix the shortcomings of the Lafco space in 2004 I rented a large loft in The Brewery, a large colony of artist lofts in downtown Los Angeles. Here I built a large 3 story structure out of pallet racks which provided 20 private areas with internet and power which people could work from. I deemphasized the role of events in this space, and restricted the units to people actively working on projects. Unfortunately, it seemed that people who were functional enough to meet my criteria, had no interest in moving their work onto a large jungle gym.

After some time I recognized that the experiment wasn't working, so rather than waste the opportunity, I opened it up to the more fringe artist community and allowed people to live there as well. The remaining months were fun, but predictably chaotic, and in the fall of 2004 I shut the place down and moved to India.

1 comment:

Mangusta LAFCO/Tao Ruspoli said...

Interesting redux of the experience...I would add that Freeman was and is an incredible explorer and enabler of new ideas and approaches to the way we interact with our world. Given the fact that our present system is so obviously dysfunctional in so many ways (i.e we're destroying our world from under our feet), then this type of experimentation has intrinsic value far beyond its most obvious drawbacks.
In other words, thank you freeman: for the relationships that were born out of that time, and for the seeds you helped plant and nurture.