Everybody wants to be Hollywood

  • Kenneth Anger is all the way on top of the building, installed in a staircase, sexy.

    Hehe, to me this video is what I think of when I think of LA. Mega theatrical, sort of a trashy B-movie. Lots of smoke and experimentation with special effects, warm colors. Definitely sexy, alluring, and erotic. Like a hazy dream from smoking weed, high on horoscopes. Spaced out shit. Costumes, beautiful outfits, and weird, like this women wearing a bird cage as a hat. Draped velour cloth everywhere, and gayness! I think of, like, “gender fluidity” when I think of Los Angeles. Everything seems possible. I know these are all cliches, but still so true, and that’s what I love about the city. Not Alex Israel, with his sterile, boring, unsexy one liners and ironic meta comments about art and entertainment – oh, you’re making fun of the Hollywood walk of fame? How original.

    Haha, good thing you got that out.

    Lol, yes. I’m just, why did they hide this piece all the way up here?

    Kenneth Anger, Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, 1954, video still

    We are at the press opening of Astrup Fearnley’s new show “Los Angeles – A Fiction”. It is the first time we are attending a press opening and we feel excited and special. One question that comes to mind is why Los Angeles, and why now? The other question is what kind of Los Angles are we going to see? Gunnar Kvaran, the museum director, and one of the show’s curators, is careful to tell us the selection of works is very subjective, not a survey of the Los Angeles’ art scene, but “a super fiction”. First we look at paintings by Brian Calvin.

    Ohe, these look familiar, I think I saw them in New York

    Yess, at that gallery. He also got this painting of an adolescent kid smelling her finger in slight disgust, now where’s that finger been!

    Haha, over here we have the Hollywood sign backwards made by Ed Ruscha. And then a picture of a worn out mattress.

    He’s a “must have”-artist in your LA collection. And so is Paul McCarthy, look at this video of him

    wearing a strange, gnome-like mask, boxing himself.

    Is he “the” LA artist? Or is it Mike Kelley?

    I always favored McCarthy, and I think they’re like Prince and Michael Jackson.

    Who’s Prince?

    Oh, Mike Kelley, McCarthy is Michael Jackson.

    I think Prince is more gay though, but who’s the best in this analogy?

    Jackson was more superior, don’t you think? That’s my point anyhow.


    Let’s see more, over here, Rodney McMillian, my favorite artist ever! And also almost the sole reason I moved to Los Angeles.

    Rodney McMillian, 4.24 light years away, 2016. Photo: Jeff McLane

    Haha, wow, that’s cool. So he’s making textiles? These are explosions sort of?

    Yeah, or its made on a bed sheet, so maybe two dead bodies? Rotting away.

    Be sure to say hi to him, but don’t be a creep!

    Hi, I really love your work, I even saw your show in Berlin.

    Hello! Oh, haha, then you must be dedicated. Nice to meet you! Now, just excuse me, this guy is trying to take a photo.

    That went good, maybe we should ask him for an interview?

    Yess! Or maybe we could go see the Elisabeth Haarr show with him? That would be super nice!

    Good idea!

    Let’s see, more McCarthy, but I can’t seem to find the porn. He always has porn in his work. Oh, here it is.

    And small “nisser”, or garden gnomes?

    Yeah, references to Disney, which has this massive impact on all american lives.

    But these artists, are they only the well collected ones?

    Seems like it. It’s funny to compare this show to Soppen a few weeks ago, because they also had so many LA-artists, but from a totally different scene.

    Yes, this is the bourgeoisie one. What art did you think we would find when going here?

    Oh, I thought of these guys, most def. It’s also funny because I used to work at this shipping office in Los Angeles, and so I would use to move this art exactly all around, all the time, I felt kinda oppressed by it.

    Haha. I feel slightly annoyed by the wall texts, they’re always telling how this work is about class, this on climate change, that one on race and identity. Like disclaimers. And then over and over how it’s a subjective selection. We get it, no need to spell it out.

    This artist I like, Kaari Upson

    Also displaying a mattress. Maybe we should rename it “the mattress show”. Eh heh? But a mattress cast in silicone. I had a friend in LA who also was all about casting everything he could find in silicone.

    Yeah, experimental casting, it seems to be a thing. Maybe because there’s so much space in Los Angeles, so much room, so you can cast all sorts of things without really destroying anything.

    But also, these mattresses are the homes of homeless people.

    Yeah, you were saying how the wall texts are so explicit on the work’s political agendas, and I mean, the mattress is a pretty banal comment on homelessness, and is it fair for this rich lady to be like “look at this filth!”, is it ethical?

    I don’t know, but it looks good. Upson, by the way, is said to be this crazy unstable woman, and look at these padded doors, I really like them, spray painted so they have a hologram-like effect, suggesting a home for lunatics or insanity. Nice.

    Oh look, a fucking star, must be Alex Israel.

    Haha! But this, Samara Golden, I really like her, do you know her art? 

    No, don’t think I’ve seen it

    Samara Golden, Missing Pieces from A Fall of Corners #2, 2015 – 2016. Photo: Image courtesy of Night Gallery

    She makes all these stage sets. Here, a table ready for dinner installed 90 degrees on the wall. But what a strange meal they are having, a blue fish, an apple, cake and dessert at the same time?

    Hehe, over to Ryan Trecartin and Lizzie Fitch, also a stage prop. For one of their videos?

    Could be, look, Cafe it says. This is post internet art, no?

    Maybe even the definition. But it looks kinda ugly, I like the net though. I guess Fitch/Trecartin could have been at Soppen?

    Yeah, true. Now I also got insecure whether Fitch and Trecartin are always working together? Or do we tend to forget mention her name when we talk about their work?

    I’m not sure, but we should be very careful not to erase her from history. Where are the videos anyways?

    Maybe they don’t have them. And no Mike Kelley either.

    I also noticed how, on the first floor they had all these older artist’s new work on the most prominent wall, whereas their older work is hidden away in those “cubicles”. I also thought Charles Ray’s work looked strangely out of place, you know those mannequins, the guy with the penis you thought was so nasty looking, like just thrown into the room.

    I think we liked the second floor the best, the terrace, no?

    Yeah. But did we ever answer the why and why now?

    Don’t think so! I keep wishing they had included more young artists, this fiction is a bit sterile. And also, what does the focus on LA communicate to local artists in Oslo? “You are inferior!”? I know a lot of Scandinavians are spending lots of time in Los Angeles, maybe they could have made the show a dialog, like “Oslo + LA”, I don’t know.

    After the show, we look more closely at the catalog, a generous book with excerpts from a range of different writers, like a hand guide to the literature of Los Angeles. The first two texts are commissioned works by Angela Flournoy and James Frey. Flournoy tells of a black teenage girl cruising up and down Sunset Blvd, barred from entering any bar or restaurant because of her color, but she can always go to In-N-Out. Told years later to her friends in NYC, she explains: “you hoped to see yourself out there, shining, growing, unafraid.” (12). Frey’s is a funny text about the fancy hotel Chateau Marmont, also on Sunset Blvd.; its different high celebrity guests, their company and affairs, told in a very dry, matter of fact, kinda way. Together they demonstrate the discrepancy between the city’s extreme luxury and the not so luxurious In-N-Out just a few blocks down the street, both stories fuelled by the desire of being someone.