Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Pearls before us.

About a year ago I was mesmerized by an article in the Washington Post that had Joshua Bell , who is one of the world's most accomplished violinists perform before an unaware crowd in the DC metro. Tickets to Joshua Bell's concerts have gone for over $300, and he plays on a priceless Stradivarius. He's over 6ft tall, a handsome man who dresses all in black. There is no reason on god's earth that a living soul should pass this man as he plays music, and not hesitate for a moment. He demands attention.

The outcome was predictable.

Today, I came across a similar experiment, this time in Belgium, and this time an Artist was employed. Belgian painter Luc Tuymans, the most important artist in a country with a grand artistic tradition, his work sells for millions of dollars in the most prestigious galleries in the world . Would people even notice great art in the streets of Antwerp?

Now those who don't know me better would expect some sort of Wildean rant. Some extremely clever run ons with festive words, vague references, maybe some sort of foreign tongue inserted at random to rim the edges of my vast knowledge.
Unfortunately, some of the best people I know are often blind to their surroundings. Not totally blind for god's sake, but certainly myopic. Fortunately for me i am afflicted with a wonderful mental illness that has, through all my life, forced me into noticing far far too much. The best way I can explain what goes on in my unmedicated mind, is like informative popup ads. You can't just click on the chinese restaurant on the corner without having the building age, the geographic location, the style of chinese, the interior, the wait-staff, menu and a Viagra ad all fly open. At worst, I'm impossible to talk to, at best I'm captive to my thoughts. Naturally, being thusly afflicted makes me hyper sensitive to my environment. Even on days where sanity demands a solid dose of medication, my mind cannot help but travel to a million related places.

I can claim, without hesitation, that neither the Tuymans nor Bell's performance would go unnoticed by my exhausting self. That being said, i anguish at the thought of people missing out on the spectacular city in which I live. The street art of Los Angeles challenges even the finest traditions of civic art in Europe. From the Watts Towers, to the Banksy lined streets of Hollywood, we have an unappreciated wealth of world class art living in this city.

Takashi Murakami was so taken aback by the graffiti art that had been added to one of the Billboards tagged by local legends AUGER/REVOK, (Below) that he flew it back to Japan for his private collection.
The fact is that California in general and Los Angeles in particular was built with the swift export of ideas and communication in mind. From the missions that line our coast to the freeways, it is no coincidence that the world's entertainment flows from here. It would be a shame that blinded by our own snobbish pretense and dismay at SOME of the more pedestrian Angeleno exports, we missed the beauty this town offers. I urge you to take a moment and watch the film below. It is by Prof. Reyner Benham, who is/was a professor of Architecture at King's College in London. You'll find a new appreciation of this town, which is truly a monument of humanity. A city that runs on the ideas and dreams of poets, warriors and thieves, and those ideas can be exported at the speed of light, is something amazing. You can avoid feeling like the people of DC and Antwerp who don't know beauty when its right in front of them, simply by looking up. Don't miss it.

***Reyner Banham (1922-1988) was a prolific architectural critic and writer best known for his 1960 theoretical treatise "Theory and Design in the First Machine Age", and his 1971 book "Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies" in which he categorized the Angelean experience into four ecological models (Surfurbia, Foothills, The Plains of Id, and Autopia) and explored the distinct architectural cultures of each ecology.

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