People who were here for the last one remember Los Angeles as a ghost town.
“If I had to compare it to a major historical event, it would be the Cold War. The buildup, publicity and threat of mutual assured destruction was enough to scare everyone into pulling out at the last minute,” said Lindsay Martien, fourth-year marine biology student.
Martien braved the 405 Freeway during the last Carmageddon for a trip to San Pedro and said she has never seen the freeway so empty. She was part of a small fraction of Angelenos that did not barricade themselves at home during the weekend-long event.
But for Ezra LeBank, theater arts professor at California State University, Long Beach, Carmageddon weekend is not about staying home or getting out of town. In fact, LeBank said he saw it as a way to bring people together in their communities.
This mentality led LeBank to co-found a citywide arts event called “ARTmageddon,” which takes place in conjunction with Carmageddon. Ranging from small gallery exhibits to acrobatic dance performances to street musicians, the hundreds of shows involved will all be accessible via walking, biking or public transportation.
“We came up with this idea while imagining how we could celebrate Los Angeles art while uniting the community as well,” LeBank said. “Carmageddon was the perfect opportunity. We want to shift the mindset from “˜stay home’ to “˜stay local.’”
There are a few ARTmageddon stops on and around UCLA, including Royce Hall, the Fowler Museum and the Hammer Museum. Fatima Burney, a docent at the Hammer Museum and a graduate student in comparative literature said that the Hammer will branch from its typical repertoire of L.A. artists during the ARTmageddon weekend.
Visitors can expect to see artwork ranging from French painter Gustave Moreau’s exquisite Orientalist paintings to politically inquisitive installations from contemporary Chinese artists all free of charge.
Burney said she is most excited for the new exhibit “Paper Like Skin” created by Indian artist Zarina Hashmi. The exhibit contains approximately 60 works that span more than 50 years of Hashmi’s career, and include both woodcuts and three-dimensional casts made solely of paper pulp.
“People in museums often find some way to connect what they’re looking at to something they’re going through in their personal lives. These artists pose a lot of questions and concerns (that feed back) into that connection,” Burney said.
ARTmageddon also includes works that revisit past historical events of Los Angeles. The Bootleg Theater in Silver Lake will re-release the improvisation piece, “Rodney King,” created and performed by Roger Guenveur Smith. It is an hour-long solo performance that uses the Rodney King beating and subsequent L.A. riots as a precursor to the question, “Can we all get along?”
Jessica Hanna, managing and producing director at the Bootleg, said that her venue is involved in ARTmageddon because she wants her neighborhood to discover something new in a place they think they know so well.
“Rather than stepping out of their box, I want to encourage people to step into it during ARTmageddon,” Hanna said.
Sheetal Gandhi is another artist that works to develop a sense of community. Gandhi, a multidisciplinary dancer and UCLA alumna, will perform a self-choreographed piece titled “I Am You” at the Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica. The piece is set to a 1930s love song and focuses on notions of duality espoused by the Persian poet, Rumi.
Gandhi ““ who describes her work as abstract, theatrical and epic in scope ““ said that the Annenberg’s public layout made it the ideal place to create a piece that involved everyday people.
Therefore, “I Am You” will also include seven pre-chosen non-performers from Los Angeles who simply want to try something new. Gandhi said that these individuals provide the visual boundaries for the open space performance.
“The Annenberg is the only public beach house in America. I think that’s what inspired me to involve everyone ““ the Annenberg is saying that it doesn’t matter who you are in society’s hierarchy; anyone can enjoy this space.” Gandhi said.
Holding a show in the accessible beach house as well as including everyday people in her performance help contribute to ARTmageddon’s theme of community-integrated art.
LeBank said he hopes people will discover something unexpected down the street from their homes.
“ARTmageddon is really about an idea. It can be a conduit for artists to feel connected during a set time,” LeBank said. “The strength of the campaign is about harvesting the notion that an idea can be powerful if we choose to adopt it.”
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