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TPM

ISSUE 03

TPMMAG.COM

SPRING 2016


MASTHEAD

F O U N D E R & C R E AT I V E D I R E C T O R

CL ARA KIM

MORGAN CADIGAN

K R Y S TA L L A U K AT I E M AT H E R

DESIGN DIRECTOR

MAEVE MCLIAM

MAXINE TSANG

T I F FA N Y N G U Y E N JENNA OPSAHL

PHOTO EDITOR

JACK PRICE

ALEX MADRID

ERICA VINCENZI COREY WHIPPLE

I L L U S T R AT I O N D I R E C T O R

CONNIE CHANG

ONLINE EDITOR

L AUREN HAACK SECTION EDITORS

AMINAH IBRAHIM

FINANCIAL DIRECTOR

ALLISON PLANCK

A M A R AT H WA L

AIG. PERETZ

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A S S T. F I N A N C E M A N A G E R S DESIGNERS

S R I N U B H A M I D I PAT I

S O P H I A A R R I O L A-G I B S O N

Y I N G FA M

JASMINE LIN

DARSHIKA KUMAR

S T E FA N I E TA M MARKETING DIRECTOR

L U R AY J O Y

PHOTOGRAPHERS

DANIEL ALCAZAR OLIVIA LIM

A S S T. M A R K E T I N G M A N A G E R S

J U L I A M A LT Z

N ATA S H A C E R R AT O

DOROT Y SANUSSI

CHELSEA HALL

BETSY STRAZZANTE

G E O R G I E M AT T H E W S

E M I LY W E S T E R F I E L D

E V E LY N VA L E N C I A

I L L U S T R AT O R S

E V E N T C O O R D I N AT O R S

PA U L I N E T H A I

SELINE NAQI

HARISH BALASUBRAMANI

JOEY WONG BIANCA YUGAR

CONTRIBUTORS

ASHLEY AGUIL AR

BLOG CONTRIBUTORS

“ R O C K Y ” R A Q U E L AVA L O S

J A R E L L E B A L A N Z AT

A B I G A I L C L A U S O N-W O L F

COURTNEY BURNESS

T H E R E S I A D A FA L I A S

SELINA CHE

A LY S S A-FA I T H R U G O S C O T T

C E LY N N E H E B R O N

PA L M O FA R B E R

ANNIKA KARODY

FLEURETTE FONG

STEPHANIE RAMIREZ

ELIZABETH HSIEH

GABRIELLE SHEERER

ELLIS JUDSON

T I F FA N Y TA I M O O R A Z Y

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WHO WE ARE

T H E PA P E R M I X TA P E is a biannual publication, issued Spring and Fall, produced by UCLA students chronicling the goings-on of LA arts and culture. FOR ADVERTISING

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C O N TA C T I N F O R M AT I O N

Email — editor@tpmmag.com Website — www.tpmmag.com Instagram — @ThePaperMixtape


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CONTENTS

006 010 018 022 026 038 046 052 058 068 072 076 090 094 102 1 1 1 1 1 6 124 126 130 135 144

BLUEBERRIES AND LIMES F L AV O R F U L F I E L D N O T E S I N S E A R C H O F I N T I M A C Y: A N A R T F U L E X P E R I M E N T I’M READY TO STOP AND GET ON WITH MY LIFE ASK ME IN THE MORNING: 24 PAINTINGS IN 24 HOURS T H E E X PA N D E D C A N VA S O F T H E S T R E E T A R T I S T LITTLE ETHIOPIA A POET FOR THE MILLENNIAL T H E L U X U R Y O F E AT I N G MAKE ‘EM L AUGH PROVIDING POSITIVIT Y P H O T O E S S AY: B O D Y & H E D I S L I M A N E T H R E W A TA N T R U M P L E A S E , B A B Y, N O M O R E PA R T I E S I N L A O N S P E C TA C L E “THE TREES CRY OUT AS THEY DIE” P H O T O E S S AY: D E S E R T O T H E R W O R L D THE HYBRIDS OF CUISINE NO END IN SIGHT T H E N E E D F O R A R T S E D U C AT I O N R O C K A B I L LY: B E R T AVA L O S I F A T R E E FA L L S : W H Y A U D I E N C E-L E S S A R T S T I L L M AT T E R S

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EDITOR’S NOTE

Given the choice between living in Seattle and Portland, I’d choose Seattle. Granted, I was born and raised only half an hour out from the city and have claimed it as my own on my Facebook profile, but there’s another factor that holds my favor—it’s got grit. Believe me, Portland’s downtown is unbelievably immaculate. The people are friendly, the cuisine is superb, and it seems like it is the only city on the West Coast that has conquered the beast that is public transportation. It’s a Pacific Northwest dream (queue “Dream of the 90’s”). But it’s so immaculate that it’s almost unsatisfying. It doesn’t feel as real, as grounded, as the gritty sidewalks of Seattle. I think of today’s mainstream literary and visual culture as an aesthetic comparable to that of Portland. It’s easy, it’s clean, it’s desirable. Writing stories about success is straightforward and doesn’t step on anybody’s toes. Spotless spaces are easy on the eyes, luscious foliage is clean, simple, happy, “goals”.

So let’s pull up our sleeves and get into the dirt that is too often being glossed over. Let’s talk about failure. Whether it’s the trial and error in experiments in painting (p.26), relationships (p.18), or fruit jam (p.6); the foreseeable death of oral communication (p.52); the disparity between luxury and need (p.58), art and education (p.130), animation and reality (p.111); the luring Sirens of the spectacle (p.102), of big names (p.90), of fame (p.144); or the obstacles luring in the unknown (p.116), imposed by competition (p.10) or constructed against ourselves (p.126); failure is a part of all our stories. Join us in this third issue of The Paper Mixtape as we look for inspiration beyond the surface-level sheen of spotless images and stories. Maybe you’ll agree, it’s about time we rub some dirt in it. MORGAN CADIGAN

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We at The Paper Mixtape admit, clean is nice. But sometimes, clean can be creepy. We all know that those scenes are not the complete reality. Tidy, swept-up success stories are missing their edge, their dirt, and most importantly, the failure that is implicit in these endeavors.


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TIFFANY NGUYEN

BLUE B ER R I E S & L I ME S WO R DS P HOTOS

Tif f a ny Ng uye n Morg a n Ca d ig a n

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CIT Y, CUISINE, CULTURE

And yet, sometimes even those things that seem unnatural to bring together create an unexpected harmony of their own. There is simple beauty to be found in the process of finding these unexpected unions. The process of experimentation requires a conscious effort, an idealistic mind with a drive for fresh innovation and ingenuity that is ever-changing. Experimentation brings finesse. It is finding what has yet to be thought of. It is universal— in the arts, in the culinary world, in the sciences.

For former indie rock band drummer to professional jam-maker Laura Ann Masura, the meaning of eclectic combinations is embodied not only through her own personal story, but also manifests itself in the tastes of her handmade products. Through the food industry, Masura is constantly observing the culture of eateries as it progresses through trendy phases. With her extensive experiences as a wine and beer mixologist, trained cheese connoisseur, and involvement with Demitasse Café, each initially distinct nuance of Masura’s life blends into a personal creed that would soon shape the direction of her jam brand. Reflecting on her experiences as a musician, Masura attributes another unconventional facet of life to the success she’s had throughout her time performing: “A ten-year chunk of my life like 20s into 30s was all music related so I know everything about marketing just being able to do events such as Artisanal LA or Unique. I’m great at those because I can be personable and

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talk to people…and you learn that from being on stage and going out and being in a band. I was a drummer so I feel that I’m very math oriented in general and so that helps with cooking…you have to think of timing, the same thing with music and food…like you can’t be two seconds late, so I have a personal theory…and it has to do with being good with math.” Masura’s story is not a Saturday morning light at the quiet hours of morning. She is the erratic and whimsical autumn wind against a terra cotta rooftop. Her story is an unpredictable brew of spontaneous events that produce an even more spontaneous outcome—which merge together exquisitely. On a large scale, the unexpected pairings of Masura’s life come full circle through her rockstar-turned-baker lifestyle. On a smaller scale, Masura’s diverse experiences translate into to the quirky flavor profile of her homemade food product that continues to grow increasingly renown across the state. “I’m always experimenting with fla-

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A soft Saturday morning light streams gently from the curtain-lined window in the kitchen amidst the crisp 6 a.m. silence. You sit peacefully in the slowly fading darkness at the breakfast table before the world wakes itself up. Dust dances in small pirouettes beneath the light’s glow in the middle of the room. The air exhales its last few breaths of cold as you sleepily make your way to your stove and warm the kettle above a lightly burning ember. You pour yourself a cup of matcha tea and feel the rising sunlight on your skin and you think: the perfect natural pairing.


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TIFFANY NGUYEN

vors and ideas. I want all of my combinations to be able to be something that lives in your fridge, to be something that you can use not just to put on toast…I love coming up with something to do with jams all the time. You know, you could take like a fig and I’ll have recipes for say…a fig pizza or fig cocktail.” Masura mirrors the same eccentricities from her background in the products she sells. She strives to create unprecedented gradients of tastes that merge culinary swatches of timid lilacs with gallant ambers. Rather than diffusing each hue of flavors into a monochromatic palette, her ingredients cascade on a canvas to paint an organically lovely work of art. What Masura learns from one trade, she conscientiously integrates into a second until she finds just the right balance.

“I enjoy the ‘crossover’ challenge of creating a product that can be versatile like preserves. When I create a flavor, I am honestly thinking of ALL the things you can do with it—cocktails, cheeses, condiment, sauce—they [are] ALL multi-purpose. On purpose… Now who do you know that can crossstitch ‘multi-purpose, on purpose’ for me to hang in my office? Joking aside, each one can stand on its own or help hold something else up. I go for balance, think about mouthfeel and let the fruit guide me to where it wants to go.” Borrowing from her experience in cultured dairy products and spirits, she describes the process of finding blissful mediums in her jam products: “It has to do a lot with my palette because I’m always tinkering with things. Some of the flavors, I consciously made for one drink but then tweaked

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CIT Y, CUISINE, CULTURE

who do you know that can cross“ Now stitch ‘multi-purpose, on purpose’ for me to hang in my office? “

Though the contrast of odd combinations may be just what is necessary to find the perfectly serendipitous couple, it is not without intentionally striving to grasp mutually distinct realities and drawing a spark from their juxtaposition that this can be achieved. Experimentation is patience when results do not meet expectations. It is a resolution to accept shortcomings and to make another attempt. Discovering what works takes work, as Masura explains: “Peppers are hard to tame or get consistent and dealing with spices can be a delicate art. Not to mention citrus and set. Jams seem easy, but it is rather complex and changes every batch you make. To be faithful to the fruit, I go through probably hundreds of exper-

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iments before I have my final recipe. But that’s the ‘fun’ part…right!” Once the process of experimentation draws to an end, once the fiery sensations of each habanero note finds its harmonious home in sweet raspberry jam, can creators venture forward toward new trials altogether. It is through the test runs, the errors, the scraps, and the back-to-the-drawing-board instances that challenge our creativity and push us to expand our limits of what we ourselves think we can see. And in makers like Masura, it is with a sense of purposeful curiosity that true originality exists. Masura’s impression left on me was not unlike the flavors in her jams themselves: playful, elaborate, and one-of-a-kind. Individuals like Masura are the askers of why and what. They are the bold risk takers who receive the greatest rewards. Through redefining society’s standard construct of normality and challenging oneself to pursue inventiveness beyond the walls of usual versus unusual, placing faith in an unknown direction with new flavors, new mediums, and new ideas, one may find themselves satisfied with more than window light and a cup of tea.

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it so it didn’t overpower the cheese. My blood orange [jam] has bourbon in it. It was a very conscious decision. I used bourbon because what I was really going for was the wood flavoring. I find that blood oranges can be kind of tart…and I thought it would balance the tartness from the oranges. And a plain blueberry jam just seems inconceivable because just thinking of all the things you could do with it… why wouldn’t I add lime to it?”


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AMINAH IBRAHIM

FL AVORFUL FIELD NOTES Amin a h Ib r a him P H O T O S Al e x Ma d r id

WORDS

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AMINAH IBRAHIM

Focus. All your senses alive, all at once: touch, taste, smell, sight, sound... all of you, engaged. This is what it feels like to be in the kitchen. The kitchen is undeniably alive. The chef has every element before him/her. Fire, water, air, earth all work together with the mind and energy of the chef to produce the final plate: an edible labor of love. There are back-of-thehouse chefs that are humbled by these elements, awed by the time, nurturing and energy taken to produce each ingredient, who give respect to every ingredient and there are front-of-thehouse chefs who, empowered by these elements, take pleasure and find real power in the rituals of orchestration and manipulation of ingredients. With so much going on, there is potential for beautiful success; creating food that leaves an impression, the type of food that is intimate, forever marked as a high point in memory; or on the omSPRING 2016

nipotent flip side—the potential for a motley of failures. Perhaps this explains the strange American food paradox: there’s a proliferation of food media but a lot less actual cooking. Cooking has become vicarious because the kitchen can be intimidating. What ensures success in the kitchen when there is so much room to fail? Fuelled by a love of food and a determination to not fall into the American food paradox, I decided to venture into the field—the kitchen of The New School of Cooking, a boutique culinary school in Culver City, and learn to cook for myself. My culinary experience was a mere 20 weeks, I left hungry for more education. Weeks after graduation, I returned to the school and sat down with both the head of culinary and head of pastry arts, Chef Ryan Luttrell and Chef Briana Bielucke to garner their insights on Gastronomy, the art or science of good cooking (and eating) as a whole.


CIT Y, CUISINE, CULTURE

Chef Briana nods in agreement adding, “One thing I want my students to always leave with is to really understand that you can never stop growing as a chef. It doesn’t matter if you’ve mas-

tered something, there’s going to be a new kid that knows something that you don’t. You have to constantly be able to adapt with the times and grow. Never stop learning.” Sitting across from both chefs, I marveled at the difference in their characters. Chef Ryan is exuberant with a commanding presence and an overt passion. Chef Briana emanates a profound sense of gentle intensity and professionalism. I wondered how much their craft affects their code of conduct, and asked each chef to describe their practices — culinary arts and pastry arts, often seen as the antithesis of each other in Gastronomy. Their answers emphasize the equilibrium between art and science; creativity and control. Chef Briana explains, “Baking is very scientific. Once it goes into the oven, there’s no turning back. You have to

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Surrounded by delicious smells and the hustle and bustle of the kitchen, I asked both chefs how they think success is achieved in the culinary world. Chef Ryan’s answer highlights the first nonchalant contradiction of great cooking, in order for success, “you cannot be afraid of failure. You’re striving towards perfection constantly—making the perfect meal, but you have to be okay in the back of your mind, that you can fail; that you’re going to need to fail. We’re always trying to manage that. Being okay with failing goes hand in hand with humility. Failure makes you humble whether you like it or not. That’s the true answer: Humility is what I find with success.”


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AMINAH IBRAHIM

make sure that your formula is exact when you first start and that the procedure that you’re doing is accurate. You can’t just add a pinch of this and a dash of that afterwards to try to save it. In that respect, it’s very scientific but afterwards, I feel like it is the complete opposite. Pastries are very artistic whereas culinary can be very onenoted. It takes a very creative and artistic person to be able to do pastries. I love pastries because it’s kind of the complete opposite of culinary, as opposed to eating savory food for sustenance, its decadent. It’s completely about pleasure when people eat pastries, that’s the beauty of it. That’s what I love.” Indeed, watching Chef Briana as she drizzles chocolate on a perfectly sculpted and meticulously plated Napoleon (Mille-feuille) in front of her students, I could not help but feel the sense of awe around the room. After she is done with the last drizzle, her students

applaud her. And I do, too. What excites Chef Ryan is the innovation in his craft, “I relish the opportunity to bring someone something that they don’t get in ordinary life. We had a dinner awhile back where we tried to pair grapefruit, scallops and green apples and nobody thought they went together but we figured out how to get it together. I’m always driven to see myself as a mad scientist. I ask, what can I do to put these things together and make them ultimately work? I’ve always seen pastry and baking as more of the scientific side, whereas culinary is more of an art. It’s weird, it’s almost like we do things the opposite ways. Chef Briana is coming in with the science of cooking, and then driving out creativity. Whereas I’m coming in with creativity and the science comes in with what happens to ingredients as they cook at different stages. It’s the yin and yang of the whole world, really. We balance each other out.”

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answers emphasize the “ Their equilibrium between art and

science; creativity and control.

Standing at the back of the kitchen and watching the commotion, I see exactly what Chef Ryan is talking about. In the flurry of action once the cooking begins, there is no time to second guess. Instead there are endless improvisations in between each taste. There is constant motion. In Chef Ryan’s class, the recipe is not an instruction but acts rather as a canvas, where the chef can paint according to their own discerning taste. In a sense, a chef ’s palate is their palette. No recipe is ever the be-all and end-all.

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Chef Ryan insists that, “with food, there are really no rules of anything. We can create and go into any realm. Just because something doesn’t go together, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t go together, maybe they’ve just never been put together. Maybe it’s your job to figure it out. That’s what we do as chefs, it’s about pushing your limits to be that creative artist and doing something that’s never been done before.”


CLARA KIM

IN SEARCH OF INTIMACY

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AN ARTFUL EXPERIMENT

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ART

Cl a r a Kim I L L U S T R AT I O N Pa ul in e Tha i P H O T O S Ste f a n ie Ta m WORDS

The story that I am going to tell you of how two people met is a particular one, involving a precisely executed plan and visual art as their ultimate guiding (or misguiding) force. I was the puppeteer of this exact plan, setting out to test the power that viewing and experiencing art can have in bonding two individuals whom have no knowledge or familiarity with one another. Art, an immortal, compelling expression of human creative skill and imagination, is unique in producing works that can be communicated universally. Regardless of its assorted nature, it is appropriate to say it is a language that speaks directly to any eye. In the same way that the squiggly pattern of a cabinet in my home triggered an

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illusion of faces for my resting two­-year o­ ld self, the content of a striking piece of artwork can elicit an emotional response for one who has no special interest in art. Consciously created or not, ubiquituous art forms providing different subjective interpretations must share a common neural basis that enables this sensory communication to transcend spoken or written word. Neuroscientists and professors Oshin Vartanian of University of Toronto Scarborough and Semir Zeki of the University College London have affirmed this capability of art through their research involving fMRI and brainmapping of participants who looked at pictures of paintings. Vartanian and Zeki specialize in neuroaesthetics, a developing subfield that explores the brain’s relationship with beautiful objects like a work of art. Originated in 1990s by Zeki himself in his book, Inner Vision: An Explora-

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Why does attraction happen? What strengthens connections? How do two strangers become acquaintances, friends or lovers?


CLARA KIM

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tion of Art and the Brain, the discipline detects which brain processes are active during the aesthetic experience that include perception, interpretation, and emotion. Vartanian’s studies found that not only parts of the brain engaging in visual representation and object identification were triggered, but other parts like the interior insula and putamen connecting to pleasant emotions and reward were triggered as well.1 From results of an influx of dopamine (also known as the ‘feelgood’ chemical) into the orbitalfrontal cortex, Zeki similarly discovered the intense pleasurable effect that viewing art has on the brain. And in conversation about his findings he noted how the stimulation of these excitatory centres parallels with the states of love and desire.2 With these scientific discoveries in mind, my experiment had launched. It was simple: by inducing a coexistence of the sensory and emotional response that art enables, surely two strangers would feel more intimate—platonically or romantically. I imagined the situation to be rather uncomfortable

for them contemplating art in a quiet gallery space, but nevertheless sparks flying through their exchanging of thoughts, opinions, and interpretations. I succeeded in gathering two randomly selected pairs of participants who were convinced by the idea of a blind date and a free treat from Diddy Riese. Amy* and James* were the first pair who acted as a sort of a control of the experiment directed to wander and talk for an hour before touring the exhibitions for another. To see the effect of art more clearly I asked them about their time together before they continued into the gallery. The other pair was made of Rebecca* and Alex* who promptly boarded their private ride around the Hammer museum. After both pairs’ designated hour of art­viewing, I gave them the same questions that attempt to evaluate their experience and level of ‘closeness’ toward each other. They included numeric rating based questions like, “How likely is it that you would share a personal secret with your partner?” Preparing for the usual friendly small talk, the duos greeted each other with relative nervousness and excitement.

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ART

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How did you feel getting to know the person at first? A M Y At first, it was like I was meet-

ing someone from my floor, with your typical questions: “Where are you from? What do you study?” etc. The context of how we met didn’t seem to matter. J A M E S I felt pretty comfortable

getting to know my date. Being a blind date made us both vulnerable, but at the same time on common ground to get the ball rolling.

How comfortable or uncomfortable did you feel during your time together? A M Y At first, it was a little uncom-

fortable, just because I knew that this

is supposed to be a date. But I started to look at it more like “Oh, we’re just going to try and be friends.” That helped lessen my awkwardness a lot. J A M E S I felt more comfortable as

time went on. One thing that surprisingly made me comfortable was the lack of expectation established usually when knowing someone ahead of time.

(After museum) Describe your experience looking at art with your partner. Do you feel that it brought you guys closer? What did you guys talk about? A M Y His whole family is into art

and his major is fine arts. So he had a greater appreciation for the works that we looked at. The only art I ever stud-

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CLARA KIM

ied was the Renaissance. So I would basically be laughing at all of the work and he would be like “Wait, consider this..!” It actually did bring the both of us closer because we ended up talking about my dancing experience, and through that, our involvement in extracurricular activities (like the piano). J A M E S During the museum expe-

R E B E C C A I had a very pleasant ex-

perience. I liked how we shared similar views with some pieces but also

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rience we talked about the artwork. Usually we would go into an analysis of the artwork, comparing the two interpretations. Often times, I found myself playing devil’s advo-

cate explaining the artwork’s latent value, which made for interacting conversations. Unfortunately, I feel like the experience may have made us feel further rather than closer. It exposed differences in our interests. The experience also seemed to be more enjoyable to me, since we came to realize I had more of an investment in art. Perhaps it may have been better to experience something new for the both of us to discover.

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how we brought new perspectives. In a way, that really said a lot about him. That, and details about his childhood and interests. However, I think a museum is not a place where connections happen much so we couldn’t develop much of a connection. A L E X We walked and talked. I

don’t feel that art “brought us closer together” but a lot of our conversation revolved around art, and what the pieces mean. I don’t think that the art was in any way a necessary part of the interaction.


ART

As it turns out, what occurred between them and artworks behind closed gallery doors rejected my imaginations of a blossoming friendship or romantic connection. Looking at and contemplating the art together did not really ignite an emotional bond for either pair. While analyzing art made Amy and Rebecca feel closer to their partner by it being an outlet for insight into other areas of their life, the activity interestingly had a rather distancing effect for James. Not only did it reveal his and Amy’s discordant backgrounds and interests, but it also restrained his deep connection with the artwork due to a present disconnection.

*Names have been changed 1. Campbell, Don. “This Is Your Brain on Art: A Q & A with Oshin Vartanian.” U of T News. University of Toronto, 18 July 2014. Web. 18 Apr. 2016. 2. Alleyne, Richard. “Viewing Art Gives Same Pleasure as Being in Love.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 8 May 2011. Web. 18 Apr. 2016.

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The story of how two people met unfortunately ends in this brief manner, in which the emotional capability of viewing art proved to be more limiting than we all hoped for. Yet it does not undermine how compelling art with its powers is and will always be. For it is now confirmed that it is not particularly intended for bonding two strangers, but to be appreciated and absorbed naturally and genuinely. In the way that a successful relationship between two individuals is said to be a two-­way s­ treet and not one, the relationship between the parties in this case should have been a three-­way­ street. The artwork offers itself to the viewers and initiates conversation, but the two must put in complete genuine effort and interest in getting to know the other parties.


AIG. PERETZ

I’ M READY TO STO P AND GE T ON WI TH MY LIF E AI G . Pe re tz I L L U S T R AT I O N Co nni e Chang

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WORDS

If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward. So goes the age-old adage. Usually spouted by self-help gurus and personal trainers, the aphorism conveys an intuitive truth about evolution as a form of success and stagnation as a form of failure. The implication gleaned is that one is successful insofar as s/he is evolving. But this implication wrongly conflates evolution and progress. Evolution is not always a form a progress. Stagnation conventionally indicates some negative phenomenon by which one becomes outdated and dusty. A stagnation in updating and evolving can and does translate to a perceived lack of cultural knowledge. College is a time devoted to a constant stream of keeping up with the latest aesthetic, cultural, linguistic, etc. trends. In other words, college is home to the stylistic “progressives.” However, I want to show you that the incessant stream of updates that come with being a college student is actually not as progressive as the stylistically stagnant person. In other words, the stylistically stagnant person has not failed, but has succeeded in progressing.

Recently, a friend turned me on to the philosophy of emergentism which is a sort-of metaphysical and ontological framework that can be applied to many disciplines and thoughts within and outside of philosophy. The chief underlying idea of emergentism is shown by ‘emergences’, or a concatenation of properties predicating one system that, in turn, create a new and irreducible system. Some theories have focused on constraints as causes responsible for emergences as effects. Here, I’ll being using an emergentist framework that functions in this way. I will be borrowing the terms ‘orthograde’ and ‘contragrade’ from Terrence Deacon, and may be bastardizing the terms for my own purposes of eventually explaining how stagnation is not failure. Orthograde movement or orthograde processes are spontaneous and occur of their own accord. Entropy is seen as the prime example of this process because particle randomness is always increasing, and unless there is some active process to stop entropy1, the particles will continue to tend towards randomness. Any constraint impeding an orthograde process is an example of a constraint by which contragrade

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OPINION

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AIG. PERETZ

processes occur. In other words, any naturally occurring situation (= one happening spontaneously) is characterized as being an orthograde process. When a constraint is introduced into that situation there is an emergence. This emergence is characterized as a contragrade process because it doesn’t occur naturally or spontaneously.2 This emergence, however, is irreducible—it is a platform from which more levels of being and more newness can be derived. A pristine illustration used by Deacon and others is that of a river. The downward, natural flow of the river symbolizes orthograde movement, spontaneously occurring. But, imagine that at some point in the river, a rock juts into the stream. The rock serves as an absence—it imposes a constraint. A whirlpool (of contragrade movement) emerges as a result of this constraint. The vortex, although derivative of the river, was not produced by the orthograde movement alone. Unless a constraint was put in place, no newness would’ve emerged.

As college students, we take it upon ourselves to update our wardrobe, lingo, music tastes, and even our use of punctuation with whatever is freshest and most relevant (note: not necessarily newest). This updating process is spontaneously occurring, as we are constantly inundated with the interests of our peers and the insights of our teachers. Effectively, college is being thrown into a river of orthograde movement. It is easier to evolve than it is to engage in restraint. It seems to be the case that you can’t help but evolve with the thinkers of your education and the doers of your social sphere. At one point, your taste in literature becomes less accessible and more elitist, and your wardrobe harbors a strict dichromatic diet of black and white. Next month, though, popu-

larism and pastels reign supreme. The river will continue to flow, and with it style is adjusted. College is said to be the time when one finds themself. But this is wrong. College is not so much about finding yourself, but instead witnesses the roots of the emergence of self. “Finding” implies that one was lost before s/he became found. But there is no ongoing search with flashlights and bloodhounds, to only discover yourself bogged in a gulch. I have a brother four years my elder who functioned as the de facto proleptic by which I came to familiarize myself with whatever was most hip. My brother graduated college only recently and his symptoms of stagnation are becoming increasingly apparent. The onset of my brother’s stagnation is a function of his encounter with constraints. The constraints he is currently facing are of the same kind faced by most after graduating college (e.g. working, paying bills, gardening). (Here, appreciate how we talk about the disparity between college-life and that thereafter, i.e. living in the “real-world.” This description itself suggests a fresh introduction of constraints never before experienced.3) Constraints are introduced at the end of college, and with it the molting of style no longer persists as a spontaneous activity. It is in this way that college witnesses the start to the emergence of stylistic self because the style that one ultimately lands on is merely the style (be it linguistic, artistic, or whatever) that one embodies as these constraints press upon his/her life. This is ultimately the phenomenon of stylistic stagnation. Envision your parents as an example. There is a period of music that each of your parents aligns with as their convention or go-to. If your parent listens to yacht rock, it’s a fair assumption that s/he stagnated in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s, for

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Coast liberal arts college. This is the outline of those who have resisted stagnation at the appropriate age. They instead find themselves existing as caricatures of stylistic gluttony, waiting to be made fun of in a discourse on stagnation. I find that it’s hard to criticize what is currently the natural course of stylistic evolution, for this is necessary to progress—it is a necessary feature of growth. But traveling further down the river doesn’t translate to one’s being more culturally aware or successful. Style is recycled, and our river is more aptly thought of as a circle. This is why stylistic residuals from the past are found in the future. How, then, can the stylistic glutton who travels upstream be considered as regressing? It is the fact that the gluttons are obsessed with unnaturally continuing an evolution of style. These are the people who wrongly conflate evolution and progress. It is not that they are regressive in their style, but that they are regressive in their rationale. They are concerned with appearance and not substance. When they eventually stagnate upstream, their emergent selves are the result of artificial constraints, so that their principles in turn will be artificial. The constraints responsible for stylistic stagnation—responsible for the emergent self—are the true signs of progress: genuine newness. There is no real progress or regress that is made in the exchange of style. It is a ceaseless cycle of evolution. But when all is change, only the static is new. 1. Cf. Maxwell’s Demon. 2. Note that orthograde and contragrade motion are relative. The emergence always exhibits the contragrade movement against the base level’s orthograde movement. 3. Thank you to my friend Christian Loritz for this observation.

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example. Perhaps a friend dropped out of college, deciding to abandon her English studies. She may be caught sporting a Kerouac novel on her bookshelf. This last example is a means of imposing constraints before their natural occurrence. For some, constraints present themselves at a premature time in one’s life. Generally, though, full-blown stagnation occurs in the decade after one’s undergraduate college years. During this stage of life, the river invariably becomes rockier and more difficult to avoid getting sucked up in a whirlpool. Evolution of style no longer occurs as a spontaneous process. One who continues to force (what’s become) an unnatural evolution ends up setting oneself further back. We can imagine a stylistic glutton trudging upstream to avoid the rocks that await him downstream. In effect, he creates his own contragrade motion without any real constraint to give rise to newness. There is only the strain of trying to maintain youthfulness on the part of this glutton. Inevitably, s/he tires out, unaware of the fact that s/ he is farther upstream (a regression) than would have been the case had s/he let the natural course take hold. For an illustration of the stylistic glutton, consider the West LA gallery-goer that’d have us believe he is a person that needs to be known: the tweed-jacket-donning, tortoise-shell-wearing, receded-hairline-having introvert who toils with an expression of disconcertion and consternation as he peruses an exhibit which can only be described as, “the falling action in the life of one of ab-ex’s former greats.” His insights are whispered like the lawyer who reigns in the jury before hitting ‘em with the (capital-T) Truth: soft enough for the world to hear. His girlfriend dwarfs his meager five-foot-five stature and enjoys the unblemished face of one who’s never had to wrinkle once in her life. She is excited to show off her diffident and less attractive boyfriend that went to a West


ERICA VINCENZI

“A S K M E I N T H E MORNING”

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2 4 PA I N T I N G S I N 24 H O U R S

WORDS

Er ic a Vin c e n zi INTRODUCTION

Al l ison Pl a n c k PHOTOS

Al e x Ma d r id Emil y We ste r f ie l d

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In an effort to explore the theme of failure within the context of painting and production, arts writer Erica Vincenzi took on the task of completing one painting per hour for 24 hours. Erica’s self-imposed time crunch would compel her to create work and to ultimately disregard her fear of failure – the fear that so often stagnates and even prevents artistic production. The paintings could be on any surface of any size, but singularly must be completed within the given hour. As she proceeded with this project, Erica took notes that described the process; these writings reflect upon the theme of failure in regards to her own art-making experiences.

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ERICA VINCENZI

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ERICA VINCENZI

5:33 A M In my mind, 5 AM is a time reserved for dragging yourself to the airport or for really committed surfers. This is not a time that I like to be awake; I didn’t even plan to start the project until 7 AM. I am trying to figure out how I can reschedule for another day, one where I am feeling more prepared. But I am already quite awake, so I’ll roll my body up in a blanket and shuffle to the living room, where the wood panels, sheets of paper, brushes, and tubes of paint sit on a blue tarp—all waiting for me in the soft light and perfect stillness of the morning.

6:00 A M

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Clicking through the old essays, written by other people, that are saved in a folder on my desktop labeled “skool”: Seth Price, Moyra Davies, Jeff Wall, Paul Chan.

6:15 A M This is not the color I was looking for. The sky is a pale grey now.

7:26 A M I want all of my paintings to be good paintings and I don’t want to make any bad ones. I would rather hide the bad paintings—or better yet, burn them—before they even have the opportunity to exist. If I can’t be sure of a painting’s success, then I am tempted to think that with the first stroke of paint I have already failed. This fear often prevents me from starting anything. I’m learning how to coexist with my bad paintings and trying to understand that, as an artist, I will make a lot of bad art in my lifetime. Usually not in the “good-bad” way, either. I have 25 minutes left to make this hour’s painting, so I am going to start. I’m feeling tired now but my chocolate tea is steeping so I will be okay.

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7:50 A M Gessoing a bunch of surfaces now because I didn’t gesso the last one, which made it really weird to paint- it was just turpentine leaving oily marks and splotches of color on the canvas. Whoops. Time is moving much faster than I had originally thought it would.

8:46 A M If you want to learn about failure then I could just talk to you about my cooking skills. I have managed to burn a pot of water not once, but twice in the past year.

“Not much just painting my basil plant yet again hbu?”

9:28 A M Spilled the turpentine everywhere. Spilled the gesso everywhere. There are fat, white globs of paint on my hands, on my clothes, and on the tarp. None on the carpet (thank god). Staying organized and in control of the materials is difficult. I’ve been working pretty consistently to keep up.

12:20 P M I think about bruises and dry skin. I think about the books I should have read by now, at this age.

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I just made breakfast, but what I really want is for someone to bring me bagels. I used to live across from a Noah’s Bagels, where my family would buy dozen on saturday mornings. The gesso is drying. I am cutting it close.


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1:05 P M I try to paint objects or people that I see in my day-today, but in a way that might be interesting to the viewer. However, my attempts to do so are not satisfying. Is it the subject that should be more interesting, or my way of painting? Should I even be concerned with my failure to interest anyone? Because I am.

1:31 P M I’m spreading on more coats of gesso to let dry between paintings. The sun rays that fall through the window are sharp and hot, and the gesso is drying faster now.

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2:17 P M I often get stuck when figuring out what to paint. Sometimes when I sit down, I have a solid idea. Other times I aimlessly begin painting, thinking that it might be better to improvise. Halfway in, I always remember how bad at improvising I really am. I am just reaching halfway now. In some cases the subject is not so important; this might be one of those cases. This one time when I was in Blick (the one at the corner of Santa Monica and Colby) I overheard a salesperson trying to help a customer find some paint. The woman was having trouble finding the right color brown for the table sitting under the vase of flowers that she was painting. Burnt Sienna or Burnt Umber? I was more interested in this Portland Grey in the neighboring row. She explained to him that the bouquet she was painting had all kinds of different flowers in it. She took the time to list all of their names, but all I can recall are peonies. For some reason I felt sad; sad for the sales person and sad for the woman’s brown table and painted peonies. I put the tube of Portland Grey back on the shelf and ended up leaving with a regular grey instead.

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3:36 P M These colors are washy, I want them to be less washy. I know this mixing process takes more patience and less turpentine; more paint, but less panes grey.

4:36 P M I think my favorite painting might still be the foot one­—I’ve left it pinned up on the wall this whole time as I work, as an idol to my dance party wounds. In the world there exists many paintings of feet, but this is the first one by me. The bruise in the painting is greener than the one on my foot, which is much more blue.

5:15 P M I am painting another plant.

The last hour’s painting was really bad. I feel like the surface is way too small and I’m wishing that I had bigger canvases; the result of poor planning. I have made a lot of small paintings in the past. Maybe my preference for smaller surfaces is changing as I become more comfortable with bigger paintings. This might be good, because there seems to be a consensus that paintings are better, bigger.

7:05 P M So far, I have painted people, I painted a bowl and spoon, my living room. These are all nice, but very bland. The banality of my subjects worries me; I feel like I’m failing to present ideas of any consequence. To make work of no consequence, to be inconsequential, seems like the worst kind of failure.

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6:22 P M


ERICA VINCENZI

10:18 P M I am missing entire gaps in time, forgetting to write, or being too busy.

11:31 P M Walked back from a party where I stopped for a while to say happy birthday to a friend; on the hill, four loud guys in a black Jeep screamed at me as they passed by. I don’t think hours of painting can dissolve the sick in my stomach and the fear that they might drive by me again before I get home.

12:00 A M

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Midnight delivery of bagels and ice cream from E. and C., who might be some of my favorite human beings in the whole world.

1:24 A M I like to paint from photos. I used to think that you weren’t supposed to do that, but then I learned that an artist can work however they’d like, just as long as they make something good. You might think that it may be nice not to be confined to rules, but sometimes I find there is more pressure that way. Maybe this makes me a bad artist. Anyway, some of these paintings are from photos.

2:32 A M I’ve scrubbed out and then repainted this painting three times now. I am trying my hand at abstraction for a moment, which is an uncomfortable style for me—exactly how many red splotches and strokes do I paint? Where do I stop? And how can I make sure nothing accidentally looks phallic? I changed my mind: pour turpentine on a towel, scrub the red paint out until it’s a pink wash, and paint an ugly green plant over it. Much happier now.

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4:15 A M The last painting is still watery, reflecting ribbons of white light from the lamp above it. My eyes feel sore and my legs are heavy and stiff, but I’m finally finished. There are twentyfour paintings, completed today, on the floor of my living room. Some seem absolutely terrible, some are pretty ok. Would I do this again...? Ask me in the morning.

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THERESIA DAFALIAS

T H E E X PA N D E D C A N VA S O F T H E STREET ARTIST The re sia Da f a l ia s

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WORDS

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There are artists that choose to put canvases and papers away as they leave their mark around the walls and spaces of the city of their choice. So the question arises: do they still go through the same struggle to choose just the right wall, as a traditional painter would aim to choose just the right canvas? Is it the surrounding that is manipulated into providing some part of the artwork’s meaning? The people roaming the same streets the artwork is set; the people living in those streets, might wonder: Why here?

IAmMorley is an artist originally from Iowa City, but now permanently living in LA. For him, Los Angeles is a broad canvas that provides the opportunity to create art in especially varied environments in the same day – from Beverly Hills to Hollywood to Compton. In terms of the locations he chooses, the region is indeed on his mind at time he creates the art for it, the more specific location however is nonsensical to be predetermined: “The streets are generally too amorphous

With great street art comes great responsibility – one of the main considerations of a street artist will always be the damage involved with expressing their art. It is for such reasons IAmMorley finds temporary structures to be the most convenient locations, where not much money or trouble is involved with removing the piece. As he mentions: “I never wanted someone to say: ‘that’s a positive message- expressed in a unnecessarily destructive way.’ For me, basic consideration and public art don’t have to be mutually exclusive.” For IAmMorley one would conclude that the importance of the location in street art is deeply connected with the people that frequent these locations, since street art has the soul of the streets it inhabits. These people are the

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I decided to look for the answers exactly where they should always be seeked: directly from the source. I reach out and contact four well-known LA street artists, who graciously accepted to talk to me about their art and the process of its creation.

and ever-changing. A spot that looks great one day will be plastered with ads the very next day, so I do a lot of driving around an area once I have a poster for it and wait for the right spot to present itself.” It is the neighborhood, or even the specific place the artwork is pasted that makes the piece “gain an extra layer of context”. The neighborhood determines the audience, and thus to the specific message conveyed to specific groups of people—“obviously I wouldn’t make the same sentiment in Beverly Hills that I’d make in Compton”.


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ones that create these streets and give them their character; it is a cycle in which artwork comes and smoothly fits in. As IAmMorley says, “I have nothing against art in a gallery and I feel privileged anytime I’m invited to have my work in one—but for me, the public setting is what gives the work its significance. The statement “I promise you you’re not just a waitress” means one thing in a gallery, but for a waitress walking home after a long shift at work, wondering if she’ll ever achieve the dreams that brought her to Los Angeles—to her it means something more. It’s a message just for her and maybe it’s at the moment she needs it most. That to me, makes all the difference.” As I walk in Plasticjesus’ studio, the smell of spray paint seems to come from every corner. We walk into a little backroom where the office is. There, the walls are covered with his pieces. Plasticjesus was a photojournalist before he identified as a street artist. The appeal of his art is impressive given that he is relatively new to the street art community – he has been doing it for only the past 3 and a half years. “I’m learning as I go from the moment I got into street art almost by accident,” he says; the accident being people reacting enthusiastically to his first pieces combined with the promotion on social media. His photojournalism background shaped the themes he would choose from

the beginning, themes that were not picked up by the mainstream media: drugs and society, drugs in sparkly, flawless Hollywood, credit cards and debt in the land of consumption… it is not a surprise that such stories— which were drawn from the everyday life happening in the city—belong to the walls of that city, highlighting raw, important issues to the right audience: everyone walking in LA, living around and in those same issues. This is why for Plasticjesus one of the most important elements in the locations he chooses to place his pieces is the attention it gets-the size of the crowd passing by. Melrose is a good example of such a place: lively, with cool shops; people go there to look at the street art around almost like visiting a tourist attraction. When your pieces are as politically charged as Plasticjesus’, attention from people becomes part of the meaning of your art—your aim is to make people question more the issues you portray, engage more with important problematic parts of society. At that point, Plasticjesus comments on the limited engagement of Americans compared to Europeans; “I’d like to think my work could be anywhere, but the way I work with politically charged pieces is more European, people here do not give a shit.” Art seems to be a way to change that however, as people do care about his messages in LA streets. His choice of broader political and social issues makes Plasticjesus’ pieces universal

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THERESIA DAFALIAS

and even timeless, appealing to a significantly large crowd. Through social media the pieces travel around the world and who knows where they’ll end up – thus, the location here seems to play a role mainly to initiate this journey, to grab the first boat’s attention. This is how it went down with Plasticjesus’ first piece: his piece of Lance Armstrong using drugs got picked up by the news, with a little push from the artist himself—a good quality photo and a story about this interesting new artist helped keep the mystery and get the wheels of reposting spinning. However, he has “great respect for artists that create very specific art to that building, that street, that corporation”, and he himself has done some very occasion and location specific projects, where the location was in his mind before he got to create the actual piece. Good examples are the Oscar pieces set on Hollywood Boulevard during the Oscar fever. The life-size gold Oscar statues doing cocaine out of the red carpet or stripping on a pole reveal the darker side of Hollywood, the side left out in mainstream media. Like the origin of his stage name, inspired by little

plastic Jesus figures carried around by believers to constantly remind them of their strong faith, Plasticjesus through his art reminds people of their values and the faults in them; or, at least, in the application of them. Bumblebee’s studio is magnificently illuminated, even on the rainy day of the interview. Appropriately so, not just for the practicality, but also for the theme of his art pieces all around the room: playful, innocent, care-free children. It was in his early 20s when he felt he wanted to do his art, restricted in his sketchbook until then, “for everyone to see”; he had energy he needed to release…. “And it just grew from there”. He may have started off as an angry teenager, mad about what was going on around him, however, his purpose developed to bringing attention to a positive outlook on life: “Somehow growing up you forget about how good you had it, so if I can bring that back, that memory is a spark that lights up a whole fire, it brings you back like a time machine. That initial message I wanted to convey grew and it all came

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together to this body of work and ideas I had. And this is how it grew to what it is now: playful, positive, innocent, kids being kids—big kids.” Originality is what makes art great, and having this positive message was what made Bumblebee feel most like being himself.

This aim is illustrated appropriately in the story that follows next: there were these walls in south central LA, in a neighborhood full of gangs, train tracks, dirt. “These people living there didn’t want something ‘cute’, they didn’t want something ‘playful’. They wanted something hard, something cool.” It was a challenge—it was not the regular boy near the beach. Respecting all the elements of the spe-

What about other cities, other countries? Are Bumblebee’s kids only reserved for LA? Although he himself does not travel, he gives birth to his kids here, in LA, and sends them out before they’re eighteen. It all comes down to this: “If you can stand back and figure out where exactly you fit in, I think the city kind of comes to you.” The meaning is actually the sum of the art, the audience, the urban setting and the interaction of the three. No matter where, no matter the surroundings or the absence of

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Location, however, will also guide him in choosing the subject of the piece—a kid playing with a paper plane on a wall close to the airport, a boy with binoculars looking towards the ocean nearby, it all results from interacting with the environment, the key that makes “everything fall into place”. The aim, after all, is to speak to the people seeing his art.

cific part of the city, now stands there a boy playing with a giant train, as the train fades into a graffiti. “They love it because you take into consideration their life, what they represent and you make it big, almost like a trophy.” The meaning of such art changes in a gallery; there, the artist does not have the guidance of the surroundings, the neighborhood, the background of the people. According to Bumblebee, it is a challenge of the imagination, as now there is nothing else but the artist and a blank canvas: “It is just a different way of thinking about it.”


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THERESIA DAFALIAS

PHOTOS

@ of f i ci al_ mo rle y @ p l asti cje sus @ b u m ble be e lo v e sy ou @ wrdsmth

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them, the aim stays the same: try to make the image make sense. He chuckles as he adds “if you try too hard however, everything will kind of fall apart.”

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edly. The interaction of the art with the environment is thus essential, and so is the choice of the location. As he describes it, it is a “two-way inspiration”: sometimes he gets inspired by a specific location and comes up with something particular for it, sometimes he combs the streets to find just the right place for a specific phrase, all for the purpose to make everything come together in the right way. The phrase “I really, really, really like you just the way you are” has so much more depth when placed next to a plastic surgery logo. These connections, paired with the changes the weather and time add to the art, is what makes street art so beautiful. In street art, Wrdsmth says that “the canvas is larger than what I do, with street art the canvas of your art is massive and always expanding.” The phrase “street art” has two parts to it. The second one is self-evident when you come across a street art piece and something inside you stirs—it is indeed art. The weight put on the first part is what is questioned. The artists themselves stress the importance of the interaction of location and art, either for the purpose of attracting larger crowds, or because it adds depth and meaning, or simply because it aesthetically invigorates the piece. The “street” in “street art” is essential because, no matter how ridiculously obvious this may sound, it makes street art what it is.

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Wrdsmth is a street writer based in LA. Like other writers use illustrations, he uses the city itself. As he describes it: “I write in another medium.” The general aim of his pieces is to extract a smile from the random person who will come across his art, to make his day, as phrases filled with positivity and inspiration pop up in the most crowded places in LA, especially Hollywood, since it is both the artist’s place of residence and the most conceptually compatible area with the themes of his work. Deriving from personal experience, when he gave up a comfortable job in advertising to follow his calling of being a writer, he insists that the key to happiness is to go off your gut to find your calling, the calling that will rise above anything else. He does write for the people “doing time in Hollywood”­—Hollywood being so strongly connected with the concept of ‘chasing dreams’ - but not only them. The inspiration he initially wanted to give to people in LA could be applied universally, from a dentist wanting to be an actor in South Carolina to a stockholder wanting to write a book in Chicago. “The message just widened and it was talking less about Hollywood, more about chasing your dreams in general.” Thus, the characteristically represen-

tative typewriter appeared in London, in Paris, and every city it arrived to, there was something different to give. As he sees it, it is an introspective way of interacting with people, it is art that does not provoke them, does not judge them, but on the contrary, it validates their attempts to make it, it makes the motivation already existing in them stronger. “There is so much chaos going on. I have viewpoints on the problems, but it is not in my art because I want what I do to be almost an escape from all that,” he says. He believes art to be anything that “evokes a reaction, a feeling” and he describes this positivity in his art as one more way to do this. The reaction of the people, the popularity of his art evident in social media, the messages he receives are all validations of the success of his aim. The knowledge that his art makes a difference in people’s days, that it could even be the reason of romances being born (the romantic aspect is very prevalent in his art) is enough to “add fuel to the creative fire”, as he puts it. “I’m getting people laid, I know this for a fact, and I love that. I’m a romantic guy,” he says laughing. It is clear from this background that there is a strong altruistic element in his art. The phrase that in his opinion encapsulates “wrdsmthing” is already a “wrdsmthing phrase”: “Aspire to inspire others and the universe will take note.” A big part of the meaning lies in the fact that the art is widely and freely accessible, it is viewed by people walking by almost unexpect-


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LITTLE ETHIOPIA PHOTOS & WORDS

Palm o Farber

Although a small part of LA’s busy Midcity, Little Ethiopia has taken over South Fairfax Avenue giving Los Angeles a pleasant taste of this special African country. The community only takes up one block of Fairfax, but is filled with exciting, traditional Ethiopian cuisine and shops. Little Ethiopia is hard to miss, considering the fact that it’s located on one of LA’s most popular streets. Walking through Little Ethiopia is nothing short of a treat and certainly a simple way to escape a normal day in Los Angeles. Colorful signs, faded neon lights, and detailed patterns of Ethiopian art are displayed on the store fronts. The community attracts locals and tourists alike, looking for a flavorful meal, an excuse to eat with their hands, and shop for unique gifts. You will also be sure to come across Ethiopian families shopping for traditional foods and spices, old men chatting for hours over coffee, and cultural gatherings at the Little Ethiopia Cultural Center.

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CIT Y, CULTURE, CUISINE

Buna Ethiopian Café and Market 103 4 S FA I R FA X AV E , L O S A N G E L E S (3 2 3) 9 6 4-9 73 1 bun ae th io pian mar ke t.com

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My first stop was Buna, a tiny restaurant/ market, nestled between the larger Ethiopian businesses on Fairfax. Although it may not sound very “traditional” as it advertises, “Espresso Bar, Juice, Vegan, Organic, Natural Foods,” I was happily reassured the moment I walked in. The walls were covered in traditional Ethiopian art, old newspaper articles on Ethiopian history, and most importantly, there was almost only Ethiopian guests enjoying large platters of food, proving that it must be legit. I sat down with Eyob Tabesse, the owner of Buna and an extremely warm-hearted man, excited to tell me about his community and the unique flavors of my large platter of fried fish and colorful vegetables. As he spoke, he continued to pour me a hot black tea called, Addis, commonly drank amongst the Ethiopian community. Eyob was born in Ethiopia and moved to Fresno when he was thirteen. After realizing how much of a large Ethiopian community was

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forming in Los Angeles, he moved here in 1996 and in 2010, he was able to create a business of his own. Buna is small, cozy, and filled with items you’d only be able to find in Little Ethiopia. What’s sold in the market is imported from Ethiopia. A playlist of traditional Ethiopian music plays faintly in the background, and the causal environment encourages you to leisurely enjoy your food and dig through the market’s small aisle of Ethiopian specialties. “Ethiopia is a very old country,” Eyob explains, “our food is influenced by our history in trade with India, China, and many other countries.” If you’ve tried Ethiopian food, I’m sure you’ve noticed the kick in spices and the major use of hands rather than utensils. You use the spongy Injera bread as a way to scoop your food, just as you would with an Indian Naan or Chapati bread. Eyob’s restaurant and market gives you homely feel and serves as a perfect introduction to Ethiopian cuisine.

W H AT I AT E F R I E D F I S H I N G A R L I C S A LT M I S E R W O T split lentil cooked with onion, garlic, and ginger in house special sauces and hot pepper K I K A L E T C H A yellow split peas cooked with fresh garlic, onion, and turmeric sauce C O L L A R D G R E E N S greens, onions, garlic, and green pepper C A B B A G E green cabbage, carrot, potato, and onion seasoned with fresh garlic and ginger S H I R O W O T seasoned chickpea flour blend cooked into thick sauce B A K L AVA for dessert! (vegan!)

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Safari Ethiopian Store Filled with beautiful textiles and embroidered linens, Safari provides a peek into the world of traditional Ethiopian dress. From long billowing dresses, to thick metallic embroidered coats, this small boutique caters to a true Ethiopian. Walk in and try something on and leave with an outfit that you just wouldn’t be able to find any place else.

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Merkato Ethiopian Restaurant and Market 103 6 S FA I R FA X AV E , L O S A N G E L E S (3 2 3 ) 9 3 5 -17 75

Merkato Ethiopian Restaurant and Market has been in LA for twenty-five years. The moment you walk in you feel like you’ve stepped into another world. From floor to ceiling the restaurant is filled with Ethiopian tchotchkes, paintings, textiles, and the faces of past Ethiopian kings gazing over you. The restaurant is well known for their traditional coffee ceremonies and the rich smell of roasted green beans fill the restaurant. I brought along my parents for this trip and we enjoyed a huge feast of sambusas (similar to an Indian Samosa), spicy buttered beef, lentils, greens, and of course many layers of Injera. The food was indeed delicious and absurdly filling, but what interested me the most about this restaurant was its unique display of coffee and its intense aroma. Meaza, a waitress at Merkato, told me about the importance of coffee in Ethiopian culture. She explained that in the past, women traditionally

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stayed at home with their children and attended household duties. During their breaks, they would all gather around over a hot pot of freshly roasted beans and as the day went on, each pot would lose its strength. The coffee was strong and delicious, and definitely far from any typical coffee I would make at home. Next door to the restaurant is Merkato’s Ethiopian market. I don’t know how many markets you’ve been to complete with a full bar, but this one is certainly well equipped. It was stocked with many similar items to the one in Buna, but a had a far larger collection. Boxes of incense, Ethiopian flags and tourist gifts, spices, CD’s, and specially imported juices lined the walls and glass cases around the store. Going to Merkato is quite an experience. From the full on traditional decoration, to the large supply of Ethiopian goods, I’d say this may be as Ethiopian as you can get in Los Angeles.


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W H Y D I D I E AT S O MUCH INJERA?

W H AT I AT E AWA Z E T I B B S cubes of selected beef with onions, tomatoes, hot red peppers, and spiced butter YAT K LT A L I C H A steamed cabbage seasoned with assorted spices Y E K E K E A L I C H A peas in mild sauce seasoned with spices T I M A T I M F I T-F I T injera tossed with specially blended fresh tomatoes, olive oil, jalapeĂąos, herbs, and spices

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As Los Angeles continues to grow and newcomers assimilate to the LA lifestyle, experiencing a small community like Little Ethiopia is not only exciting, but heart warming to be a part of. 9,137 miles from Ethiopia, the Ethiopian people of Los Angeles have managed to create a lovely version of home and have kindly welcomed the rest of the city to join them.

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Injera is made from Teff, a very tiny grain grown in the highlands of Ethiopia. The bread is fermented for a short amount of time, giving it the fluffy, bubbly texture and semi-sour taste. Injera is not only bread, but also used to eat your food, replacing a fork or spoon. Traditionally Ethiopian food is only eaten with hands, so Injera works wonderfully as a utensil and adds an extra flavor to your meal.


MAEVE MCLIAM

A POET PHOTOS

Dani e l Alcazar

FOR THE

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MILLENNIAL

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She’s shepherded poetry outside the confines of the coffee shop and into Corporate America. What’s next for the poet Forbes magazine named, “the Maya Angelou of the Millennial Generation”? In her upcoming book Lov(h)er., commissioned poet and spoken word artist Azure Antoinette presents an exploration of self that is uninhibited, evocative, and uncompromisingly human.

she garnered attention. Maria Shriver hosted the event, with Oprah Winfrey and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor among those in attendance. After the performance, she was placed into the American Program Bureau, one of America’s premier national lecture agencies. The following year, she was featured in the April issue of Winfrey’s O magazine as a featured poet for National Poetry Month.

For Azure Antoinette, named “the Maya Angelou of the Millennial generation” by Forbes magazine, it started with a “Good morning.”

“They asked me all these questions I had zero answers to,” she says of the sudden interest in her following her performance at The Minerva Awards. “My finances were pretty much nonexistent. I was living, just trying to figure it out, not really sure what the hell was going on at any given time.”

Maya Angelou performed “On the Pulse of Morning,” twenty-three years ago at Bill Clinton’s Presidential Inauguration in 1993. Azure Antoinette, only ten years old at the time, absorbed every word. The performance has remained in her heartbeat ever since. “I learned from watching that performance that it isn’t what you have written down; it’s the way that you deliver it,” she says, meeting my eyes with a knowing glance. “I am not only a poet, I am a voice. I am a speaker.” It wasn’t until she was asked to perform at The Minerva Awards at The Women’s Conference in 2010 that

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A quick glance at Azure’s recent partnerships affirms that she has, in fact, figured it out. In assuming her role as a poet and voice, Azure has become the nation’s most successful commissioned poet. As a commissioned poet, brands and companies within Corporate America commission Azure to compose poetry for campaigns and movements, as well as speak at company-sponsored events. Over the course of her career, she’s worked with Nike, Beats by Dre, Verizon, Gap, Johnson and Johnson, and TD Ameritrade to name just a few. When composing for these companies, Azure admits she doesn’t have a process. “They give me all the stuff I’ll never need—the mission statement,” she says. “I want to know what you are doing here. I think a lot about what they said. What they said, how it felt listening to them—how long it took me to get to a heartbeat. It matters so little what they paid for to manufacture a feeling.”

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“It wasn’t about onomatopoeia; it wasn’t about assonance, or alliteration,” she says, considering each word as it travels off her tongue. “It was about a very basic salutation that they teach you when you’re about this high,” she says, placing her hand upon an invisible head of hair. ‘“Good morning’ is as simple as it gets.”


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It’s a warm winter morning. Azure leans back in her chair, indifferent to the devices that are lying in repose on our table. Among them lay her cell phone and laptop, both drained of life from her recent trip to Oakland, California. As a nationally touring speaker and spoken word artist, Azure travels across the nation to speak at conferences ranging from high-profile corporate events to intimate high school-sponsored events. Since her initial performance at the Minerva Awards, Azure has spoken at over seventy-five high schools in Southern California, spreading her message of self-acceptance, female empowerment, and self-worth independent of social media. “I think that oral communication is dying,” she says and lingers in a pregnant pause. “And it’s probably the only thing left that can save us. People don’t talk to each other. They really don’t. We’re so overstimulated. We are a slave to our devices.” As social media and technology further encroach upon our daily lives, Azure remains adamant. Resistance to the oppressive force of technology and its damaging effects on human interaction often drives the poetry she creates. “Nothing will replace the texture of being a human being,” she says, considering the words. “Nothing will replace the heft of us.” She notes that technology was created to be an accessory to our humanity, and as a result, it can never replace our inherent humanity. In her acclaimed poem, “Algorithm,” she grapples with digitalization of business cards and newspapers while also mourning the increasing rarity of the handshake. For Azure, poetry is a remedy against the

drawbacks of technology because it constantly reminds us of how human we are. She maintains that poetry, above all else, is a feeling. “Poetry doesn’t ask for or solicit a specific response,” she says. “You may laugh, you may cry; you may completely ingest it and not react at all. It may be something that you have to hold inside of your body for ten years before it really sinks for you. But it’s yours. It leaves the page, or the stage. It’s there for the person that receives it.” At Azure’s request, I walk with her to the Charles E. Young Research Library in an effort to, as she puts it, “find some books.” I take her to the nearly-abandoned third floor. Excitement enters her eyes as we walk past the book stacks. Memories of my latenight study sessions fade away as I watch Azure smile and run her fingers over some dusty spines in the stacks. We find a table near the front-facing windows, locate some old wooden desk chairs, and settle there. Sitting here, the smell of books and someone’s abandoned Cheetos wafting overhead, I ask “the Maya Angelou of the Millennial Generation,” of the famed poet that lends her name in her given title. “It’s an honor,” she says of the title. “I never had the opportunity to meet [Angelou]. I feel like I take her with me every place I go. I want to live up to that.” And live up to it she has. In addition to being named “the Maya Angelou of the Millennial Generation,” she was also included in Forbes magazine’s compilation of the “100 Most Powerful Women in the World” in 2012 for her dedication to promoting youth and female empowerment through the spoken word. As a poet, Azure is faced with a daily

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has in common is that they’re fallible. No matter how much money or status anyone has, they make mistakes every single day.”

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The conversation turns a new page and develops into a discussion of current events affecting the racial instability of the US. Once prompted to speak about her experience as an African-American poet, she pauses and says, “I believe first and foremost that the only thing I can unequivocally talk about is my experience as human being. I feel very inept to represent a group of people unless it’s just people.” She affirms that while she will contribute to the conversation, she attempts to distance herself from segregation as much as possible.

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commitment to authentically represent the truth. Published last year to mark the conclusion of National Poetry Month, Azure’s “The Business of Being Human” evokes the struggle millennials face in transitioning to adulthood. “We miss how good things were when we were all kids,” she says. “At whatever point your life got real—whether you were three or seven or sixteen, there was a day that we can all probably put a finger on that we lost our light. And I think you spend a good amount of time as an adult trying to keep it on, to get it back. ‘The Business of Being Human’ is my way of affirming that the one thing that every single human being

For millennials faced with the choice of committing to their current career paths or the pursuit of their true callings, visions of failure can be daunting. When faced with this decision, Azure departed from her career in Human Resources to pursue her dream of being a poet. “Failure doesn’t scare me,” she says, meeting my gaze with confidence. “Mistakes are sometimes avoidable but I believe very necessary. They’re our greatest teachers. I think that failure means that you’re very, very, very close to success.”


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“The idea that we have to sequester ourselves to feel comfortable is not a ‘black problem’ or a ‘female problem’; it’s a human problem,” she says, holding my gaze and laying her hand on the table. “I have plenty of friends from all kinds of cultures and ethnicities. I never want them to feel like they can’t talk to me about something that they in their heart know is wrong because of the colors of our skin or the fact that I have one genitalia versus theirs…so if you want me to come out and talk about passion, I can do that. If you want me to come out and talk about love, I can do that. But I cannot speak about being black in America. That is so much larger than I will ever be.” She pauses and sums it up. “So I’m trying to get out of the habit of trying to be what people need me to be,” she says. “I just want to try and be who I am. I am not an ethnicity activist. I am a human activist. Placing me in a box to suit your needs for a specific month or a campaign does not serve me.” The close of 2015 brought Azure into unexpected emotional terrain, causing her to remain home for the holidays. She had been working on her upcoming book, a memoir entitled 33. The personal struggles she was going through inspired another book entirely: Lov(h)er. It propelled her into a three-day-long writing pilgrimage, beginning Christmas Eve and ending the twenty-seventh. “I had gotten so good at telling everyone else’s story that I never talk about my own,” she says, pulling a binder out of her leather bag. “When you’re the life of the party, no one knows a damn thing about you.”

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She looks at me and tells me she’d like to read me some of it. “The book is called Lov(h)er.,” she says, her fingers tracing the edge of the first page as she turns it. “It felt like it was going to be some sort of coming out story. But it’s not. It’s turned into something else entirely.” She begins reading and her voice seamlessly enters the prose of Lov(h) er., her inflections picking up the poetic nuances of each word as it leaves the page. As I listen, I fall into its language with ease, recognizing Azure’s raw, uncompromising voice within each word. “As a writer, it scared me to death,” she says of having to adapt to the structural confines of writing in prose. “In narrative, you can’t do all the things you can in poetry. It scared me because I didn’t want to just be a poet. I wanted to know that you could give me anything and I could write it.” She adjusts the white pages and moves them over the metal binder ring. She taps the sides and aligns the pages into a clean stack. “I have never been in such a place of discovery for myself as a writer than I’m in right now.” She smiles and folds the binder’s cover over the soon-to-be published manuscript. “I think this is the first time that I’ve ever known I was going be known for something,” she says, returning my gaze. “This is it.” She smiles and taps the binder with her fingers. “And it happened while I was writing.”


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ELLIS JUDSON

T HE LUXURY OF EATING Elli s Ju ds on P H O T O S Be tsy St razzant e WORDS

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While Chef Marder certainly caters to the higher echelon of Los Angeles, it is refreshing to hear him recall the illustriousness of a night out. As a society, we eat out more now than ever before, which means that a restaurant meal is no longer a special event to many, but rather a weekly or even daily occurrence. When I pressed the restaurateur about his culi-

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nary background, he reminisced about his childhood intrigue in his family’s occasional nights out to nice restaurants. Several decades later, he has recreated that ‘special feeling’ for his customers, conveying a message of superior hospitality and good food. “It’s important that my customers feel that they are being taken care of hospitably and that they get what I want to give them… It’s an expression of what I like to do,” he explained, “It’s a sort of connection.” As I set out to write about the culinary culture in Los Angeles, I was quickly bestowed with a multitude of… everything. This city is sprawling with cuisines from every corner of the world and more restaurants than one can experience in a lifetime. Luxury restaurants, food trucks, and ethnic eateries are equitably found in top ten lists and reputable food reviews, revealing a pastiche of possibilities that together make Los Angeles a culinary capital worthy of enthusiasm. However, as I delved into a certain LA Times food reviewer’s “city of gold,” I became increasingly aware that LA Eater and Thrillist enumerations provide only a flimsy glimpse at what food means to the people of Los Angeles. Within the jagged sprawl of our metropolis, there lies deep, profound cleavages in how individuals eat. While Capo and many of the restaurants in Los Angeles receive international acclaim and attract

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A certain rustic quality, perhaps originating from the wood-burning fireplace in the corner, warms and welcomes you to an evening of refinement. Copious amounts of international art dominate the décor of the candle-lit restaurant. An entire wall showcases what is only a meager portion of the extensive, award-winning wine selection, which boasts more than 2,500 luxury wines and an inventory of over 20,000 bottles. Fine cutlery from France and elegant china from Italy are meticulously arranged on the white tablecloths. The menu, curated and masterfully prepared by Chef Bruce Marder, includes modern Italian style cuisine represented through homemade pastas, fresh seafood, and fireplace-grilled meats. A reservation at Capo seems to be a coveted destination for both tourists with deep pockets and the elite of Los Angeles who recognize the beauty in the classical. Talking to Chef Marder about the mission behind his culinary empire— he manages five restaurants on the Westside—he relates that, “It’s nice when you are taken care of.”


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gourmands who don’t blink at the sight of triple-digit check, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, Feeding America, recently declared that Los Angeles is home to the nation’s largest food-insecure population, rounding out around 1.5 million individuals with limited or uncertain access to adequate food. This problem, which permeates the lives of an estimated 14.7% of our neighbors and 1 in 4 children living in Los Angeles, is certainly not new. However, it is disturbingly ignored by much of the culinary community as well as the general public. While this city’s overwhelming level of homelessness receives a great amount of attention (as it should), food insecurity is often misinterpreted as the same issue. This distinction is both imperative and significant in order to understand the severity of the concern. The USDA defines food insecurity as a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food. Hunger, a closely related idea, is an individual-level physiological condition that may result from food inse-

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curity. Neither of these definitions, nor the reality of these conditions in Los Angeles, are interchangeable with homelessness, which refers to a lack of housing. In fact, Chief Development Officer Genevieve Riutort at Westside Food Bank, one of the largest resources for food insecure individuals in Los Angeles, clarified that the idea that food banks mainly cater to homeless individuals is a steadfast misconception. Westside, which works as a warehouse operation, distributes food to about 70 member agencies. While the demographics of the agencies’ clients vary, over 90% of the individuals served have permanent housing. Only about 10% of the food is distributed to homeless individuals, and then it is usually allocated in conjunction with a shelter or other type of organization that serves homeless populations. In other words, the amount of homeless people showing up to food banks in Los Angeles is a very small population. Riutort, who has worked at Westside for over 12 years and who has faced food insecurity in her own life, argues that the Great


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the jagged sprawl of “ Within our metropolis, there lies deep, profound cleavages in how individuals eat.

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Recession unmistakably changed the face of hunger. Since 2008, Westside, which serves agencies throughout West Los Angeles, saw an 85% increase in demand and began serving countless middle class and upper middle class families who had never sought food assistance before. Riutort has also noted a historic shift in the role of food banks over the last few years, “A food bank really ought to be supplying emergency food, but more and more we are steady suppliers of food. Our clients are really relying on us on a regular basis and we are a significant part of how they get by.” And while she has seen a leveling off in the growth of demand in the last year and a half, the food bank is still seeing the highest level of need in the history of the organization, which opened in 1981. Like Chef Marder, it seems that Westside also acknowledges the comfort of being “taken care of ” as the organization has worked arduously to keep up with demand over the last challenging decade. However, there is a strong division between the food bank’s provisions of necessity and the ancillary extravagance that a dinner at Capo delivers.

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ELLIS JUDSON

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Throughout the last century, many writers and creatives have found inspiration in the unique assemblage of people that we call Los Angeles. Songs, movies, and great novels have all sought to capture the essence that makes this city unlike any other place in the world. Absent of such romanticism, I still cannot argue that Los Angeles is anything but an exceptional, unprecedented place. However, my reason for intrigue differs. The sui generis of Los Angeles is that it is home to both the third largest concentration of super-wealthy people (individuals who are worth more than $30 million) and the single largest population of food-insecure individuals in America. This abstruse chasm between rich and poor is profound and complex, intertwined in the history of Los Angeles, the way this city has grown, and how we live our daily lives. Dr. Kathy O’Byrne, Director of the UCLA Center for Community Learning, approaches the root of such inequalities in her courses on food justice and civic engagement. She recounts that high-end industries such as the entertainment industry, and later the aerospace and technology industries, have attracted the world’s wealthy and talented to Los Angeles since the 1920s. It was assumed that a wide workforce could be supported by the needs of these high-earners and consequently people migrated from all over. But with a 18.7% poverty rate and an erratic

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The monumental disparities in the Los Angeles food scene do not end with the level of access, but are also perpetrated in the type of food that is available to families and individuals. As a non-native, I am hyper aware of the fervid passion and intensity with which Californians fiercely pursue their own health. “Vegetarian/Vegan” is now an established type of cuisine with a whole crop of restaurants that cater to the rich and thin. By Los Angeles standards, it is completely acceptable to pay upwards of $10 or $15 for a salad fraught with nutrient-packed superfoods like kale and avocado, and sprinkled with unpronounceable, trendy ingredients like acai and quinoa. Meanwhile, food deserts, defined by the absence of a major grocery store within one mile, blanket several parts of lower-income Los Angeles. Without a car, most people who live in these areas resort to buying food at what is nearby – liquor stores, gas stations, corner stores, and fast food joints. If the corner store does happen to have a small selection of fruit amongst the numerous aisles of processed food - perhaps a few overripe bananas - one can expect to pay upwards of $1/banana, which is invariably more expensive than the bag of chips that will leave one feeling more fully satiated. The ideals of access and equity to healthy food are further undermined when one remembers that bananas are no more than $0.69/pound at Trader Joe’s in Westwood—a neighborhood sandwiched between the affluent areas of Beverly Hills, Bel Air, and Brentwood.


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unemployment rate that reached over 7.2% as early as last summer, it seems that misconception led our growth. In addition, Westside’s Riutort credits the astronomically high cost of living and housing as a paramount reason for such widespread struggle. Just last month, the Economist Intelligence Unit named Los Angeles the 8th most expensive city in the world. It is fact that cities across the country struggle with similar issues of inequality. However, there is no other metropolis that experiences such a gaping imbalance as Los Angeles. Why? Riutort astutely asserts that the layout of Los Angeles and the way it impacts the manner in which we conduct our lives has rendered us irrefutably obtuse. Los Angeles, famous for its seemingly haphazard sprawl, effectively ensures that one does not see struggle if one does not want to. Poverty, food insecurity, and even certain forms of homelessness are well hidden in the distance and segregation that define the layout of Los Angeles. In comparison, one can turn the corner of New York City’s Park Avenue and immediately transition from affluent, wealthy households to a neighborhood character-

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ized by government subsidized projects. Without proximal reminders like this, it is easy for certain Angelenos to never see the people who are struggling. While the typical Capo customer and the greater public of Los Angeles are largely oblivious to this exhaustive panorama of the city’s food scene, there are a handful of passionate revolutionaries and numerous organizations who are inspiring hope and affecting real change. Perhaps one of the most exciting events in the Los Angeles culinary scene right now is LocoL, a company created by well-known chefs Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson. In an ambitious attempt to tackle the fast food industry, the two have opened a fast food restaurant in a historically underserved food desert in the neighborhood of Watts in Los Angeles. The chef activists’ concept was built on their shared belief that “wholesomeness, deliciousness and affordability don’t have to be mutually exclusive concepts in fast food.” “Access to nutritious food is a fundamental human right, one that a lot of Americans don’t enjoy,” Patterson articulated when the two officially announced the project in 2014.


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One of their hopes is to harness the power and celebrity of chefs in order to change the problems with institutional food in the United States. The company prides itself on being chef-driven, where “the chefs think about what to feed you and how to take care of you.” This ideology is reminiscent of Chef Marder’s mission of hospitality and connection at the high-end Capo, but at LocoL these luxuries accompany food that never amounts to more than $6. This merger of affordability and care for the customer is otherwise unheard of in Los Angeles or anywhere else in the United States. Since opening in January, the Watts location has received praise from every corner of the culinary community. Reviewers and locals alike love the $4 “burgs” and $2 “foldies” (tacos). Many are insisting “the revolution” has begun, which could very likely be true with the company expanding to two additional locations in San Francisco by the end of the year.

to nutritious food “ Access is a fundamental human right, one that a lot of Americans don’t enjoy.

In addition to game changing chefs like Choi and Patterson, several organizations seek to bridge the gap between food insecurity and the astounding level of wealth in Los Angeles. Filling a monumental role, the Westside Food Bank currently distributes 4.5 million pounds of health-conscious food each year, efficiently THE PAPER MIXTAPE


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meeting the increase in demand for food assistance among all demographics. With less than 8% of their funding coming from the government, private fundraising and grant proposals are labored over by a small but mighty staff and a dedicated corps of volunteers. A recent fundraiser with République’s Chef Walter Manzke brought together the worlds of high culinary culture and food insecurity when impassioned Westside donors were treated to a night of refined, luxurious wining and dining at the award-winning Los Angeles restaurant. Food recovery, which is a part of Westside’s operations has also become a popular fixture at Los Angeles farmers’ markets through a program called Food Forward. This volunteer-powered organization convenes at farmers’ markets, as well as private properties, public spaces, and wholesale markets to recover excess fruits and vegetables to then donate to local direct-service agencies who feed the communities’ most vulnerable. Their efforts to connect abundance with people in need provide food to over 100,000 clients in Southern California each month. These organizations and dozens of others all seek to alleviate the burden of food insecurity, to act as a safety net of sorts. With the continuous rise in prices of common commodities like eggs, and residual effects of the recession seen in less benefits and lower salaries, a decrease in demand for food assistance seems unlikely. New

demographic groups are beginning to be flagged as “vulnerable,” especially university students, seniors, and veterans. In this changing landscape of food insecurity, many organizations heavily rely on volunteers and donations, both of which can be fleeting and inconsistent. To return to the mission of Chef Marder – the comfort of being taken care of—and to critically think about the significance of food in Los Angeles, the meaning of the word “luxury” strikes me as distinguishing. It seems that the vernacular of this word would vary remarkably between the two sides of the chasm. For the super-wealthy, affluent, or even those who are simply “comfortable,” a special meal eaten at a restaurant may or may not qualify as a luxury of life. While a $15 salad draws no attention, a dinner replete with a $30 cheese plate, a $70 steak, and a $300 bottle of wine might call for a brief recognition of one’s pampering. If not that, then perhaps the $15,000 price tag to rent out an acclaimed restaurant for the evening should awaken feelings of opulence and luxury. The antithetical definition, which is unfortunately more widespread in Los Angeles, is that the ability to provide a healthy meal of adequate substance and portion for your family every night of the week is a coveted luxury... To eat is a desired state of great comfort and extravagant living. This reality of Los Angeles is hard to stomach.

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V O L U N T E E R + D O N AT E FEEDING AMERICA

feedingamerica.org WESTSIDE FOOD BANK

westsidefoodbankca.org F O O D F O R WA R D

foodforward.org LOCOL INC.

welocol.com SWIPE OUT HUNGER, UCL A

swipehunger.org/ucla L.A. KITCHEN

lakitchen.org FA R M L A

farmla.org SEEDS OF HOPE

seedsofhope.org

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M A K E ‘E M L AUGH C H A L L E N GING T H E ESTA B LISH ED S T R U C T U R E OF CO M EDY WIT H IM PR OV

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Tucked in amongst the slew of Westwood drunk food havens on Gayley Avenue rests The Improv Space. The storefront, with its darkened windows and signature cartoon rocket ship, stands out in contrast to the brightly lit and familiar In ‘N Out and Bella Pita. The Improv Space is a theater created for LA-based comedians and students to practice their improvisation skills in front of a live audience. While the theater itself is relatively new (founded only in 2009), the close-knit improv community existed in Westwood over a decade prior to the current establishment. Up until eight years ago, Ashley Opstad and her friends would perform improv comedy shows on the top floor of the Westwood Brewing Company (known to older generations of UCLA students as the short-lived Brew Co.), which overlooked drunk college students singing karaoke. When a small video store on Gayley shut down, Opstad and her fellow comedians seized the opportunity to open their own comedy theater in the new vacancy. Thus, the Improv Space was born. The members were initially made up of Opstad’s improv friends, and the group of comedians intended on making the Improv Space an environment that would challenge the established structure of comedy, while offering a communal space for local performers and artists to come and practice in a welcoming and friendly atmosphere.

Why would you want to perform on stage, willing to stare into the faces of your audience and wing everything as you go along, offering yourself up for the crowd to judge? What if nobody laughs? What if everyone absolutely hates you? The possibility of failure in improv is always present, and the fact that there isn’t a scapegoat to hide behind, makes it seem a lot more personal to me. But, according to Opstad, this is crucial to becoming a good performer. “If you don’t face failure as an improviser,

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I don’t understand why people are attracted to improv comedy. In traditional theater or film, actors audition using memorized lines and enjoy the opportunity to carefully analyze their character. There are costumes, props, set changes, new scenes, the occasional script rewrite—elements that buffer and help the Hollywood actor in their character portrayal—but they don’t exist within the improv world. The vulnerability of the performance intimidates me because there isn’t anything or anyone else to blame for bombing on stage other than yourself—improv performers are the actors, writers, directors, and producers of their own shows. They commit to taking on all roles simultaneously. You don’t have the option of blaming poorly written lines or a bad director, because improv comedy thrives on ad-libbing witty quips.


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you can’t grow or become better,” says Opstad. “You need to take risks.” It’s a community that truly encourages risk. With conventional theater and film acting, the threat of failure only appears as a possibility until an actor or actress is lucky enough to catch a big break. But for improv, even if you’ve been performing in groups on stage for years, the bomb is one trip-wire away from exploding. “You learn from those failures, that’s how you grow as an improviser,” says Darren Lanning, who oversees and teaches The Improv Space’s classes. “And it’s an amazing feeling when you have a set where everything went well… You just have to be willing to be bad at first.”

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Willing to be bad? “If you fail over and over, it reinforces that the stakes aren’t that high.” This is where improvisational comedy branches off from traditional theater and acting. For Hollywood actors, their career is on the line if they fail. It’s incredibly competitive and it’s detrimental if you welcome failure as improvisers suggest. But for improv, Opstad and her friends were chosen specifically to run the Improv Space back in 2009 because their friendship and talent created a welcoming atmosphere. You would think that creating spur-of-the-moment dialogue to engage an audience would only add extra pressure for the performers—but the friendliness of the improv comedy scene instead encourages a niche community of performers who genuinely want to see their friends and fellow actors succeed. “This is really a place where you’re allowed to fail,” says Managing Director Samir Forghani. “But you’re not looking for other people to fail––you’re excited to see each other do well.” Forghani notes that other methods of acting are more prone to creating a competitive nature to take root, making success seem like it’s the only important thing—but this mindset won’t work within the improv realm. Instead, the environment thrives on creating a supportive community of friends and comedy lovers. Once performers get comfortable enough to improvise on stage, they begin to not take themselves or the form too seriously. It’s a hybrid of very silly and incredibly grounded acting. It tends to be overlooked by the public as a serious way into the entertainment business because anyone can get up on stage and make shit up. But true talent requires the ability to work under pressure to create a vibrant and sensical storyline on the spot.

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“We always try to incorporate new people,” says Forghani. “And not only is that supportive to those people that someone’s watching them and someone’s expecting them to do well every time they come in—they’re noticing and they’re coming back with better material… It’s a unique source of service for the comedy community to constantly have this platform that’s so receptive to new and interesting show ideas.” Improv theater cultivates a skill set within performers that translates to success within the entertainment industry. It’s a unique method of breaking into the business, one that has seen the likes of Tina Fey, Steve Carrell, Seth Rogen, Bill Murray, and more. Even after these performers have garnered success in mainstream acting, they continue to return to their improv roots to relive the fun. It’s an emboldening environment that’s easy to fall back into.

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It’s also a space that teaches lessons through experiences that performers internalize and bring to different sectors of performing. Such an atmosphere is so different from the cutthroat competition of other theater clubs, acting groups, and even stand-up comedy circuits populating LA. It’s a space that embraces failure as a definite option. There are no cuts, dismissals, or rejections. The actors build off of each other and build themselves up from past failures to better understand how to work with the audience and the other members on stage. It may initially look effortless, but the system truly attracts a certain kind of talent and performer that isn’t found in everyone.

after these “ Even performers have garnered success in mainstream acting, they continue to return to their improv roots to relive the fun.

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COREY WHIPPLE

PROVIDING POSITIVITY THE INSPIRING MUSICAL CAREER OF DR. JANICE FOY

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Dr. Foy earned her B.A. and M.A. in Music with Distinction from California State University, Northridge in 1978. She received a Ph.D. in music from UCLA, where she specialized in Ethnomusicology in 1990. It was here at UCLA where Dr. Foy first learned of the struggles inherent in a music career. During this time period, on different occasions, she observed realities in the music industry that were present both within the university and also across the globe. She noticed several trends as several musicians and staff held positions based on demographics opposed to actual talent. This became a peeve for Dr. Foy as she valued the time and effort it takes to build proper technique and skills. In addition to discovering the unfair

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Most people can imagine that at age sixty, they would be retired living life a bit more distant from the youth in society. They can predict themselves satisfied with the impact they have made, and go on to relax the rest of their lives at peace. Most would visualize themselves overlooking a lake, reading, and observing nature as time passes. This would be nice but this is definitely not the life Dr. Janice Foy is living. Dr. Foy, a cellist, pianist and senior citizen continues to work and earn her living as a musician to this day. Her journey is one that had a rough start and still by no means perfect, but carries on in her continuing impact on others through her music.


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university admissions process, she faced discrimination in nations abroad for being an American. People of other nations were shameless in expressing their biased opinions. As a college student, this was discouraging as she was making financial and academic sacrifices to be overseas offering her talent. Struggles continued after receiving her doctorate. Dr. Foy, like most musicians, is her own biggest promoter, and with that comes the the challenge of funding projects. Their income is based on the luck of gaining a large fanbase. Even more so, it can be much more difficult for classical instrumentalists to gain nearly as much popularity as musicians in other genres. There are also challenges working with particular people, including times where Dr. Foy actually denied her compensation because of the disrespect she encountered. Most of these times were due to conductors who spoke in a disrespectful manner and disregarded her input while still expecting her full time and effort. In this situation, Dr. Foy thinks that the best thing to do is to “bow out,” otherwise the stress will not allow for the highest possible artistic performance. Dr. Foy states, “If music is made incorrectly with negative vibes, it will come out that way.” She adds, without the musicians, these conductors will be “conducting themselves in front of a mirror!” At this point in life when thrown consistent disappointments, many people can focus on the negative and let it have a bigger influence on the decisions they

make going forward. It is important to realize that at this point in Dr. Foy’s career she was at a low, where people around her did not appreciate her skills. It took Foy knowing that continuing music is what she needed to do. She soon realized that her music was most impactful in places where people’s voices go unheard and unappreciated—the places where people are forgotten because of their conditions and economic status. She began playing in places like hospitals, shelters, jails, and veteran’s homes allowing her audience to break away from their lives’ troubles for a moment, in the presence of her soothing music. By continuing to perform music, she saw her hand in providing positivity to another person’s life—with that she would be satisfying her destiny. Dr. Foy says that “Without fail, every time I finished playing works in a more sacred vein, a person would run out of a hospital room saying, ‘My mom just passed. The music was so soothing to everyone. Thank you so much.”’ Dr. Foy remarks that after this experience she knew a “higher force” was always present, no matter where she played. She recalls performing a heartfelt performance for the community of Skid Row at the Winegart Rehabilitation Center when she was a part of the American Chamber Symphony under Maestro Nelson Nirenberg. Despite the perceived disparity in the residents of this community, Dr. Foy and other performers felt that they were all one, especially after seeing the reaction of happiness among the people of this area during the performance.

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Her work has led to several honorable awards including Certificate of Commendation in 1997 from L.A. City Hall, by Joel Wachs, for her “Outstanding Contributions to Society in the Field of Music.” She earned this award for bringing multiple ethnic communities from LA together for a concert. Akin to her efforts in Skid Row, Dr. Foy is one that strives to create the inter-community compassion that is largely non-existent. Now, Dr. Foy receives her biggest reward from working with youth. She has started several after­school string programs in addition to having put on many school assembly concerts in the Los Angeles and Glendale Unified School Districts. Dr. Foy delivers a more fun and engaging style

as opposed to a more strict approach in trying to educate children in Classical music. She feels the youth really benefit from introductions to great music and to various musical instruments, when it is done in a fun and engaging way. As previously mentioned above, Dr. Foy also values proper technique, the training of fundamental musical knowledge, and believes this would go on to produce the best quality of music. Dr. Foy believes that with poor quality music these joyful effects on people would not occur. Therefore, for the sake of music going forward, she incorporates all that she has learned to inspire youth to correctly spread joyful music. She is kept at peace with her musical responsibilities and all that comes with this lifestyle because she knows the effects that music has on herself, her fans and on society. Dr. Foy’s journey and motives reflect perseverance, and is inspiring to the youth of today. The youth of today have no excuse to not pursue their goals despite current barriers. Anything valuable is worth fighting for. We may look at a current battle being fought in doubt of a successful finish, as well as compare our situations to others. However it is critical that we realize that everyone is unique, and we take different routes at different times to shape our lives. We must continue to do what we want to do, at our own risks, to bring confidence and happiness to ourselves. We can then go on to spread positivity to others. Dr. Foy does this through music, but we can all find our own niche and spread positivity in whatever we individually aspire to do.

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After acknowledging the positive influence she had, Dr. Foy continued to diligently seek out new and exciting opportunities of collaboration for the sake of bringing music to all, around the globe. She launched her own ensemble, Joyful Spirits. She also currently plays in Symphony 47, a Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra where she serves as their Principal Cellist, External Orchestra Liaison, and Secretary of their Executive Board. Her work in general has given her the privilege to collaborate with some of music’s greatest artists such as Yo Yo Ma, Ray Charles, and Herbie Hancock. Dr. Foy has done studio work and recordings for Seinfeld, Rush Hour 3, Friends, Alias, Ghost, and Born on the Fourth of July. She even was called to coach the famous actor Samuel L. Jackson for his role as a cello playing cop in the movie, No Good Deed.


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HEDI SLIMANE T H R E W A TA N T R U M W O R D S & I L L U S T R AT I O N

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Hedi Slimane threw a tantrum a few months back. Saint Laurent’s creative juggernaut couldn’t catch a break: just a few hours before the brand launched its Fall 2016 campaign—Slimane’s last with the label–with a baroque, star-studded spectacle at the Hollywood Palladium, a wrinkle arose: SWMRS, one of the many bands scheduled to perform during the five-hour-long “after-party,” was refusing to sign a waiver releasing their photo rights and renewing their fealty to the brand. Such insubordination was inconceivable. It was Hedi’s way or no way. This, after all, was no typical runway show. In a press release in which he brazenly claims to have laid the groundwork for “scrapbook style social media,” the French

designer framed the decision to debut the collection in Los Angeles as a “tribute to the strong music scene” of Slimane and Saint Laurent’s adopted city. That same press release alleged that the Palladium was “the oldest and largest venue in Hollywood,” not only a reminder of how desperately Slimane wanted to be an authentic Angeleno, but also a boast—only the largest venue could contain his many acolytes. SWMRS, an Oakland outfit started by Joey Armstrong and brothers Cole and Max Becker, had worked with Slimane before. According to Cole, Slimane first caught wind of the band whilst trawling Burgerama, Burger Records’ two-day festival at Santa Ana’s Observatory, for Orange County’s surfeit of what Becker called “beautiful

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kids who look like punks.” His curiosity was first piqued by the throngs deserting Gang Of Four’s mainstage set; but it was the Becker brothers’ spearmint hair that hooked Hedi. A few weeks later, an enigmatic email from Slimane’s assistant, routed through Burger Records, asked SWMRS to visit his Hollywood compound on May 15. There he sat them down, flicked them up, and offered them a contract. A little over a month later, they composed a seventeen-minute soundtrack for Saint Laurent’s “Surf Sound” show at Paris Fashion Week—then donned the brand’s duds and hit the catwalk while their own “Like Harry Dean Stanton,” blared. Building on that moment wasn’t easy: A non-compete clause from the month-old contract precluded them from working with any other fashion houses for a year. So things went back to normal. The band toured around, tooled around, recorded an album. That album exemplifies the paradox of Slimane’s relationship with SWMRS. On the title track of Drive North, which released February 12, Cole Becker trumpets his hate of Los Angeles’ population of “shiny stars” and faux-punks over a benthic bassline and guitar riffs that sound like they were recorded in a Dogtown pool. The album, Cole later mused on the phone from his aunt’s house in San Luis Obispo, was just as much “an indictment of the

culture… [Slimane] loves so eagerly,” as it was a tribute to the band’s boreal origins. “LA’s great,” Cole explained. “It’s just so damn visible.” But visibility, of course, is the catnip that keeps bands coming. The irony of having to spend the week of Drive North’s release doing press and playing shows across the Southland SWMRS loves to hate isn’t lost on Becker: Laughing at sellout culture doesn’t preclude one from selling out. Slimane’s punk bona fides might have been questionable, but he provided a helluva platform. Then things got messy. When Slimane’s office sent out the waivers in the months before the show, SWMRS ran it past their lawyer. The results sent up red flags: What was supposed to have been just another release waiver would have bound the band to another yearlong non-compete agreement. When Slimane’s assistant emailed them hours before the show, asking where the waivers were, the band responded that they had not signed, and would not. The assistant emailed them back that the designer was “horrified” and never ever wanted to get back together with them. Ever. Their place in the lineup was gone. Why, one wonders, was the waiver of such importance to Hedi Slimane? The answer, as it always does these days, comes down to Kanye. The timing of the show also

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And deliver he did: Justin Bieber, Lenny Kravitz, and Courtney Love joined the sun-worshippers scuttling down from the Hills to see and snap-story Slimane’s last gasp. They came bearing ebony envelopes, the brand’s logo stamped whiter than Hollywood teeth on the back flap, each containing a poster-sized invitation and a silver bracelet made of that same coarse satin that tutus are made of. It was Burgerama for the (rock) stars. SWMRS? They spent the night at a leafy villa at the Sunset Marquis off Hollywood Boulevard. Their moms sent a cake and a few mylar balloons as consolation, but the band had shrugged off the blow long before the gifts arrived. They’d whiled the day away poolside and spent their lunch hour playing it cool ogling Daniel Craig, seated a table over. They had shows to play and press to drum up. Cole Becker scrawled something about fake punks and money on a white t-shirt. Bass man Seb Mueller, wrapped up in a leopard-fur car coat, hustled out into the dusk. Joey Armstrong, wearing a sweatsuit emblazoned with the slogan “I HAVE GIVEN UP,” took a picture of Max covered with crumpled Saint Laurent invites in a tub, posted it to his Instagram, then deleted it at Max’s behest. You never know, after all. Nobody wants to go north for good.

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made it a test of allegiances. Slimane was to unveil Saint Laurent’s latest collection on February 10th; the show would end a mere eleven hours before West dropped his third Yeezy collection with Adidas, as well as his latest album, at New York’s Madison Square Garden. The emphasis the two shows placed on music—Slimane’s on his bevy of bands and his love of the punk look, West’s on his own hip-hop and streetwear bona fides, and the pointed use of two massive, storied venues—as well as the unlikely timing of the two events was no coincidence. Slimane and West have been rivals since Hedi told Kanye he could attend Slimane’s first show with Saint Laurent only if the rapper made it the only show he attended during that fashion week. West refused, and told the BBC’s Zane Lowe that the designer’s condescension was the impetus for “I Am A God,” a song on West’s album Yeezus. Whether Slimane’s latest big move inspired Kanye’s own, or vice versa, is anyone’s guess—either way, the ego-arms race was on. Why, in that case, did an undercard band refusing to sign away their photo rights merit such a nuclear reaction? Mr. Slimane did not respond to requests for comment. Cole Becker speculates that to Slimane’s Gallic mind, addled perhaps by L. Ron Hubbard and a narcissist’s fear of coming up on fifty, the slightest disobedience was treasonous. He had to deliver.


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PLEASE, B A B Y, N O MORE PA R T I E S IN LA WORDS

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The Los Angeles music scene is charged with an energy unparalleled to any other city in the world. Between classic concert venues, speakeasies, listening parties, weekday residencies, intimate backyards and string-lit warehouses, you’re hard-pressed to find a night without some type of live music to enjoy. Likewise, some of LA’s most forward-thinking collectives are churning out day parties, stacked lineups, and DIY festivals to eager audiences. In a city with a persisting thirst for new music, Broke LA and Brownies & Lemonade are constantly pushing the envelope and shattering pre-existing notions of what the Los Angeles music scene has to offer. For a festival with “broke” in the name, Broke LA sure doesn’t need any fixing. As Founder and Executive Producer, Negin Singh established Brokechella in 2010 as an alternative to large-name festivals that cloud the Twittersphere boasting big-name lineups and even heftier price tags. As a love-letter to the city that welcomes every sub-genre with open arms, Broke LA aims to provide a platform for artists whether they have 200 or 20,000 followers.

In the spirit of festival season, I sat down with Negin and Kushan to discuss the challenges of building something out of nothing while thriving independently of the corporate and hard-shelled business that is the music industry. While staying true to their roots in LA, their events have non-Angelenos living vicariously via grainy livestreams and Snapchat stories broadcasted by music-lovers of the city that never sleeps on emerging artists.

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Every Brownies & Lemonade show is generously filled over capacity, generating the literal stickiness of a sauna—and not a single person gives a damn. Kushan Fernando, co-founder of Brownies & Lemonade, reminisces on his undergraduate glory days at UCLA and the thrill of throwing apartment parties. Years later, he aims to showcase emerging sounds while preserving the spontaneity of a good old-fashioned party. Over the course of B&L, he and co-founder Evan Washington have amassed an ever-growing fan-base that comes out not solely for artists that they recognize, but for trusting B&L as forward-thinking curators with surprise guests up their sleeves every week.


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T H E PA PER MI XTAPE Tell me about the start of Brownies & Lemonade. KU S HA N F ERNANDO My buddy Jose and I used to love throwing apartment parties and shows at UCLA—we started Hip Hop Explosion. After college, we started B&L as a way to showcase music. We were trying to incorporate more of the parties we used to do into it, but we didn’t really have money. We kept it going for a few years, expanded our budget, and now we’re doing full-fledged shows. We just want to embody the idea of a party. We want people to come out to have fun and move. T PM How has your fan-base evolved since the inception of B&L? K F A lot of people that know us from when we started know that our roots are in hip-hop. We are very much into emerging sounds, regardless if it’s rap, hip-hop, weird beats, trap—just whatever we think is dope—anyone producing or creating something unique that we think will make people move and keep them on the dance floor. It doesn’t matter. Nowadays rap and hip-hop are like pop music. It’s what everyone can relate to, to get down to for a good time. When we book artists, we make sure they understand that they’re playing our show but it’s also a party. They can have their own music but we want to make sure they incorporate something that has the crowd moving. T PM Booking electronic artists ain’t cheap, but

you guys have surprised us with Skrillex, Lido, Ryan Hemsworth…and the list goes on. How do you afford to throw shows like this weekly when admission is free, more often than not? KF There’s definitely a lot of finessing. We’ve been doing this for a good amount of time; most people don’t know that. We just recently got significant cosigns—or rather, people supporting us in bringing larger artists to our kinds of shows. But in terms of making profit, we’re not doing this to make money. We’re trying to create a culture where people can come and be immersed in something purely for the music. The money is secondary—something I’m happy we can sustain. T PM I’ve heard festivals often lose money. What’s your experience with that? KF The interesting thing about festivals—if it’s not a well-known brand like Goldenvoice or Livenation you have to rely completely on your lineup. Artists are often under the impression that fests make a lot of money. But there’s a credible production cost. So with all the staffing, permits, and all other costs in making a festival happen, there are a lot of cases where they don’t make much money if any. What bigger brands have in their favor is their reputation. So obviously they’ll have a great lineup, and people will flock to their events primarily because of the reputation. T PM What are the challenges you face in the grand scheme of other event programmers who have already carved their place in the industry? KF The biggest challenge in trying to legitimize yourself is convincing people that what you’re doing is good for your artist. You have to rely on dedication and your level of consistency to continue doing what you’ve been doing, so that you feel like you’ve gained some sense of credibility. In terms of what we’ve been able to accomplish, it’s grabbing artists before they have the notoriety that allows them to play larger shows.

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T PM Where do you hope to see it go in a year? KF When we started, we didn’t have a plan for this to grow into something crazy. But one of the biggest inspirations was The Do-Over. It’s probably LA’s best party, been around for over 10 years. It started as a Sunday afternoon hip-hop party, but now they tour the world. It made me consider doing this more consistently and hopefully take it to multiple cities and create its own identity. That’s when we started doing things differently and created a monthly consistent type of party we could do over and over again rather than randomly. Now, we just want to be a brand that showcases emerging artists – unique, undiscovered sounds. T PM Do you think B&L would’ve taken off the way it had in any other city? KF I think LA is literally the most important place for music. It’s where people start because you can experiment and people will be willing to hear that type of sound before anyone else is willing to. I think this is where the trend starts and everyone else after that. Music is global because of the Internet, but LA is absolutely where that global sound gets the spotlight.

TPM Would you have done anything differently? KF When we first started and had small budgets, we had to rely on doing events once a month or every other month. I wish we had programmed more consistently—it would’ve helped people grasp on us faster. We didn’t have any connections, cosigns, or people helping us; we were just friends. Now we have a better reputation but we’re still doing it on our own. I feel like we’re growing at a good pace but we could’ve been at a bigger presence in LA if we’ve had a little more help or aid as we were going through the process. But I’m happy we did it the way we did because we have a strong foundation.

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On the flip side, there are people who hit the ground running without any kinds of setbacks. Usually those people have a lot of connections—they’re associated with different kinds of productions, labels, and are able to pull favors together. And those people can create something, which is cool, but in terms of longevity, people who started from nothing have not only built up a reputation but a fan base from a place where they had nothing.


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BROKE LA PHOTOS

Justi n Baker

T H E PA P E R M I X TA P E Tell me about the inception of Brokechella.

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N E G I N S I N G H cARTel used to throw this monthly arts and music event called Community Pool that we had accidentally booked the same weekend as Coachella. Instead of cancelling on the artists we had booked, we figured there must be a community of people that aren’t going to Coachella anyway. So, we decided to name it Brokechella. T PM What do you look for when curating a lineup? N S We absolutely don’t program in a vacuum. We have a group of 15 listeners listen to every single submission – we promise everybody that. We don’t judge if you’re two weeks or five years old. That group of curators whittles it down to the top 25-30 artists. Then we do a separate listening party with another group of people, and we rate them across different categories: only one of which is personal. We also judge on marketing – not how big they are, but do they have a cool story? Have they played a show in the last two weeks? – and originality. Through it all, we make sure we include diverse, fresh types of music. We have a rule that if you were to Google one artist on our lineup, would that represent our sound? We want artists where we’ve never heard anything like it. Or make us think, “Hey, that really moved me.” T PM How do you afford making a festival? N S We’ve never afforded it. It has never been

a sound investment, ever. The fun and fear is that we got “broke” in the name. Not a lot of sponsors get that but we love the ones that do. There’s a good chance that we’ll make $0—and that’s okay. And, you know, I genuinely don’t know if the festival will happen up to 48 hours before. We have 13 permits to go through. We go through so many rooms with LAPD, pitching our ideas and telling them why it’s important. You say one wrong thing, you don’t have that one permit, and you’re done. But the city of LA is very helpful to us. It’s just a lot of people coming together that have to trust you and believe this is a viable option. T PM Do you feel that these larger, heavily branded corporations like Goldenvoice are picking on the smaller festivals? N S You know, Goldenvoice is not a competitor. When they had asked us to change our name from Brokechella, some people wanted to fight it. But who does that serve, other than our egos? We changed it so we didn’t have to spend any more time talking about it. It’s fair of them to ask us to change the name—at that point, we had just gotten too big. We decided to keep “broke” in the name not just to reference being out of money, but also going against a broken system. I have no animosity toward giant festivals; they bring a lot of people together. But there should be an alternative and it shouldn’t be impossible. I love that Coachella exists. We made it because we wanted to go, but we couldn’t. I just wish there was better infrastructure support from those companies to think, “Hey, this is important too,” and support the smaller artists. T PM How has your audience changed since the start of Broke LA? N S We love our audience. It’s such a cross-section of diversity. LA’s a really diverse place, but diverse in chunks. But Broke LA

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is like nothing you’ve seen before – we have audience members in their 70s who just love new music. We have people driving out from Nevada that didn’t have the money for any other festival. Our co-producers described it as being in a bazaar—you’re seeing so many different types of people doing different types of art they’re passionate about, and that bleeds out into the audience. T PM What has been the most rewarding part about it all? N S Our long-term goal is to go to different cities, college campuses. I care less about more festivals under our belt rather than influencing other people to do it. One of the bands we had in the past was thinking of breaking up, but once they were on the Broke LA lineup, they decided to stay together—and that rejuvenated what we do. That’s what we care about, and we want to convince other young producers to do this. It’s a beautiful life. I’ve never cried harder or stressed harder but there’s nothing like knowing you’re contributing to someone’s art and helping them realize they can be better, bigger, and can keep pushing.

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The most tremendous thrill in booking on a budget is securing an artist whose talent is well beyond their marketed worth. Learning how to identify an artist that has potential for “making it big”—while barely fitting the confines of a public university’s budget—is an art that’s never truly perfected. Amongst a staff of seven of the most hard-working people I know, booking UCLA’s undergraduate concerts has continually reminded me that advocating for budding artists is a lengthy, oftentimes frustrating, yet undoubtedly rewarding hustle. Popularity, relevance, originality, and sellability are all taken into consideration when booking concerts. But at UCLA, counting student-funded nickels and dimes to bargain with booking agents entails a cross-examination of all these factors within the rigid bubble of UCLA. Since most North American tours are tailored around this city, you’d think booking a conveniently routed daytime show in the heart of UCLA is a deal that’s hard to turn down—it is quick cash in the thousands, after all. But more often than not, Los Angeles is one of the most expensive cities for booking college shows. When a city is already so receptive to undiscovered sounds, why cheapen a quote for a majority of students who only tend towards familiar artists deemed perhaps worthy of forfeiting a review session for?

Still, for those of us who prefer an intimate space to watch artists perform what they’ve spent countless 4 a.m.’s recording on Macbook Pros, Brownies & Lemonade and Broke LA feed that desire. And it’s worth noting—these collectives aren’t the outliers. There are brands, labels, and squads all over LA whose staffs work ordinary day jobs only to spend their minimal free hours programming events. Why? Maybe claiming bragging rights to seeing an artist before they hit the main stage is too alluring. Maybe climbing the corporate ladder requires gaining experience at a startup level before working for the big guys with the big bucks. Or perhaps it’s rooted in the pure humanity of rooting for the underdog, the 19 year-old producer pouring every raw ounce of her being into something she believes is important—something that needs to be heard. And here in Los Angeles, we’re always listening.

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So perhaps it’s not entirely jaded to say that million-dollar budget festivals use their notoriety as a crutch, relying on a system that manufactures safe, yet predictable lineups. At heavily branded festivals, it’s commonplace to speak highly of “experiencing” a live performance, when in reality most people in the crowd have shelled out eighty dollars to share the same air and squint at pixelated screens lining the stage. But these big-named festivals offer rising artists the priceless opportunity to perform for crowds they may have never had access to otherwise. Playing festivals ensures cross-promotion and valuable exposure that just might catapult a small-font artist at the bottom of a lineup (sans magnifying lens) to a coveted main stage slot the following year.


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ON SPECTACLE

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GENERATING VIEWERSHIP IN A TECHNOLOGY-DRIVEN CULTURE

Alyssa-Faith Rug o Scott ART Phil Rug o WO RDS

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by the need to generate viewership and promote positive audience receptivity. A spectacle is a display that elicits wonderment and awe – the feeling associated with watching acrobats contort their bodies, seeing cars explode in movies, and facing the bright lights and glamour of Hollywood. The demand for this type of spectacle is a direct response to the increasing infusion of technology into everyday life. According to a study conducted by the Microsoft Corporation in 2015, the human attention span has decreased from twelve to eight seconds in a little over a decade. As a result, people who attend a museum might not spend more than eight seconds looking at a work or strolling through an exhibition. To obtain the focus of technology-consumed viewers, artists are now forced to use elements of spectacle to create works that will command the audience’s attention.

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The starving artist – a concept too widely understood by young artists. How are those with little name recognition supposed to make money? How do they eat? Pay for gas or rent? In Los Angeles, many artists resort to working in the commercial industry; photographers take headshots, cinematographers work for Hollywood, and graphic designers are employed by marketing teams at tech start-ups. Some aspire to these jobs, while others dread them (only using their earnings to make work that sincerely interests and inspires them). How do artists, who are living in a city that is firmly rooted in the entertainment business, support themselves while remaining true to their artistic integrity? How has an increased focus on technology and social media influenced the ways that artists navigate between making commercial and studio art? This article will investigate the ways in which artists resort to creating and displaying artwork that is heavily influenced


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To gain insight into how a visual artist might make their living in these domains, I spoke with Philip Rugo, a recent UCLA Design and Media Arts graduate. Philip Rugo is a Los Angeles based media artist, animator, art director, and designer who makes work that primarily deals with the exploration of isolation and loneliness in an online space. As an emerging artist, Rugo simultaneously produces commercial work and engages in studio art practices. His experience working within multiple economic spheres gives Rugo personal insight into the ways in which spectacle influences LA artists and their creative processes.

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In the time that you have been growing as an artist, have you noticed a change in the way that museums and institutions present works in regard to this idea of spectacle? Over time, have you witnessed the exhibition space become more focused on the spectacular or the dazzling? “Yeah. I mean the phenomenon of these large art spectacles happens in direct correlation with a rise of people doing things independently on the internet and a necessity to, kind of, fit traditional internet business models. There is such an importance for a standard business to interact with people online and draw people in with things that are flashy, and we see something very parallel in the art world. It’s a two-pronged thing, both on the artist front and on the organization front, for very similar reasons… To have organizations and museums and people buy your work, it’s first of all really necessary to be seen, and then second of all, for people to want to interact and engage with you. A lot of peoples’ responses to that has been to go bigger, and more expensive, so it’s kind of this feedback loop that spirals out of control where people are making bigger and more accessible work, with the intention of people buying it, looking at it, and have that initial ‘wow’ factor. When that goes well, then an artist is going to keep building on that foundation and it’s going to keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger as museums and organizations give more and more money.”

So do you think that artists who employ spectacle and create works that are flashy are coming from a desire to generate viewership and to make money off of their work? Do you think that there is a correlation there? “Yeah, that’s kind of what I’m saying; it has a lot to do with how you attract viewers and money and those sorts of things. It goes back—far is not the right word—but it goes back. This has been happening for a long time, but I think not as consciously. I mean if you look at the rock piece at LACMA, I don’t remember the artist’s name, but there’s this whole ordeal around grabbing the rock from the place it was from, I think it was Oregon or Washington, and driving it down on a flatbed truck and having a party at 4AM that’s mostly for members and patrons of the arts, which in LA is generally rich people. Having a party to see this rock be installed into LACMA, regardless of what you think of that piece, kind of illustrates what we’ve been talking about: it’s an enormous rock and it’s literally really big, and there’s an enormous ordeal around installing it. The process was not private. The process was extremely public and the process was extremely funded. The entirety of that artwork was the artist seeing the rock, calling the director of LACMA, and saying that he needed the rock. Then it’s just all organization and bringing the rock down from there. Now there’s a documentary and it’s this whole thing; it’s a big ordeal around getting the work, and then the work is quite literally this enormous thing that towers over you at the back of LACMA.”

Do you feel like the entertainment industry in LA is influencing this trend of instilling the spectacular? “Yes and no. The arts in LA have existed and coincided with Hollywood and that scene since it started. That’s something that’s always been there, and I don’t think that’s something that changes the landscape very much over time. It obviously has a huge influence and people make lots of work about

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it, but they have remained in their separate spheres. LA specifically has a big scene of people that, the stereotypical sense of what it means to be in LA, are trying to make it and be famous in various ways, and that translates into the art world. A lot of these things that we’re talking about, these large scale spectacle works, are what already established artists are making. […] What I’m talking about when I’m talking about spectacle, and large scale work like that, I’m not talking about commercial work necessarily. Commercial work is just how some people choose to make a living and that’s something that just exists. There is a blurring of that line between making work for the studio and making work for the white wall gallery and making work for the entertainment industry.”

When you create commercial art to make a living, do you feel like you have to produce work that is not exactly in line with your aesthetic? “Absolutely, all the time; that’s what it is.”

Are you ever frustrated by that? Do you wish you could say no to those projects? “I think everyone wants the luxury to be able to say no to projects. You earn that and I’m just not at that place in my career yet.”

Do you feel like there is a difference between

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the artwork that you create for the internet versus the gallery? “For me, yes. I make a lot of work that I see as more casual, some of it is formal, but it’s not there, you know? A big part of the gallery is working with the space, and displaying something that’s living, that grows. I make a lot of generative media and interactive things for the gallery when I make art. But when I make stuff for Instagram and do 3D work, it’s generally offshoots of commercial work that I’m doing for money, like music videos. The two things are not mutually exclusive by any means, but a lot of what I personally am posting on Instagram and Twitter, at least regularly, is just casual motion graphics and 3D stuff.”

Are the works that you post on social media more geared towards generating viewership? “It’s more about making the things you are posting. It’s still making work, and there’s still a lot of thought that goes into it, and there’s still meaning behind a lot of these things. I think one of the main goals for anyone doing anything is to have people see it, and have people care, but that’s not the reason to do it. The reason is still ultimately to make things. I think for me the motion graphic stuff is more about the act of making and sharing things, than the white wall gallery approach, which for me is more about really long processes. I think one of the really core differences between my personal practices is that social media stuff is generally one

or two days of work for a single image, whereas a white wall gallery piece might take one or two months, and some of them may have projects embedded in them that have been going on for years.”

When you are working on creating a visual, whether it is conscious or not, do you feel like you have to employ spectacle to gain viewers? “It’s a bit of both, and kind of confusing. A lot of the online stuff I am posting I view as different than what I want my studio art practice to be. I’m really into generative work, web work, games, and that sort of thing, and I don’t post a lot of that stuff. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not working on it. The idea is that you have to post frequently and be present, you can’t just disappear for two months and expect everything to be the same. You have to keep up, continue growing, meet new people, make new clients, and have important people see your work. You have to have work come out everyday or every other day, at least a few times a week. Having a personality online that people know you for is really important, and that for sure informs the decisions of how I make things. Not necessarily the content, but mostly the medium and the speed at which it’s created.”

How do you think that your experiences at UCLA have influenced your work? “The idea of being a person that is an artist on the internet,

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and is this online brand, is something that was still really young when I was graduating school.”

So you have been growing as an artist, while this new form of art sharing emerged.

Do you think that the emergence of this new form of art sharing has changed the social function of art in any way? “Being a part of the sphere that posts work on social media is like a new form of pop art. […] A lot people are making

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“Well in my last year of school I kind of decided that I was just going to make work. When you’re at school it’s very different because you’re not doing as much; the consequences are smaller, there’s more time, there’s more help, there’s more space to exhibit, and there’s concrete things happening that you can make work for. When you graduate, unless you’re wildly popular already, that’s not what it is. You have to figure out how to make a living, and how to ideally be able to hone your skills, make stuff, and have people pay you for it. When I met John Maeda I asked him about the work Art Balance; he basically said very point blank that, “Art costs money.” So if you need to be an Uber driver or if you need to work a retail job, you do. It costs money, it will just always cost money. If you sit in your studio and make only the work that you want to make, right away, that just doesn’t exist.”

work, posting it on social media, gaining a fan base that way, and almost promoting their visual artwork as if they were musicians. I think it is really reminiscent and kind of a new sect of pop art: art that draws on pop culture, is culturally relevant to the time, and is being spread through arguably the most culturally relevant medium. I think it’s hard because there’s this distinction that people make between a ‘real’ artist that is hanging work in galleries and, one really good example, people making 3D work. There’s a shit load of people making 3D work, and I think a lot of them end up in this world where it’s much closer to production than it is to traditional art creation. At the same time, there are tons of people who are making ‘real’ white wall gallery art in the same mediums and distributing them on the same formats. So, obviously it’s changed the landscape entirely. One of the biggest examples is female artists reclaiming the selfie, and using that media and that medium of raw, bare depictions of self as a form of artwork. Yeah, I think it [social media] has given birth to a whole new type of artist, and it has given people a platform to become a new type of professional; become someone who’s making music videos and making commissioned work for companies. I think a lot of this stuff exists almost entirely outside of the traditional stuffy art world, and I personally think that’s a really good thing. I really like the idea that you can come-up and you’re still making things, but you are essentially operating as this singular production house. You have a lot of agency, and the ability to make your own stuff.”


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By the end of the interview, Rugo and I had moved from our original topic of spectacle to a much broader discussion of how technology and social media platforms have influenced the current presentation of artists and their work. Creating sensational art for the purpose of Instagram is an extension of the changing role of spectacle, as well as the newly blurred line between artist and audience. An artist’s use of spectacle to appeal to the masses and increase the value of their work has evolved to encompass the increasing use of social media applications to share photos that will receive the most “likes.” The obscuring of the line between artist and audience can be observed through a contemporary museum visitor’s use of smartphones to capture and post photographs of an exhibition. Some institutions and artists aim to capitalize on this process by commissioning or creating works that are Instagram-post-worthy. As a result, the definition of the artist and their art is complicated by the accessibility of the work produced, and by the viewer’s ability to transform its meaning and value by giving it more “likes.” Every artist’s approach to generating viewership and positive audience receptivity is unique and tailored to furthering their personal online brand. Philip Rugo’s story is one nuanced illustration of how an artist in LA might make a living across various economic spheres, as well as virtual and real life spaces; however, the role of artists and online exhibition spaces are constantly evolving. Published in the spring of 2016, this article will represent one young artist’s methods of creating and producing artwork in the early years of the 21st Century.

P H I L I P R U G O is available for freelance.

Contact him at P H I L I P R U G O.C O M . You can also find him on Instagram and Twitter as @ P H I L I P R U G O.

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“THE TREES CRY OUT AS THEY DIE” WOR DS PH OTOS

Ashle y Ag uilar Doroty Sanussi

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ASHLEY AGUILAR

The forty minute ride to Pasadena was a blur of highway, Beach House, and superficially frigid air conditioning. As I step outside the embracing rays of warmth and the distinct smell of trees welcome me. Wandering around the oasis of the Japanese Garden at The Huntington creates a serenity that induces a dazed and seemingly unexplainable kind of joy. The lakes and streams glimmer; vibrantly colored red and orange koi fish bob in and out of the water. As I explore the garden the thump of my platform Superga on the wooden bridge is like a drum that creates a rhythm for my thoughts.

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Focusing on my surroundings, I observe that the leaves of the bamboo trees softly rustle in sync with the cool breeze. My brown hair catches the light reflecting bits of copper and fire. My eyelids gently close but I can still hear, feel, and smell the scene around me. The sweet smell of eucalyptus wafts over from the neighboring Australian garden, the air feels thick yet comforting in this way, and I can hear the delicate song of an indistinct bird. I have the urge to call this an experience but from my, now, more extended knowledge of philosopher Martin Buber I think that this would be better categorized as an encounter. When I use the word encounter I mean that I am aware of my relationship to the natural world and more importantly I am aware of the way humans take advantage of the resources provided by our earth. Many are under the impression that because the environmental situation will not directly affect our current generation that it is less SPRING 2016


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relevant, but the truth is that hundreds of animal and plant species go extinct every day and millions of people are affected right now by smog and air pollution. Everyone knows how to reduce these disastrous phenomena, but it becomes a question of whether or not anyone cares. The media and film influence our perceptions of the world and even the very private aspects of our lives, so why can’t these mediums be used to influence how we treat our slowly deteriorating home? Beginning with Manga and gradually

stepping into film, Hayao Miyazaki has become known as one of the greatest animators in the world. It was in his film, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, that he introduced the themes that would become present in many of his subsequent films—concern with environmentalism; particularly human interactions and relationships to the environment.

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is a vivid portrayal of the effects of pollution and environmental neglect. The film is centered on the effects of pollution and deforestation, which contributes to a loss of habitat for

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the unique, benign, and truly special creatures described. The protagonist, Nausicaa, has a genuine and tenacious connection to the insects and the plants that comprise the toxic jungle that is not shared by any other villager. However, towards the end of the film it becomes evident just how valuable the life within the toxic jungle is; beneath the jungle is a non-toxic underground oasis. The plants in the jungle actually work to purify air and water, storing it safely underground. The villagers realize that all aspects of the environment must remain, even if “nature� is comprised of the frightening and feral life that is the insects within the toxic jungle. Distinct parallels are drawn to our own reality where seventy percent of Earth’s land animals and plants live in forests, and many cannot survive the deforestation that destroys their homes. The underground non-toxic oasis seems to be a reflection of the life within the soil beneath our feet; fifty percent of soil is empty spaces, soil spores, air, water vapor, and liquid water where living microorganisms thrive. Thus the message for the audience suggests that we be aware of how essential nature is to the progress of the biogeochemical cycles that constitute earth, and that even the seemingly bothersome aspects of nature must remain. When Princess Mononoke was released in 1997, it was the highest grossing Japanese film that year, subsequently amassing a worldwide fan-base. The film is set in medieval Japan, where the villagers of the mining settlement called Irontown begin to look towards the mountains for more ore, thus destroying forests. This ensues a conflict between the humans encroaching on the mystical forest and the gods, spirits, and animals that

protect it. The whimsical animations create a magical but also delicate scene that asserts a specific response to save the forest. Realistically, this particular patch of forest is by no means the only one left in medieval Japan, and the humans will die if they cannot mine the mountain; yet it is the humans that are still perceived as the antagonists in the film. This film has acquired a cult following of individuals from both ends of the spectrum: a genuine connection with the characters and the way nature is portrayed, but also a superficial yearning to be privy to a film or concept that is more obscure. I am convinced that the delicate and innocent medium of animation can sensitize people to complex environmental issues and convey ecological messages in a refreshing way. Many of the extraordinary scenes in these films could never be replicated in a live-action movie so there is a sense of boundless freedom that surrounds animation. The passionate desires of the characters to save the forest has challenged me to confront the nuanced relationship between humans and nature. Leaving me unsettled, these films have encouraged me to learn more about the environment and the wildlife around me; thus promoting the concrete action necessary for change. So now when engaging in habitual occurrences like walking to class I am observant of the delicate chirp of a bird or a perfectly illuminated corridor. Taking this a step further I encourage those around me to be equally as aware of our own personal relationships to nature, because it is this connection and understanding that will influence environmentally sustainable changes in our actions for the future.

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JENNA OPSAHL

D E SERT OT H ERWORLD WO R DS & P HOTOS

Je nna Ops ahl

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JENNA OPSAHL

The desert is a place of possibility. Anything can happen out there because there is room for anything to happen. There is a group of saints and monks in the Christian religion called the Desert Fathers. They retreated to the desert trying to find God and I have to say, I really think they were onto something. The isolation in the desert creates the perfect setting for spirits to take over. One can be alone with their thoughts and God, interacting with no one else.

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I went out looking for something in the desert. I didn’t quite know what it would be when I started, but that made it all the more exciting. The prospect of exploring new earth and breathing new air called me East to a strange land that lies just two hours from Los Angeles. It’s called Joshua Tree. It is about 1234 miles squared at an elevation of 2736 feet above sea level. Joshua Tree doesn’t stretch onward like the rest of the Mojave Desert or Death Valley. Instead, the National Park is enclosed by mountains, creating a strange bubble of an ecosystem. It receives very little cloud cover or rainfall, but it is home to a Suessical shrub that gives the land its name. I arrive in Joshua Tree at sunrise and spend the first few hours of my time there with a single goal: to wander. I don’t follow paths, I don’t even follow my mind. I just go where my feet take me. I stand next to the tall mountains, feeling a sense of insignificance. I clamber up rocks and leap between piles. I scrape my knees and poke myself on spiky Joshua limbs. It sometimes feels like I am at odds with the desert. When climbing, I am constantly having to backtrack or seek out better routes. At one point I realize I had not had my water bottle in my hand for a good half hour. I must retrace my steps in order to recover it. I realize that the desert is sneaky. It seeks to trick me into thinking I’ve been somewhere before. I spend quite some time searching for my water, and I truly feel a connection to those who have wandered the desert before me. The wind is picking up and I am now having to fight against that as well. My hair is whipping about and my shawl is twisting around my body. I imagine myself as a Christian saint, wandering the landscape, hoping to outsmart it and find my way. It feels surreal and too real—how does this place exist? Eventually I find my water bottle and, relieved, I head back to the car.

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The day passes with some haste. I leave the park for lunch at a local cafe and when I re-enter, the light has changed. The rocks are a different color and I can’t seem to point out where I had been. I drive further into the park this time, stopping to explore a popular trail. It seems odd that there are other people here, as I had just spent so much time in isolation. I stray from the trail a bit, and find a lookout hidden above the path. The air in the desert is fresh and dry. The cacti are blooming and the landscape seems enlivened with their color. I breathe deeply for a while. I am in awe with the way that life seems to persist in this place of desolation. I scurry down to the path again, and am soon at my car.

Perhaps I didn’t find God in the desert. No rays of light descended upon me, bringing the Holy Word. But I did discover life and color in places I thought could have none. I had the expectation that Joshua Tree would impress me with its lack of meaning; that perhaps I would find peace in nothingness. Instead, I found the way the world fights to be seen.

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The sun has been moving across the sky and the shadows are beginning to lengthen. I drive to a new spot where I will wait for the sun to set. Now that the sun is not so blinding, I am able to observe a little better. I take note of the shapes of the plants and the way they seem to be so evenly spaced despite their wild appearance. I watch the sun move behind the rocks—it gets dark here before the sun disappears. I had been hoping for my answer all day (to which question, I do not know). The sky begins to change color and I know my answer is coming. I watch, patiently waiting for the sky to show itself. After a few minutes, it explodes into color. The entire landscape has fallen under a pink veil. The wind has ceased; the air is still. There is only otherworldly color.


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Cuisine is a huge part of culture—any culture. It is usually the smell of traditional family cooking that lingers in the mind when one travels across the globe that reminds one of “home”. Thousands of miles away from home, and no matter how much I appreciate the good food LA has to offer, I find myself occasionally looking for the comforting smell of my mother’s cooking or the familiar aroma from souvlaki tracks in Athens, Greece. This desire is almost a need, as many other people living away from home can understand and forgive my seemingly pompous exaggeration. This force, the one between a desire and a need, pushes me to try and find any possible place where I could experience space and time travel, where I can smell and taste traditional Greek food the way I do back home. Not meaning to exclude anyone reading this, I will once more address those people familiar with being away from home, just to acquire their confirmation on the following fact: nothing will compare to what your nose experiences and your tongue recognizes back home. I do not mean to devalue the quality of many Greek restaurants I have been to since moving to LA—although this is not the case with all of them, as it is normal to have a bad food experience anywhere around the world, even at the very food’s origin—but no matter how expensive, how fresh, how well-cooked, it is never the same. Before I am unfairly labeled as a romantic I am going to do something romantics don’t usually do: provide a logical explanation.

I am not looking for the specific atmosphere of Athens or the smell of the Mediterrenean, as these are things that I will never find in LA as I very well know—and I am very glad for this fact as the world would be a boring place if all locations were alike. Of course subconsciously these elements play a role in my judgment but I can recognize something more to it, and I am very sure of its existence. So my explanation has to do with something in my opinion far from romantic—economics. What is foisted to a specific audience must be tailored to fit this audience; and I might not be an expert but this seems to me self-evident through common sense. If cuisine is a product, then ethnic cuisine is a seemingly differentiated product but which is actually not so differentiated. In the specific situation, ethnic food is “Americanized” because this is the business strategy that makes most sense. In an ironic way, foreign food restaurants in America strive to show to their American audience that they are as close to the original cuisine as possible: they use the names and decoration and basic axons of recipes the way they are popularly expected to be – but this is not always the most accurate. Indeed, Greek restaurants in Greece seldom use meanders in their signs or have boat paddles on the walls if they are not located on an island. These are the elements however that an American expects to see when he walks into a Greek restaurant in the US in order to be persuaded that the restaurant has valid Greek food. The same way Greeks walk into a California-themed restaurant in Greece and expect to find red leather booths and massive television screens next

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to cowboy hats around the walls. It is the multicultural character of America that makes the phenomenon all that more interesting.

Cuisine flourishes as more people are exposed to it; a recipe never used outside the village it was created in is doomed to be forgotten. Although food in my opinion has an almost sacred element, cuisine and recipes are not religion, and alteration of traditional dishes is not hubris. It seems interesting to me how these alterations go unrecognized; people are deceived; they are part of an exciting evolution without being aware of it. They are the ones who will validate the tastefulness of an altered version of a traditional food by showing their preference to it; however, they don’t always realize that what they eat is a new, experimental product inspired by a traditional dish and especially tailored for them.

1 . T O N Y TAV E R N A 2 3 410 C I V I C C E N T E R WAY, M A L I B U, C A 902 65 (310) 317 -9667

Even though it could be characterized as pricey if compared with restaurants in Greece serving food of the same quality, it is worth it if looking for a really enjoyable and fulfilling meal. I would recommend eating in the traditional Greek way, meaning ordering a lot of small plates and appetizers and sharing them instead of each person having their own entree. The “taramosalata” (traditional Greek dip) is especially good.

2. M A L A K A B R O T H E R S 2 3 410 C I V I C C E N T E R WAY, M A L I B U, C A 902 65 (310) 317 -9667

When looking for a place to eat souvlaki, a typical Greek summer dish (practically gyros with vegetables and sauce wrapped in a pita), I came across this grab and go restaurant in Venice. It is considered one of the very good souvlaki places in LA, and the quality is definitely high. If you want to try the authentic souvlaki recipe ask for one with pork gyros, tzatziki, tomato, and onion. All other suggested combinations however are also tasty. There is also a vegetarian version with mushrooms.

These hybrids of ethnic cuisine and American elements are far from guilty—on the contrary, they should be proudly praised for exactly what they are, a wonderful experi-

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The supposedly-but-not-always accurate decorations however hides the one difference that matters, the one present in the food. People want to travel to foreign lands by being in a room that mimics this land, they are not usually ready however to be intrigued by flavors their tastebuds are not used to, and can even be intensely bothered by these flavors. Thus, the Indian food becomes less spicy, the Chinese food recipes change even at their basic ingredients to something more conventional and the Greek salad acquires lettuce. The recipes are altered, slightly or more deeply, sometimes to the point they become an entirely new thing. As I mentioned before, I do not devalue the quality of food necessarily. I have been to Tony’s Tavern1 in Malibu and the food was, although at considerably higher price rates than actual “taverns” in Greece, delicious and of “A” quality. However, even though the owner was greek, the place mimicked Greece, the recipes were traditional Greek ones, I felt like I was trying a new type of cuisine, something in between. I have been to “Malaka Brothers”2 souvlaki place in Venice beach; I was intrigued to try this souvlaki with lettuce and cucumber like it was a new thing for me, as there is no way I could perceive it as an actual “souvlaki”—it still was wonderfully tasty. While I dreaded the moment we would reach the place after I realized I was with my vegetarian friend—souvlaki is a de facto meat dish—I was something between shocked and glad to realize there was a vegetarian version with mushrooms.

mentation of flavors, and not coyly hide behind the false label “authentic ethnic food”. As long as it is understood and known that such cuisine is not the same as the one it is inspired from it can be seen as a new movement of art, much like post-impressionism emerged from impressionism but the two are not quite the same. My search for the exact smell and taste of Greek food in Greece is futile as a copy is doomed to be inferior to the original. If however the copy adds a little something positive and different to its description on its own, it deserves to stand alone and proud as a new original of something else, equally interesting.


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KRYSTAL L AU

NO END IN SIGHT Kr y st al Lau Harish Balas u bram an i

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“The mistake lay in how I saw myself. My flesh and bone were as much a part of myself as my spirit, my mind. My body hadn’t failed me in being weak; I had failed myself in refusing to listen to what it was trying to tell me.” It’s already one in the morning, but I still go out for a run. LA lilts in the full swing of its everlasting summer, and the sky is tinged with a hazy crimson glow. Behind the campus buildings, I spot lazy tendrils of smoke rising. There’s no moon in the sky, and the lamplights stand in for stars. As I start down the track, my body feels distortedly heavy. My limbs are weary, my muscles dazed, and my mind dragged down by the weight of my thoughts. I wonder:

what am I doing? But as the miles fall away, as my breath evens and my strides lengthen, a familiar calm begins to creep through the crevices of my mind, blanketing the thoughts like a deep fog. This is why I run every night. There’s nothing like that sweaty, yet clean feeling after you run when the night feels as if it’s come alive and you hear the cicadas singing and the street lights humming and the stars murmuring. There’s nothing like sprinting that last lap, elongating your strides until you’re no longer running but leaping, the feeling of force so strong within you; you feel as powerful as the wind.

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Running became a way for me to remain in control, to regain some of that command over my own life. Looking back, I see that it became something like a coping mechanism, an obsession. Something that I had to do, no matter how late I returned to campus at night, no matter how exhausted I was. I craved that blankness of running, the quietness of it, the peculiar sensation of feeling like you’ve won, even though you aren’t even playing a game. As I sit down after a long day, I flex my toes. The veins on my feet are pulsating, rising up and down as if holding its own miniature heartbeat. But I know my heart is in my chest, and maybe for this reason I treat my foot like an inanimate object, a weapon or tool to be used for the means of my mind, rather than a connected part of me worth protecting. I ignore what my body tells me. I refuse to listen to the developing pain, writing it off as victory soreness or healthy aching. Stubbornly, I increase my mileage, running five then seven then nine miles. On the few nights I skip running, sleep doesn’t come as easily. And when it finally comes, it is of the troubled, fitful variety. I have less energy the next morning, my tense bones stiff with uneasiness. The idea flits into my thoughts one day to run a half-marathon. Why not, I think. I don’t need to prove to myself my running ability, but the medal would be a nice souvenir to have whenmy body is old and useless.

Race day falls on Halloween weekend, so there are jerking searchlights and wailing sirens and police cars lining the streets when I rise at four in the morning. Ominous portents, butI ignore them, as I do with any sign that doesn’t fit precisely into my plan. 12 miles later and I’m sprinting. I can’t see the finish line from here, but I can sense it. I can sense its gravitas and weight in my bones. Yet as I cross the line, I feel a strange sort of emptiness settle over me, and I catch myself already planning the next race, wondering if I can do the LA marathon next year. And it becomes like this—always asking, when was the next, and the next? There is no end. But I broke my limits, and my body pays for it. Sometimes it is hard to rise from my bed in the morning; the soreness is like screaming in my ear. Eventually, I tell my mom, but I mention it like a passing side-remark, as if barely worth a second thought. She isn’t fooled. I’m sent to the doctor. I’m told the words, “Walking boot.” I swallow. Okay, I think. I’ll just have to overcome this too. I begin a relationship with the elliptical, visiting it late at night for hours at a time. I force myself to forego the elevator and take the stairs, determined not to let this boot change my lifestyle. Small decisions become victories or surrenders. Next comes the MRI. I’m told the words, “Crutches.” I try to swallow. I can’t. For a moment, I can’t even breathe. On

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crutches, I can’t go a hundred feet without panting. I can’t even carry my own food in the dining halls. Strangers make sympathetic cooing noises when they see me. Friends try to carry my backpack or purse when they see me. I feel dependent, weak. I recognize the way people look at me and it makes me start to regard myself in the same manner. Nothing is in my control anymore. Without running, I feel restless, jittery, ill at ease. With crutches, I feel trapped. So this is failure, I think.

What does that mean for me? As I limp back to my dorm that afternoon, I wonder whom I am fighting. The sad realization: it’s myself.    The mistake lay in how I saw myself. My flesh and bone were as much a part of myself as my spirit, my mind. My body hadn’t failed me in being weak; I had failed myself in refusing to listen to what it was trying to tell me. My mind wanted to leap, to sore, to fly away. Yet it was rooted to my body—my weak, broken, falling-to-pieces body. Whether I accepted it or not, the two were tied together, inseparably linked. The two shouldn’t be fighting each other

When I finish my recovery process, I’m going to begin running again. I’m going to continue to push myself, to not let small discomfort or laziness keep me from growing faster, stronger. But this time around, I’m going to be smart about it. You see, you’re only given one body, and what happens to it depends on an accumulation of choices. If you’re struggling through a race with countless stress fractures and torn ligaments, is it really a victory when you cross the finish line and tell yourself you didn’t give in? Is it willpower that gets you through or foolishness? Where is the line between persistence and bullheadedness, the boundary between tenacity and absurdity? There’s a difference between building your body up and driving it down. There’s a distinction between “I can’t do it,” when it’s based on fear and “I can’t do it,” when it’s based on reality. At the end of the day, I don’t want to be someone who quits at the first twinge of pain, who lives in unremitting fear, who guards her body to the degree of a jailer. But I also don’t want to be someone who moves blindly, who ignores the truth in favor of her unfeasible and irrational dreams, who ends up in casts and bandages all because of a self-invented, imaginary competition against her own mind. If there’s one person I don’t need to prove anything to, it’s myself.

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But one day, at church service, I’m sitting in the pews. The pastor is at the podium, and he’s staring at his audience, but he seems to look directly at me saying, “You’re fighting an internal war. And it looks imaginary from the outside.” The words stick.

for dominance; they should be working together, establishing a healthy push-and-pull like the tide.


ABIGAIL

CL AUSON-WOLF

THE N EED F O R ARTS E DUCATIO N Abiga il Cl a uson -Wol f P HOTO S Emil y We ste r f ie l d

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The importance of self-expression through art is often overlooked in our modern and increasingly technological world. Demonstrations of creativity through the practice of art are imperative to brain growth and development; however, many low-income schools do not have enough funding to enable their students to exercise this creativity by way of art classes. As local public schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) continue to have serious cutbacks in their funding, programs that specialize in art education are among the first to be cut from the curriculum. Access to arts education in these low-income communities continues to disappear; in order to combat this decline there needs to be a concentrated effort to implement change within the public school system. The effects of art making in early childhood development are not always immediately visible, but the long term benefits from creating art at a young age are invaluable. In 2009, a study conducted by the Center for Arts Education discovered that a foundation in basic education within the arts appeared to increase the rate of graduation in public high schools in New York City. The same study observed that schools that had the least access to art education also had the lowest graduation rates. According to this research,

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art positively aids in the development of the brain, affecting everything from motor skills to language development to decision-making, all of which help to improve academic performance. Math is taught in art through the understanding of shapes and literature arises when learning how to tell a story through art. Though art is often regarded as a leisure activity, the process of creating and learning about art incorporates and necessitates an understanding of all school subjects. School art programs do not only develop one’s breadth of knowledge in a singular discipline, but aid in a student’s overall academic success. Including and continuing art programs with a designated art teacher is proven to be extremely beneficial to the majority of students. Schools that are underfunded are more likely to drop art courses from their curriculum as opposed to any other subject, because art is not currently considered a core class within many public school systems. Though the state of California requires that all elementary public schools have an art program, countless Los Angeles County public schools do not. It is ultimately shocking to see the lack of awareness about how critically important art education is within the schooling system. However, many of the schools that do not have adequate art programs cannot even afford the most basic extracurricular or after-school programs. Schools within high-income neighborhoods have the resources to enhance current art programs or even implement entirely new ones, while those in poorer neighborhoods are forced to drop the most basic of courses. There is history of systematic oppression of certain cultural and socioeconomic groups of people and it is directly related to the uneven distribution of funding amongst county and state public schools; it is a system that ultimately disadvantages low-income communities. Art is an essential component of our lives, but much too often, art education is overlooked. Receiving an education should not be contingent on one’s socioeconomic class; art is regularly viewed as a luxury, which is why it is one of the first programs to be cut from poorly funded schools. In recent years, Los Angeles public schools have felt pressure caused by their underfunding and many schools were forced to cut formal art classes and teachers. The schools that are devoid of art programs must look towards community volunteer organizations that can bring art into their schools. The VAPAE program at UCLA works towards creating a more just system by educating students in the program on art education and the importance of continuing art programs.

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I recently sat down with Barbara Drucker, a professor of painting and drawing at UCLA, associate dean of Community Engagement and Arts Education, and the Director of the Visual and Performing Arts Education Program (VAPAE). VAPAE is an undergraduate program at UCLA that aims to educate students in the field of art education, while introducing them to a wide range of careers in the field of art. Through her work with the VAPAE program, Drucker is making sure that art education is a priority, not an afterthought. The VAPAE students have the opportunity to go into inner-city Los Angeles public schools to provide a safe space for the students to learn about and create art. Over the years, Drucker has noticed that there is a stark discrepancy

in the access to arts education between low-income families and middle and upper-class families. What was increasingly noticeable was the contrast between arts education in the poorer L.A. neighborhood schools with that of the school systems servicing upper-middle-class neighborhoods. She explained that, “arts education is nothing like the past,� and greatly differs from her experiences of making art with the joy and ease that came with her youth. Children today do not have the same access to art that Drucker encountered throughout her own childhood; the VAPAE program is designed to make sure that there are future educators who are dedicated to continuing art education.

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ABIGAIL CL AUSON-WOLF

Art education in public schools (especially those within low-income neighborhoods in Los Angeles) is not an outright failure as there is still time and room to greatly improve the faulty system. In order to reverse the trend of eliminating art programs from public schools, immediate steps need to be taken to improve the standing of art education in every school. Programs like VAPAE at UCLA are working to ensure that art education, as a subject, is not forgotten about in the coming years. The VAPAE program is an example of an alternative solution to the failure of federal and state governments to provide art programs to all public schools. The process of learning about and engaging with art is fundamental to the development of a young child’s brain. If art continues to be seen as a secondary activity, as something that is not inherently necessary to brain growth and development, how are we going to interest students and increase funding for art programs? Though public education in this country is a right, not a privilege, art education has been often deemed as a subsidiary subject in school. The amount of scholarship completed in the field of art education should not only be used to develop programs in privately funded or high-income public schools, but should be utilized as the base argument to require local and state funding of art-related programs in each and every school. Change is by no means easy, but for something as critical as art education, it is necessary.

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MUSIC & ENTERTAINMENT

ROCKABILLY: A HISTORY FROM THE

CENTURIES FRONTMAN,

AVALOS WORDS & PHOTOS

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‘54 Ford Customline, Suavecito pomade, five guitars, two drum sets, and a spot in the lineup for one of the biggest rockabilly festivals in the U.S., my brother is living the rockabilly dream. A self-taught musician, I have seen my brother’s musical interests range from hard-core Led Zeppelin, X, and Eddie Cochran. The scenes out there for the first two types of bands are widespread, and nearly fluid with other streams of musical interests. However, the latter is a part of the rockabilly scene, a scene that I have dabbled with by attending car shows, through my previous job at a vintage reproduction shop, and in supporting my brother’s, Roberto “Bert” Avalos’, concerts with his Los Angeles rockabilly band, The Centuries. SPRING 2016


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The genre is associated with a certain grand patriotism, reflecting an idealist sense of 1950s post-WWII America, where markets were strong with the post-War economic boom. Through media and famous U.S. movies of the time, the U.S. white, nuclear family, was seen as the poster child of it all. As to why the style of this time is so alluring, it can perhaps be accredited to the advertisements that served a larger American audience than before; this audience had the expendable income from the jobs WWII provided, so more Americans could afford the looks and styles of their era, unlike previous eras ravaged by the expenses of war or The Great Depression. Thus, the average American looked overall put together, with cinched waists, heels, gelled hair, and the brand new car to go with it. Car culture is a significant part of the rockabilly scene. It comes from the ‘50s and ‘60s car cultures from general youth, to greaser and hot rod culture of the ‘60s. In these decades, cars were still made beyond the gray, white, black, or red standard. They were meant to draw attention, and intended to reflect their owners. According to Margaret Walsh’s “Gender and the Automobile in the United

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States”, cars were a significant cultural factor of teens in the ‘50s and ‘60s, as a means of young men showing off their ride and their date. Car culture was fostered with such hangouts as the increasing number of drive-in movie theaters and restaurants. Car ownership provided freedom in the wake of the growing influence of rock ‘n’ roll. The importance of cars and social hangouts for youth in these decades has carried through to the rockabilly culture for the past century. In fact, the love and passion for the ‘50s and ‘40s era goes to the extent of reproducing vintage clothing, collecting classic cars, and restoring vintage household items. Unlike a similar retro scene, the swing dance scene, that tends to emulate vintage style with contemporary items. Centino defines this replication of those eras in terms of the European rockabilly scene, “hepkat: a gendered identity meant to apply to a hard partying, rock & roller who always dressed in vintage 1950s American teenage fashions, drove a hot rod, collected vintage records, and had a healthy disdain for modern aesthetics.” Having once worked at My Baby Jo, a vintage reproduction shop in the Los

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Rockabilly is a scene, culture, and musical genre that references the 1950s rock ‘n’ roll young adult lifestyle, in fashion, cars, home décor, and music interests. According to the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul website, rockabilly began with Sun Records musician, Elvis Presley, due to his melding of some of rockabilly’s key traits: country (and specifically “hillbilly” music), rock, swing, and blues. Rockabilly lost much of its popularity after the 1959 tragic plane crash claiming the lives of some of its earliest, most popular artists, including Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. the Big Bopper Richardson. This day has since been dubbed “The Day the Music Died”, after Don McLean’s 1971 song, “American Pie.” However, as Nicholas F. Centino wrote in his article with KCET, rockabilly resurged in “de-industrial Great Britain” in the ‘70s, and again more recently with music and entertainment producing rockabilly and retro representations. The modern revival culture was helped along by American ‘80s band, the Stray Cats, and in the ‘90s with the movies, such as The Mask with Jim Carrey, which featured The Royal Crown Revue band, and Swingers with Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau, which featured the Big Bad Voodoo Daddy band.


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Angeles Palms area, I was in the middle of this type of hepkat scene, being surrounded by patterns and designs reproduced from the ‘20s to ‘40s motorcycle racing age, to ‘50s Polynesian curtain patterns, and the ‘40s to ‘50s with such items as Esther Williams’ bathing suits company, that emulate the bathing beauty’s iconic style. With this reference point into the Los Angeles rockabilly scene, I was able to see one of the key points of the rockabilly scene, the clothing and fashion realm. While I worked, I always felt the need to represent the scene—dressing in high-waisted skirts, A-line dresses, vintage reproduction heels, with a flower in my hair (emanating the Polynesian allure of the ‘50s-’60s, which could be seen in such movies of the day as Blue Hawaii (1961) with Elvis SPRING 2016

Presley), red MAC Ruby Woo lipstick and cat eyeliner. I even sported bangs reminiscent of famous 1950s pin-up girl, Bettie Page. Her style and that of the pin-up girl culture (a culture coming specifically from the sexualized posters of women for WWII soldiers, popular were girls painted by Alberto Vargas), has greatly influenced the style of rockabilly women and models. I find that this near subconcious step to look vintage and rockabilly is telling of what the rockabilly scene is. It is recgonizable, and involves a community of fans and participants. I find that this nearly subconscious step to look vintage and rockabilly is telling of what the rockabilly scene is. It is recognizable, and involves a community of fans and participants. Though this vintage reproduction store was my all-time dream shop since I was little, I didn’t get the job


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through applying, but through my brother, Roberto “Bert” Avalos, who frequented the shop and got the opportunity to play with his rockabilly band, The Centuries, within the store for the opening of the street’s Farmers Market. I was offered the job and couldn’t refuse.

Bert’s interest in music was peaked by listening to the English classic rock band, Led Zeppelin, on the radio in our father’s car. He liked “the whole chemistry of the band”, and bought their records, live albums and DVDs. In these, he came across covers of songs they did, spanning genres of roots, rockabilly, and blues. Researching the artists they covered by buying their CDs from now-gone Tower Records, such as albums with John Lee Hooker’s “Howlin’ Wolf ” and

“I was interested in Eddie Cochran, and that led to stuff like Johnny Burnette, and Gene Vincent, and, it turned out there was a good scene from that music still…They weren’t as pop-y [as other 1950’s musicians], they weren’t trying really hard to please anybody, they just played music they liked.” Cochran, Vincent, and Burnett were all rockabilly musicians known for pioneering rockabilly music, with songs such as Cochran’s “Summertime Blues” (1958), Vincent’s “Be-Bop-A-Lula” (1957), and Burnett’s “Rockbilly Boogie” (1957). Bert says general consensus from the scene is that Curtis Gordon, a musician from mobile Alabama, made the first rockabilly song, “Rompin’ and Stompin’” while he was with RCA records (Radio Corporation of America), the second-oldest recording company in the U.S. Gordon had a western swing influence, with country instruments incorporated into rock ‘n’ roll. The types of instruments included in a rockabilly band are significant due

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to its mixture of electric and acoustic instruments which distinguish it from a rock ‘n’ roll band; according to Bert, “to create a rockabilly band, you need an upright ¾ bass, a hollow body electric guitar, a jazz drum kit, and a whole lot of slap-back echo delay on the vocals. Electric bass hadn’t been invented yet, and coming straight out of ‘40s jazz bands, all the bass players were playing upright bass.” With its mix of different era’s and genres’ instruments, such as the country slide guitars in the infancy of rockabilly, and jazz instruments, rockabilly is a synthesis of cultures. Thus, it branches into new or other scenes as well. What has resonated with me is how the Latino culture is largely involved with the rockabilly scene. I was intrigued by something that is prevalent in the scene: confederate flags. For example, in the 1990 movie, Cry-Baby, with Johnny Depp, the rockabilly (or more hillbilly) greaser group, “drapes”, decorate their barn wall with a confederate flag. I was surprised by the dichotomy within the rockabilly scene. It is inclusive in its international appeal, yet it is associating with such a controversial and symbolically racist image to its scene. After asking my brother about what resonated with me, I was able to get such pon-

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Living at home with all my siblings, I have seen my brother grow up and develop interests in different music genres and favorite artists. But different from his classic rock love, seeing his interest progress with rockabilly was different—it was a scene not commonly seen.

artist Ricky Nelson’s “Hello Mary Lou”, Bert’s interest in this music genre persisted.


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derings clarified. Bert credited the rockabilly appeal to Latinos to the country musical style of rockabilly. “The country influence sounds a lot like you would call like, “Tex-Mex”, rockabilly and Mexican music have a lot of the musical flourishes.” this Texan-Mexican style of music is where the country music of Mexico (specifically norteño music, “Northern “ music, related to polka music) and Texans (in rock ‘n’ roll, country, and western swing) mix; both invoke audience members to partner dance, and both include acoustic and brass instruments. With the country origins, seen in music and clothing style, the rockabilly allure to Latinos seems fluid. As far as the confederate flag, the ties to rockabilly go back to rockabilly’s country western roots in the Deep South, and the confederate jingoism of the South. “That’s where the term ‘rockabilly rebel’ came from, from ‘confederate rebellion’.” Though Bert says the flag is not very prevalent at all in the U.S. today, some English rockabillies in the “teddy boy” scene use the confederate flag symbol. The teddy boys, as described by Bert,

started out as “more of a racist hatecrime group than a rockabilly scene.” Their music was an American rockabilly parallel, with skiffle (regarded as English country) and jazz influences instead, and washboards as instruments. The teddy boys are distinguishable by drape jackets, a jacket that “takes after their whole Edwardian era in English history. They dressed like [Edwardians, like before punk rock was the rebellious thing to do, the rebellious thing was to dress like your parents or grandparents] did. A whole bunch of second-hand luxury clothes,” says Bert.He also says that the teddy boy scene has progressively changed from being made up of a younger crowd to an older crowd. He credits this to the expensive, and thus hard for youth to purchase, drape jackets. Bert’s entry into the rockabilly scene started with his love of music. From picking up the acoustic guitar by himself in the 7th Grade, and quickly progressing to the electric guitar, then drums—Bert’s interest in starting a band was natural. Starting out with the band, The Trozos, that Bert (as the drummer) and some of his high school friends put together, Bert dabbled with ska, rock, and blues. Its melding of styles translated well;

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The Trozos is still one of my favorite bands. After the singer, Brett, left, Bert took on the vocals, which led him to do vocals in another one of his bands that he began towards the end of his high school career, The Centuries. A more traditional rockabilly band in its swing roots, the band is comprised of Bert on vocals and lead guitar, Josh Hernandez on the upright bass, his cousin Danny Carmona on the drums, and frequent collaborator, Nigel Stoll on the tenor saxophone. Prior to entering the rockabilly scene, Bert wasn’t sure there still was a scene. After having his first experience within the rockabilly scene at Safari Sam’s, a Hollywood bar and venue, he knew it still existed. Safari Sam’s, now gone, held Sunday rockabilly brunches and music hosted by DJ Hillbilly Jeff. There, Bert was introduced to a hillbilly music scene with contemporary artists such as Deke Dickerson (who has frequently played at the George Barris Culver City Car Show, from creator of such emblematic cars as the Batmobile and the Munster Koach) and Dave Stuckey. With The Centuries, Bert started off street performing in Hollywood, something he and the band still


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occasionally do, due to it being fun and good practice (plus a good way of making money). Then, with the bassist’s, Josh’s, connections to the Park Bar in Burbank, they played their first show there. After their first show, Bert’s girlfriend’s dad told them about Viva Cantina, a part Mexican-restaurant and country and rockabilly Burbank venue (now rockabilly is no longer there), a venue he went to for a country classical guitarist, Danny B Harvey. At Safari Sam’s the crowd was older, but when Bert went to Viva Cantina he found a younger crowd closer to his age. Later, playing at Viva Cantina, the band started realizing the potential of the band as a serious project, versus one just for fun. And the goal of getting on a record label arose. Some of the rockabilly biggest record labels out there that Bert mentioned include, “Wild Records from Los Angeles, Sleazy Records from Spain, Rhythm Bomb Records from Germany, which is what we want to be on.” With this new mindset, the band started thinking of touring. And when a fellow rockabilly musician friend, Tony Slash, from the band The Rocketz, presented them with the opportunity to tour Western states with his band, The Centuries jumped on the opportunity. This proved a successful and encouraging venture for

The Centuries. One of their highlight locations was Pueblo, Colorado, which Bert loved for their strong car culture, being a type of hot rod town, and for their enthusiastic fans. They have now returned to the locations of that tour, and plan to go back while including more locations, and eventually to go international to Europe. Most recently, The Centuries have played the pinnacle of shows in the U.S. rockabilly scene, performing at Viva Las Vegas, the nineteenth year of the international, and largest U.S., rockabilly festival held at The Orleans hotel in Las Vegas. Playing at one of the two main ballroom stages, the Bienville, the band found praise from their international audience with several rockabilly record labels approaching them with interest. Currently, he and the band are set for some more out-of-state shows. They can be followed on social media by @TheCenturiesRockabilly. Further, Bert and his girlfriend, Sophia, plan on starting a band with references to rockabilly, country, and surf.

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BERT’S ADVICE TO UPCOMING BANDS

Bert’s advice to upcoming bands is to “learn to play every instrument you can, learn as many songs that you can; just go street performing, look at the places where other bands play, just write them down and ask questions.”

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With The Centuries, Bert advertises the band on all major social media sites, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and SoundCloud. He’s found the best way to get exposure is to play places, whether a venue or on a street. Audience members have often come up to them at shows and said they’ve seen the band perform somewhere before, and some have found them on YouTube.


ELIZABETH HSIEH

I F A T R E E FA L L S :

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W H Y A U D I E N C ELESS ART STILL M AT T E R S El iza b e th Hsie h I L L U S T R AT I O N Con n ie Cha n g WORDS

Selling sameness. Selling likeability. Selling out. As I examined the popular notion of success that dominates Los Angeles culture, I was determined to dig deeper at an answer to the question: “Why?� In my frantic effort to unearth the diagnosis of this artistic sickness, I booked interviews with bands and artists throughout greater Los Angeles area, boasting an eclectic motley of veteran musicians and newborns in the Los Angeles music scene. Here is the verdict.

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ELIZABETH HSIEH

In her essay “On Keeping a Journal,” Joan Didion comments on the craziness that is the realm of creativity. Her idea that most stood out to me was that in all things, she must “remember what it was to be [herself].” Living in Los Angeles, a culture so heavily saturated by fame and building a repertoire of top 40 singles, it’s easy for artists to become participants in the economy of attaining value through crowd numbers, concert tickets, and record sales. The patchwork notion of moving to California to boost a fanbase seems less like something straight out of a B-rated ‘90s dramedy and more like a reality for struggling musicians. Why does this cliche still exist? Even in 2016, there is a persisting idea that a musician’s value is derived from selling out shows at the Staples Center or being nominated for a Grammy. While all of these accomplishments are a tangible way to measure popularity, I find that it becomes easier for artists to suffer from self-deprecation or even ephemeral pride when they begin to measure themselves by external validation. On the equally concerning flip side, artists can also feel temporarily reassured in their musical endeavors through compliments from successful creators. Singer Caroline Smith comments, “No matter how much money I amassed or what kind of stages I was playing, if Erykah Badu hated my record I’d feel like such a failure.” The notion of gaining surplus recognition extends from the masses to the musical elite. This chronic dogma of respect from longstanding artists in the industry is problematic because it bases one’s success on a singular group of people who, like

everyone else, are filled with their own preconceived ideas of what is “good art” and what is “bad art.” So can you still be considered a successful artist if you don’t have the respect of musical veterans? Are the opinions of the masses, those who don’t have a musical track record, still valid? Patrick Phillips, lead guitarist and singer of Waterslice, suggests, “When it comes down to it in a big way, it’s all about people who listen to it. It’s all about sharing. You can scream into an empty room all you want but you need people around you who like it and digest it.” After examining these artist’s thoughts, all I can hear is that wellworn question, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one’s around to hear it, does it still make a sound?” If a musician has no one to sit and appreciate his or her music, does the record itself still have intrinsic value? In my opinion, I believe that it’s dangerous to base your art’s value off of external commendation. In an interview with Grant Widmer, the guitarist for new-wave duo Generationals, I began thinking about that Joan Didion quote again, remember what it was to be me. Grant spoke about his own experience, with bandmate Ted Joyner, as an upcoming musician. There was one word that personally stuck in my mind— malleability. He reaffirmed an old and familiar truth: “Validation is interesting because if you attach it to something external, you can set yourself up for a trap.” Even in the name “Generationals”, there is an essence of fluidity. He goes on to say, “[Generationals] appealed to us because it could change with us. A certain question

SPRING 2016


MUSIC & ENTERTAINMENT

might have one answer for someone of one generation than someone of a different generation. Songs have a different influence on different people and generations. It was something we could grow and learn with.” Perhaps one of the most eternal realities, a platitude, is the fact that people are always changing. People are fluid. Despite the cringeworthy cliche, it’s entirely relevant. It’s one of those things you see on a Buzzfeed listicle of “Top 10 Realities to Get You Through Your Monday.”

We are flighty and wishy washy beings. We can’t even commit to making a Friday night plan because something better might come up. Therefore, we shouldn’t expect others or ourselves to be fulfilled by a fleeting glimpse of fame. In the end, commercialized success and external validation is always subject to change. You can’t please everyone. That isn’t to say that you should stop pursuing success in the industry. Maybe you stop handing the power of your music to your audience and develop your sound on your own terms. If I had my way, we would all stop giving a shit about what everyone thinks about our music and just write because it’s an expression of who we are. Ah, if it were a perfect world. That being said, I am absolutely in love with the image of a couple of friends joining together and fumbling around with half-baked melodies and out of tune instruments. I find that there is a certain kind of messy euphoria that comes with creating music. Creating art. Why can’t we do just that? But I guess we’re only worth something if people know about it.

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We still incessantly chase the superficiality of approval and fame. Perhaps the solution lies in the very thing we were seeking approval for—our craft. Randy Bemrose, Radiation City’s bassist and former drummer, comments, “Personally, it all comes down to the bottom line: Is the art good? I’ve been at this game for a long time and I’ve sacrificed having a stable living situation or steady income and a lot of other touchstones… Life is fleeting. Long after I die, this art will be there and if it’s good art, it will stand the test of time whether I’m poor, rich, or on the cover of Rolling Stone.” Sure, there is a place for music that is meant to be devoured by popular consumers (Andy Warhol anyone?). But beyond that, art is personal—it reflects the artist and his or her perceptions of reality. A body of work doesn’t necessarily need an audience to be considered good art. In my opinion, writing music, recording, and performing music should be done for the pure ecstasy of doing just that. A lack of whatever the conventional idea of fame is shouldn’t be a deterrent to continue creating. To me, it seems like attracting

an audience for one’s work is completely separate from the actual work. Gaining an audience, as Brad Petering, from the band TV Girl says, is “as random as the lottery. Feeling disappointed that something you did didn’t catch on would be like being mad at yourself for not winning the lotto. That’s just silly.” He goes on to say, “All the markers of success [are] so fleeting. Like the first day we first got posted on Pitchfork it was a big thrill but then the next day we weren’t… [It makes] you smile for two minutes and then you’re back to square one.”


ISSUE 03

THE PAPER MIXTAPE

SPRING 2016

THE PAPER MIXTAPE Issue 3  

Spring 2016 Issue 3 is our largest issue yet with 22 features filling 150 pages of interviews with artists, chefs, musicians, and producers;...

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