The Los Angeles Geffen MOCA museum has just opened a wonderful new exhibition for the artist William Pope L that features a stunning metaphor of the fraying of the American Vision. A mammoth American flag fills the central hall of the Frank Gehry designed annex.
Propelled by large industrial fans and lit dramatically by arc lights the flag animates the darkened room whipping through the air with the ferocity fragility and dangers of our tentative and uncertain times. Harkening to William Pope L’s strong statement, how do artists and creators respond to the local economic, racial and social breakdowns and lack of communication that cries out for proactive cultural exchange from community to community?
Creative Place Making has been a buzz word for productive programs that have put arts and culture into the foreground of social efforts and solutions for various communities. There have been some imaginative and empowered successes along with serious questions about sustainability. For example, and this is a big one, can creative place-making happen without eventually leading to the gentrification of these neighborhoods and the displacement of the indigenous residents, and the artists themselves? Or in a new phenomena, are we seeing the gentrification of the arts institution spearheading place making transforming from a community social force to homogenized market venues for middle class arts product consumption?
William Pope L’s metaphorical brilliance is that it applies on so many levels and asks a million questions, but in arts and culture I find it applies to areas where we can take action. There is a an interesting example and model to study in an article written by Roberto Bedoya, Executive Director of the Tuscon Pima Arts Council, called “Place Making in the Politics of Belonging and Dis-Belonging” from the GIA Reader, to be found at http://www.giarts.org/article/placemaking-and-politics-belonging-and-dis-belonging
To see 1:17 of William Pope L and leave this page, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GVwfP_DwPU