A Day in L.A.: Washington Boulevard Art Concert

Last year we organized the San Fernando Road Concert, an all day arts event where 21 LA-based creative people re-imagined unused urban space and driving down-time along all 23 miles of San Fernando Road with experimental music performances, art installations, readings, discussions and carpool happenings. You can check it out at http://stephenvandyck.com/sanfernando.htm. This year we are doing it again, and this time it will be on Washington Boulevard.

Since I moved to LA eight years ago I've been interested in the way this whole metropolis grew, the massive in-between and negative spaces it left behind, and how one street could go over twenty miles and through so many kinds of neighborhoods. Some of them were originally highways, while others kept getting extended with urban growth. Valley Boulevard originally went from downtown LA all the way east of San Bernardino, twisting through seventy miles of orange groves, mountain passes and small towns. Sunset Boulevard is perhaps the most infamous of the endless streets, starting downtown and passing through an ironic/iconic combination of the most densely populated and wealthiest suburban parts of the city. Whenever I try to sell LA to a skeptical out-of-towner, I explain how living here is customizable, that we can get in our cars and skip all the places we don't want to see, unlike New York where it's inevitable that you will walk every block and encounter every kind of person, not that this is a bad thing. What's more: in LA there are massive amounts of land that everyone skips, that are as desolate and hidden from the populace as a rural mountain road. What if those places became the destinations, to skip our usual IKEAs, 405s and Denny's, to generate a new kind of LA experience by bringing meaning and attention to a collection of these less obvious spots?

So here's how we see the event working. Each participating artist is invited to find an outdoor spot along Washington Boulevard and to make a site-specific work for the chosen spot. Spots could be between dumpsters, along railroad tracks, on the double yellow lines, on a bench, on the steps of a Christian bookstore, at the top of a 20-foot high street lamp, on the curb, on the sidewalk, as long as it's along the street. Work could be a performance, installation, a fleeting interaction, reading of a piece of writing, large scale video projection, a sneeze, self-immolation, anything you wanna do. Work can relate to its spot directly or tangentially, so long as the spot is necessary to the work.

On the day of the event, audience members are invited to drive the length of Washington Boulevard on a loose schedule, arriving at each spot to experience an intimate interaction with and/or by each artist. Each artist will state an earliest and latest time to arrive at their respective spots, which will be listed in the event program, which will come with a map. For instance, artist #1 performs between 2:00 and 2:45 pm, artist #2 between 2:15 and 2:25 pm, artist #3 between 2.30 and 3:00 pm, and so on. This event is unapologetically LA; performance times are loose and overlap so the audience can be on their own schedule: to find parking, to stop at a drive-thru to get a smoothie from Jack in the Box, to choose how long they want to spend at each spot, skip spots, drive at different speeds between them, to daydream or drive off-track for anonymous wandering through the sparse industrial wasteland southeast of downtown LA. It'll be arranged so that the most easterly spot starts first, and for each spot to be later in the afternoon roughly the farther west each gets. The later or farther west you are, the closer to sunset and darkness it'd be, in case you're going for a particular kind of lighting.

Alternatively, I'd like to get some participating artists to make a site-specific performance or installation (or text score, CD, multimedia-what-have-you) for cars as they go the length of Washington Boulevard. For instance, last year David Earle made an insightful historical San Fernando audio tour on CD with half-true stories. Or audience members could be encouraged to car pool with artists, and to switch car pools at their leisure between spots.

Maps and info about the concert will be obtainable at http://washblvd.tk a week before the audience embarks on Sunday, October 11th. If you want the audience to download something as part of your piece before they embark, we can put it on the website in addition to handing it out at the first concert stop.

There will also be an event blog, and you can post documentation to it via e-mail. The e-mail address will also be provided to audience members so that they can post directly to the event blog through their phones during the concert.

It'd be ideal to have some idea of where and what you're doing by September 15th or so. I'm also open to not knowing what you're going to do until the day of the event. Either way, in the program there will be room for optional program notes, perhaps a bio, an upfront description of your piece, instructions, or else some esoteric wordplay, a quote, whatever you want so as to entice the audience. Last year there was little written about each work before the event, just titles, and the element of surprise was often part of the fun. You may not even want the program to say where or when your piece is. Also, in case you have time commitment issues, just know that your piece can last for as short as a millisecond or longer than the day of the event itself, and your piece doesn't require you to be physically present or in just one location.sn't require you to be physically present.

Why Washington Boulevard? Los Angeles has some of the longest municipal streets in the world, Sepulveda Boulevard being the longest at 43 miles. Last year we did San Fernando, which is basically the drive between CalArts and downtown LA, and I figured the artists and audience would find it to be more native to them. This time we wanted to go east/west. Washington is the longest east/west street in the county, at 27.5 miles. It serves as a pretty good cross-section of the city's diversity of landscapes and people: starting in Whittier, it goes past the LA River, through industrial wasteland, then the dense neighborhoods near Downtown and Koreatown, past the neighborhood of the LA Riots, becomes the main thoroughfare of Culver City's art district, and eventually ends and becomes the pier in Venice Beach. At the following link are some photos I've taken along Washington Boulevard, which might serve as inspiration in your spot-hunting. There are even more, if you'd like to see, at http://stephenvandyck.com/washingtonpictures.htm

For a map of the exact drive, go here: http://maps.google.com/maps?f=d&source=s_d&saddr=Washington+Blvd&daddr=Washington+Blvd+to:E+Washington+Blvd+to:W+Washington+Blvd+to:33.998739,-118.417854+to:Washington+Blvd&geocode=FfhPBgIdAtL2-A%3BFU6kBgIdqM_1-A%3BFV7aBgIdLOH0-A%3BFVxoBwIdMJTy-A%3B%3BFXh6BgIdcFbw-A&hl=en&mra=dpe&mrcr=0&mrsp=4&sz=13&via=1,2,3,4&dirflg=h&sll=33.994327,-118.360863&sspn=0.066607,0.154324&ie=UTF8&ll=33.992904,-118.217697&spn=0.266433,0.617294&z=11

Please let me know if this idea stimulates you, pangs you, sounds boring, or if you have any suggestions or any ideas for a title, or if you know of any other cool people who would be interested in getting involved. I hope you will join me in it.

--Los Angeles Road Concerts