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On Relationship and the Inadequacy of Observation

a photo essay from the 2015 Live Arts Exchange

Story by Jonathan Potter November 2nd, 2015


In late 2017 the Cassini Spacecraft will descend into the gasses of Saturn, ending nearly twenty years of exploration in outer space. The mission was an international effort, combining technology and resources from NASA, the European Space Association, and the Italian Space Agency. Over 250 scientists globally will study the findings from Cassini. Scientists may find signs we are not alone in the universe; on the other hand they may find nothing of the sort. In any case, what the Cassini project has proven is that searching for answers requires creating relationships and forming communities.

Science and Art have much in common. Relationships, it would seem, are the heart of discovery. What’s more, how we relate to one another implicitly and explicitly was the theme of the 2015 Live Arts Exchange in Los Angeles, California. Now in its third year, the festival brings together local Los Angeles-based artists who practice installation, experiential, theater, or musical arts. In an attempt to highlight the southland’s burgeoning contemporary art community Miranda Wright and Rachel Scandling, of the Los Angeles Performance Practice, fashioned the 2015 festival into a pulpit of dynamic preachers and practitioners.

I was asked to be festival photographer a few weeks ahead of the event. Completely unprepared for the path I’d ventured upon I walked blithely into the dark. I have been shooting production and theater photos for a number of years, quietly working with designers and producers to generate images for portfolios and press kits. In the past, more often than not when asked about a piece for which I have shot photos I can only reply that ‘it was pretty.’ Unable, or unaccustomed, to immersing myself deeply in the piece itself I am the consummate observer. However, I found observer status inadequate for the Live Arts Exchange. I couldn’t help but find myself moved, enthralled, and saddened by pieces I saw. What follows are some thoughts and a selection of images; neither the thoughts nor the images are without flaw: some are blurry, some hazily colored, and some are crushed in black and white. What follows are brief words and portrayals that express what I discovered on the rooftops, in the black boxes, and on stages of Los Angeles.

RYAT playing the opening night kickoff party

Lights - sound - action

The event launched itself into the week with DJ’s and a live performance from RYAT. Although physically separated from the band and the crowd in her safe cube or projections, Ryat closed the show by standing up and saying, “Now let’s all go hang out!”

UnAdult by Genevieve Carson at the: Jenna Keiper (red), Jessica Emmanuel (green), Drea Sobke (orange), Tiffany Sweat (yellow)

The physical nature of aging

Bodies develop, we outgrow shoes, our faces screw up into fleeting moments of smiles and wrinkles spread out from our eyes. As a man, I’d not thought about the physicality of being a young woman, the actual push and pull of your peers, and the confusion that can arise from simply not fitting in. UnAdult takes this head on.

Jenna Keiper

art in bars

Dancers moving through space, artists performing amongst the high-rise towers, musicians tapping away at the night. Art of the people by the people and amongst the people.

Link to information about Grand Lady Dance House

Sunland Dancers
The Sunland Dancers
Andrew Gilbert, part of Grand Lady Dance house
Sunland Dancers at the Ace Hotel
Grand Lady Dance House puts on a piece titled ‘House Music’ on the roof of the Ace Hotel in downtown, Los Angeles

small brush strokes paint our lives

How often do we find ourselves waiting? We wait for trains, we wait for food, we wait for friends. Our waiting is a constant reminder of how small we are in the world. Our tiny universe is filled by the flow of time, pushing us into the cracks and crevices of life, hollowing out the future one moment to the next. It is the small places we go, and the small movements we make that paint our lives. Don’t wait too long to pick up the brush.

Link to information about Susan Simpson

Susan Simpson manipulates a puppet and paints at the Ace Hotel
Susan Simpson
Susan Simpson

installing Our passed future

A party with projections, sound design, choreography, and even vintage pong: this is installation art. Titled Bring Back the Future and put up by Mothership LA, the evening was all about connecting, meeting new people, and experiencing the awkwardness of Hollywood’s choice of October 21st, 2015 as the date that Marty McFly would travel forward to in the second Back to the Future movie. The beauty of a good party is that you don’t really think about the party itself, more about the people you met while there. Christine, Duncan, Rachel, Mitch, Alexis, Nora, Ian, Miranda, more…

Casey Anderson of the Southland Ensemble plays at the Ace Hotel

sacred space

There was a magical moment during Celebration, Florida when I realized we occupied sacred space. It wasn’t explicit, it wasn’t denoted. The air was consecrated by our presence, by those unassuming people on stage in that moment. It was fleeting, as soon as the house lights came up our lives came rushing back. For a few short moments we had that sacred space, as grains of sand through our fingers we shared it with the people around us, as deep lovers we let our guard down and discovered ourselves.

Christine Wood and Will Green are the two performers who knew nothing about Celebration, Florida before walking on stage
Timur Bekbosunov of Timur and the Dime Museum at the Bootleg Theater — sparkles, volume, and theatrics

Gratitude and sound

I’m not a classical music expert, I haven’t been to the symphony in years, and I’d never experienced contemporary experimental classical music. Jodie Landau and wild Up opened my eyes and ears. The show, both intimate and massive, was a collection of some 17 musicians playing to a standing room-only crowd. The evening had moments of laughter, stillnesses so expressive you could feel your neighbor’s heart, and a sense that we were at the gates of an unknown, yet familiar territory.

Derek Stein, cello
Alison Bjorkedal, harp
Sam KS, drums
Archie Carey, bassoon
Jodie Landau keyboard, vocals, and composer

If relationships are the heart of discovery, then discovery is the heart of creativity.

Los Angeles, CA, United States