EAT THE RIVER
Ceramic PROJECT FCK
Los Angeles is a city of blurred boundaries and diluted urban features, where industrial zones bleed into natural habitat and freeways isolate neighborhoods.
In 1920, the Los Angeles River, cradle of the city and once a home to Native American tribal life, was drastically disrupted by a megaproject designed to reduce the perennial problem of flooding, and a concrete riverbed was built. With that, the L.A. River became something of an urban wasteland full of warehouses and dumps, an iconic setting for action movies and murky underworld auteur films, recognizable worldwide as the emblematic urban nightmare, cut off from nature and rife with violence and corruption.
The world has changed, and Los Angeles now wants to reclaim its river. Life is gradually returning to the riverside, and new trends are changing the way people relate to it. The river runs through the entire city, north to south, and has the potential of becoming the town’s greenway.
Whose dreams can come true along this 48-mile stretch? The ecologists and nature-lovers, the urban renewal crowd, or Frank Gehry’s gigantic make-over?
My plan is to set out in search of visible forms and footprints, to inventory some one hundred cracks, joints and holes in the concrete riverbed. Throughout my expedition downriver, beneath the bridges that span the flow of water and time, one hundred years of civil engineering know-how and architecture, I will be locating and highlighting one hundred discrete time markers, material for my fantasized reading of the watershed, grounded in true stories of day-to-day life on and around the river.
This is a quintessentially American cityscape, cast in countless Hollywood movies with their breakneck chase scenes. I love the concrete that ages so ungracefully, and I want to take samples of graphic relics from this massive movie set and turn them into a collection of utilitarian objects. I love the unreality of this concrete trench, this weirdly brutal graphic slash across the landscape, overlaid upon the natural riverbed, creating surprising forms all along the 48-mile course. We all have strong feelings, one way or the other, about concrete.
My work has always involved the search for ordinary forms, simple and utilitarian. I deal in the tactile to create everyday objects that have always been with us and recall our past, not without a certain melancholy, in a range of forms whose materiality is essential.
I’ll be playing on notions of scale, from supersized to tiny, an approach that is itself a reflection of the legendary grandness of the West.
My objects, my mini-architectures, will be set against the grandiosity of this landscape, placed in the river for a series of photographs that will play on these nested scales and pursue a dialogue with the city’s urban legacy.
These objects might be seen as possible receptacles someday for fruits and vegetables that will grow here in communal gardens or collective farms. I dream of crops and green space emerging from the fault lines in the concrete, once citizens have understood the need to feed themselves with their own locally produced food, and then, the concrete trough will give way to terroir.
I will act side by side with people who are striving to reveal what is already there, to urge residents to see things through a different lens by highlighting the beauty of certain spatial features and emphasizing the potential for urban agriculture and a reimagined recreational commons.
Thus, I intend to delve into this site, this recentered core of Los Angeles, and take from it what I need to make a situational assessment and a project statement, my personal coming-to-grips with this hybrid cityscape.
For this, I will want to spend two months cycling along the banks of the Los Angeles River watershed, its 48 miles, its 7 tributaries, for a collection that I will produce at an on-site workspace, right on the riverbank. Everything is already there in the water, on the shores, under the bridges: the traces, the flow, the light, the sound and color. All I have to do is reveal, name, and choose: Eat the River is already happening.