Welcome back, Engagement Party
Last Thursday night (October 7) was the long-awaited re-launch of MOCA’s Engagement Party, an innovative program of artist residencies that was temporarily suspended during MOCA’s period of financial fallout. Now things have been sorted out and the Party is back on. A press conference was gamely held to kick off the re-launch, followed by an evening with Ryan Heffington and various dance groups, the rejuvenated program’s first resident artists.
Sadly, the conference portion was a bust. Attendance was microscopic and director Jeffrey Deitch’s “remarks” consisted of a few warmed-over, phoned-in statements of the obvious. Besides being a horrible public speaker, he just seemed distracted, out of place, and not especially invested in what was going on around him. I am counting the days until this out-of-touch idiot moves on to his next gig and from what I heard that night, this sentiment is pretty much universal. Deitch hastily handed the mic over to EP founders and steering committee members Aandrea Stang and Liz Jordan, who announced the artists committed to the next year of EP programming (Heffington, the League of Imaginary Scientists, Neighborhood Public Radio, and Los Angeles Urban Rangers).
Lame director notwithstanding, the important thing to note here is the quality and significance of the Engagement Party concept. Founded in 2008 by a particularly energetic and visionary group of MOCA staff members, EP focuses on the participatory work currently being done by a wide variety of artist collectives throughout Los Angeles, seeking to give it a visible central platform at MOCA. EP’s internal structure is also inspired by these collectives, as it bypasses the usual curatorial channels in favor of a grassroots steering committee composed of mid-level staff personnel from every department at the museum. Props must be given to Stang and Jordan, two of the driving forces behind the project who convinced former director Jeremy Strick of its value and secured a major grant from the James Irvine Foundation to support it.
The first year of programming was pretty terrific and included Executive Order karaoke with Finishing School and a World Cup re-enactment with Knifeandfork, among other memorable events. Last Thursday night featured group dance lessons from Heffington, whose “goal is to inspire everyone to dance,” along with various dance performances and video collaborations. I’m looking forward to more collective fun over the next year, whether the guy at the top has a clue about what’s going on or not.