Llano del Rio, Scores for the City: Social Choreography and Imagination for Southern California
Every inhabitant of Los Angeles has to deal with spatial geography. The sheer proliferation of it everywhere. The necessity of traversing huge swaths of it in order to get to jobs, events, meetings, recreation. The hours spent not at places, but in between them. To the uninitiated, it can seem empty and numbing. But to the practiced Angeleño, it becomes first an opportunity for detoxification and zen meditation, and then eventually, a space where imagination, nuance, and possibility can flourish, unhindered by the tighter spaces, structures, and expectations of a more compact metropolitan area.
Llano del Rio, the artist collective that produces a series of thematic maps of LA, recently came out with its second edition, titled Scores for the City. Whereas its first publication, A Map for An Other Los Angeles, was more of an actual map, sketching out interesting and productive alternative venues throughout the neighborhoods of Echo Park, Silver Lake, Highland Park and beyond, Scores for the City takes a conceptual leap forward. Treating our sprawling habitat as something of a moving canvas of time and space, Llano del Rio has assembled a collection of performative scripts and recollections, designed to animate the past, present, and future of this city we live in. In the collective’s own words, “All actions passive or aggressive in the landscape phenomenologically have consequences… shaping consciousness, demanding more, rewriting the city by how we are in it.”
Scores for the City is a genuine delight to read. Julia Wallace’s remembrance of experiencing the Rodney King riots as a child, and Sandra de la Loza’s analysis of a 1976 incidence of police harassment of Chicano muralists, are politically energized stories that ground the city in specific times, places, and contexts. Adam Overton’s explication of his subtle bodies series of ongoing performances, and Nancy Popp’s whimsical proposals for urban performance acts, open up windows of light-filled possibilities. An interview with Joel Kyack, whose Superclogger project provided mobile puppet shows for frustrated commuters, gives a taste of one person’s optimistic intervention into LA’s daily grind. And Jonah A. Schwartz’s touching Crank Mob memoir celebrates the positive impact of a community activity on one individual’s life and outlook.
On the flip side of the publication are several mysterious historical anecdotes that add even more color and texture to this mini-symphony of LA living—the Wilshire Witches of the 1970s, who held seasonal rituals at the La Brea Tar Pits; and Joel Arpichuck, who gave the finger to Ronald Reagan’s memorial library every day for a year, among others. The pretty graphics are punctuated by encouraging words: “For the city is made up of readymade stages. Angelinos, movement choices are endemic—stimulate something visionary now.”
In both of Llano del Rio’s maps to date, I do love how lyrical and evocative their language is, and how open and free-ranging their narrative, which seeks to be a frame for artistic practice rather than be a practice in itself (according to their mission statement). It accurately captures the subtleties of local culture at the same time that it tries to move readers toward a sharper consciousness of the power and magic of creative actions. The first map was criticized by some for appearing to be an insular manifesto of an elite hipster culture; although as I read it over now, I find that it’s informed by a deep knowledge and love of the area’s history, as well as genuine excitement for the projects they describe, and an unbiased inquisitiveness going into the future. (The next map is tentatively titled Map Guide of the Assholes of LA—can’t wait!!)
You might still be able to get a free copy of Scores for the City at various locales around town. You can also purchase it through Half Letter Press. Finally, check out this cool performance that happened in conjunction with this publication.