Mulholland Dérive, organized by Stephen van Dyck, December 9, 2012
The latest edition of Los Angeles Road Concerts, an annual daylong art/performance/music/literary event that takes over the entire length of one of the city’s iconic boulevards, took place on Mulholland Drive yesterday. It was very cleverly named Mulholland Dérive, after a Situationist strategy for combating the numbing effects of capitalism. In the words of theorist Guy Debord, “In a dérive [people] drop their relations, their work and leisure activities, and all their other usual motives for movement and action, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there.”
It’s a sexy proposition, and previous incarnations of the Road Concerts (taking place on Sunset Boulevard, Washington Boulevard, and San Fernando Road) have been filled with an exuberant, untamed diversity that reflected the nature of the city and its varied inhabitants. This year’s adventure was markedly different; in place of the gritty, unpredictable urban sprawl that characterizes the other streets, Mulholland is a rarefied, bucolic wonderland of uniform class privilege, closely patrolled by a phalanx of park rangers. The long ridge drive that extends from Hollywood to the Pacific Ocean is populated by wealthy home owners, obnoxious Porsche drivers, and a series of state-owned overlooks that provide stunning views as well as the sting of authority.
The event was scheduled for noon to 6pm, and I unfortunately didn’t arrive until after 3pm. By that time, I found that many of the projects had either ended or were forcibly shut down by the park rangers. The Road Concerts are always guerrilla-style, un-permitted events, but when they take place on already-nutty Sunset they are less likely to attract attention than when they take place on posh, manicured Mulholland. The overlooks were strictly off-limits and projects taking place there were banished. Three additional projects taking place on the roads were shut down for their incendiary nature: these involved staged car accidents, a near-naked woman’s re-enactment of the infamous Jason Russell freakout video, and the deployment of a drone camera which accidentally got lost inside of Britney Spears’ residence. I wish I’d been able to see these but I only heard about them after the fact, via accounts from organizer Stephen van Dyck, who was given a $350 citation, and artist Matias Viegener, the drone operator who had a rather upsetting encounter with authorities.
Still, I did drive the entire length of Mulholland and was able to catch several of the more peaceful projects, which continued undisturbed by authorities. Interestingly, the first stations near the 101 freeway were dominated by spiritual themes. Tyr Jung’s Threading the Labyrinth: Beginning the Journey was an eco-friendly walkable labyrinth made out of sidewalk chalk, bird seeds, and wildflower seeds. Stitched into the dirt on the side of the road, it made for a contemplative start to a long and winding day ahead. After picking up a handy conceptual air freshener from Janne Larsen along with Nicole Antebi’s bumper sticker referencing her work with William Mulholland and the Uisce Trail, I continued on down the road to Astri Swendsrud and Quinn Gomez-Heitzeberg’s Semi-Tropic Spiritualist Test Site No. 1, a beautifully situated and executed piece exploring the history of alternative spirituality in LA. From their mountainside perch, you had a perfect view of the Hollywood sign on the left and downtown LA on the right. A postcard provided a diagram of significant spots downtown where spirituality was practiced; a ouija device enabled visitors to locate more spots for future exploration by the duo.
A couple of projects played with the idea of road signage. MUC Collaborative’s Idiomatic Road Interventions, which likened turns of phrase to turns in the road, posted such cues as “Take a Hike” and “Can’t Take It With You” at various points. A collective called Yarn Bombing LA used colorful letters knit out of fabric to post crowd-sourced phrases like “Presence Not Presents” and “Ho Ho Ho.”
Other projects drew their inspiration from the surrounding geography. Stationing herself at the Barbara Fine Overlook, Corrie Siegel passed out historical “Star Maps” that referenced Jewish iconography and biblical narrative. Taking the form of a scroll, the map matches biblical quotes with spots like the Hollywood Bowl Overlook, the Nike Missile Site, and two local fire stations. Maryam Hosseinzadeh had the great idea to conduct tours of the house at 13319 Mulholland, an opulent $9.7 million property that is currently for sale by MLS Realty. Apparently the house contains frescoes that were made by museum-grade conservators/fabricators. She was not able to obtain permission for the tours however, so she resorted to projecting images of the house’s interior, taken from the realtor’s website, on a makeshift screen on the side of the road.
The high point of my whole short day on Mulholland came as I was wandering aimlessly around on one of the scenic overlooks. Suddenly a bodacious redhead came roaring up to me in a bright red Prius. Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” was blasting on her stereo and she proceeded to serenade me with a sing-along. It was none other than local superhero Christy Roberts, rocking her Rode Concert piece in which she roamed the length of Mulholland giving people rides and singing to them. Since I didn’t need a ride, we just sat in her car at the overlook for a while, singing the whole song together all the way through to the end while amused onlookers took photos and video of us. Scaramouche, Scaramouche! Do the fandango!
There were lots of projects I missed that sounded great, such as Austin Young’s on-the-spot nude portraits, Margie Schnibbe hitchhiking, Jonas Becker’s Mobile Pinhole Project, various musical and dance performances, and the aforementioned arrest-worthy pieces. Luckily my colleague at LA Weekly, Anna Jones, will be covering the event in more depth on the Public Spectacle blog. You can also check out complete project descriptions and downloadable goodies at the LA Road Concerts website. There is also some great documentation at the live blog and on the event’s two Facebook pages.