summer happenings at the broad
The Broad recently announced its programming for the third annual Summer Happenings. The event series, which will take place on the last Saturday of every month, features an eclectic mix of genre bending musicians and performance artists. There will be punk. There will be pop. There will be a collaborative performance by Beijing-based interdisciplinary art collective Asian Dope Boys and electronic musician Aïsha Devi, who "channels metaphysical research, ritualistic practice, and healing frequencies into an alternate club environment." There will be a sermon on time--the series' and accompanying exhibition's overarching theme--delivered by Jean Grae and soundtracked by her nondenominational Church of Infinite You's cover choir. Yes, cover choir. Not cover band. Cover choir.
This week, we spoke to Ed Patuto, director of audience engagement at the Broad, who has played an essential role in the curation of the events taking place. Patuto offered some unique insight on the programming, the upcoming exhibition, and what we can expect from the Summer Happenings in years to come.
The full list of the Broad's programming can be found here.
Flaunt: You have been quoted as saying the Broad, “developed a reputation for showcasing the unknown while celebrating LA’s vast cultural and artistic diversity.” The Broad had become a staple of LA in a short amount of time, how to you integrate a loyalty to the city and also maintaining a global perspective?
ED PATUTO: We do that in the Happenings. So, the first one is themed around our summer exhibition which is called A Journey That Wasn’t. A Journey That Wasn’t basically looks at how artists deal with and represent time in their artwork. Even though time is kind of an immaterial concept, it can be perceived both through repetition, through rhythm or through a more formalistic aspect of time or even through emotions, remembering, memory, longing, distortions of memory, etc. So, we have this theme around which we organize an evening of performances and then we bring in artists from here in Los Angeles to address that theme as well as artists from New York and in this particular happening, Terry Riley from California, Gang Gang Dance, DJ Stretch Armstrong and Jean Grae are coming in from New York. Then we have Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs from here in Los Angeles as well as Tara Jane O’Neil, who’s gonna perform with Jmy James Kidd and The Sunland Dancers -- they’re both dancers. We even have Zap Mama who’s coming in from Europe. So, it’s a range of artists that we chose. For example, Zap Mama, kind of loops and layers to create a complex harmony and a complex rhythm and mixes hip hop elements with kind of a Congolese roots and Gang Gang Dance because they play these syncopated rhythms and experimental synth rock. Then you have Terry Riley who’s gonna do “Aleph”, which is his last composition in 2012. It’s a very meditative piece and it uses repetition heavily. It references elements of Judaism and Indian raga. So, it’s all of these visual and exhibition artists who are contributing to this evening where they’re exploring themes, but they’re doing so through performance.
Music is sometimes considered outside of the ‘museum’ ‘white box’ space—do you see the Summer Happenings as closing that gap?
EP: Absolutely. The thing about the objects you see in those white boxes in galleries or museums is that you have to realize that artists don’t create those in a vacuum. I can show you videos of Cindy Sherman setting up her photoshoots where she’s listening to pop music and its clearly part of, for her, creating the environment where she can do what she does in her photographs. There are many artists who are musicians. We just had a Jasper Johns show and Jasper Johns so considers himself a vessel for other’s ideas. But in that show, there were a lot of literary references. Clearly, the written word and literature and poetry is a very important influence on Jasper Johns. Or even some of his paintings share some of the same names with Merce Cunningham’s dance pieces or John Cage’s compositions because they were all close friends and influencing each other. So, I think that what we are trying to do without being overly didactic in a very real kind of way, an experiential way, is give our guests an opportunity to identify different ways of understanding the artwork that’s on the walls other than just reading the wall text.
For the second event series, what inspired the theme of Joseph Beuys and the Fluxus movement?
EP: So, our director, Joanne Hyler, said to me, “you know Ed, I really like it when you explore the edges of the collection”. Joseph Beuys was a very important artist who taught in the academy in Düsseldorf. He taught many important German artists, some of whom we have in our collection. We also have in our collection, one of the most complete assembling’s of Joseph Beuys’ multiples. They’re these objects that he made around the world and it’s a phenomenal resource for the city of Los Angeles. So, Fluxus and Beuys are highly influential to a lot of performative artists and other artists as well and we wanted to do something with that. We have faUST, a German krautrock band that is, in addition to an actual set on the plaza stage, performing throughout the museum all night. Fluxus really bridged the everyday life and what we do in everyday life in performance and the artist studio. People like Matmos and faUST also do that by the way they integrate fun elements into their music and at the same time explore what could possibly be music and performance. In Matmos last album they used a washing machine to create music with, and faUST performs on everything from an oil drum to smashed TV sets to cement mixers. It’s all very much in the spirit of Fluxus.
The title of the exhibition and the happenings is “A Journey That Wasn’t”, which is a film by Pierre Huyghe about a journey to Antarctica. Why was this chosen as the name for the exhibition? How is this an overarching theme for the entire exhibit? For the summer happenings?
EP: I think it’s a work that really speaks to curators and in the piece itself, he takes a trip in search of this rare albino penguin in Antarctica. He kind of restates the search as a performance of music and lights in Central Park in New York. The film is really beautiful and it’s very much about the search, this longing. It’s about recreating, reliving something that he did and then it’s a really perfect aspect for performance because he restates the whole thing as a performance. Often times in music and even theatre, we re-live moments of history or moments of family dramas, moments in relationships. The film really embodies all of those elements.
With the third exhibit highlighting Chinese culture, how did you become aware of popular artists? Is there a reason you chose Chinese artists in particular?
EP: So, East West Bank is the Broad’s lead sponsor and they’re sponsoring the stage on which all of these performances on the plaza take place along with many other programs here at the Broad. They’re a Chinese American bank and there’s an incredible amount of energy right now in the creative arts in China. We wanted to do something in recognition of their support and so I visited New York to go to a festival curated by a composer and performer, a woman named Du Yun who is from Shanghai. She had been listening to re-TROS, Rebuilding the Rights of Statues. They had a new CD out about a year ago that I liked and they’re on the label Modern Sky. So, I started looking at some of the bands on Modern Sky and contacted Sijie Liu who works for them and is in charge of artist relations there. Those two women were enormously helpful in the curation of this series. And then James Spooner, who is one of our guest curators who did the documentary Afropunk and worked on the first festivals, got really into an underground Beijing punk club where all these bands performed. They’re kind of young, emerging bands in Beijing and we’re bringing three of them over here to perform. There are also others who contributed: Ryu Takahashi and Asian Dope Boys, whose performance work deals with psychedelia, eastern religions and they collaborate with a really incredible electronic musician, Aïsha Devi. They also are a queer performance group which is really interesting coming out of China and Zhou Hongbo is probably the best documentary film maker in China. He made this documentary called “Lotus Fairy” which is about a district in Shanghai and I saw it in New York recently. We’re gonna have that shown with a live performed score both with the traditional pipa which is a string instrument and also contemporary instruments: drums, keyboard, guitar. A lot of these artists are performing in the US for the first time. I don’t think there’s ever been a presentation of contemporary Chinese performance that goes from punk to Indie rock to performance art to documentary films. It’s a very broad look at what’s happening in China. It’s actually gonna be one of the most interesting programs the museum has ever done. It’s contemporary classical, where there’s really some progressive stuff happening in China in the arts right now.
How has the programming evolved since last year? What would you hope to see moving forward?
EP: I think that I want to continue to explore what’s happening here in Los Angeles and at the same time bring in interesting artists from around the globe and the United States. I think it really helps to put Los Angeles artists in context with what’s happening internationally. I also think that bringing a kind of a relationship between these art forms and the objects we have in the galleries as well as the creative practice that goes on in the visual artist studio. I think that all of these arts influence each other and I think it’s important that we not lose sight of that. I was having a conversation recently with Richard Koshalek, the former director of MOCA and he talked about how the first thing they did was Temporary- Contemporary which was a performance called “Available Light”. They did a performance that was also an installation because they really wanted to show that you can’t just separate contemporary culture. You can’t simply just bifurcate it or put it into silos. I still work at MOCA and that influenced me, but I was also a dancer so I come from the preforming arts although I’ve always been close to the visual arts. I think I want to continue to find interesting ways to explore that.
I even saw Kim Gordon is on the lineup for one of the events…
Ed Patuto: Yeah, it’s the last one and she’s performing with YoshimiO. They collaborated when Kim was part of Sonic Youth, so bringing them together again is really an exciting thing. Also Arto Lindsay, Kim Gordon and sonic youth, I believe, collaborated as well, so you have these people who have performed together coming together again to perform. Arto, Kim and Yoshimi are all real experimental rock and then talk about legends, you have the Banjee Ball preforming at the same time. So, you’re gonna see these seemingly different performers yet somehow, they’re all coming together.
What would you say is the most challenging aspect of this programming as far as you yourself programming it? What has been the biggest hurdle to overcome?
EP: I think for this one, it was the exciting aspect of it but when we began to look at the August Program, Shi Dati, the program for new artists from China and it was opening up this incredible treasure of what’s happening there and then being able to leave a lot on the cutting room floor, so to speak. There’s so much to keep going back to and it was both phenomenally exciting at the same time that it was really challenging.
What do you hope people take away from this experience?
EP: I think that people will be exposed to something new. It’s this seamless experience of going to galleries and looking at artwork, thinking about what the artist is doing and then going into a performance and being challenged by what the performers are doing. It’s a feeling that they came away with something and with things to talk about, new experiences and feel enriched. We all could use some soul affirmation these days and re-affirmation of our humanity and the humanism of our culture and this is a chance to do that. It’s a chance to not simply try to learn something but also really be lifted spiritually, emotionally and intellectually by what’s happening right now. It exposes some of the most interesting performers and visual artists working today.
Do you have anything that you want to add that I didn’t ask you?
EP: Just that I think that the curation and the selection of artists this year is phenomenally strong. I don’t think you’ll see this kind of gripping of artists performing together anywhere else in the country and that’s something very special that we have here in Los Angeles and that we should all take advantage of and really feel proud of that this can only happen in LA.