Artists Of Los Angeles How Will It be?

Introductory remarks for Chats About Change gathering at LACE(Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions) 1/17/15

–   Remarks by Robby Herbst

The freeways and bike paths of our city connect us, they do not divide us.

There are second, third, even forth languages that can be used to speak, address, and push the creation of unfamiliar relationships, otherwise known as art, beyond the familiar English of our most simple survival games.

Art should always be a risky investment

An art education is not a condition of debt bondage

Art has nothing to do with “creative destruction” or “new creative economy” unless we’re talking about destruction of illegitamate power, or the economy of the daring gesture.

The beautiful and critical words many of us are taught to use, words that are echoed in all the institutions that push back at us (schools, police, work, stores, governments), those words are only a shadow of the actual words we need to use in the project of making the world we want to be in.

The history of social art, social practice, relational aesthetics etc…, it is a history contiguous with all avant-gardes. Any history that tries to enclose those terms as separate from our social, and vanguard movements, those histories are trying to make you a sucker and cheapen the actual richness of our world.

Los Angeles is undergoing its own period of market intensification. People with interests other than taking care of you and me, much less any concern for our human imaginations and spirits, are claiming to know what is worthwhile. They attempt to write our stories for us, and aim to trade in our well being for their own profit. We should guard against them gaining control of the systems of reproduction and probably battle against there housing developments and their creepy galleries. There capitalizations if successful will erase the structures that have always allowed us freaks the space to prosper; we stand for cheap rent, rasquache traditions, and the possibility of daring encounter in heartfelt and odd ways.

The flavor of the time is “Money Runs Every Thing,” from social policy to art. As a base reality, this needs to be overcome.

All of these concerns are not specific to Los Angeles nor are they specific to artists, but we wish to talk about specific conditions, rather than generalize them.

Environmental Collapse, The murder of Ezzel Ford, Skid Row, LAPD, rape culture, the NSA, US Border, permanent war, Islamophobia, drones, the Antarctic Ice Shelf.

The painterly cadre of Black Lives Matter, The libidinous annex of Earth First!, the gestural communion of NARAL and NOW, The brutalist sculptor of Critical Resistance, Organizer with SEIU, Founder of Friends Of the Earth, Member Of the BAR, Collaborator with the Workers Center, camped at Occupy LA, mother, father creature on the planet.

We know the “value” of creativity is in the way it rearranges our understanding of what is in the world and we must insist on this as its value, nothing else.

To Be Clear:
Who holds together the critical dialogue amongst artist & visionaries in our city? Who supports works that not only challenge the cities “taste”, but discomfort its sense of well being, agitates its imagination, questions its social order, and insists on an agenda that takes no account of the selling of things? With Chats About Change we propose that it is the creative practitioner themselves “us here.” We are responsible for making and controlling our own destinies: both in terms of setting the terms of the dialogue as well as having the capacity to respond to the daunting ecological and social problems of our day.

Artists of Los Angeles, How will it be?

Are we a pack of sycophants chasing our own version of the Hollywood star-system and the lamest and mediocre notions of practice that the newspaper’s Style section throws at us? Or are we players in a different tradition?

Chats about Change developed from friends asking friends questions about guerilla practice back in 2013. Our conversation was open and needn’t arrive anywhere. It only needed to proceed in a way where ideas could be felt and where an array of opinions could be considered. We realized this community of asking and listening was a thing we loved about what it meant to be an artist in LA. Honestly this is a secret shared by anyone in any vibrant community around the world. Together through Chats about Change we seek a forum where we can ask, listen, challenge; to sustain and nurture this culture of inquiry, demand, and experimentation.

Discussing the 1994 indigenious Zapatista rebellion in the Mexican state of Chiapas the anarchist writer Daniel Flood said:

 This intercontinental network of resistance, recognizing differences and acknowledging similarities, will search to find itself with other resistance’s around the world. This intercontinental network of resistance will be the medium in which distinct resistance’s may support one another. This intercontinental network of resistance is not an organising structure; it doesn’t have a central head or decision maker; it has no central command or hierarchies. We are the network, all of us who resist.”

 While our value system tries to divide us into ultra-competitive sociopaths, when stripped away it’s our understanding that artist of many stripes are a part of this intergalactic network. For many of us the only thing missing is the hive-mind-awareness that though our tactics may differ, as culture workers our strategies are similar. We synthesize relationships, language, constituents, plaster, experience, words, hospitality, and pencil into equations whose ends support one another. In acknowledging these differences and these similarities, we can strengthen the cause of our struggle from the admittedly necessary banalities of career like getting paid, to a full blown project of revolution. In acknowledging these differences and these similarities we can enter into a pact of critical inquiry, every project a beta-test for the coming insurrection, as a group of researchers do we cheer it on, interrogate its failings, or both?

Our Chats about Change found inspiration in the Zapatista notion of the consulta: a gathering of a constituency as an act of power and referendum on inquiry. Online, and soon here, we ask the community to put on their shoes and compose questions addressed to the city of Los Angeles on the nature of creative social change practice here in Los Angeles. Questions act as tool: to answer them we must assemble, discuss there meaning, hear each other, organize ourselves to arrive at answers. These answers can be acted upon as plastic or social sculpture.

Some of the online questions we received are:

  1. Does LA’s geography affect the nature of critical practice, and if so how?
  2. How does neo-liberal ideology line up the public and social art’s agenda in Los Angeles, and do civic institutions reproduce similar ideologies through cultural policies locally?
  3. Why doesn’t every roof in Los Angeles have solar panels on it… I mean, duh?


  1. How do social change practices and discourse in Los Angeles engage with, respond to, challenge, and/or confirm an art world whose practitioners are predominantly white?

So now I’m gonna end this introduction and invite you to participate in this consulta? We are hoping you’ll take a few moments to formulate a question or questions addressed to the city of Los Angeles, about the nature and character of creative social change practices in Los Angeles. (move into consulta…)