Los Angeles, USA

October 1, 2015

In your city, how can we tell that we are in the year 2015?

The thousands of black plastic shade balls poured into LA’s water reservoirs to avoid evaporation, as well as the many city-sponsored ads urging you to be water mindful. California is going through a historical drought.

Ivanhoe Reservoir covered with black plastic balls Ivanhoe Reservoir covered with black plastic balls

What in your city reminds you of the past?

Barrio Boogie, an occasional street party at Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights. It celebrates Barrio, Chicano, Pachuco and Zoot Suit culture through music, low-riders, hairstyles and clothing.


Which building or intersection in the city would make us think that we are in the future?

Any of those crazy highway intersection/crossroads that have more than five high-rise bridges criss-crossing over each other in mid air with cars zooming through at high speeds. You feel like you are driving directly into the horizon!

Freeway overpass in Los Angeles Freeway overpass in Los Angeles

Where in your city would be the best place to lose track of time, freeze time, or gain time?

The Bronson Caves in Griffith Park, best known as the Batman cave from the 70s TV series. They close at dusk, so if you go twenty or so minutes before dusk you may be lucky and be there all by yourself.

Bronson Caves in Griffith Park Bronson Caves in Griffith Park

What song or local band would you recommend for an everyday playlist?

Las Cafeteras, Buyepongo, and La Santa Cecilia are always a bilingual delight to listen. I love Medusa, the godmother of LA hip hop, gangsta goddess and underground rap lyricist.


Which museum or cultural space is generally omitted from a typical cultural excursion, but is definitely worth visiting?

There are several, such as the Vincent Price Museum at East Los Angeles College in Monterrey Park; Commonwealth and Council in Koreatown; the Los Angeles Poverty Department, which houses the Skid Row History Museum and Archive; and the newly opened Women's Center for Creative Work near the LA River. You can use the river bike path to get there! If you are into dance and performance, Pieter Performance Space offers rehearsal and class space and all sorts of workshops, in addition to their programs.


In which bookstore can you find new or second-hand publications on art history, exhibition catalogs, or artist monographs?

Libros Schmibros at Mariachi Plaza is a lending library and bookstore. The Last Bookstore in DTLA (Downtown LA) has tons of used books, and hosts open mic nights too.


What dish most embodies your city, and where would you find it?

Street tacos and burritos; you can find them everywhere. The taco trucks are called ‘Loncheras’ (lunch boxes) and most of them serve great tacos and burritos for a more than reasonable price, though the best ones are always on the East side of the LA river, and they come out at night to serve the after-party hungry.


Where can you find the best coffee (or tea)?

I like Muddy Paw Coffee Company on Sunset Blvd. and Micheltorena. Furry friends are welcome and they have a cozy back patio and serve artisanal brews. A percentage of the sales go to local animal shelters and they host animal rescues!


What is a monument that reveals a hidden past?

It’s not a monument, but it’s a place that supports women and men dealing with their past. Homeboy Industries in Chinatown provides training and support for former gang members and previously incarcerated citizens. One of their divisions is Homegirl Cafe, a restaurant serving amazing Latin fare and fresh baked goods from the Homeboy Bakery. Expect your waitress or waiter to be fully and heavily tattooed, including facial marking. For me, gang/prison-related inked skin is a living monument to hidden life histories that struggle with Los Angeles’ inequitable urban and economic development and discriminatory city policies.

Postcard of Homegirl Cafe Postcard of Homegirl Cafe

Outdoor or public artwork worth visiting:

The Chicano murals scattered around Estrada Courts Housing in East Los Angeles. Actually most of East-Los is spotted with amazing murals, both from the Chicano movement (such as Willie Heron’s The Wall that Cracked Open), as well as contemporary street art. Further south you´ll find the Great Wall of Crenshaw, an 800 foot mural on Crenshaw Blvd, between 50th and 52nd St, celebrating black culture and black history.

Mural in Estrada Courts in East Los Angeles Mural in Estrada Courts in East Los Angeles

Where would be the best place to view the sunset in your city?

The beach! There are so many beautiful beaches in LA…it’s a pity there is no (legal) nudist beach in LA county.


Next Sunday, let’s meet at:

Skid row, so you can experience first hand the largest homeless community in the United States.


Which book transports me to your city?

A book and a film. A film: Los Angeles Plays Itself by Thom Andersen, an incredible video essay that shows how LA has been portrayed through cinematic lenses. A book: The People’s Guide to Los Angeles, by Laura Pulido, Laura Baraclough, and Wendy Cheng, it offers a guide to sites in the city where struggles related to race, class, environment, sexuality and gender have occurred.


What aspect of your city most inspires you?

Diversity: the fact that as a Latina I feel at home, but am also constantly surprised by the cultural input of Korean, Filipino, Japanese, Armenian, Russian, Ethiopian and Chinese diasporas. The feminine and feminist legacies left by strong and creative women, such as Dolores Huertas, or the Women’s Building. I feel blessed to be surrounded by so many complex, interesting and hardworking native Angelenas, as well as adopted Angelenas as myself… SI SE PUEDE!


Where would one probably get lost: geographically, emotionally or historically speaking?

Any swap meet or flea market, like the famous Rose Bowl. My personal favorite is the Pasadena City College flea market that takes place on the first Sunday of every month. You can find young and upcoming designers, but also vintage clothes, jewelry, shoes and furniture. There are a couple of vendors with a vast array of old photographs and postcards…that is where you get really lost.

Flea market at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena Flea market at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena

If you were to be commissioned today to create an artwork “about” this city, briefly describe your proposal.

I would organize guided tours to the many water reservoirs, dams and water pipelines that surround the city, as well as those that choke the Colorado River, where most of our water comes from. Dams are embedded in the nervous system of modern cities, but remain largely out of sight. Making quasi-obsolete and/or harmful water and energy infrastructures visible can perhaps help us conjure post-development everyday practices towards a sustainable existence.

Sepulveda Dam in Lake Balboa Sepulveda Dam in Lake Balboa