guerrilla public performance with video (performance by Linda Leigh)
Linda Leigh and I met one Spring day in 2018, at an art book library, which was really just a corner in the supply room of the Studio 526. The Studio is a community art center, located inside the social service agency building on San Pedro Street, downtown LA.
Just a week before our first encounter, I had read her poem published in the Skid Row Zine, a stapled booklet featuring works by the Studio artists. It was a poem about her Dad. When I rushed to grab a glue or a knife for a frustrated member calling for attention, I didn't check (nor care) if I did my job. My mind was in the wake of her words. I could still see Dad in bed, looking up at her, at us.
So when we finally met, needless to say, I was starstruck. I asked if she was that Linda—Linda Leigh—from the Zine. She turned. Behind the bright pink rimmed shades, she smiled and nodded.
Soon, we decided that we'd work on a project together. It had to be an event because both our preferred media, performance and video, were time-based.
"Passage," our brainchild, took place on the ground level of a five-story parking structure on March 28, 2019.
The 14-minute video that I edited out of my iphone footage was projected onto the wall. It is a hyper-condensed, ludic collage of the three years I lived (biked, bused, and walked) in LA. Linda stood against the kaleidoscopic wall, pulsing with the rhythm of the traffic. The audience started gathering. Some came alone. Others came in pairs.
The only kind of ambient light was neighboring neon signages spilling through tagged windows. Linda's voice, neither loud nor quiet, cozily filled up the cavernous space.
She took us to the night when she and her sister waited for the spawning grunions. She told us how her parents met. She confided in us the many lives she lived.
Mise en scène: the location is meaningful. Main Street, abutting Los Angeles Street where Skid Row starts to loom, acts as an implicit boundary. Past Main, people look away. There are folks who howl, pass out, drag a filthy blanket through some questionable puddles, urinate, defecate, sleep outside barefoot. Main is where indifference becomes a fact of life.
Also on Main is the Regent theater, where emerging artists play their next big gig. Next to the beloved music venue is a "dive" bar, a pizza place, a creamery where you can also hop on an exercise bike for your guilt free consumption.
The parking garage is attached to the new luxury loft apartment. It is for the residents only. Almost certainly because they can afford it, the ground floor of the garage is never used. During lunch, at its busiest hour, you might spot a pair of musicians honing their repertoire before their upcoming performance on the train. Retail employees saunter in for a quiet lunch, compostable containers in hand. Security can tell if they can stay or not. One quick glance will do.