Culture Clash

Invisible Cities

Tonight the The Industry and LA Dance Project production of Invisible Cities completes its extended one month run at Los Angeles’s Union Station.


A 75-minute opera based on the Italo Calvino novel, with music and libretto by Christopher Cerrone, choreography by Danielle Agami, directed by Yuval Sharon and conducted by Marc Lowenstein, the production has been staged twice each performance evening in the active train station. Each performance began with the overture, in the separate hall that contained the small orchestra.


Ticket holders were issued headphones through which to hear the music as, the overture completed, they set out to walk the halls and outdoor patios of the station, throughout which all the opera unfolded


As the patrons wandered in search of theater, they created their own small dramas, mixing among the travelers on the way to catch trains and the many homeless and sleeping travelers waiting for departure. At every turn of the head, some figure presumed to be part, merely, of the everyday human drama emerged as part of the theatrical.


Lines from the libretto were projected onto the station wall. Movement erupted seemingly from nowhere.


Action erupted. Ordinary occupants of the station, passing the action, turning to look at it…


…transformed into players in the drama, turning themselves to sing to a passing dancer.


Everyday life is the springboard for sublime actions.

In one sense there is nothing more simple and more obvious than everyday
life. How do people live? The question may be difficult to answer, but that does
not make it any the less clear. In another sense nothing could be more
superficial: it is banality, triviality, repetitiveness. And in yet another sense
nothing could be more profound. It is existence and the ‘lived’, revealed as they
are before speculative thought has transcribed them.

Henri Levebvre, Critique of Everyday Life


What emerged and gradually mesmerized was not drama in any expected sense, but spectacle, the spectacle of the ordinary, and what arises out of it, without form or direction, at every moment.


It converged everywhere.


Until it was over. And the convergence continued.



AJA (photography by AJA)

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Culture Clash

Photography, Fathers, and Mayors

Photo by Gil Garcetti
Photo by Gil Garcetti

When Gil Garcetti was voted out as Los Angeles District Attorney in 2000 after two terms, he turned his dedication in life to another love besides the law – photography. In the years since, he has become a respected figure in the L.A. and broader photo community. He is especially known for what has become his signature project: his photo documentary record of the construction of the city’s now iconic Walt Disney Concert Hall, designed by Frank Gehry.

When he began, Garcetti did not have three books and exhibits in mind, nor quite the physical challenge. But he responded to another challenge, that of an iron worker one day while Garcetti was shooting the building in progress. The challenge was not to allow what all knew would be a great building to be identified solely with its architect, but to permanently recall the men, and a woman – the iron workers – who walked and assembled the beams of its skeletal body. Garcetti took on the challenge, and he has never forgotten his charge. While some of his

Photo book by Gil Carcetti
Photo book by Gil Garcetti

Disney Hall images capture the extraordinary architectural whole, many more carve geometric abstractions out of the building’s oblique and curving planes set against the sky. Others – the first third of the latest book – document the skills and daring of the iron workers.

Yesterday, the latest exhibit of Garcetti’s Disney Hall work opened at the Colburn School of Performing Arts in downtown Los Angeles, just a block from the hall. Since Gil Garcetti has just agreed to join the board of advisers of the soon to be transformed Julia Dean Photo Workshops into the nonprofit Los Angeles Center of Photography (about which, more at a later date), and Julia Dean being a special inhabitant of the sad red earth, we had

Photo by Julia Dean
Gil Garcetti, right, with iron worker who helped build the Disney Concert Hall.
Photo by Julia Dean

the opportunity to be present at the opening.

A few things stood out, besides the photographs. One was Garcetti’s humility and lack of self-centeredness. When he spoke after his introduction, it was all about neither his photography nor the famous architect, but about the iron workers. Two of them, captured in Garcetti’s images, were present, at his invitation. They spoke, too, and it was obvious the regard in which they all held each other in their continuing relationship.

Photo by Gil Garcetti
Photo by Gil Garcetti

Another stand out observation was of the photographer’s son. Gil Garcetti is, of course, the father of Los Angeles’s new mayor, Eric Garcetti, who was present, along with the rest of the extended family. If there were handlers, they were not obviously visible. Nor did the mayor draw any attention to himself, though everyone knew he was there. For the afternoon, he was a man’s son, proud of his father, deferring the center of attention to him, and like any tech habituated 42-year old, capturing the occasion on his smart phone by by doing a 360 degree video pan.

Mayor of Los Angeles Eric Garcetti. Photo by Julia Dean
Mayor of Los Angeles Eric Garcetti.
Photo by Julia Dean
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