The Final Chapter of "Summer Happenings" At The Broad
Summer has officially come to an end with this year’s final chapter of “Summer Happenings” at The Broad, which just took place the last Saturday of September. Featuring Gang Gang Dance, faUSt, Kim Gordon, Banjee Ball, and several other performances and scenes, this year’s events focused on “A Journey That Wasn’t”, the exhibition that is currently on view at the DTLA museum. Into the night, experimental performers, dancers, singers, and artists came together to dwell on the concept of time, whether they were working to extend, manipulate, or represent it in different ways. Milk sat down with head curator, Ed Patuto, to get the scoop on how he put together the happenings and the importance of mixing and matching artists and experiences in ways most would not; read our chat below, accompanied by images from photographer Giovanni Du Bose’s favorite set of the night: Banjee Ball.
First of all, congratulations on your last installment of this “Summer Happenings” series at The Broad. I know it just passed at the end of September.
Thank you. We were very pleased with it. We had a good attendance, and we had quite a diversity of performance. They all, in their own unique way, tied back to the themes within the exhibition of “A Journey That Wasn’t”, that dealt with time and how artists represent time. One of the categories for the ball was “School Realness”, art school realness; so the Banjee Ball folks came out carrying paintings and one of them actually came out as a painting. It was quite something; the hair, the makeup, everything; they were a painting.
So this being the third year of the “Summer Happenings”, is there anything you’d previously learned, and took into consideration while planning this year’s experience?
I think making sure that the combinations of what we do are unexpected and unpredictable so that people come and walk through the galleries, and view the performances and see performing artists do things that won’t be experienced anywhere else. That is always is an important aspect, and then keeping a mix of names that are recognizable and then those that are not; we’re very different from a commercially market-driven festival in that we are about the museum, the artists who are on view at the museum, or an exhibition that’s on view. We want people to come and discover something new, and be exposed to something that they really aren’t familiar with. It’s part of the vision of a museum; to present new artists to the public.
Having curated this series, was there a performance that personally struck you as very unpredictable?
The August happening, where we brought over a lot of artists from China, and the Chinese underground. It was pretty amazing to see how many artists are doing incredible work in China and to see the diversity of the work. It’s coming from a very different perspective than a lot of American artists or European artists.
I also think that the July happening was probably my favorite in that FlucT, these two dancers from Brooklyn did an incredible performance that elucidated the politics of Joseph Beuys. They had audio mixed into the soundscape that they’d created that included fragments of Donald Trump’s campaign speeches. The performance was so obviously kind of a response to what was happening and is happening now. That was something that was really quite memorable, as was faUSt, the iconic krautrock band from Berlin. Mostly women performed this time; it was great to see this iteration of the band. They went to the junkyard and built this incredible sculpture of junk, onto which members of the band climbed and used it as a percussive instrument. It was out on the plaza. It was both beautiful and sounded amazing. It was musical and athletic all at the same time.
Oh, and other one was EYE from Boredoms. It was a set that was just mind-blowing. It was an electronic set where he melded pieces of sound and any number of things, musical or not. It was a performance where literally your mind couldn’t keep up with what he was doing. That was challenging and beautiful.
There were a few guest curators that you worked with this year. How did you collaborate with them and how did you choose them?
The three guest curators who worked on this year’s Happenings are all curators The Broad has collaborated with previously; James Spooner, who was one of the founders of Afropunk, Brandon Stosuy, who is the editor-in-chief at The Creative Independent out of Brooklyn, and then Ryu Takahashi, who last year curated a very successful event around Takashi Murakami. Ryu is back and forth between Tokyo and Brooklyn. From The Broad’s staff, Darin Klein and I play very active roles in the curation and execution of the events.
How we work together is that I, with the Broad curators, and the director of the museum, look at what it is that we’re presenting during the Summer, and what the themes or the artists whom we want to accentuate and focus on, and which aspects of that artist’s practice the museum wants to explore. They may have had a relationship to a particular musical movement or a particular place where a lot of performance was going on, and then I look for the curators who I think can realize a vision for it. We talk to the guest curators about our ideas, give them materials to read, images to look at, have them meet with Broad curators, and then they begin talking about a vision for each of them. We come up with ideas, contact the artists, and see if these combinations make sense or don’t make sense, so it’s our staff along with our guest curators.
The “Summer Happenings” are meant to showcase the leading artists of the time. You’re transforming the space of the museum, but how does the space influence the happening?
We activate all of the museum’s spaces and animate them. Outside we build the stage. Even though it can hold over 1100 people, it still has a really intimate feel to it, which we like. You never really feel like you’re that far away from the performers. We also invested in a really good sound system so that people have a great experience because outdoor sound isn’t always easy. We utilize the lobby, and oftentimes we’ll ask performers to create something specific to that space because the lobby of the museum has those curved, sloping walls, that are cave-like and dark grey and, it also has a particular acoustic quality.
In the Oculus, which is on the second floor of the museum, we will put the louder bands and the deejays who we really want to give them the opportunity to let it rip, where they couldn’t outside. And then on the third floor, because it’s an open space and the sound can be heard throughout the floor, we’ll put a dance performance or a sound performance that might be a bit more, or singer-songwriters like Lonnie Holley.
This Summer we had Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs give an extraordinary vocal performance that blew people away; she started in the galleries on the first floor, went through the lobby, went up to the second floor, and really utilized the entire museum.
So we’ve discussed how the space itself impacted the curation. How would you say that Los Angeles as a city impacted the events?
Curatorially, we take risks here in LA that I think you can’t in New York. New York and a lot of other cities can be a bit more conservative when it comes to presenting performance in relation to visual art. Our first Happening had everyone from Gang Gang dance to Terry Riley, an icon of American minimalist music, with an experimental rock band. I don’t see other places that are open to those kinds of combinations. We like to mix in Los Angeles artists as well. It puts what artists are doing here in Los Angeles in the perspective of what else is happening nationally and in some cases internationally,
As I went through the different happenings, words that kept popping up were time and experimentalism; whether it was the representation of time, the manipulation of it, the movement of time, or the mixture of so many different ideas. Why were these themes so prominent within the series; and why were they chosen?
The exhibition that was up this Summer and is currently on view, is called “A Journey That Wasn’t,” and is curated out of The Broad collection, and it features works of art, where artists represent time in contemporary art. It’s hard to talk about music and performance, and not talk about time. The meters of music are all about time and timing, most performances have a beginning, middle, and an end. Others extend a moment or phrase, sometimes as long as possible. This theme grew out of the work our curators were doing and The Broad collection.
Finally, what would you be so happy to know someone who came to the event left with?
For them to experience something that they hadn’t before, and that they understood something about how the arts really work together; that visual arts, and music, and performance, and film, and spoken word all work together and relate. Many of the ways that institutions present these various art forms are siloed or kept separate. And the creative process for a visual artist is more often than not influenced by other art forms; by what they’ve read, by what’s happening in the world at that time, by listening to music, by film. People leaving with an understanding or a sense of, “Wow, I get it.” All these things are really interconnected and you can’t separate them out. If they understand that, we were successful. And if they had a good time, then we were successful.
Images courtesy of Giovanni Du Bose
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