Screen Memories

Los Angeles
03.28.06

Left: Ariel Pink in chocolate. Right: John Baldessari with Doug Aitken. (Photos: Patrick McMullan)


“Is this the show?” quipped one would-be partygoer temporarily stuck in the uncooperative elevator at Hermès Beverly Hills. “Alan Kaprow would have loved this,” she enthused. Doug Aitken might have too. It took a bit of effort to locate the third-floor “Gallery at Hermès,” site of a party celebrating Aitken’s newly published book Broken Screen: Expanding the Image, Breaking the Narrative (D. A. P.), but the crowd inside appeared unfazed. The upbeat, decidedly well-heeled revelers appeared to appreciate the largesse of the temple to pricey chic. The evening was billed as the first of four bi-coastal events—two Hermès presentations, two “happenings”—celebrating Aitken’s collection of interviews with artists, filmmakers, and other creative types.

Curiously, copies of the fêted tome were nowhere to be found. Instead, what looked like a big, empty bookshelf greeted visitors as they entered Aitken’s multimedia installation, a labyrinth of indigo illuminated by afterimage-inducing neon spirals and a flashing wall text proclaiming “now new.” On either end of the space, large origami orbs fashioned from the new title’s leaves provided the only evidence of the printed page, though a pair of wall-size video projections—meant to communicate Broken Screen’s theme of “non-linear narrative”—offered an unmistakably sequential extract.

Left: Colin Donahue, Chad Daniel, musician Devendra Banhart, and musician Noah Georgeson. (Photo: Patrick McMullan) Right: Artist Andrea Zittel with gallerist Shaun Caley Regen. (Photo: Julie Lequin)


I spotted Aitken greeting friends, and couldn’t resist divulging my passion for the films of Stan Brakhage. He warmed to the topic immediately: “I wanted to discuss the older generation of filmmakers who tend to be overshadowed by new trends,” he enthused. “Like Pablo Ferro, who developed these optical innovations, did the titles for The Thomas Crown Affair, and worked with Stanley Kubrick on A Clockwork Orange. People like Gus Van Sant are really influenced by him and he has just been living out in the Valley.”

The happening occurred two evenings later at the MAK Center/Schindler House in West Hollywood. This time, cool (as a rule) Aitken seemed a bit more anxious as the crowd gathered on the front lawn for his on-stage chat with John Baldessari. Schlinder’s masterpiece of California living was further tarted up for the evening with geometric Duralogs blazing in the outdoor fireplaces, while large, white innertubes provided challenging seating for guests including artists Eddie Ruscha and Marie Jager, LA MAK head Kimberli Meyer and her Vienna counterpart Peter Noever, the artist’s dealer Shaun Caley Regen, fellow gallery artist Andrea Zittel (keeping watch over a precocious toddler), and many younger members of the experimental film set.

Left: Collector Merry Norris and artist Sharon Ryan. Right: Artist Marie Jager, Architect Francois Perrin, MAK Vienna Director Peter Noever, and LA MAK Director Kimberli Meyer. (Photos: Julie Lequin)


The conversation ended around 5:30 PM, but not one “Broken Scene Martini” was shaken or stirred until happy hour proper, by which time a slow-moving drink line snaked through the entire back yard. I noticed collector Merry Norris eyeing the queue in horror, then resignedly joining it. Luckily, a giant video screen—featuring clips by revered underground filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky, design avant-gardists Superstudio, and current Whitney Biennial darling Ryan Trecartin, among others—distracted the thirsty throngs. Between film excerpts, a declarative intertitle (the handiwork of a French language PR firm?) offered: “This has been done by support from Hermès.” The move was none too subtle, but if by “this,” the company meant the welcome hush that fell over the drink-deprived grumblers during Kelly Sears’s adult animation throwback, Joy of Sex, then bravo!

With pulpy peach cocktail in hand, I returned to the front lawn where a DJ set by DFA Records impresario Tim Sweeney was attracting Hollywood hipsters. I was introduced to Ralph Lauren poster boy Colin Donahue before wending my way back toward artist duo Los Super Elegantes and neo-folk star Devendra Banhart, devotees in tow, who offered a cryptic pronouncement—“Lots of reptilian sleight of hand”—then, like a real celebrity, hastily back-pedaled: “Doug is a friend of mine and I admire his work. He has an appreciation for older filmmakers. His interest in experimental film, like more obscure Italian work, is great.” Nice save.

Left: Los Super Elegantes' Martiniano Lopez-Crozet with friends. Right: Los Super Elegantes' Milena Musquiz with friend. (Photos: Julie Lequin)


Just as the signature cocktail was running dry, the special guest—low-fi alt-rocker Ariel Pink—appeared on stage half-dressed and smeared in chocolate, shouting, “Merde! Merde!” Ten minutes into the feedback-heavy, atonal set, the sky opened up (OK, it was a gentle shower) and the crowd scattered. Still, Kaprow would have loved this. Aitken too.

Left: Bob Roberts and Sharon Steel. Right: Curator Lauri Firstenberg and Parkett Founding US editor Karen Marta. (Photos: Patrick McMullan)


Left: Doug Aitken and Kenneth Anger. Right: Ronnie Sassoon and Shaun Caley Regen. (Photos: Patrick McMullan)


Left: Robert Chavez and Susan Anthony. Right: Richard Patton, Mary Patton, and Cooper Ray. (Photos: Patrick McMullan)


Left: Doug Aitken. Right: Musician Ariel Pink. (Photos: Patrick McMullan)


Catherine Taft