State of Independence

It’s the end of an era here in Los Angeles: the era of Clara.  August 1, 2011, marks the day that Clara Kim, the outgoing gallery director and curator of Los Angeles’s REDCAT, officially begins her new post as Senior Curator of Visual Arts at the Walker Art Center.  Minneapolis’s gain is Los Angeles’s loss.

Atelier Bow-Wow, "Small Case Study House" (BBQ house), 2009. Installation view, REDCAT, Los Angeles, courtesy the artists and REDCAT. Photo: Steve Gunther.

Over the last eight years, Kim has focused on contemporary art from Pacific Rim countries, with exhibitions like Small Case House Study, 2009, a three-month residency and project by the Japanese micro-architecture firm, Atelier Bow Wow, and Animalia, by the Korean artist Kim Beom, which contained—amongst other works—Spectacle, 2010, a twist on the typical predator/prey video.

Kim Beom, "Spectacle," 2010. Video still.

It seems fitting that Kim’s culminating project—a forum on alternative art spaces—was also global in its reach and impact.  State of Independence: A Global Forum on Alternative Practice, took place over the course of two days: July 23 and 24, 2011.  It featured artists, writers, archivists and curators from Mexico, Jakarta, Columbia, China, and Los Angeles, amongst other places.  One of the standouts was Janet Chan of Asia Art Archive, a Hong Kong-based group which has taken on the Sisyphean task of creating an as-comprehensive-as-possible archive of documents relating to the last twenty-five years of contemporary art in Asia, at least a portion of which is available online.

ruangrupa, Jakarta, Indonesia, 2011. Image courtesy of REDCAT.

The forum was the result of six months of field research on alternative art spaces around the world: their effect on their communities, their relationship to the Internet and digital technologies, their financial architecture, and how they function in relation to the larger, often state-sponsored, art institutions in their countries.  As Thomas Lawson of East of Borneo—an online publication based in LA—put it, there’s a shift in how you think about the struggle of an independent art space (or program) when you realize that part of that struggle is against a government that trends toward totalitarianism.

Borges Libreria, Guangzhou, China, 2011. Image courtesy of REDCAT.

The last panel of the weekend asked whether alternative spaces could become new models for future institutions; we here at DailyServing Los Angeles would like to take a moment to recognize Ms. Kim for her work at REDCAT and point out that regardless of whether an institution is “alternative,” it will only ever be as good as the people it is made up of, and we’re sorry to see her go.