Situation Rooms

L.A. Expanded: Notes from the West Coast
A weekly column by Catherine Wagley

A button York Chang designed for Arco Madrid. It quotes a Latin American artist Chang invented.

York Chang always wanted to be a Latin American artist. The complication with this was that he wasn’t: wasn’t from Latin America, hadn’t grown up there, didn’t have family from there. As he described Wednesday, at Paper Chaser’s X-Ten Biennial, an evening over which arts professionals talked for ten minutes each about their influences, he solved the problem in a fairly labor intensive, metafictional way, creating a Latin American art movement, making the work of its artists and working to convince others it actually existed. But, still, it’s the weirdness of the situation that interests me more than the solution. What can you do when you want, impossibly, to be something you can’t be?

Director Jason Reitman, of Juno fame, will be doing something impossible next Thursday (Oct. 20). He’ll be restaging The Breakfast Club with a collection of unannounced, perhaps unconfirmed, performers. Reitman’s “cast” will gather at LACMA, and then just do it, launch into the 1985 teen classic with no rehearsals to help them along. It’s the situation that audiences will come to see, and the potential is immense. Despite it’s seeming feel-good message–stereotypes don’t go past the surface, all people are deeper than they appear–the movie is almost like a piece of endurance theater, with amazingly absurd vignettes.

Still from "The Breakfast Club"

Molly Ringwald puts lipstick on with the tube between her breast. Emilio Estevez breaks glass like a mad man. And then they just sit in the library for hours on end.Who should play Allison, “the mute,” who puts chips in her sandwich and chews loudly? Aubrey Plaza? Maybe that’s too obvious. Winona Ryder, a troubled dark-haired beauty? And what if Estevez’s jock was played by someone not really cool or athletic at all? Fred Armisen? Somehow, I’ve got Mad Men’s John Hamm locked in my head as the criminal John Bender character. He doesn’t have the beady eyes, but I’d like to see him as the bully.

Another longer-lasting “situation” begins tomorrow, when the Museum of Public Fiction opens its California Hotel, a fully functional hotel suite that will operate out of its Highland Park space for a month. Artist collective Grizzly Grizzly will be the full-time residents and the public will be welcome on Saturdays, from noon to 6. There’s a mini-bar, a televised concierge and Wi-Fi.

Museum of Public Fiction's announcement for The California Hotel

Letter and brochure for Al's Grand Hotel, May 2, 1971, designed by Allen Ruppersberg.© Allen Ruppersberg. The Getty Research Institute, Gift of Michael Asher, 2009.

Allen Ruppersberg did something similar in 1971, and his “Al’s Grand Hotel” is the inspiration for Public Fiction’s rendition. Rupperberg used a house on Sunset Boulevard, decorating guest rooms according to themes (there was a Jesus-themed room and a bridal suite), and then presenting Saturday concerts by artist-musician Terry Allen. None of the stories I’ve heard about what happened there are outrageous. It’s just the fact that Al did it that remains interesting; he created a space for people to come and experience each other, where outrageous, memorable things could have happened. “I use my art to transform my life, I use my life to make my art,” Rupperberg wrote in his 1985 essay Fifty Helpful Hints on the Art of the Everyday. Neither life nor art always pan out to be something amazing, but they never stop having that amazing potential.