The Art of Exploration

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Edgar Arceneaux, Library of Black Lies, 2016. Wood, mirror, glass, mylar, newspaper, hardbound books, sugar crystals, lighting fixture, audio component, 192 × 192 × 108 in., 487.7 × 487.7 × 274.3 cm. 

On September 16th of 2016, Art 21 aired their Los Angeles episode featuring artists such as Diana Thater, Liz Larner, Tala Madani, and Edgar Arceneaux. The episode was in the form of a video montage, and the artists each had their own individual segments. The artists not only introduced themselves, but explained the meaning behind their works of art. Although the four artists were all unique in their own way, the continuing theme that bonded the artists together was their need to find human connection within a culture that is driven by technology. Each of the artists used their own creative styles and methods to express their political and social views. Even though the artists may have come from different parts of the world, for whatever reason, fate has all brought them to Los Angeles in the hopes of using their talents to impact the world in a new and positive way.

The first artist to appear in the video was Diana Thater, who is interested in “dealing with the complexities of our relationship to space.” More specifically, this artist deals with the “relationship between animal and human culture.” One of Thater’s works that best fits her artistic views is her installation called “Gorilla Gorilla Gorilla.” In this instillation the viewers walk into a room that Thater carefully constructed. The artist explained that the tint of the light during the viewing of the video installation was important because she wanted the audience to pay close attention to the images on the screen, and acknowledge their own shadows within the image as well. By allowing the audience to see themselves within the video, Thater states that, “there is a loss of self and awareness of self at the same time.” In other words, by placing the audience in the same circumstances as the imprisoned gorillas, Thater hopes that the viewers will gain a sense of sympathy, not only for the gorillas, but for nature as a whole. Thater wants her viewers to takes responsibility, and become aware of how humanity’s actions are effecting nature. More importantly, Diana Thater wants society to take nature into consideration without further destruction. Thater suggests that the best part of working out of L.A is that she is constantly around new and younger people who offer up great ideas, and she hopes this new generation will continue to help change the world for the better.

The sculptor Liz Larner was the second artist to be filmed during the episode. Larner stated that she wanted to become a sculptor because she “didn’t want to take pictures of things, [she] wanted to make things.” One of her sculptures on display is called the “Planchette”, which represents the heart shaped piece on an Ouija board game. The artist says she likes this particular piece because numerous people are placing their hands on one space, and forming a connection amongst themselves, and the afterlife. Larner wanted her installation to represent the strong connection between humanity that occurs within a close space, and in a short amount of time. Larner is very influenced by reality and wants her beliefs to show through her work. For this reason, Larner admits that she is constantly changing her style so that it keeps up with the lack of stability within the real world. To further express these real world influences, Larner created an installation made of stones. Although these stones look strong, and steady, the artist reminds her viewers that like us, the pebbles will not last forever, and therefore should make the most of their time. Like Diana Thater, Larner loves to spend time with the younger generations, more specifically, her two-year-old son. Larner believes that by spending time with her child, he will evoke and influence “spaciousness” and “tenderness” into her work.

The last two featured artists were Iran native Tala Madani, who is noted for her solo exhibition entitled “Smiley Has no Nose” and Edgar Arceneaux, who created the “Library of Black Lies”. What makes the last two artists so unique is their ability to showcase new experiences into an art world that did not always accept them. For example, female and minority artists, even to this day, have a hard time finding a place in the art world. However prejudice the art world maybe, it does not stop there, women and men of lower class systems will always be faced with different circumstances than that of the upper class. And in order to challenge these circumstances, many of Tala Madani’s art work is influenced by the “relationship between adults and kids.” Madani believes that if humanity wants to fix the faults within our society we must think like children. The pure mind of a child is not yet corrupted, and therefore able to understand situations with more sympathy than most adults. In Madani’s opinion, in order to change the world, we must first change the way we think. Likewise, artist Edgar Arceneaux, who grew up in the lower class parts of L.A, expresses his views toward racial discrimination.  Similar to the “Library of Black Lies,” Edgar Arceneaux created an installation by placing a letter sent to Martin Luther King Jr, telling him to commit suicide, on a glass mirror. When looking at this installation the viewer not only sees the letter but their reflection in the mirror as well. This work is similar to that of Diana Thater’s “Gorilla Gorilla Gorilla” in that both of the works force the viewers to place themselves in uncomfortable situations. Although the viewer may feel some discomfort, Arceneaux suggested that “innovation comes from discomfort.” In other words, parallel to the first three artists, Arceneaux is bringing the social and political issues of society to the forefront by shoving it in his viewers faces, and not only forcing them to see society’s faults, but challenging them to make a difference.

-Regine Lawson

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