Los Angeles is abuzz with excitement this weekend in eager anticipation of the city’s first annual mammoth land art project, (car)maggedon (I) – an ambitious environmental art “intervention” that has a little bit of something for everybody: beauty, grandeur and a rigorous conceptual framework that deconstructs Southern California’s reliance on the automobile.
The art event is touted as the Los Angeles art world’s answer to the massive Coachella music festival, except with only one performer: the Kiewit Collective – famed for their cheerful yellow trucks and brightly colored vests and, of course, hundreds of ongoing performances across the United States and Canada. The anonymity of the individual performers is key to the troupe’s mysterious allure and popularity, which is often described as “the outdoor complement to the Blue Man Group.”
Generally, the Kiewit Collective stages guerilla-style, pop-up performances calling attention to hot topics ranging from the despoliation of the land in the Northwestern States, space warfare and, like (car)mageddon (I), cars and our nation’s over-dependence on petroleum.
But this time, in an unlikely stylistic flourish, the otherwise publicity averse Collective has uncharacteristically given in to a huge media blitz (scroll down for pictures) overshadowing even the final installation of the Harry Potter franchise – a feat almost unimaginable for all but the most formidable of arts organizations. Jay Leno, Actor Tom Hanks, socialite Paris Hilton, musician Adam Levine and Office stars Mindy Kaling and Rainn Wilson, as well as comedian David Spade, have all contributed to the publicity machine in celebration of the Kiewit Collective’s creative achievement.
At the crux of the 53 hour long endurance-based performance is the contradiction between the banality of its premise – the widening of a freeway to shave a minute of travel for each mile driven in the commute between the San Fernando Valley and the Westside – and the audacity of the means of accomplishing this feat: including the gradual destruction and widening of multiple bridges and the planned annual rerouting an estimated half a million Angelenos for a weekend, once a year, for the next year or two – all in the name of art.
While the publicity alone has already set locals abuzz with talk about role of the car in LA, the ultimate fruit of this performance extravaganza remains in the distant future.
At the very least, Angeleno’s warm embrace of a performance/land art project of this scale and ambition is a hopeful sign for cultural vitality of the entire region.