Glow brighter

July 20, 2008 at 6:23 pm in Art, Events, West Side

Glow, the inaugural edition scattered last night on and around the Santa Monica Pier of an art/performance art rave-ish carnival that succeeded and failed on various levels, initially seemed kind of lame but I went with a group of friends, and this new guy I’m seeing and like a lot, so I managed to have a blast anyway. We smoked some pot before hand, and during, which certainly helped us appreciate the silly, pointless emptiness of it all. When we arrived, around midnight, just as we were approaching the pier, we heard a man who was leaving say very loudly to his friend, “I am SO GLAD to be out of there!” Turns out he was a prophet– who knew?

In spite of the seeming immaturity of it all, there was an especially good musician playing and singing just south of the pier– an Argentinian guy, I was told, who made his beat up guitar sound like three instruments. Propelled by three percussionists, his gentle, lilting voice snaked through the rhythms as swaying-hipped dancers wearing huge undulating and diaphonous fabric wings shimmied with animal grace like delicately mating birds. It was mesmerizing and the best thing we witnessed.

We saw some, but not much, of what I assume was the officially sanctioned art, which seemed about as innocuous as you can find outside of grade school– I take that back: The kid art at the Silver Lake Trader Joe’s rocks and it blew away anything we saw, not that we were very preoccupied with looking for more of it after the initial work we saw. Am I being a bit harsh? Yeah, I am; and the truth hurts, I’m afraid.

Maybe this is a trend. The current Carnegie International, an every-few-years-or-so art exhibition of esteemed international repute, held at the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh (my hometown) had the same impact on me earlier this year. Aside from the recently deceased California-based Bruce Connor’s gelatin silver print photograms at the Carnegie, nothing in either exhibit resonated in a poetic way with the current cultural/political milieu — and by “milieu,” I mean to say, “mess.”

Both exhibits seemed intent on creating a quasi-communal feeling of steadfastly ignoring the dashed hopes and withered dreams that imbue our day-to-day life to the extent that we look to events like this, say, or consumerism, as a balm for a long festering wound gouged by the past seven years. And maybe that’s the point (and the sad joke that Glow organizers intended as a subtext,) but me thinks it’s lost on the attendees of such events, myself included.

I know, I know– I was high on weed, but still… Overall, it felt unfocused and diluted, like a microcosm of what have been my long running criticisms of LA since I moved here (from NYC) five years ago: It had no center and it suffered from low standards.

Certainly Los Angeles has risen as a genuine art center of international importance in the past decade, so my hopes were high for Glow. Its website was handsomely designed; Hell, even the DJ set podcast on the site was good. But the execution was lacking. This being the first year at a sprawling venue, they can certainly learn from their mistakes.

If there was one refreshing aspect of Glow, it would be the relative dearth (glaring, these days) of obvious corporate sponsorship, aside from a few small temporary Starbucks satellites scattered about. Coffee at an all night event makes sense, but might I suggest a few Patron kiosks next time for those of us looking for the benefits of the humble blue agave? Try as we desperately did, we couldn’t find any alcohol being served, although one person we ran into showed us a little bottle of rum she had in her purse.

If Santa Monica, or anyplace else for that matter, gives Glow another chance next year or whenever, all of the elements necessary for creating an iconic, uniquely Los Angelean event are here. It’s just a matter of finding them.

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