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L.A. Stories : Artists invite the public to contribute vignettes, objects and photographs about the city to their installation project.

August 07, 1992|NANCY KAPITANOFF | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Nancy Kapitanoff writes regularly about art for The Times

It was two years ago that artists Joyce Dallal and Lauren M. Kasmer came up with the idea of bringing non-commercial art to shopping malls throughout Los Angeles.

In what seems like a prescient plan now, after the L. A. riots, they decided to create a window installation project that encourages members of the public to explore their feelings about their city and gives them the opportunity to participate in the project.

With partial funding from the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department, their "Homesite" installation was realized for the first time in a storefront window three weeks ago at the Westside Pavilion in West Los Angeles.

It closed there Thursday and moves to a window in The Promenade in Woodland Hills on Saturday. On that day, as well as on Aug. 20, the public is invited to come and contribute personal stories, objects and photographs to the installation to help create a changing collective statement about the city and the local area in particular. Dallal and Kasmer will be present to discuss the project.

"The nature of the piece is to let people have a voice through art to talk about their feelings and connections to the city or their lack of connections," Kasmer said. "We used this piece to investigate how we feel, like any artist would, about our own personal histories and connections to L. A."

"Homesite" in this case is pronounced "home city." By giving a familiar word this foreign twist, its creators want to convey the sense that Los Angeles is home to many of us, and a foreign place for many who are here.

"We all call the city our home, but we all mean something different by that. My work as an artist has been about my own background as a child of immigrants," said Dallal, who was born in the United States to parents who had emigrated from Iraq in the 1940s. "Trying to establish this place as my home and set my roots down here--that's strange when your history is tied to another place. It's a common experience here."

Kasmer, who was born in Los Angeles, said working on the installation helped her appreciate the city more. "In looking at its history or trying to discover it to interpret it for this piece, I found a lot of things that we could really celebrate. I hope this piece communicates that to people," she said.

Dallal and Kasmer began by sending small boxes, which serve as a metaphor for rooms in a home, to artists and non-artists with a request that they fill the boxes in ways that express themselves. These "rooms" have been placed in cabinets that represent houses and apartment buildings, which constitute a major component of this multimedia installation.

Pat Berger's room depicts life in the Venice Beach area. Lesley Siegel has covered her "walls" with her own photographs of apartment building names and topped it off with the declaration, "Apartment Living Is Great."

Next to one of the cabinets stands a column covered with a collage of images depicting the evolution of the city's landscape over the past 200 years, from early Native American homes to our present urban congestion. The column supports a video presentation that acts as the installation's narrator. Its six stories about people's lives in Los Angeles relate various viewpoints.

The column is "representative of an archeological dig," Dallal said. "The moving image on top sits on a mountain of history, and represents the changing contemporary landscape."

A portion of the video that ran at the Westside Pavilion was devoted specifically to the history of that area. When the installation reaches Woodland Hills, that section will be replaced by images that reflect the Valley community's surrounding landscape.

The exhibit also addresses the ethnic and racial diversity of the city's population today.

To have an object or story incorporated into the piece, anyone can attend a Community Participation day. There is also a box at the installation where passersby can leave comments and contributions.

"One of the most recent contributions is the floral arrangement of dried flowers in the bottle of AZT," Dallal said. "It's from a man who's HIV-positive, and he wanted to make a statement that something good can come out of this negative thing; and that there's a lot of caring and wonderful things that are being done by people in the L.A. area to help people."

Dallal and Kasmer collaborated 10 years ago on an anti-nuclear fashion show to benefit the Alliance for Survival. Kasmer curated a series of window installations for the 1990 Los Angeles Open Festival, which included one by Dallal. After the festival they decided to do a window together.

"We wanted it to be in shopping centers because we wanted to come into a space where people from all different walks of life collect," Kasmer said.

"In L.A., they are one of the few places where people get out of their cars and walk around, yet it's all consumer culture," Dallal said.

"We're inserting this non-commercial art piece in the middle of a very commercial space. We like that," Kasmer added.

Where and When

What: "Homesite."

Location: The Promenade in Woodland Hills, Topanga Canyon Boulevard and Oxnard Street, Lower Level.

Hours: During mall hours Saturday through Aug. 31; Community Participation Days are 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday; and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 20.

Call: (213) 221-8384.

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