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Trying to make sense of feeling lost in L.A.

December 27, 2007|David Ng

"LOS Angeles, c'est tentaculaire." Sprawling. Spread out. Expansive. For Paris-based artist Pascale Lafay, the sheer vastness of L.A. is a dominant theme in her new video installation "Trans-formation," a subjective account of her three-week journey through the city's intertwining tentacles.

"I had trouble connecting all of the different parts of L.A. in my mind," Lafay says. "It was difficult just figuring out which way was east or west."

"Trans-formation," at Pico House as part of the photography exhibition "Pioneers and Entrepreneurs: French Immigrants in the Making of Los Angeles, 1827-1927," is first and foremost a sensory exploration. "I wanted to evoke the way the city feels -- the light, the heat, the rhythm of daily life," Lafay says. "It's not a postcard portrait of the city."

The video filters L.A. through a gauze of jet-lagged disorientation, giving such banal objects as freeway billboards and power lines an otherworldly quality. (There's a hint of Antonioni's "Zabriskie Point," but Lafay says she's never seen the movie.)

Lafay shot the video using a variety of cameras, including a high-end Sony FX-1 and a Nokia camera phone. She amassed 12 hours of raw footage and edited the final movie down to 20 minutes.

"On first glance, there's nothing remotely beautiful or attractive about L.A.," says Emmanuel Forat, who designed the video's visual effects. "But you can sometimes find beauty in things that seem impersonal."

"Trans-formation" is filled with shots of oil pumps, currency exchange shops and highway ramps.

In keeping with the Franco-American historical theme of the exhibition, Lafay also visited neighborhoods with visible French influences. She and Forat then digitally fused contemporary images with 19th century photographs to create a before-and-after effect.

Notable locations include Koreatown's Wiltern Theatre (built on property owned by French pioneer Germain Pellissier) as well as Hollywood's De Longpre Avenue (named after artist Paul de Longpre.)

As for Los Angeles' car culture, Lafay remains undecided.

"I hadn't driven a car for a while, but it was rather easier than I expected," she says. "Everything in L.A. is designed around automobiles. Still, I prefer to walk."

-- David.Ng@latimes.com

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'TRANS-FORMATION'

WHERE: Pico House, 424 N. Main St., L.A.

WHEN: Ends Jan. 13

PRICE: Free

INFO: historicallycorrect.com

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