For my Structures project in Authoring Critical Media — a memorial to our collective capacity to understand the breadth of our individual self–identity in the contexts of social networking — I felt that a primary unexplored characteristic of the inquiry concerned the actual siting of the proposed forms, which could potentially draw–out details about the interplay between the objects and the site. The project proposed ten large–scale sculptural objects that visualize a landscape of hue, saturation, and brightness values extracted from a slit–scan rendering of an anonymous donor's entire photographic history in tagged images on Facebook; roughly fifty images spanning six years of online interaction and representation. This was the proposed Memorial to the Imperfectly Conceived Self of Los Angeles — essentially a construction of an abstraction of every pixel that has come to represent each of us as individuals within the realm of the Internet; something like a digital tomb for the unknown soldier. Whereas DNA tracing has obliterated our capacity (even the capacity of our remains) to actually be unknown, the digital online has achieved the opposite: confounded our capacity to know what updates, statuses, and other assorted aspects of our lives others are using to construct their impressions of us.

The project is sited at the proposed, long–delayed location of the new federal courthouse between 1st St and 2nd St and Hill St and Broadway, just two blocks down Bunker Hill from The Disney Concert Hall in the Civic Center of Downtown Los Angeles. This site is incredibly rich as a uniquely blank form upon the L.A. city surface — though one that is beginning to develop an identity and a set of myths around it as the building project has continued to be delayed. Also, this city–block–sized pit is interesting as a physical manifestation of civic and federal bureaucratic disjunction. These unintended, overt outcomes of obscure and nebulous civic governmental maneuvering are very promising territory for ongoing investigation.

[Photo by Aaron Fooshée]

The video composition "Narrow Traces [Week X]" represents an effort to visualize directed and mediated movement, as a means of interrogating how people negotiate and experience space. The intersection at Flower St and 5th St — the corner between the Central Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library and the Westin Bonaventure Hotel — is not necessarily an ideal site for comparison with the Civic Center pit. Video–shooting locations were scouted in Pershing Square, as well as El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Park, but neither was adequately populated for this manner of visual exploration of movement through space. In the Kazy Varnelis–edited collection The Infrastructural City: Networked Ecologies in Los Angeles, architect Roger Sherman writes about complex sites of negotiation between stakeholders in the urban context of Los Angeles. For instance, the hedge dividing two adjacent parking lots in Signal Hill, which customers have — by imposing their way through — physically described in their collective journeys between Curley's Cafe and Pacific Century Bank.

[Photo by Aaron Fooshée]

The video exploration is an attempt to bring the concepts of negotiation and cumulative effect into the space of the project — a means of interrogating the role that memorials are expected to serve in public space. Stolid, sober structures, memorials are a means for society to talk to itself about shared values and aspirations. Memorials are big, heavy, and extremely serious — a means to convince ourselves that our society, memories, and beliefs are exempt from the impartial destruction of time and natural forces.

The memorial is ultimately nothing more than a structural means to set–up a series of precursors that lead to citizens or travelers sharing a unique sensory experience at a specific place in the world — an experience which denotes a shared world–view. A creative media, in a way — geography as propaganda.

This memorial aspires to strip–away the pretense of permanence. The structures here are temporary placeholders, and the accumulated patterns of movement that slowly develop in the ground covering, soil, and flora around them are the lasting pieces of importance. Blue Fescue grass as a marker of cumulative movement patterns. While grass may not be the ideal solution, it is compelling as a simple solution, and one that almost everyone experiences on a daily basis: the way that soil and grass often become a manifestation of a negotiation between those who design and construct space and those who use and misuse space. The scar of dirt among the field of grass as a collective negotiation by pedestrians against the contraints of concrete.

Brief: Week X
Class: MDP–529 Authoring Critical Media
Instruction: Prof. Anne Burdick, Prof. Tim Durfee, Prof. Ben Hooker
Term: Fall, 2012

Media Design Practices | Lab 2014
Art Center College of Design | Pasadena, CA