Shannon Ebner: and, per se and, 2011
Painted wood, steel, aluminum, light emitting diodes, photovoltaic solar cells, 12 volt battery
Jul 15 - Oct 9, 2011
Through a collaboration with the City of Culver City, the Culver City Cultural Affairs Commission, and the Culver City Redevelopment Agency, the Hammer Museum, LA><ART, and as part of the 54th Venice Biennale present Shannon Ebner’s first public project in Los Angeles, ‘and, per se and,’, an 8-foot tall plywood ampersand installed in a vacant lot on the northeast corner of Centinela Ave. and Washington Blvd. in Culver City, CA.
Located on a busy intersection connecting Westside to LAX via all consuming Playa Vista, and, rest of the city to Marina Del Rey, the site is a cleared and detoxed ex-gas station lot, poised for a new commercial development. Perhaps a transit center, mixed use development, semi public space, you name it, but realistically with respect to current economy, on holding pattern no matter what. Not unlike its distant relatives across the city for the same reason of declined demand and melted funding. Waiting for favorable times that might never come, many of these lots are not yet addressed from the urban design point of view since the mini-mall frenzy of the 70's and 80's in Los Angeles. This particular lot typifies this condition.
Of Lawrence Weiner's language based works, Chicago based art critic Anne Rorimer writes, "The thematic content of individual works derives solely from the import of the language employed, while presentational means and contextual placement play crucial, yet separate, roles." Both roles strongly utilized in Ms. Ebner's installation as described by Ms. Rorimer. As the work transverses the linguistic abstractions of the ampersand, a logogram and a highly evolved dingbat, it also materializes within the physical environment of an urban condition.
The piece is seamless of perception, location and appearance. It works its poetic line. It says. And, is a conjoiner in many levels. “&” can reclaim the conversations indefinitely. Installed in the middle of described empty lot, Ebner's wood panel “&” construction artistically connects many urban situations, languages, meanings, stories and can provoke critical urban commentaries. The piece is also an operative teaser of a larger piece by the artist,“The Electric Comma,” under development. Shannon Ebner's artwork activates the dirt with one word. "&" is that word, and at that point, beautifully shaped “&” becomes a whole poem, during the day, at night, driving by or walking it.
There are more atmospheres to “&”, like and unlike its cousin, the billboard art, comparatively speaking, “&” is a seemingly well behaved urban activist, arrives in guerrilla style, staged but clandestine, claiming its right to the city, as if last stand of public verse and its voicefull whisper, confined by rusting chain link fence, no complaints. “&” is a mindful squatter, suggesting a quite urban takeover.
In its low tech fabrication and materials, “&” is designed for sidewalk enterprise, lit by solar powered portable lights at night, illuminated in three second intervals, and it is easily flatpacked like the real estate agent's direction signs, but much less hurried and loaded with political seedlings.
I will refrain calling it a public art project for that definition merely regressed to be mindless beautification deals and installations, satisfying the 1 percent for the arts type of city ordinances. “&” does not need any further description than just "art" in urban setting, where an empty lot represents many things in transit, an indicator of sorts, reflecting the political, speculative and consequential nature of urban land and density that surrounds it.
In that, the work utilizes a minimalist design process with poetic ends, an ampersand connecting many stories and potentials that do and do not exist yet. “&” works very well on a busy intersection. Its viewing time is limited to changing traffic lights, it captures transit bus riders' and commuters' attention and responses to other pedestrian and vehicular urban conditions typical of Los Angeles. It is delivered with the purpose of triggering the connective duty of “&,” staging the imaginative and surface conditions at the same time in an instant speed of thought, power of language, depth of memory, and the metaphorical properties of poetry, constructing its own space with those images and meanings, qualifying for, as the artist calls them, “photographic sentence.”
At night, my favorite time to view, it is dreamy. This is when &'s softly lit urbanity blends well with its pulsating breath of a metropolitan poet, delivering from a reclaimed lot as if playing “pull my daisy” with the viewers. This is also the time when there is no doubt in any spectators mind they have been touched by art. Then, the sentence and photograph are registered as one.
Orhan Ayyüce works in his office next to “&”.
All photographs by the author.