If I Can’t Dance - I Don’t Want To Be Part Of Your Revolution’s production of Five Sisters by Guy de Cointet / Curated by Marie de Brugerolle

Why Los Angeles?

My research has often taken me to the city of Los Angeles. The very first shock that I received from this city, when I was 20 years old, was the sheer length of the highway between San Francisco and San Diego. I took my first road trip with my sister who was then living in San Francisco, having travelled to see her there for the first time. Discovering the countryside along the tarmac strip I didn’t want to enter the cities. We skirted them carefully looking for the desert, the cowboys and Indians of our childhood, those of American movies and TV shows: Bonanza, The Outcasts, Wanted: Dead or Alive… Thus it was a mythical America « as seen on TV » that I first sought out, but then came the shock of discovering the work of John Baldessari, the buying of a book and the promise that one day I would find a way to do something with him. This finally came to fruition in 2005 for the first retrospective of his work that I organized for the Carré d’art in Nimes.

I returned later during the preparations for the Allen Ruppersberg retrospective at the Magasin in Grenoble in 1996. Curiously, my first visit was to the pedestrianized streets of Santa Monica and the house of Lyn Kienholz on the hill, not the real LA, but then, what is the real LA? Like a good French tourist I kept looking for a center. I have since returned a number of times to that city, and I still don’t know which one it is, out of the all of the cities that come together to form it. Venice Beach where Larry Bell welcomes me during my research on Guy de Cointet. I first met him in Taos in New Mexico, where I saw him while on the trail of Cointet, his former assistant. Later in France, in 2010, I organized a retrospective of his work too.

I realize while writing these lines and speaking to my daughter, who often accompanied me during the making of the film on Guy de Cointet, that I have organized three retrospectives of the work of Californian artists. She asks me « so do you see everything in « retro »? The rear view mirror of a car immediately springs to mind, the essential tool of that city even for a non-driver like myself. I think of the windshield on the road between Venice and Taos, between Pasedena and Santa Monica, of the perpetual framing and of that light. Of the Light and Space movement, of Eric Orr, Bob Wilhite, Chris Burden, Nancy Rubins, of those that I admire and who have chosen to anchor themselves here « for the light ». I think of LA as an « eccentric » town, with no center and outside of centers, of New York, Berlin, of London, of that radicalism and particularly of the respect that I felt between artists who work in very different ways. The love of « making things » and of continuing « until they understand » as Richard Jackson said. I think of Paul McCarthy arriving here thinking that he would meet Bruce Nauman, of Mike Kelly coming from Detroit and meeting Paul. I think of John Baldessari who told me that he stayed here because it was a city that made him angry.

A new El Dorado for young French people? More than anything else a mythical city, which is in the process of writing a new story of itself, far outside of well, worn paths, beyond a global center, a Babel where everything still seems possible.

Many of the young French artists presented in LA Existancial already have a link, a beginning to their LA story. Lucille Uhlrich was an assistant on the filming of the documentary about Guy de Cointet and has returned here several times. Simon Bergala lives here. Benjamin Seror came here during his first visit last year and plans on following up with a piece based on the city. Sophie Bonnet Pourpet worked as an assistant to Jim Shaw and Marnie Weber, Jean-Pascal Flavien has lived here and completed a post diploma at UCLA; Julien Bismuth also studied in this university, with Paul McCarthy among others.