The Mediterranean Revival architecture of Myron Hunt’s Occidental College campus in Eagle Rock may call to mind many Latinate places in this world, but the plains of central northern Italy south of Lake Como are not necessarily one of them. Plus, the Southern California light is all wrong for Lombardy. Nevertheless, Oxy stood in for an Italian university campus in the most recent episode of Apple TV’s “The Morning Show,” with Mitch, the lecherous former co-host played by Steve Carell, helping out a professor there and thinking he’s all better now because he doesn’t hit on her.
Place looked great. It’s a Northeast L.A. gem.
Occidental in general, says I, ought to play a larger role in our cultural and educational lives here in the San Gabriel Valley, which is totally next door, and my friend Frankie Fleming is out to help do just that.
Frankie is manager of community engagement at the new Oxy Arts space on York Boulevard, just down the street from the main hillside campus. It’s the right space for such a gallery space to be, as Highland Park has supplanted Silver Lake as the center of the entire known hipster universe, and York is at its heart.
For the first post-pandemic show in the inviting space, the gallery doesn’t shrink from art’s duty to go deep and long. No baby steps taken here. The opening last month was for me, and perhaps most of the other guests, the first time we’d gone to an art event in more than a year and a half, and the Oxy Arts team and co-curator Mashinka Firunts Hakopian, an Occidental art professor, were not going to ease us back in by hanging some Eucalyptus School landscapes.
“Encoding Futures: Critical Imaginaries of AI” is instead their invitation to 10 conceptual/electronic/video artists to ask us to explore rather than ignore the implications of Alexa, Siri and Cortana — “names and voices that reinforce the role of women as subservient recipients of demands.”
“Artificial intelligence,” the show’s manifesto says, “structures the socio-technical terrain of our present, and the human agents who train it shape political imaginaries of what is yet to come.”
It gets into predictive policing, border surveillance and something called automatic hiring. Really? Machines hire people? OK, then artists are the perfect people to call that out, “opening up the black box for scrutiny,” as art has done since there was art.
And you have to love an art show the next public event for which is an Oct. 21 workshop with the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition.
“Alexa? Siri? Cortana? Are you listening? Do as I say. Answer my questions in a pleasing way,” as the Algorithmic Justice League lyrically has it in the show.
“Futures” is on view through Nov. 19 at 4757 York Blvd.; gallery hours Monday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; oxy.edu/oxy-arts.
Wednesday at random:
Everyone sentient is properly wigged out about the near-disappearance of the Western Monarch butterfly, suddenly down to 1% of historic populations, and that’s why all the Arroyos & Foothills Conservancy events for its fall Monarch Recovery Project are sold out, with hundreds of locals taking home the right kind of native milkweed, essential to the butterflies’ chance for non-extinction. But you can still sign up for future events and learn about milkweed at arroyosfoothills.org … Reader Dana Roth, referring to my July 14 column on South Pasadena forgetting it had actually banned gasoline-powered leaf blowers decades ago, notes: “A close reading of Pasadena’s own ordinance suggests yet another example of non-compliance/enforcement. Given the dust storms I’ve seen on school playgrounds and random parking lots around the city, I wish someone would take the ordinance seriously.” The law, for instance, bans the blowers before 8 a.m. and after 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, before 9 and after 5 on Saturdays; “or at any time on Sunday.” That law the governor signed just bans the sale of the two-stroke machines after 2024, not, so far as I can tell, their use. … Blair High frosh and competitive swimmer Ella Lesnever is fundraising for a timer for the school’s pool; without one, the team can’t host home meets. Go to bit.ly/blairtiming to help my alma mater and to see Ella’s video about the predicament and her aquatic quest. Go Vikings!
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