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Conversation between Cheryl Wing-Zi Wong and Olivia Ramos.

 

Cheryl Wing-Zi Wong

Inglewood Urbanstage: Construction as Performance, 2015

Public Installation

RAMOS:  ‪thank you for joining me‬‬

 

this project is really exciting

 

WONG:  ‪thanks! it's been so much work-- exhausting‬‬

 

when was it completed?‬‬

 

it's still ongoing‬‬

 

we have the Cycle 3 programming this weekend and then one more iteration-- Cycle 4

 

performance construction and programming

 

then it will all be de-installed on April 26

 

and by Cycle you mean a totally new arrangement of the stage?‬‬

 

yes-- a Cycle is both the new physical configuration and the construction performance to create it, and then 2 weekend events that activate it. Each Cycle is 1 week in duration.‬‬

 

I'm at the halfway point now...

 

 

Cheryl Wing-Zi Wong

Traverse Configuration

Inglewood Urbanstage: Construction as Performance, 2015

Public Installation

how do you decide what configuration goes with each performance?‬‬

 

i designed the configurations nearly a year ago, thinking about how i wanted the architecture to progress, to transform... it's a choreography of different ways to interact, to invite diverse social dynamics, to have different conversations.‬‬

 

for example, the first cycle is the Amphitheater, with more of a 1-way spectatorship. here we had panel discussions...

Cheryl Wing-Zi Wong

Amphitheater Configuration

Inglewood Urbanstage: Construction as Performance, 2015

Public Installation

the second cycle is the Transverse configuration, with 2-way audience interaction; much more aggressive, confrontational and geared towards dialogue. hence why there were "productive disagreements", conversations with experts and open to the public, on this version of the Urbanstage.

Cheryl Wing-Zi Wong

Traverse Configuration

Inglewood Urbanstage: Construction as Performance, 2015

Public Installation

Cycle 3 is the Labyrinthian (more interactive workshops) and Cycle 4 will be the Longtable configuration. So each performance is really the construction of each new configuration.

 

Cheryl Wing-Zi Wong

Labyrinthian Configuration

Inglewood Urbanstage: Construction as Performance, 2015

Public Installation

and all configurations are done with the same pieces of material?‬‬

 

‪yes, the same modules. they're 2x4 framing with 3/4" birch ply cladding...‬‬

 

super simple, low-budget materials.

 

super awesome - this can be a prototype for new forms of public demonstration‬‬

 

as in depending on the situation, the stage is configured as such

political, educational, performance, etc.

 

Cheryl Wing-Zi Wong

Labyrinthian Configuration

Inglewood Urbanstage: Construction as Performance, 2015

Public Installation

absolutely‬‬

 

‪the truck pulls in when something is going on, and theres a platform, officially, to represent and respond to whatever is going on‬‬

 

yes-- our bodies respond to different architectural situations in different ways and we also respond to each other in different ways given these different contexts. just experimenting with how people grow closer or further apart based off of proximity and elevation is interesting...‬‬

 

and in reality, outside of my intention for the Urbanstage there is also another life-- the neighborhood skaters and bike crews have been coming to play on the sculpture.

 

‪now i'm thinking something else too - the potential of this being a little piece of a building, as in, can architecture be more responsible for human interaction on a human scale‬‬

 

totally-- it would be great to see and feel that. i think many times buildings forget about human scale.‬‬

 

or they can be stagnant and monolithic... or designed simply to not be used by humans.

 

the plaza that the project is sited in is a perfect example of that-- the area is beautiful; the civic complex was designed by Charles Luckman in the early 1970s... but the plaza is completely underused.

 

‪it's a big open plaza right at the base of city hall, but there are only a few benches flanking the very outer perimeter of it. it's an open plaza designed to deter it being used as public space. i spoke to an urban planner in the city about this, about how people cross through but because of its design, they are not allowed or encouraged to stop, to sit, to gather.

‬‬

i guess the Urbanstage attempts to cause a rift in this behavior...

 

‪right it's almost like activism against unitized spaces and existing missed-opportunities

‬‬

this urban condition reminds me of the Lincoln Center Plaza in NY

 

Lincoln Center

Built 1955-1969

Developed by Rockefeller

‪exactly‬‬

 

‪it's surrounded by these three large structures and there is no in-between scale

‬‬

you get out of the theater and bleed out into the street

 

nothing keeps you in there

 

and nothing invites you in

 

and it's in the middle of the city!

 

‪absolutely-- there's only a brief moment before/after shows that the public nervously occupies the space... but that's it.‬‬

 

‪maybe you can take the stage there next‬‬

 

actually once i saw this really cool intervention there-- it was sort of a promo event for a local circus. kind of cheesy but the idea was cool.

‬‬

they set up a tightrope across the plaza and a tightrope walker made his/her way across... nice to see this defiance of safety expectations there.

 

 

Lincoln Center

Tightrope Performance, 2009

Big Apple Circus

 

haha that's awesome‬‬

 

‪i'd love to take the stage to a setting like that next, but also i've learned a lot in this project and there are always many safety/liability considerations for public art projects...‬‬

 

can be a bummer and restrictive.

 

on the other hand the work can be seen and accessed on a different  level than it would be in a private setting.

 

‪right - do you think that's what happens with architecture too?

‬‬

the human scale becomes dangerous to humans

 

or are you referring to the movable parts?

 

yes, i think that's what happens on larger scale architecture too. the idea of public space can become super limited because of liability, and safety... and honestly, of course i think public safety should be considered and addressed. however, when it moves to an extreme of creating inhuman, underutilized spaces (the open plaza with no stopping points, for example), that's when it is problematic.

‬‬

movable parts always have an issue with public safety. but i like movable parts! i like transformative spaces...

 

my initial intention was for these configurations to slowly shift between each other-- like small portions getting reconstructed each day. but because of time/labor logistics as well as public safety concerns, the construction performances had to be limited to once a week.‬‬

 

‪i see - so the transition would be seamless almost and all of the sudden there is a new stage‬‬

 

yep‬‬

 

though i guess if you stayed for the entire weekly construction performance, it wouldn't seem so sudden

 

but that's hard for the public to do, so for the general public they see it change from one day to the next

 

the public art consultant for the city has been at each construction performance to also help document it, and she has witnessed its whole transformation thus far.

 

‪i don't know why i keep thinking of the piece as a political platform of some sort, or a stage for activism‬‬

 

‪it has been a site for discussions of urban issues in Los Angeles‬‬‬‬

 

‪at the base of city hall...‬‬

 

how is there not a better site to discuss urban issues?

 

not only in response to waste spaces but also imagine, for example, this thing pops up in front of the corporate office of ... i don't know... McDonalds‬‬

 

or a Bank, I was just in Madrid and there was a week long protest in front of a bank that took a bunch of money

 

from the public sector

 

the urban stage can come there and lift the voices

 

literally

 

and make it a real spectacle

 

if it could set up in front of both-- by crawling past both, by being continuously reconstructed like an animal slowly moving across the sidewalk, it could address issues and invite conversations about both establishments...‬‬

 

‪right - like this thing can be in constant movement from place to place that show any reason for public discussion‬‬

 

exactly

‬‬

the concept for 'construction as performance' was one i first started working with in my last semester studio project at Columbia... a new circus constantly in motion, constantly activating the city.

 

this is the first time though that it's really been put into a real physical state.

 

‪i think it has a real future‬‬

 

i'm excited too, i want to see the ideas develop.‬‬

 

‪yes - it would help to have a parallel network of what is going on in the city, such as what activist groups have an interest in having a stage.. that would be amazing‬‬

 

‪so each of the Urbanstage's iterations have curated panels/workshops... that aim in some way to address issues in the city. Inglewood itself is a super interesting place now; a hotbed of a lot of impending development, most probably the site of the new NFL stadium, and yet also a place that has been cultivating an artist community for the past few years.

‬‬

it's interesting, since it used to be a rough place.

 

but surprisingly there has been little attendance from the local community--

most events are attended by people outside the Inglewood community. i spoke to one of the arts commissioners for the city of Inglewood and she herself also expressed remorse that the community was not accustomed to/ready for "public art"...

 

‪i had imagined that more people just walking by the city hall would stop and attend. yet, they don't and the irony is that people will come specifically from across the city of LA to attend Urbanstage events...‬‬

 

‪right, it is complicated... the subject needs to come from the audience and they need to be the ones to demand the stage

‬‬

but the first step is showing them there is a stage to begin with

and you've done that

 

‪rather-- the subject is there (issues of LA like water and transportation)‬‬

 

that only a portion of LA is interested in

 

that's a problem too though-- California is in its FOURTH year of drought

and we had an urban conversation on Water in LA with experts working in water policy/urban planning/LA River development across LA -- the conversation happened just one day after the Governor (Jerry Brown) announced an official 25% reduction in water usage

 

California Drought Tests

New York Times

April 5, 2015

 

and yet-- no one from the local community came to the conversation. we had architects, urbanists, artists, activists there. none from the local community except for the arts commissioner.

 

but this might be reflective of a lot of indifference that can happen in the city-- perhaps not just Inglewood.

 

so case in point, even with the ongoing drought, people are often still continuing to fill up their pools, water their lawns excessively. (not everyone, and a lot of LA is changing their behavior, but not everyone is!!)

i read an article recently that talked about how the water usage in affluent areas like palm springs hasn't changed-- everyone's lawns are still incredibly green, and golf courses are lush and well-manicured...

 

but again, mobilizing large groups of people, and entire cities, is a difficult feat in itself.

 

so perhaps we have to start on a small scale, whether it be just about sparking awareness, or starting a conversation.