This afternoon I found myself wandering through the Bonaventure Hotel, an iconic mess of a building in downtown Los Angeles. Its four towers of rooms cluster around a soaring atrium ringed with bridges, ramps, and staircases, punctured by floating elevators and mezzanine levels. The result is unnavigable, and while lost searching for an exit, I discovered a small sign next to a seemingly abandoned flower shop for David Hartt’s Interval, presented by LAXART.
Two giant flatscreen monitors mounted on columns played side-by-side black and white videos of mundane natural and urban spaces. Most often the camera would rest on a particular place–a parking lot, a construction site, a forest trail–for just a moment. At other meditative moments it would drift slowly away from an object of focus. All the while a jazz score played in the small tiled space. Viewing benches were placed next to a wall of mirrors and an empty, florescent-lit freezer where flowers were once stored in cold plastic buckets.
Over time it became clear that one video was filmed in the Pacific Northwest, the other in rural Russia. David Hartt made the videos in Yukon and Siberia. Nevertheless, the juxtaposed interstitial spaces seem so similar that they start to blend into one another. Hartt’s internationalism emphasizes sameness, leaving room for subjectivity to grow. Difference loses its hypervalorized exchange value.
An erudite accompanying text on newsprint by curator Matthew Schum quotes Frederic Jameson’s description of the Bonaventure as a postmodern gesamtkunstwerk. Jean Baudrillard called it “nothing but an immense toy.” Hartt openly opposes this iconicity by highlighting the changeability of spaces in the contemporary postfordist landscape. Writes Schum: “Whether sites of neglect or regeneration, [Siberia and Yukon] are places chased by capitalism’s familiar codes. They are ruins not only of things but of the ideas and institutions that were creative for more obscure purposes of yesterday and today’s seemingly more sensible ones. As a composite of Los Angeles, Sakhalin and Whitehorse, Interval shows the alien nature of society, its commodities and its social objects.”
The installation space certainly felt alien, but the very possibility of its reuse seemed to reinvigorate a postmodern death trap, a towering labyrinth of béton brut. As I continued my search for the exit, the Bonaventure felt distinctly like a fortress of ideology, the neglected bastion of a familiar code that still reigns outside its walls.