Letters from La La Land

Dear Pen Pal,

Well I just flew in from the coast and boy are my arms tired! I was just in Los Angeles where we were screening our film “The Visionary” at the LA Women’s Film Festival. The screening was a big success and we had a great time, but let me tell you; they don’t call Hollywood “La La Land” for nothing. Spending time there is like going on an extended acid trip. Everything seems really significant, but you’re not sure why and you’re not really sure whether this is “real life” or something inside your head.

Take for instance, our hotel:
Our hotel of choice was The Standard: not because it was cheap (because it wasn’t) and not because it was chic (because I didn’t realize that it was). We chose The Standard because it was within walking distance of the movie theatre,which saved us having to rent a car, and within staggering distance of The Libertine where all the festival after parties were held so that no one had to play babysitter.
The first thing that one notices about The Standard is that the sign is upside down. Exhibit A:
The second thing that one notices about The Standard, while checking in on a Thursday evening, is the human-sized terrarium apparently called the “Chicquarium” built behind the reception desk housing a live girl performing ordinary tasks: completing homework, say, or sleeping  and apparently completely aloof to the fact that she is on display to the guests checking in mere feet away. Getting paid to nap? I would be so good at that job.
The "Chicquarium" at The Standard on Sunset
“What’s with the girl-in-the-fishbowl?” I asked the concierge the next day.
“It’s some kind of performance art.” He said which pretty much explained a lot of things about The Standard. For instance, all the everyday items were labeled with coy instructions such as the key card suggesting that you “Slip It In”. The air conditioning controls helpfully provide you options of “Blow” and “Blow harder” while the pencil instructs you to “Shave Me”.
And then there was the  video installation entitled “Mary’s Cherries” that plays on one of the hotel’s television channels and is projected onto one of the walls in the lobby.

A still from "Mary's Cherries"

The story goes something like this: a woman (Mary) clips off one of her long red finger nails with a pair of cuticle scissors and drops it into a hole in the floor. The hole in the floor leads to the ceiling of a room below in which a second woman who places it on a piece of white clay and proceeds to pound it down with her fist until it looks like something peeled off the bottom of a shoe. She extracts this and calls to the woman in the room below her, evidently named “Rose”, who catches the object and proceeds to roll it into a ball and drop it into a tupperware container full of maraschino cherries. When all five fingernails have been turned into cherries the three women begin to pedal an conveyor belt that both delivers plastic wrapped hamburgers and towels to their work stations and also powers a lightbulb which then causes the fingernails to regrow and the video starts over again.

“Mary’s Cherries” we later learned, is a video installation by the artist Mika Rottenberg that is a commentary on the exploitation of women’s bodies in mindless manufacturing tasks. Ironically, the film was by and about women, but wasn’t actually part of the festival itself.
Well, that’s all for now- it’s time to get back to reality!
See ya,

~ by Gwydhar Gebien on April 9, 2010.

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