When you are asked to participate in someone’s art project, you usually half-say yes, half-say no. It isn’t something you *really* agree to: it’s something you kindly say you will help out with–should it be convenient for you. Yesterday, Bobby and I sucked up a lot of our pride (well, was it pride? or sloth? or, simply, greed for free time over the weekend?) and woke up at 7AM, drove to Baldwin Hills, hiked up a hill, hung out for a while, hiked up and down the hill a few times, and eventually performed in one of the biggest performance art events of the year, Spine of the Earth 2012.
And, it was amazing.
The event started with our checking in, signing a waiver, and receiving a really, *really*, *really* silly red painter’s suit. We moseyed around the top of the Hills, joking about how we had inadvertently joined a cult or were participating in a nuclear fallout exercise. We were one of the first to arrive and, aside from a few groups of mature women, it was just us, them, and the hillside–likely amounting to almost a hundred, rather than the five hundred we hoped for. Quickly, we headed to our “final destination” (as an Albuquerque helper said, one of the many stage hands and stage managers for the performance who guided us along the way).
Here, we broke into smaller groups where dancers who were friends of WIFE and Albuquerque told us what was going on. The information we needed to know was very simple (we would walk from the top of the stairs, to the bottom), but required some work. from us This “work” included our all counting together aloud, chanting “one one thousand, two one thousand” the whole trek down while also keeping our hands on each others’ shoulders. Moreover, at one point, we created a cannon while in the line, where we threw our arms up into the air in a wave like fashion from top to bottom.
As the dancers explained, more and more people joined us. We were still skeptical that there were going to be five hundred; but, as people arrived to join groups, all of our groups swelled to twenty (plus!) people…and, there were at least fifteen groups. As you can imagine, quickly the number climbed from almost-a-hundred to well over three hundred, which included persons of all ethnicity, walks of life, and ages, something we were so excited to be greeted with.
We prepared for practice, where informed that the performance would include a skydiver as well as red smoke (to unite the sky into the earth’s spine, AKA us), a surprise for everyone that also brought some stress (as, you know, the skydiver could crash into us all). Regardless, we marched down the hill, many of the aforementioned new folk participating laughing, talking, and taking photos the whole way, which caused many of the stage mangers to note that we could not do that during the performance. We all battled runners going up the stairs in the opposite way as we, in red jumpsuits, made our way down the Baldwin Hills Scene Overlook hill stairs.
It was slightly treacherous (i.e., it was muddy) and it was cold and windy (i.e., it was before 12PM on the Westside), but we made it down from the rehearsal without a hitch. Or, at least, so we could enjoy the food trucks (Holy Aioli, No Jodas, and Cool Haus). We all took a breather, relaxed on food truck food and free coconut water and Clif Bars, and then went back into position for the final performance, which did have many a little nervous but mostly super, super excited to finally perform.
We all waited atop of the hill, listening to Ms. Lita give a final speech about her gratitude for everyone along with a few words of wisdom for our journey. We all then awaited the skydiver, who–as announced but much protested about–landed on a the exact dime that Ms. Lita herself placed at the spine’s center of Spine of the Earth 2012. Once she dropped, we were off and counting and walking, hand-to-shoulder, foot-to-foot, down and down and down the hill, one tiny, patient step at a time.
The performance itself was brilliant, as all of the performers rose to the occasion and an audience accumulated at the bottom of the hill, across the street, and even blocks away, trying to figure out what was going on. A chant of counting echoed through the hill and sky, as we slowly chugged down the hill. The entire city seemed to stare back at us, which was not what anyone seemed to expect but–because it was right before us. The performance was something most people in the city could see and, undoubtedly, inspired several, “What’s going on over there?” from people all over the city. It was a freeing of all senses, both exciting and fun, something that evoked us all to say, “Damn. I’m actually doing something this Sunday.”
The end came after an hour, where we all clawed our sweaty suits off away from the spectators in the happiest disrobing you in the world. But, it was one of the best experiences to have in art–particularly in Los Angeles art. The experience was something that cannot be replicated anywhere else in America because, well, no one else has multiple giant hills that stare at each other and a community that is excited about being outdoors for hours in mid-January, to help someone create art. Spine of the Earth 2012 made us so excited about art but more excited about Los Angeles art, specifically. It brought a smile not only to everyone in the city but the entire art community in the city, state, nation, and world because we entrenched ourselves into it, exposing the spine as something you can only see in Los Angeles.
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