December 6, 2013

On Wednesday the 27th of November, 440 HOPE in Downtown LA opened its doors to the public for the very first time with Against The Grain, a night of performances and installations co-curated by Jay Ezra Nayssan and Anatole Maggiar featuring the work of Alia Raza, Lillian Shalom, Maurice Harris, Jos McKain, Nathan Makolandra, Boris Lévy and Paul Armand-Delille.

As the public gathered in the loading bay of 440 HOPE, in the alley between Hope and Grand, they were ushered into different groups to begin their journey aboard 440 HOPE’s gigantic freight elevator. Once the groups had embarked, and the industrial metal gates slammed shut behind them, the elevator groom was heard speaking into his walkie-talkie and announcing the upcoming departure. Ensued a loud trembling of bass from the iron monster and thus the show began.

After making an abrupt stop on the second floor, the gates opened to reveal, hidden in the depths of the shadows, Alia Raza dressed in a sheer white mousseline veil, her head covered like an Italian Madonna and wearing elbow-length black vinyl gloves. In her right hand, a bottle of Hypnotic Cascade, a perfume whose scent comes from natural aroma molecules, synthetic aroma chemicals, plant absolutes, flower absolutes, resins, and animal secretion tinctures which she began spraying in the pit of her elbow.

Perfuming oneself is traditionally a carefully measured act, but as the artist carried on insistently spraying the fragrance all over herself, it was clear that no measures of caution would be taken to stop Hypnotic Cascade from penetrating durably the performer’s and the audience’s noses, clothes and minds.

Leaving this cloud of perfume, the freight elevator continued its ascent to the third floor, where a live zebra -held by artist Lillian Shalom- appeared like a mirage behind a barrier of mist and floating jewels against a strong backlight.

On the 4th and final floor, in the middle of a black vinyl curtained room with extremely bright, clinical and cold neon lighting, stood a sumptuous bouquet of monstrous proportions. Emerging out of a black vase, set on a black vinyl pedestal, was Eden, a composition of bizarre and wonderful varieties, such as green anthuriums, coleus, kniphofia, rare garden roses, eucalyptus branches and many more curated by Maurice Harris of Bloome & Plume.

As the group was invited to step out to admire the flowers, the elevator disappeared, leaving the audience alone on the top floor, in awe of this surrealistic bouquet.

Soon thereafter, when the freight returned, it was carrying two figures dressed in full-body white bio-hazard suits, with neoprene gloves, face masks and safety goggles.  This strange image was the beginning of Elevator Ballet, a dance piece choreographed by Jos McKain and Nathan Makolandra especially for Against The Grain in which these two figures explore their twin-like relationship and boundaries within this limited space.

Accompanying the performances was a musical design by Paul Armand-Delille which served to emphasise the weirdness of the atmosphere and provided a sound environment for the entirety of the show. The installations and performances were all lit by Boris Lévy, who worked with the space’s natural constraints in order to create a magical effect, including a mist cloud on the top of the elevator shaft, some powerful use of neon lighting and a mist device to light the third floor installation.

Against The Grain

A selection of installations and performances, curated by Jay Ezra Nayssan and Anatole Maggiar in conjunction with 440 HOPE.

With support from MAD AgencyCOFFIM and the French Consulate in Los Angeles.

MAD Agency wishes to thank everyone involved including -but not limited to- Edward Khalili, Daniel Khalili, Derek Kinzel, Raphaël Chatelain, Adélaide Barbier, Darius Sabaghzaddeh, Tom Newth, Nicolette Mishkan, Christopher Kreeling, François Ghebaly, Erik Anaya.

All Photos courtesy of Raphaël Chatelain for MAD Agency, 2013.