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Summer Happenings At The Broad With Richard Hell, Sky Ferreira, Mas Ysa, Saturday July 30th 2016

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Sky Ferreira


I really like what is happening at the Broad, the new art museum downtown LA completely understands that culture should not be kept behind its beautiful concrete white walls, so the place opens up to events, curious and interesting events, like last month’s Happening with Perfume Genius and a ‘gender is over’ theme for the rest of the night. On Saturday night, I attended the second installation of Nonobject(ive) Summer Happenings at the Broad, curated by Bradford Nordeen and Brandon Stosuy, and if the theme of this new one could have been many things, punk and revolt comes to mind when punk icon Richard Hell and fashion rebel Sky Ferreira are on the bill, but it was ‘Downtown’, according to Stosuy, ‘Let’s make something that feels kind New York-ish and LA-ish at the same time,’ he said in an interview for Billboard. Downtown with a late-70s-early-80s theme, because if Hell is unavoidably tied to downtown 70’s New York, Sky, our DJ for a night, mostly span 80’s hits.

The trick is to make the place fully alive, the performers do their thing outside and inside the museum, between work by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, Robert Mapplethorpe, David Wojnarowicz, Cy Twombly, Ed Ruscha, Jeff Koons or Takashi Murakami. ‘My job is to animate those objects through other art forms – music, film, dance, performance – and re-contextualize them,’ said Ed Patuto, the Broad’s director of audience engagement who oversees the series.

Last night, people had eight performances to attend, eight happenings to choose from, and if I skipped Brontez Purnell (dance and visual arts), experimental performer Anenon, who is said to explore the intersection of jazz, electronic and ambient music, and Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith with her synthesizers, I managed to see all the rest. Performances were happening at the same time at many places in the museum, so it was all about choices and I first saw the very laid-back Canadian Mas Ysa play his unique combination of experimental electronic techno-synth-pop. With a cap on his head, a bottle of wine on the side and some wacky humor, he looked like the Mac DeMarco of the electronic-pop, although his music had nothing to do with that of his Canadian compatriot. Thomas Arsenaul, his real name, was getting very busy behind his two machines and numerous knobs, making beats and busy soundscapes with multi-sound and voices in the background, as if he was improvising an avant-garde Disney electric parade. But the most compelling part of his performance was his emotional singing, building more drama than Kanye West, screaming his heart out over a few piano notes. ‘Welcome to my art collection,’ he told us among other stories involving a recent car crash. He could go from sparse notes played on both synths with a vibrating and emotive voice, to grandiose themes announcing the opening of something bigger that would never come and he was simply unclassifiable,… although one of his last songs had a sort of LCD Soundsystem punk dance vibe, while injecting a lot of drama into his synthetic music.

Singer, songwriter, model, and actress Sky Ferreira followed him on the plaza stage, and span a few tunes of her choice. I obviously would have preferred a performance from her, that was clearly an underuse of her multiple talents, but DJs are what kids want these days. She came on stage with her hood partially hiding her pretty face, telling us, ‘I didn’t know it would be on stage, I am not a DJ, I am a musician!’ However, no special skill is required to spin a few 80’s hits such as Stacey Q’s ‘Two of Hearts’, Oingo Boingo’s ‘Little Girls’, Madonna’s ‘Get into the groove’, or Devo’s ‘I Can’t Get No Satisfaction’. With her wild bleach blonde hair and Isis eye make-up, Sky is a hot number, she looks like a cross between young Brigitte Bardot, Madonna and Rhianna, and she has a way to bite her lower lip that has to be her signature pose. She dug into more contemporary stuff with electro funk Thundercat’s ‘Them Changes’ and Ariel Pink, and I left when she had just played X, Bowie, Prince (twice) and Morrissey, because I didn’t want to miss Richard Hell’s reading in the Oculus Hall.

First, I thought I would not be able to get in, they said they were out of capacity, but they finally let more people enter, which made my night! Hell first read an excerpt of his 2015 book ‘Massive Pissed Love: Nonfiction 2001-2014’. He read a long comment about punk, the part that says, ‘Punk is an idea, not a band. It’s a real good idea. It’s about subversion, but in the service of youthful pleasure. It’s opposed to everything adult. It’s against not just success, but good manner, good grooming, and any education or skill. But no definition of ‘punk’ is true. It’s poetic that way.’ And this made me very eager to buy the book. Then, accompanied by the dark ambient sounds of minimalist Haxan Cloak (who continued the droning party after the reading), Hell read long excerpts of an upcoming novel, a very dark work filled with dirty sex scenes,… a ‘really cold-ass noir’, a ‘hard oiled fiction’, as he described it, stories with offensive and violent sexual stuff. ‘There are nine of them’, he told us with a lubricous eye, I filmed the first one and it was honestly the least offensive of all, as the next one was getting more scabrous than the previous one. Hell, who has said that this new novel was inspired by of the dark pulp fiction writer Jim Thompson, rather chose to speak up about another author, Dennis Cooper, whose controversial blog was deleted by Google without any explanation  a few weeks ago. He urged us to read the recent NY Times article about the story and sign the petition urging Google to restore Cooper’s work. Meanwhile, during Hell’s long descriptions of rough anal sex, people around me stayed totally stoic till the end, I am not sure of what he was expecting, more reaction? a riot? I heard a woman laugh and say out loud ‘My God!’ Reading this stuff in public was kind of dicey but beside a few choked laughs, it was pin-drop silence the whole time! We were inside a museum after all.

Before leaving, I caught a dance performance in the museum gallery, which was choreographed by Ryan Heffington, best known in the world of music for his work with Sia (‘Chandelier’) and Arcade Fire (‘We Exist’),… People were running all over the place to watch the dancers who were moving in many directions. I am definitively getting used to these Summer Happenings at the Broad, could they extend them to fall and winter sessions?

More pictures of Mas Ysa, Sky Ferreira, Richard Hell

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Mas Ysa

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Richard Hell


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