SoCal Connected on KCET

L.A. Mudpeople

Original Airdate August 27, 2014

Nick Hardcastle: They move slowly and in groups. They don't speak, or make a sound. And you never know where they might turn up next.

They are the L.A. Mudpeople, a non-performance art group that started in 1988.

Mike Mollett: I'm Mike Mollett, founder of the Los Angeles or L.A. Mudpeople.

Nick Hardcastle: A sculptor by day, Mike Molette designs what he calls "time twists" made with temporary materials like phone cables or batteries that typically get thrown away.

He founded the Mudpeople project over 25 years ago and considers the group a living sculpture.

Mike Mollett: We don't speak. We move slowly, which was part of our evolution. We didn't originally. But when you move slowly, there's so much things to discover in your surroundings. So we deal with our environment, wherever we are. We did have this funky river - Los Angeles River - that became more important to us in the second half of the Mudpeople’s existence.

Los Angeles, being a city with cars, with traffic, with people coming and going, needing to be places on time. Single people in their cars with the smog and so on. The Mudpeople – we’re really the antidote to all of that. We have no need to really be anywhere.

Nick Hardcastle: Today we’re in Atwater Village. Mike describes these appearances as nonperformances. He calls them walkabouts.

Mike Mollett: We came up with this term walkabout which of course is an Australian aboriginal. We grabbed it and I hope we are not demeaning anyone because even though it is more of a spiritual thing we’re involved in, we’re not exposing anything of that nature. Here’s the mud zone, this is where the mixing happens.

Nick Hardcastle: How do you select the kinds of muds that you use? Where do they come from?

Mike Mollett: Most of the muds that I think that I have here are actually store bought.

Nick Hardcastle: Mike favors store bought clay over digging his own because of the potential dangers of funky mud.

Mike Mollett: You got some funky mud that's got a lot of organic matter, I've gotten rashes before so you gotta be careful.

Nick Hardcastle: Mixing the mud as a group is an important part of the ritual and today Mike is joined by longtime Mudpeople John and Lorraine.

Lorraine Perrotta: To feel the connection with the other people is really important but the other thing that's so appealing is that it's like stepping out of time, stepping away from modern society in a way.

Nick Hardcastle: The first steps away from modern society are taken at the L.A. River where they prepare today for today’s non-performance. They strip down, and mud up. Escaping modern society’s hierarchy was one of the reasons John joined the Mudpeople.

John Forker: There’s two methods: One there is Mike telling us what the main basis, and then we ignore it and do whatever we want.

Lorraine Perrotta: Experiencing the world in a different way with new perceptions.

Nick Hardcastle: And perceptions of the Mudpeople can be unpredictable. What do you think the point of it is, do you think they’re trying to make a statement?

Passerby: I don’t know. Maybe reliving something from the past from long ago, maybe people who lived in the river.

Lorraine Perrotta: We’re non-aggressive, we’re non-threatening so most children want to be part of it and they want to follow you around and want to give you think. They usually try to be part of it.

Mike Mollett: People have to come up with their own concept or reality of what we do, why we do, where we come from, and all this stuff, and people do that – it’s stunning.

Passerby #2: I gotta take a picture of this.

Nick Hardcastle: What’s the message that you’re taking away from them?

Passerby #2: That everything is possible in regards to arts and crafts and whatever people want to do for heads and mind.

Passerby #3: They’re putting on a persona for a reason but I know what the reason is. I want to know where they are coming, but most importantly, where are they going?

Mike Mollett: Do we leave it all behind to sort of not have to deal with any of that stuff such as goals, speed, and direction?

Nick Hardcastle: I’m Nick Hardcastle for “SoCal Connected.”

Quick Links

At first glance, they might look like mimes covered in mud from head to toe. They walk slowly along the L.A. River and the Venice Boardwalk, turning heads everywhere they go.

Known as the "L.A. Mudpeople," this close-knit troupe dons square "heads," minimal clothing, and sticks. They are intrigued by today's modern-day urban jungle, a place infested with bizarre street signs, trash cans, and pedestrian walk signals.

The troupe was founded a few decades ago by Mike M. Mollett, who still leads group members on various trails and walk outs in what he calls "non-performances."

In essence, they are ultimately the walking contradiction of the fast-paced and modern-day lives of Angelenos.

Reporter Nick Hardcastle shadows this intriguing troupe, and interviews local passersby to hear their reactions in this segment of "SoCal Connected."

Featuring Interviews With:

  • Mike Mollett, founder, L.A. Mudpeople
  • Lorraine Perrotta, L.A. Mudpeople
  • John Forker, L.A. Mudpeople

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