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Maps and Guides that Frame L.A.'s Alternative Spaces

On a visit to the opening night of Printed Matter's L.A. Art Book Fair at the MOCA on January 31, I stumbled into the exhibition booth for the Llano Del Rio Collective (LDRC). What caught my eye was the display of "A Map For An Other L.A.," which looked like it was hand-drawn with Crayola markers.

Of course, there was much more to the map than its raw visual appeal. The map reveals spaces of L.A. that support collective practices -- D.I.Y. bicycle spaces, food co-ops, creative art workshops, community gardens, among others -- that create an "other Los Angeles" not covered by mainstream accounts of L.A., many of which privilege corporate life or the Hollywood cultural industry. Besides mapping out the alternative spaces on the front, the back of the map provides a brief description of each space and why each space deserves attention as an other L.A.

Robby Herbst, who organizes the LDRC and was manning the exhibition booth, hopes that the guides that the collective produces "challenge people to see and use the city differently." He recalls seeing the guides framed on the walls of people's homes, and sees this an act that serves to "remind its owner of something they value or would like to see occur in the city -- whether it's giving the bird to the Central City Association, joining a co-op, or moving in some offbeat fashion around town."

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The challenge to engage Angelenos to see their city differently is warranted when a Google image search of Los Angeles only highlights the touristy icons: the beaches, palm trees, a downtown skyline, the Hollywood sign. Angelenos often have a hard time convincing the so-called more progressive Bay Area and New York that there is an other L.A. that is not consumed with a plastic way of living. The mapping of this L.A. on the terms of Angelenos involved in the collective's alternative practices may encourage a change in public perception towards seeing L.A. in its true multi-layered existence.

Detail from An Other L.A

An Other L.A. map is a guide to alternative spaces in L.A.

One of these layers remains the reality that there are "A**holes" who live in this city and practice their own ways of life. In acknowledgement of this, the LDRC put out an open call to engage Angelenos about who they thought were the "A**holes" of the city.

The public call and LDRC's own research led to their latest guide called "An Antagonist's Guide to the A**holes of Los Angeles". In the guide you find short essays related to antagonism in L.A., and a "People's Timeline" created by Laura Pulido, the author of "A People's Guide to Los Angeles (2012)." Highlights include the compilation of 80 annotations of banks, politicians, neighborhoods, businesses, war contractors, among others, that made the list of "A**holes of Los Angeles." The list ranges from oil companies like Shell and Arco; war machine creators such as Raytheon that take up space in the southland; to neighborhoods such as Bel-Air and Silver Lake that include annotations such as "Full of A**holes (but has good food)".

The guides are purposely created as physical paper objects. Robby explains that the LDRC works in print "to engage with the physical space rather than the ephemeral space of the electronic page." In the spirit of getting out of one's seat in front of a computer to explore the city, LDRC distributes the guides for pick-up in several locations that encourage collective alternative practice, such as L.A. Eco Village, Echo Park Film Center, and Eso Won books.

But what is a new guide without a launch that engages the public spaces of the city? Pick up your own "Antagonist's Guide to The A**holes of Los Angeles" at LDRC's "Gathering of Antagonists or A**hole Festival," held on the sidewalk in front of Human Resources in Chinatown on Sunday, March 3, from 1-3pm.

From there you can engage with the guide and its framing -- but don't take it as gospel. The guide rightfully asks you to verify its stance and "Do your own research. Cultivate a position." The guide does not pretend to be the final say, but rather a communication piece that engages you to re-think the city you live in.

An Antagonist's Guide to the A**holes of L.A. | Photo by George Villanueva

Robby Herbst at the Llano Del Rio Collective booth, with Kimberly Varella and Juniper Star Herbst | Photo by George Villanueva


George Villanueva examines the engagement of space and place that aims to make Los Angeles more democratic, socially just, culturally intriguing, and fun. He currently is a Ph.D. Candidate in Communication at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, with a research focus on civic engagement, spatial justice, and sustainable urban development. George is a native Angeleno born and raised in the intersecting spaces of East Hollywood, Koreatown, and the Temple-Beverly corridor (now Historic Filipinotown).

Top: An Other L.A. map. Courtesy of LDRC.

About the Author

George Villanueva, Ph.D. is a native Angeleno born and raised in the intersecting spaces of East Hollywood, Koreatown, and the Temple-Beverly corridor (now Historic Filipinotown).
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