Review: The Ambassador Hotel Recalled in Video Installation

Double Location Nimmerfall

L.A.'s magnificent 500-room Ambassador Hotel -- a building on Wilshire Boulevard originally illuminated by shimmering chandeliers and toward the end a bedraggled hang-out for marauding cats -- still resonates for many of us as a ghostly emblem of Hollywood, and maybe even life itself.

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Many L.A. residents can recite the hotel's famed legacy: designed by architect Myron Hunt, opened in 1921, home to Hollywood celebrities throughout the '20s and '30s, site of the shooting of Robert F. Kennedy in '68, closed in 1989 and demolished in 2006, the hotel's rise, fame, and fall, all of it contained within a very visible edifice, charts a wholly iconic trajectory.

It's a trajectory that Berlin-based artist Karina Nimmerfall pays tribute to with a three-channel sculptural video installation that references the hotel's continued power over us. Titled Double Location (The Ambassador Hotel) and currently on view at Las Cienegas Projects, the piece includes tall, thin panels and screens that greet you as you enter the gallery space. They suggest movie flats more than actual corridors, although the reference to the hotel's spaces remains.

Installation viewOn two large, translucent screens, the artist rear-projects an evanescent image of a large hallway, dotted by chandeliers. And on one wall, you see a LCD screen with the same image, its resolution clearer. Walking around behind the screens you see their simple construction, as well as the projectors on the floor. Moving toward a screen from this side, your body casts a shadow, and you appear to enter the hallway. As you approach the screen, your shadow diminishes, and as you move backwards, it grows, the opposite of what you might expect. The effect, while entirely simple, is still deeply unsettling, uncanny even.

The doubling of images, of hallways, of hotels, of shadows, and the disruption of spatial coordinates overall make the entire space of the gallery one that's more akin to dream, fantasy or memory than to factual history. Nimmerfall effectively designates the Ambassador as a site for perpetual projection, one that we use both to provisionally situate ourselves -- I AM HERE -- and to engage the acts of fantasy and memory, cheerfully intermingling. Double Location (The Ambassador Hotel) with its ghostly images of the Ambassador and its tentative screens, offers an interface of sorts for drifting through memory and fantasy, recognized and enjoyed precisely as such.

Las Cienegas Projects is open Wednesday - Saturday, noon-6:00 p.m., and Double Location (The Ambassador Hotel) will be on view through October 8, 2011.

About the Author

Holly Willis teaches in USC's School of Cinematic Arts and writes about new media art.
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