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Flamin' Hot Cheetos, Tacos and Palaces: Current:LA Food's Artists and Installations

A pile of Cheetos | Still from "Artbound" Current LA
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Current:LA is a citywide public art triennial. This year, international and local artists look at food and parses its complex meanings to culture and to civilization. Learn what to expect from co-curator Asuka Hisa of the Institute for Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.
What Is Current:LA Food?

Current:LA Food is a city-wide triennial presenting art projects by 15 national and international artists and teams, who have taken on the global issue of food. See Currrent:LA Food all over the 15 council districts of Los Angeles. This article was made in partnership with The City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (ICA LA). Find out more about Current:LA Food on our coverage here.

"Food is pleasure and peril. It can be delicious or something dangerous," says Asuka Hisa, Director of Learning and Engagement at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (ICA LA). Hisa helped curate this year's Current:LA triennial focusing on food. Through fifteen installations and numerous public programs, the Department of Cultural Affairs is turning Los Angeles into a large art and food experience. Learn more about each of the chosen artists and their projects below. See how the world of food becomes a window into a city's consciousness. For more information on locations and events click here.

Adrià Julià- A Very White Flower

Council District 1, L.A. State Historic Park, Chinatown

Adrià Julià | Courtesy of the artist
Adrià Julià | Courtesy of the artist

CalArts alumnus Adrià Julià’s art revolves around film, performance, photography and installation. Born in Barcelona, Julià has lived all around the world, from Seoul to Sao Paulo and Los Angeles. After being selected to participate in Current L.A. Food, he dove deep into the popcorn industry, which is intrinsically linked to Los Angeles’ film industry. The work aims to expand on the popular movie treat’s history and impact, tracing it back to its origins as a Mexican crop to its popularization during the Great Depression and now, its impact and role in our modern society and economy.

A close-up of popcorn | Pexels/Megha Mangal/Creative Commons
A close-up of popcorn | Pexels/Megha Mangal/Creative Commons

Shana Lutker- Contemporary Museum of Temporary Containers (CMTC)

Council District 2, Valley Plaza Recreation Center, North Hollywood

Shana Lutker | Courtesy of the artist
Shana Lutker | Courtesy of the artist

Interdisciplinary artist Shana Lutker’s work explores the relationship between memory and experience. In her "Contemporary Museum of Temporary Containers" (CMTC), she said she wanted to work with disposable food containers, which are all around us, but we barely acknowledge their existence. “I am interested in the complicated stories that everyday objects can tell us about ourselves,” Lutker said. After gathering more than 1,000 containers, she said she hopes viewers will pause to consider their impact and purpose beyond just holding food. “I hope that the containers are seen and acknowledged — as amazingly convenient technological advancements and an enormous burden of unnecessary waste,” she said.

Shana Lutker's installation will be created out of disposable food containers. | Courtesy of Current: L.A. Food
Shana Lutker's installation will be created out of disposable food containers. | Courtesy of Current: L.A. Food

Eva Aguila and Coaxial Arts Foundation- Comida a Mano

Council District 3, Reseda Recreation Center, Reseda

Los Angeles-based Eva Aguila is the cofounder and artistic director of the Coaxial Arts Foundation, an arts space in downtown L.A. dedicated to expanding the community of multimedia artists in the city. For "Comida a Mano," Aguila said she was inspired by her ancestors from Michoacán, México, who would tell stories around the comal in their home. “A comal is something you see in every Mexican household,” she said. “I hope through the lens of Mexican heritage visitors will be inspired to share their own oral histories.” Stoves have replaced earthen comal ovens in most Mexican households, but some still exist in small towns and preservation societies.

Sonoran corn tortillas | Flickr/guepardo lento/Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Sonoran corn tortillas | Flickr/guepardo lento/Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Michael Rakowitz- Beneath the Date Palms

Council District 4, Pan Pacific Park, Fairfax District

Michael Rakowitz of Beneath the Date Palms | Daniel Asher Smith
Michael Rakowitz of Beneath the Date Palms | Daniel Asher Smith

The history of the Iraqi date palm provided ample inspiration for Iraqi American artist Michael Rakowitz. As part of his ongoing project, "The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist," he created "Beneath the Date Palms," which recreates a room from the now-destroyed Northwest Palace of Nimrud in Iraq, but made from the packaging of Middle Eastern foods sold in the U.S. and Arabic-English newspapers given away for free in large American cities for newly arrived immigrant from places like Syria and Iraq. The goal is for visitors to think deeply about the history between the U.S. and Iraq, reflect on the relationship between the Iraqi community and the veteran community in L.A. in a communal banquet space and to consider the connection the Iraqi date industry has with California’s date industry, which stemmed from it. 

Michael Rakowitz will recreate a room from the Northwest Palace of Nimrud. | Courtesy of Current: L.A. Food
Michael Rakowitz will recreate a room from the Northwest Palace of Nimrud. | Courtesy of Current: L.A. Food

Ry Rocklen- Food Group: The Body Palms

Council District 5, Palms Park, West L.A.

Ry Rocklen | Courtesy of the artist
Ry Rocklen | Courtesy of the artist

Theater and sculpture will collide at Ry Rocklen’s "Food Group: The Body Palms." After focusing on sculpture for the bulk of his professional art career, Rocklen said he found he wanted to branch out to another form of expression. “I realized I needed a modality that allowed me to express myself with more words and feelings, a modality that allows my art to engage in the world with both stillness and motion,” he said. Bringing together sculpture, theater, costume and song, “The Body Palms is the synthesis of artistic and cultural interests that have been developing for me over the course of my career,” Rocklen said. He added that he hopes the work will allow viewers to slow down and think about their consumption habits, cultural tendencies and desires in a more detailed way.

Ry Rocklen's Food Group: The Body Plams will incorporate song and dance from costumed characters. | Courtesy of Current: L.A. Food
Ry Rocklen's Food Group: The Body Palms will incorporate song and dance from costumed characters. | Courtesy of Current: L.A. Food

Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs & Annie Gimas— ALL AGAIN

Council District 6, Delano Recreation Center, Van Nuys

Annie Gimas overlooking the ocean and Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs in a garment created in collaboration with Roxy Jamin. | Gimas' photo courtesy of the artist and Pennypacker Riggs' by Ry Rocklen
Annie Gimas overlooking the ocean and Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs in a garment created in collaboration with Roxy Jamin. | Gimas' photo courtesy of the artist and Pennypacker Riggs' by Ry Rocklen

Multidisciplinary artists Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs and Annie Gimas have a special affinity to create immersive performances. Aided by Pennypacker Riggs’ experience as a singing teacher and Gimas’ professional dance education, together, they’re getting the Van Nuys community to perform. “Our piece is a choral/movement performance that incorporates both professional and non-professional/volunteer performers to engage with [the] topic of food loss, food waste and compost, through the medium of experimental opera and collective ritual,” Pennypacker Riggs said. Inspired by the need to teach people about agricultural and compost cycles, the duo wanted to bring ideas for practical action to regular people, which is why composting workshops will be held in tandem with the performance workshops. “It's important for me to make audience members feel invited and included in performance,” she said. “There is an optional interactive component for the audience, and material to take home offering simple actions we can take at the consumer level to reduce food loss and food waste.” 

ALL AGAIN will incorporate performance as a way to reflect on the environment and waste.
ALL AGAIN will incorporate performance as a way to reflect on the environment and waste. | Courtesy of Current: L.A. Food

Emily Marchand- A Thousand Lunches

Council District 7, Roger Jessup Park, Pacoima

Emily Marchand | Sam Widaman
Emily Marchand | Sam Widaman

For Sacramento native Emily Marchand, the key to creating a positive impact and creating a conversation about access to food starts with community. She said "A Thousand Lunches" will serve as an anchor to gather Pacoima’s community to do just that. “I hope people will enjoy learning how even local actions of community organizing can make a large and significant impact on society’s health,” she said. She also stressed artists’ role in highlighting another aspect of food that is often overlooked: how essential it is for survival. “Yes, it is fun and tasty, but when millions of people go hungry and are without resources, I feel we, as artists, need to make work stressing the necessity for community organizing and action,” Marchand said.

Emily Marchand's A Thousand Lunches will bring people together to feed homeless. | Courtesy of Current: L.A. Food
Emily Marchand's A Thousand Lunches will bring people together to feed homeless. | Courtesy of Current: L.A. Food