How many billboards?
ARTISTS
Kenneth Anger
Photo: Gerard Smulevich


Kenneth Anger

Kenneth Anger is a trailblazer of queer avant-garde film; he debuted his film Fireworks (1947) more than two decades before the landmark events of Stonewall in 1969. Numerous films that he has written and directed over the years have gone from underground to cult status. In Anger's rich oeuvre, images function not only as symbols, visual icons, or indices, but also as affective strobes meant to amaze and hypnotize the viewer. In his billboard project, the word "ASTONISH" is spelled in all caps in bold, neon orange, sans serif font. The word fills most of the frame; the artist's scripted signature in lilac hovers diagonally across the bottom corner. The design enhances the impact of the word "astonish" beyond its denotation, and its meaning is activated here in several different ways. It echoes Anger's filmic strategy of montage as magic, where he employs consecutive or flashing images to enchant the audience. Here, a single word serves to bewitch. Yet, at the same time, the word informs the viewer about the action that is taking place, collapsing conventional art historical distinctions between affect and critical distance. Anger's ambivalent relationship to the spectacle of Hollywood, visible in his films as well as in his famous book Hollywood Babylon (Paris, 1959), is here directed towards the media. "ASTONISH" can function as recognition of the media's ability to astonish, as a critique of its power over the public, or perhaps, as a call for the media to step up its game and actually create something that can truly astonish. The multiple potential referents for the bold neon statement are raised to the power of two when cross-referenced with Anger's signature. Commonly standing for presence, it plays at once on the outmoded modernist gesture of signing an artwork-evidence that "the artist has been here" and proof of the artwork's originality, and on the notion of the autograph, which is alive and well in celebrity culture. Detached from the artist's hand, processed, enlarged and reproduced, here, the commoditization of the autograph is amplified, reflecting the Postmodern emphasis on the multiple, the reproducible and the conceptual as modes of art-making, and the ways in which those practices have come to be bought and sold.
By Nizan Shaked

LOCATION: Beverly Dr, north of Pico Blvd, on the west side of the street, facing southeast.
METRO: Beverly Dr. Metro Bus 14. Pico Blvd. Metro Bus R7
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Kenneth Anger (b. 1927)
Kenneth Anger has been making films since 1947, and is internationally recognized as an influential force in avant-garde cinema. His films function as radical critiques of Hollywood film, often evoking pop culture icons within occult settings and depicting youth counterculture engaged in scenes of violence and eroticism. Through his work, Anger explores themes of ritualistic transformation, utilizing heightened sensuality as well as exaggerated colors and imagery. He was recently the subject of a retrospective at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, New York (2009).


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