January 21, Valencia, CA–East of Borneo Books announces the release of Facing the Music: Documenting Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Redevelopment of Downtown Los Angeles. A project by Allan Sekula, the posthumous volume presents a collaborative exploration initiated by the renowned social documentarian to examine downtown Los Angeles as its redevelopment peaked with the construction of Frank Gehry’s cultural icon. Edited by Edward Dimendberg, the book includes contributions by Louis Adamic, James Baker, Edward Dimendberg, Laura Diamond Dixit, Anthony Hernandez, Thomas Lawson, Karin Apollonia Müller, Leonard Nadel, Sekula and Billy Woodberry.
Published by East of Borneo Books, an imprint of the online art magazine East of Borneo, the book will launch at the Los Angeles Art Book Fair which runs from January 30 through February 1 at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. It can be purchased online at http://www.eastofborneo.org/books/sekula.
An acclaimed photographer, artist, filmmaker, scholar, activist and faculty member at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), Sekula devoted much of his life to the theory and practice of social documentary. Writer and activist Mike Davis called Sekula “the son of the San Pedro docks and gantry cranes; the Walter Benjamin of a Los Angeles forever suspended between sweat and make-belief, riot and boosterism.”
“Facing the Music is a phenomenal collection of images brought together by Allan Sekula,” commented photographer Catherine Opie. “The project is an insightful representation of downtown Los Angeles and the emergence of Frank Gehry’s Disney Concert Hall. It is as much about the politics of downtown Los Angeles as it is a celebration of what is now an essential and iconic building on Grand Avenue.”
Designed as an exploration of the impact of Gehry's building, the book’s texts and images challenge civic complacency and celebration by engaging a vital counter-tradition of social documentary investigation. Facing the Music includes a previously unpublished essay by Sekula on the challenges of representing the city; an interview with him about the 2005 exhibition Facing the Music which he curated for the gallery at REDCAT, CalArts’ space below the Concert Hall; and an overview of the building’s history and the continuing urban transformations it has catalyzed. The publication is a unique record of social and artistic engagement in a metropolis often thought to inhibit such efforts.
Sekula, who died in 2013, was an influential teacher in CalArts Photography and Media Program for nearly three decades. To support work in social documentary by the next generation of practitioners, CalArts has initiated the Allan Sekula Social Documentary Fund, which offers support to students working on documentary projects. The fund provides up to five annual grants annually from $1,000–$2,000 to students in the Photography and Media program in the School of Art and the School of Film/Video at CalArts. Sekula’s widow, colleagues and ex-students contributed the initial nest egg for the fund. Fundraising is ongoing and donations can be made here.
Read more about Sekula’s life and work, and the 2005 Facing the Music exhibition.
About East of Borneo and CalArts:
Launched in October 2010, East of Borneo is a collaborative online magazine of contemporary art and its history as seen from Los Angeles. Published by California Institute of the Arts and edited by Thomas Lawson, it is a new type of publication that rethinks the way that we conceptualize, preserve and present the various histories of contemporary art. The introduction of East of Borneo Books sees the extension of this mission into print. In the coming years the imprint will seek to draw new attention to the best writing on the visual culture of Los Angeles, through monographic anthologies like the present volume, and with others collected around a specific theme or body of work. East of Borneo is supported in part by grants from the Andy Warhol Foundation for Visual Arts and The Getty Foundation.