Born: 1973, Los Angeles, CA, USA Lives in Los Angeles, CA
Ultimate Akademie, Cologne, Germany, 1995-1997 Kansas City Art Institute, Kansas City, MO, 1992-1994 Cornish College of the Arts, Seattle, WA, 1991
Exhibitions and Performances:
2009 Founded, Zoo Art Fair. London, England (solo) Scoli Acosta, Work from the FRAC Limoges Collection, Limoges, France (solo) Redcat Gala Fundraiser, Redc...[more]
Geopoetic Wandering: A Collaborative Conversation with Scoli Acosta
Los Angeles, May 2010 - Remember the street where you were once hit by a car, a red Chevy near the flickering streetlamp two doors down from your grandmother's, the skid-marks scarred the asphalt for nearly a year. The bookstore where you met the boy you very almost married, he was in Anthropology you were in Literary Non-Fiction perusing a dog-eared copy of Joan Didion, feeling cool and West Coast urbane; the bookstore's calico cat purring, her eyes clenched shut, past your leg. The dodgy ocher cafe where your computer got nabbed, you swore it was just there, other patrons' showed great gentility to your plight while a cappuccino wand frothed a pot of whole milk somewhere not far away, the sound both comforting and grating. Every time you return, these memories take a hold of you, if only for a fleeting instant, but they are there as much as the cement and asphalt, the shelves of paperbacks, the wooden tables wiped smooth by a white towel that runs over its surface thirty times a day to clean the spilled coffee and muffin crumbs, the smells and sounds that compose the places as much as the walls and ceilings. These places of reminiscence can be impersonal as well. The Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, Sunset Boulevard. These too have their own memories, cultural memories, and not just memories always exactly, but associations.
Reality is as much composed as material.
The material reality is empirically quantifiable. It can be measured and mapped. There is a countable number of streetlights, an inventory of the books, the Eiffel Tower has a height that's immutable. The reality that is composed of memory and emotion, imagination and dreams, is more difficult to gauge, to trace, to pin down. The two are not separate however, but exist together. There is a permeability between imagination and reality. Reality inspires imagination, imagination affects reality.
Scoli Acosta with his performances, drawings, sculptures, and installations captures this permeability between the imaginative and the real. The disjointed narrative hinges on Acosta's ability to write fictions in space, what begins as a simple journey spreads quickly, piling up associations and experiences, new memories fashioned out of old ones, the magically found taking on long, peculiar lives. The horse legs purchased at a liquidation sale at a horse supply store in Dijon find a brother lingering in the neighbor's backyard grass, seen out of his second-floor, kitchen window in Echo Park.
But these items found and often re-purposed compose what Acosta has called an "aesthetics of resourcefulness." This poetic draws not only from the picking up of ideas and notions from space, but also from the items at hand. Shoe-boxes stack into igloos and chandeliers and ancient wells, collected bottle caps become the bells on pentagonal tambourines, Paris itself becomes a site to relive dreams of Nerval in supernatural reverie, masked adventures as poetical heroes, and spinning snapshots of sites designated by a psychic where a ghost named Nadja could be found.
Rather than have a call-and-response of preconceived questions, I went tromping through Los Angeles with Acosta to sites that we framed to each as questions. One place associated with another. Acosta and I went field-tripping, our responses and the frame of our conversation tried to stay true to his work, referential and surreal, intuitive and literary, sometimes beautifully and hilariously absurd, always drawing from the inhabited environments.
Five locations were chosen. The first by Scoli, the second by myself. etc. Though a tape recorder was taken along the various field trips, it was used more to record ambiance than conversation.
Scoli Acosta is organizing a grand event this May 8th, from 6-10 pm, in honor of May Day, seven days late, called Meighth Day at LAXART in Culver City. More information can be found here.
Caption: Aerial Photograph, Cemetary Montmartre, Paris 2000
The responses to these places are less driven by any motivation to explicate as by an attempt to collaborate with Scoli, to reform the interview into a form more responsive to his practice as an artist.
Dream Center 2301 Bellevue Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90026-4017 Distance from Scoli's studio walking: .5 miles
Caption: Dream Center, Echo Park, Los Angeles, CA.
Scoli Acosta: As far as I know, I haven’t been here since I was born. It used to be called The Queen of Angels.
It seems self-centered to start here but I see it every morning from my bathroom window after 14 years of traveling, and it’s become ominous and beautiful. It seemed natural to begin here, and we can walk.
Andrew Berardini:I love this idea of a Dream Center, especially in an old hospital. I know that it's actual function is something with which I'm pretty uncomfortable: the Angelus Temple gang and its function as a evangelical organization spreading a pretty toxic version of Christianity (though somewhat tempered by some pretty decent charity work). But if I ignore the evangelical aspect of it and think about the endless hallways teeming with construction workers, the odd addition of the Ludwig Geerstocker abstractions poster hanging on waffle-board in that workman's hallway. And then as we traveled up through the guts of the building, the brick walls and empty rooms, the strange views of the 101 freeway, and then to connect back to its older purpose, a place to be born or to die (or for many hopefully to recover in this medical sanctuary), the dreams of the Dream Center become something much stranger and more poetic.
I wonder what the Dream Center could be, a place to record and archive dreams, a place to make dreams, or like the Big Friendly Giant in Roald Dahl's book BFG, maybe it is the house of a giant who goes to the land where Dreams are born to capture the nightmares to keep them away from children and the beautiful dreams so that he can travel through the night with his long horn to blow the best ones into the rooms of children. Even this idea of dreams being something alive is beautiful and intriguing to me, and I wish the Dream Center was devoted to studying these, an academic organization devoted to the scholarship of the poetical and weird creatures that are dreams. But then again, the Freudians always piss me off with how doctrinaire they can be about the nature of dreams.
I think artists are better at dealing with dreams than doctors.
Caption: Scoli Acosta, Dream Center Bus Maquette (Proposal for trans-Australian journey called Endless Slumber), 2004, VW model, sugar crystals. Courtesy of the artist.
SA: Men in hard hats on multiple floors framing space with steel beams and holding up portions of a connected future functioning ventilation system.
AB:Hmmm, the guts of the building. The workmen giving it some guts, making it alive.
Caption: Bulletin Board for the Dream Center Diner.
SA: A giant bellows, breathing.
I’ve made a bellows out of the pages of a book.
One of my favorite stories from Classical mythology is called the Halcyon Birds.
In it there is the meeting of Iris and Somnus. Iris like Mercury is a messenger of the gods yet she traverses the sky in a rainbow cloak. She meets with Somnus the god of sleep.
Iris puts on her robe of many colors, and tingeing the sky with her bow, seeks the palace of the King of Sleep. Near the Cimmerian country, a mountain cave is the abode of the dull god Somnus. Here Phœbus dares not come, either rising, at midday, or setting. Clouds and shadows are exhaled from the ground, and the light glimmers faintly. The bird of dawning, with crested head, never there calls aloud to Aurora, nor watchful dog, nor more sagacious goose disturbs the silence. No wild beast, nor cattle, nor branch moved with the wind, nor sound of human conversation, breaks the stillness. Silence reigns there; but from the bottom of the rock the River Lethe flows, and by its murmur invites to sleep. Poppies grow abundantly before the door of the cave, and other herbs, from whose juices Night collects slumbers, which she scatters over the darkened earth. There is no gate to the mansion, to creak on its hinges, nor any watchman; but in the midst a couch of black ebony, adorned with black plumes and black curtains. There the god reclines, his limbs relaxed with sleep. Around him lie dreams, resembling all various forms, as many as the harvest bears stalks, or the forest leaves, or the seashore sand grains.
As soon as the goddess entered and brushed away the dreams that hovered around her, her brightness lit up all the cave. The god, scarce opening his eyes, and ever and anon dropping his beard upon his breast, at last shook himself free from himself, and leaning on his arm, inquired her errand,—for he knew who she was. "... shook himself free from himself ..."
AB: Literature has played some strong role in both our lives. One of my favorite sayings about fiction, that when it's at its best its like dreaming with your eyes open. The function of dreams is one that I feel is actually a better governing principle of modern life than any social agenda or policy, any system of morals or ethics, though these have their importance too in their own way. Though logic always follows, the source is always somewhat irrational. And even when logic follows our decisions, illogic, absurdity, can re-enter.
Literature for me (and perhaps psychedelic drugs to a certain extent) have always been a way to break through the surface layer of expectations and tradition to find the pulsating visions of what really drives the practice of everyday life. I remember in CS Lewis' The Silver Chair (I don't mean to keep mentioning children's books, but what the hell), the adventurers have an opportunity to go deep into the bowels of the earth, deeper than any surface dweller had ever gone before, to a land where diamonds and rubies were like fruit that grew on trees, they could be squeezed for the juice. The precious stones and jewels we see at the surface are really deadened, stale shadows of what grows fresh in the abysses of the earth. A Dream Center should be like that place, or where the Greeks built the Temple at Delphi, where the seers lived. They called it the Omphalos, which means bellybutton. They thought that this place was the bellybutton of the Earth, Gaia, the mother of all the gods, and had a special power because of it.
SA: Andrew you’re so passionate. You sound like Breton but you'd have to throw yourself out of Surrealism because of the reference to drugs, but I think you could do that. The “practice of everyday life” is a beautiful phrase and bestows the necessary gravity on the aphorism by Heroclitus, “The sun is new everyday.” Your description of dreams, doctors, and Delphi makes me think of Asclepius. The wounded, gathering in Asclepian temples to sleep where, Asclepius, in the form of a snake would crawl over and among them healing their ailments.
AB: Both healing and dreaming at the same time, the Asclepian serpent. The former real function of the Our Lady Queen of Angels Hospital meets our poetic repurposing of the name and site of the new Dream Center. There's something funny about the Dream Center, ostensibly a Christian evangelical/charitable organization being the site for these fantasies and discursive feelings that we've given to it. I feel like our conversation needs the same final apologia that comes at the end of Shakespeare's Midsummer's Night's Dream, delivered by the tricksy woodsprite Puck: If we shadows have offended, Think but this, and all is mended, That you have but slumber'd here While these visions did appear. And this weak and idle theme, No more yielding but a dream, .... Now to 'scape the serpent's tongue, We will make amends ere long....
It all becomes okay in its way if it's just a dream, perhaps life is just a dream, and the dangers of dreams are as real as the dangers of reality (poison, lightning, car accidents, etc). I've seen people who have sickly dreams, they might as well have an influenza, some die of their despair.
But then again, we managed to populate the ostensibly Christian Dream Center with pagans and poets. This gives me inordinate joy.
SA: I’ve been asking people lately if there is an average size for the length of a lightning rod.
I haven’t looked it up yet and no one has a clue.
Site #2 The Little Chapel in Clifton's Cafeteria "Brookdale" 648 South Broadway Los Angeles, CA 90014-1807 Distance from Dream Center: 3 miles
SA: Alright maybe I’ll eat my pudding and try to record it (The Parable of the Sequoia). I’ve never been in that tiny discovery. They don’t let you latch the door shut anymore though. They try to keep it, uh...Oh Oh Andrew I think this is regular pudding. AB: It said tapioca. SA: This is regular pudding. AB: Sorry. SA: It’s still good. I don’t like sweets very much but I really like tapioca pudding. It’s one of the few desserts I look forward to. Mmm.Mmmm. AB: It’s one of my favorite places in Los Angeles. This bear here has been catching that same fish for like 70 years. SA: Who brought you here first? AB: I don’t remember. Maybe my friend Jared. I was a grown-up by then though. SA: Hmmm. There used to be one further out in the suburbs, in West Covina. AB: A Clifton’s? SA: Mhmm. I lived near there at one point with my mom. When was this built anyway? AB: 30s. SA: It’s funny that it has this huge religious bent. AB: Is it huge? SA: This neon cross is pretty, um, well, it’s not huge. AB: It speaks of a time when everyone was Christian and people associated nature with meditation. SA: 30s, 30s what was happening? AB: The Great Depression. Apparently Clifton’s didn’t used to charge if you couldn’t pay. SA: Huh. That’s a religious bent. AB: Tis. But I wish there was something that made people do that without religion. “We can afford to serve this many people for free a day”. SA: Hmm.. When did Thoreau die? AB: 1870s, 60s? 60s. SA: Are you interested in those guys at all? Emerson, Thoreau? AB: A lot actually. I wrote a whole essay on this artist saying that he was the heir of Thoreau. Who was a friend and student of Emerson, but he radicalized it a lot. SA: Maybe we should read something by Emerson on Meighthday. Emerson for Meighthday would be perfect because they say he was a fantastic reader and his work was meant to be read aloud. What would be good to read by Emerson? I would prefer Emerson. AB: Thoreau is a little bit more dangerous. Emerson is a little more dreamy. SA: I think that’s why I prefer him. AB: There are some really beautiful excerpts of Walden. The chapters are really short and peppy. SA: So you would say to read something by Thoreau rather than Emerson? AB: Yeah. SA: I have a collection of Emerson’s writing somewhere. Do we have to run? AB: We probably should. Let’s go stand in the booth together again real quick though.
Caption: Peter Zumthor's Bruder Klaus Chapel, 2007
Caption: Pylon from Land of the Lost, 1974
Site #3 Santa Monica Pier 200 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401-3126 Distance from Clifton's: 15.2 miles
Caption: Virginie Jacquet Sunset July 20th, 2009
SA: Nature as meditation. Our conversation at Clifton’s reminded me about the photo I wrote about for the One Image One Minute event for X-TRA magazine.
The photo was taken by a friend of mine from France named Virginie Jacquet on the Santa Monica pier at Sunset on July 20th, 2009.
The idea for the column and the event came from a series of works Agnes Varda made for French television. Here is a video of the first Pentagonal Monochrome (tambourine) being played in front of several murals featured in her film “murmur” which she made in Los Angeles in 1982. A friend of mine in Paris called the monochromes, “California Paintings.”
AB: We begin with religion and come to ideal, the unofficial state religion of Southern California. But in a weird way, both are grounded in fulsome images. Like the fresh rubies of the underworld in The Silver Chair. Poets, and perhaps my favorite artists, deal in images that are full to bursting with ambiguities, but not ambiguous like a thin abstraction, like "love" or "friendship," but precise as a stiletto dagger that when used correctly can balance life and death on its fine point. That's a darker turn to your Golden State pierside visions. But an ideal, a religion, a dream, there are ways of dealing with the dangers and turmoils of existence. An ideal isn't ever real in the end, just like Utopia by definition is "no place," an ideal is a dream, a vision, of what can be, not necessarily what is. Walking along the pier, you could have seen the stinking fish guts from unclean fisherman and the tawdriness of this touristic place where everything is for sale and beat hustlers prowl the crowd for the dregs of opportunity, but you saw and experienced something else, a dream, an ideal.
SA: I thought we started with life and dreams and I’m not a writer but I wrote “...of an imagined ideal...” which I felt had the question of the ideal buried in it already. It WAS a great moment though. Timeless and ideal, a good dream.
The image of someone buying a postcard to send back home of the exact same sunset surrounded by the scent of tawdry fish guts while having their pocket picked also has a sad beauty to it.
Can ideals, religions, or dreams also be the dangers and turmoils of existence?
Bringing idea(l)s to materials is similar to what you said about utopia and I think that’s one of the great things about making art and perhaps about being human.
We think so much of ourselves and still slip on the sidewalk and spill our cups of Styrofoam coffee on the street. Or maybe that’s just me.
Site #4 Luigi's Fountains Pottery and Gardenware 5630 San Fernando Road Glendale, CA 91202-2103 Distance from the Santa Monica Pier: 24.4 miles
[the sound of dozens of babbling fountains, water talking to itself, overlaps the thrust and sputter of the 134 freeway not more than a hundred yards away]
AB: I chose for us to come here because I was thinking about ideals and objects, dreams and kitsch, the permeability between the imagined and the real. I couldn't help but remember an outdoor garden sculpture shop near my house growing up. It was on a long, lonely stretch of road between the housing tract that I lived in and the older part of the city, built at the turn of the twentieth century nearer the beach. It was surrounded by horse trails and pumpjacks, but is now ringed by a much newer housing development built in the last ten years. My mother would take us along with her sometimes and we would play games, running around the nondenominational statuary, which is true here at Luigi's on a smaller scale (though scale in childhood memories is a tricky thing to gauge).
Virgin Marys next to Buddhas next to Tikis next to winged pigs next to to pucci angels next to Mexican strawberry pots next to a white stone replica of Botticelli's Venus with a broken nose next to families of squirrels next to contemplative gargoyles next to grave-faced lawn jockeys.
Now that I'm thinking, and I keep returning to children's books, perhaps because of the one that you're working on with Joseph Mosconi, in lots of fairy tales and modern takes on ancient mythos, like Lewis' The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the evil witch's courtyard is filled with petrified creatures, satyrs and men and talking animals, made stone by a diabolical spell, cursed for their noncompliance with the witch's evil wiles. Though I know here that these are all made in factories by workers with no dreams of these creatures coming to life, for me, I feel wistful memories of my childhood, where the magic of them coming out of their stony slumbers was still quite possible.
SA: Los Angeles is full of childhood landmarks for me and the permeability between the imagined and the real is a line we’re probably both walking, often. Pushing the poetics of the serendipitous and the quotidian.
Maybe we shouldn't underestimate the dreams of anyone.
Remember asking the current owner, Luigi’s grandson, (they’ve been there since 1946) what the best thing about what he did there was and he said “ The people I meet.”
I think we both blushed.
You’ve mentioned how the world of art is one of the few places where we're allowed as adults to explore the permeability of the imaginary and the real.
The book I’ve been working on with Joseph is just about finished after about two years. It’s been great to collaborate. The sentences he’s given me are like crossword puzzles with no grid and no fixed answer but a square page bisected. “As Above, So Below”, one of the basic tenets of magic, and while working on the book I realized it’s the answer to give when someone asks if the glass is half full or half empty.
“Oh, the dolorous husky remotely touched some watchful iguanadon.”
Caption: Excerpted Image from Joeph Mosconi and Scoli Acosta's book As Above, So Below. Courtesy of the artists.
Site #5 Forest Lawn Memorial Park and Mortuary Museum 1712 South Glendale Avenue, Glendale, CA 91205 Distance from Luigi's: 2.8 miles
SA: My dad lives down San Fernando Road a bit so I’ve been passing this place forever. They had an exhibition here not too long ago of artwork from the Braille Institute. Art of the Blind in the Cemetery Museum. I was enthralled and curious and really wanted to make it an event, so I decided I would try to make it a date. I gathered my courage and was able to ask three different women over a period of a couple of weeks and the third finally agreed.
The end of our last conversation on the phone before the date went something like this.
Her: Okay, so I’ll meet you at the museum at 2 o'clock.
Me: (a little creeped out) Are you sure you want to meet at the museum and not somewhere else beforehand?
Her: No, it’s fine.
Me: Okay, but please, if we meet at the museum, please, please don’t stand me up.
Her: No, that would be sad.
Me: Yeah, sad.
Sunday at 1:20 I was still bumbling around my apartment and realized how incredible this was and thought to myself at one moment that I’d really found “the one.” I had to bring flowers. No real time to buy flowers and flowers to the cemetery? Hmm, maybe not. But still something pushed me forward with this thought and I saw a bunch of thick paper lilies I’d made and thought because they had been handmade it was OK.
So I gathered myself and got in my car and drove there with my lily bouquet passenger. I knew the route so didn’t stop at the information booth and wound myself to the top of the cemetery hill. No one was around. I parked, stepped out, felt the breeze. 2 o’clock came and nothing happened. By 2:30 it was getting sad and I was back in the car with the door open but perspiring. The phone finally rang. I was curt. Something about a friend’s house in Hollywood... Let me know how the show is... Whatever. We hung up.
Let me know how the show is? This was an event, not a show.
The worst had happened. Stood up at the cemetery.
I reluctantly locked up the car and opened the doors of the museum alone. The work seemed mostly assignment based. Lots of variations of the same theme. Some ceramic sculpture. There was a castle of tape that was made with various pieces of paper from various sources that was nice and probably about the size of a small lopsided dinner table.
Still, the worst had happened.
I don’t remember much of the day after that but days pass and heartbreak subsides. I went to Mexico City for the week of the swine flu outbreak and returned potentially carrying swine flu and walked to a small market up the street for some groceries and as I rounded the corner, there she was.
I pointed at her accusingly but with a healthy distance because of the potential swine flu.
“You.” I slowly growled.
“It was you. You stood me up at the cemetery.”
She made sounds, her sunglasses bothered me. My mouth moved slowly and out came,
“At least I knew what to do with the flowers I brought you.”
ArtSlant would like to thank Scoli Acosta for his assistance in making this interview possible.