Poor Door Street Art

Penny Gaff

“V.I.P. Ben – From aristocratic stock. He has no regrets.
Skid Row, Los Angeles, CA 
Oct. 2013″

I received an email from artist Penny Gaff in response to my Trews Report on the Poor Doors at No.1 Commercial Street about her V.I.P project from 2013 that “explores the idea that everyone is V.I.P.”

The project is a series of photos “featuring homeless folk  surrounded by red rope and gold stanchions” shot around South Central Los Angeles. They’re really powerful images that subvert the everyday image of homelessness.

Have a look at the rest of the series on Penny’s website (scroll horizontally)


Walking in Los Angeles — video

I’d forgotten about this short video I made in early 2010 after a trip out there. I was following Will Self’s footsteps on a walk through Downtown LA he’d written about in GQ – which is why I dug out the snippets of audio from summer 2008.

I’d only stumbled across the clip because I was clearing space on my hard-drive for footage I’d shot yesterday on a walk out to Crayford Ness and funnily on the way had been thinking about Will Self’s description of Grand Central Market in L.A.

Interesting how walking unifies all these threads and riffs just by putting one foot in front of the other.

Into the Los Angeles Urban Wilderness

you don’t see this in the Lea Valley

Yesterday morning I headed up into Runyon Canyon along with a friend and one of his year-old twins strapped onto my back.

The canyon rises just two blocks away from the glitz of Hollywood Boulevard and is managed as ‘Urban Wilderness’ by the City of Los Angeles. The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy describes it as, “a rare example of wild chaparral with its drought-resistant evergreen trees and shrubs only a stone’s throw from the hustle and bustle of the Hollywood community.”

an irresistible cliche

As the movie industry goes into decline being eclipsed daily by the Games world the Hollywood sign starts to look like even more of a relic of a by-gone era. In the week I’ve been here I’ve had more conversations about games than I have heard mentions of films.

The hazards of urban walking are somewhat different in LA to London. It’s amusing that this warning is near the top of the ridge of the canyon at the end of the most treacherous stretch of the trail.

There was a brown crust of smog sitting atop the city laid out flat like a printed sheet.

The urban fringe of L.A more the domain of dog walkers and personal trainers than psychogeographers.


L.A. Walk

Fairfax Ave – a strip of vintage clothes shops
Fairfax Ave
Silent Movie Theatre – getting ready for Halloween
Corner of Fairfax and Melrose looking towards Hollywood Hills
“In the early 1970s, the Improv was the hippest room in town, possibly in the world”
View across the basin from Sunset Boulevard
First Baptist Church of Beverly Hills
beneath my window I hear the the parking valets chattering in Spanish


Landor’s Tower on Sunset Boulevard

Went wandering this morning and ended up in Book Soup Bookstore on Sunset Boulevard.

The first book that caught my eye just inside the door was Guy Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle. I took this as a sign to have a further rummage.

I held Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon in my hand for a while – it has a nice feel to it – but eventually put it back.

I flicked through the pages of Mike Davis City of Quartz but with only two days left in LA I can’t see me cramming much of this opus of Los Angeles cultural history into my still jet-lagged head.

On my third circuit of the shop, at the back, on a bottom shelf in a dark corner where the discount books are hidden, I find Iain Sinclair’s Landor’s Tower, priced $4.98. It was meant to be. The book genie had led me here to one of the few Sinclair works I don’t already own.

I purchase the book (along with a copy of Knoedelseder’s history of the golden era of 70s stand-up in LA – partly as a momento of the brilliant team of comedy writers I’ve been working with here).

Back in my room, now, I open Landor’s Tower at the page where the shop assistant has placed a bookmark – a message from the book genie will possibly emerge from the page:
“The world had been stood on its head: landscape was a scum of dancing particles, rocked in a soup bowl.”
A description of Los Angeles and a reference to the shop where the book was found.

Never lose faith in the book genie.

Los Angeles

I find it difficult to render my experience of Los Angeles into words. I kept wondering whether it was a place at all. As an image it seems to work best in panoramic – doesn’t stand up to close inspection. The lights of Sunset Strip are hypnotic from the Hollywood Hills – low-rent and grimly gauche from the ground. I found Downtown like a colony where the poor, mishapen, the pedestrians are contained – isolated amongst the tall buildings – ghosts of the city’s beginning. But now I’m running out of adequate words so I’ll hand you over to Mike Davis, author of City of Quartz