On November 14, 2017, after three years of planning and production I performed a sound piece based on my 3-point recording of the acoustics of the Hiroshima Atomic Dome.
The private performance was documented by Weng Sit San and will be edited along with the Hiroshima footage into a short documentary. The date of the screening of this documentary and performance of the final work will be April 4, 2018 at Human Resource in Los Angeles'.
The Wendover Hangar is where, in 1945, the Enola Gay B-29 Bomber flew out of and to Japan to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Immediately and within the first four months, the total death toll was 226,000. These two actions ended World War II.
It's my hope that a future tour of this performance/screening will be coordinated for the Summer/Fall of 2018.
Peace Resonance is a multi-speaker audio presentation that re-links the Hiroshima Atomic Dome to the Wendover Hangar. It’s about history, immigration, resilience and time. It’s part of my on-going exploration about how we hear; sounds relationship to memory and the tactility of sound.
My family is from Hiroshima, Japan. They immigrated to the US in 1957. I was the first US born family member and grew up with the “ghost” of their WWII history. I use the term "ghost" because I've heard fragments of information but no one has shared any details. However, we did have family friends who were active in the communication of their experiences and campaigned for peace. My family lived in Fukuyama, which was very far from the City of Hiroshima but is in fact in the prefecture of Hiroshima.
My first visit to the Hiroshima Atomic Dome was in 1988. I was a Monbusho Scholar, getting ready to begin my post-graduate studies in stage design at the University of Japan, School of Fine Arts. My Aunt, Grand Aunt and Grand Uncle brought me to the Hiroshima Peace Park, Museum and the Atomic Dome. It was an experience that took me years, if not decades to digest. Nothing prepared me for that experience. It was overwhelming and profound.
Fast forward to 2014, I was visiting the Center for Land Use Interpretations artist residency site in Wendover, Utah (a former military base) and was struck by a large quonset across the way. This quonset at the end of an airstrip was the Wendover Hangar, a National Historic Monument and where the Enola Gay B-29 Superfortress bomber flew out of and to the Pacific to drop the atomic bombs.
I came to the conclusion that I really wanted to honor my family’s history not in the shadows of war and destruction per se but rather in the modernity of current Hiroshima; reverent, resilient, contemporary and bustling.
I was already conducting multi-point audio recordings of interior acoustics and presenting them in audio installations. These mash-ups are my attempt to address history, site and memory within a kind of audio omnipresent collage. I had just completed three-point audio recordings of Watts Towers in Los Angeles and the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain, with the intent of combining them into a kind of double-exposure of two interiors. The symbology for me was as if I were introducing Antoni Gaudi/Sagrada Familia to Simon Rodia/Watts Towers.
What if I could conduct a three-point audio recording of the interior acoustics of the Hiroshima Atomic Dome, process that into an audio composition and then perform that as a three-speaker performance in the Wendover Hangar? The symbology for me was completing the Enola Gays seventy-six year roundtrip back to Wendover as a kind of auto-biographical sound piece.
I envisioned this as a conceptual voyage of the Enola Gay arriving back to the hangar seventy-six years later but carrying with it the redeveloped urban-scape of contemporary Hiroshima. It’s a spiritual round trip. It’s kind of like the monolithic mass in 2010 Space Odyssey, a mysterious mega-mass that returns to civilization, only to be discovered that it’s a spacecraft that was launched by the US to accumulate data and was returning as a transformed mass of data. It’s also a auto-biography of sorts, a portrait of the complexities of being Japanese-American in a post WWII culture of hybrid identities; a dynamic code switching.
PRESENTING PEACE RESONANCE
Once the documentary is completed, I will plan a tour of this audio presentation, which will consist of the three-speaker audio performance of Peace Resonance: Hiroshima/Wendover (0:17:00) and Conical Sound: Antoni Gaudi/Simon Rodia (017:00) and a screening of the video documentary of Peace Resonance by Tom Clancey (0:08:00) followed by a Q & A session.
My hope is to perform this work in Seattle, Washington; Salt Lake City, Utah; Chicago, Illinois; New York, NY; Washington D.C.; and Los Angeles CA. I would eventually like to bring the work to Barcelona Spain and Hiroshima Japan.
The juxtaposition of different historical locations, their acoustic properties, the mash-up of those acoustics and how they represent a variety of historical events is part of the equation of what drives these works. The other part of this drive is the semi-autobiographical context of the content. Collectively, these sites symbolize what it means to be Japanese American in many ways and more specifically what it means to be an artist growing up in Los Angeles. The term multi-culturalism is a very popular ideology but I gravitate more towards the term hybridity. Art has the luxury of being about the general and the specific simultaneously and my audio presentations are exactly that. They are general in the sense that they are about acoustic space and how sound is everywhere and that all space contains history. They are specific in that these spaces are personal sacred spaces. They represent my family’s homeland, their immigration and the unique elements of my geographical inspiration.
The shot of Alan walking from the river, Black and Whites is by Tom Clancey
All other by Nakagawa
Peace Resonance; Hiroshima/ Wendover and Conical Sound; Antoni Gaudi/ Simon Rodia are made possible in part by the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, Art Matters, Center for Land Use Interpretation, University of Barcelona, Watts Towers Art Center, City of Hiroshima, Smithsonian Museum of American History, Wendover Airport, KCET, MacDowell Art Colony, Japanese American Cultural and Community Center and the Consulate General of Japan
When I was in the fourth grade (1973) at Wilton Place Elementary School, Los Angeles CA, I was in the library looking through an art book. I came across the work of Antoni Gaudi in Barcelona for the first time.
The unusual architecture, organic shapes and use of broken tile was weird and fun but reminded me a bit of our hometown icon, Watts Towers. I thought, did this artist rip off Simon Rodia?
Of course, later I would learn about the chronology of these two artist. There’s a little overlap but it doesn’t look like there’s any connection per se.
In 2012, I saw that there was a grant available through the Department of Cultural Affairs, City of LA, for artist research funds, namely, artist residencies. They had a list of residencies all over the world they already built a relationship with but I thought I would like to go to Barcelona and see the Gaudi’s. It would be my first time in Europe. So, I started to research Gaudi's and Simon Rodia’s history.
If I could conduct a three-point recording of Watts Towers and the Sagrada Familia, I could combine them into a three-speaker project and create a kind of omnipresent sound work that metaphorically would be like introducing them to each other.
Through a multitude of serendipitous connections starting with filmmaker Rebecca Barron, I found myself in contact with curator and writer Montse Romani who introduced my project to the University of Barcelona’s Sound Arts Master’s Program. They read my proposal and accepted the residency. I then proposed it to Cultural Affairs and it was selected. Gaudi went to the University of Barcelona to become the architect he became and the University had direct relationships with most of his buildings; perfect!
On November 8, 2013, I and a stellar group of professors and Sound Art Masters Program Students from the University of Barcelona entered the Sagrada. As the guards ushered the last of the tourists out the door, we were signaled that the church was ours to record. We started at the top level, thirty meters up, with three teams. Using walkie-talkies, I directed the simultaneous recording with Professor Lluis Nacenta, thereby documenting the interior acoustics of the Sagrada Familia. We repeated the process at fifteen meters and on the floor level. It was stressful, glorious and humbling. I will never be able to repay the crew and all that made this possible. It was a once in a life time experience.
When I came back to Los Angeles, Watts Towers Director Rosie Lee Hooks accompanied me inside the walls of the Towers. I conducted a three-point recording of the interior placing recording units at the inside corners of the triangular perimeter wall. The recording turned out wonderfully and captured the concrete wall bouncing the exterior sounds of the neighborhood. On a second occasion, I was allowed to go back and attach contact mics at the bases of the three main towers. This recording seems to have recorded the movement of the Towers. It’s a rather violent recording, different from the first session.
I performed a preliminary version of this at the Torrance Art Museum in 2014 as part of the REVERB exhibition. This wasn’t the finished version. I worked on the recording on and off but felt that I needed a block of focused time to really do the work justice. I applied to the MacDowell Art Colony, a residency program in New Hampshire. In 2015, I spent six weeks at MacDowell, focused on this recording and completed the final mix.
I wish to present the work at various venues in the future, including somewhere in Barcelona.
Peace Resonance; Hiroshima/ Wendover and Conical Sound; Antoni Gaudi/ Simon Rodia are made possible in part by the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, Art Matters, Center for Land Use Interpretation, University of Barcelona, Watts Towers Art Center, City of Hiroshima, Smithsonian Museum of American History, Wendover Airport, KCET, MacDowell Art Colony, Japanese American Cultural and Community Center and the Consulate General of Japan
LAST COOKIE MANIFEST
LAST COOKIE MANIFEST
Objective: Baking, for the last time, a batch of cookies
Participant: Alan Nakagawa and Teresita de la Torre
Date: February 11, 2018
Place: Butterfly Sanctuary, Koreatown, Los Angeles CA
Directions: Prepare and bake cookies for the last time. Destroy the cookie sheets as a gesture.
The power of words
Yesterday at Visitor Welcome Center, where I am currently having a solo exhibition, our dear Young Chung said to me; "Stop making cookies, nobody wants your cookies". Young Chung is the gallery director of Commonwealth and Council, located in the same building as Visitor Welcome Center.
Waving goodbye to a period of mourning
This might be true, what Young said. It hurt but got me thinking. Perhaps, I've overloaded my cookie output. On the other hand, has this become my social crutch? More potentially devastating, have I become socially senile? Am I that person who thinks everyone is enjoying something without really seeing how they actual feel? This I may never know. Maybe I've projected people "liking" the cookies to feel better about myself or perhaps the need to be liked is too important to me? All of these things ring true.
Saying goodbye to baking cookies is gestural. I want it to mark a period of my life; the mourning of a marriage ending, the end of my tenure as a public art administrator and the graduation from being a full-time Father to a fairly part-time Father. It is with sadness but also much gratitude that I wave goodbye by doing this gesture.
I will be turning 54 this April and my doctor has been telling me a long time to cut back on my sugar, which I have, sort of, but this would be a significant addition to this difficult diet change. The relationship between all these things and Young Chung's comment is chance at best but they find themselves in the same intersection prompting me to make a decision; my decision to respond, in a sense, with a life decision and turning it into a performative work.
The history of baking the cookie
Soon after I separated and then divorced with my ex-wife Sumie, the stove died. I went to Sears in Baldwin Hills and bought my new stove. I picked one with at least one flame with high BTU's and a good oven. This began a loosely obsessive need to bake, which kicked into high gear once the kids became teenagers. I baked a lot of cookies for get-togethers, my office mates at Metro, for artists and various functions. When Document Coffee opened, I semi-regularly baked the staff cookies and would drop over a batch every now and then. It grew to become a kind of calling card or gesture of greeting that I used as a kind of relationship building tool.
The three sisters photo
On Monday, October 3, 2003, I received an email at work from my then wife, Sumie, that she was leaving me and the kids and would fly back to Japan that Friday. Yes, it was shocking to receive something so final but the relationship had been on steady downward spiral for years, due primarily to both of our inabilities to communicate to each other. Needless to say, this email created a domino effect that touched many lives and created a separation in life's road that some of us, and certainly me and my kids, are still digesting, albeit it over fourteen years ago.
This morning, I took down this image that I framed a long time ago of my ex-wife and her two sisters. I am fond of this image, the many things it represents and just as an image, if that's possible. I made two copies of it, which I will send to my son and daughter. The original, I would like to send back to Sumie in Japan. It was the last picture of my ex-wife that was hanging in my house.
The opportunity of art
Art making is prompted by opportunity, where practice meets reciprocal communication.
This morning, I woke up and thought of this project. Young's words were still in my mind. I happened to had scheduled an interview with artist Teresita de la Torre for VISITINGS Radio Show. I asked her to help realize this project which she said she would.
Alan Nakagawa is an interdisciplinary artist primarily working with sound, occasionally incorporating video, sculpture, drawing, paint, performance, food and most recently perfumes.
Since 2014, he has been working on a semi-autobiographic sound-based environment, utilizing multi-point audio field recordings of interiors; Peace Resonance; Hiroshima/Wendover combines recordings of the Hiroshima Atomic Dome (Hiroshima, Japan) and Wendover Hangar (Utah); Conical Sound; Antoni Gaudi and Simon Rodia combines recordings of Watts Towers (Los Angeles) and the Sagrada Familia (Barcelona, Spain).
Nakagawa is currently the Artist in Resident for Great Streets, a neighborhood improvement program through the Office of the Mayor of Los Angeles. He recently completed a fourteen-month residency with the Los Angeles Department of Transportation. Other residencies recently completed include the Getty Villa (2016), Smithsonian Museum of American History (2015), Cerritos College Printmaking Studio (2017) and Echo Park Film Center (2017).
Teresita de la Torre
My psyche was forever impacted by the conditions I grew up experiencing on the US/Mexico border in Laredo, Texas. Words like el norte, el otro lado, and la migra formed part of my everyday lexicon. I witnessed, firsthand, the separation of friends, family, and loved ones–while personally dealing with an internal identity crisis (or more commonly known as the Chicanx mantra, of “Ni de aquí, Ni de allá.”) My experience on the border fueled my passion to investigate immigration issues and led me to explore questions of race, identity, and gender. I express my findings, thoughts, and reactions in drawing, performance, photography, among other medias.
MAR VISTA GREAT STREETS, 2017
Mar Vista Great Streets Public Art Project
Los Angeles Department of Transportation/ Great Streets
Location: Venice Blvd between Inglewood Avenue and Beethoven Avenue, Mar Vista, LA CA
a. LA Dot Zine 2.0; drawings, photos, poems, collages by LA artist about traffic and pedestrian rights. 5000 printed and distributed by Vision Zero and the LA Libraries. Additional support by Outfront Decaux, Philosopher’s Stone Poets, Green Communications Initiative, Councilman Bonin and City of LA Printshop
b. Street Haiku’s; 36 haiku signs installed above existing Bike Lane signs both facing on coming traffic and not facing on coming traffic on Venice Blvd between Beethoven and Inglewood. Additional support by Philosopher’s Stone Poets, City of LA Sign Shop and Westside Engineer and Maintenance departments.
c. Perfume Bus Stop; June through October 2017, a bus stop on the corner of Venice and Centinela was retrofitted with art panels and a perfume machine. Three rotating Street Perfumes; Into Town, Economic Development and Hollywood Springtime. Additional support by Outfront Decaux and Institute of Art and Olfaction
Funded in part by Los Angeles Department of Transportation, City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, Outfront Decaux and Great Streets/LA.
Special thanks to Mar Vista Artwork, Councilman Bonin's office, LADOT Vision Zero's team, Theodore Payne Foundation, Green Communication Initiative, Philosopher's Stone Poetry, City of Los Angeles Sign Shop, LADOT Westside Team, City of LA Department of Engineering and the Mar Vista Community.
In 2016, I was invited to do a mini-residency at the Getty Villa.
I interviewed staff about their professional history, their job at the Getty Villa and how the public perceives their jobs. We also talked about myths or misperceptions about the collection and museum.
I edited each interview into a podcasts which are available on the Getty Villa website. I then studied those interviews and over a course of a month created four interactive sculptures in response to myths addressed. Those art works were exhibited at the Villa every Saturday in March 2016. They included;
1. Cycloptic Psychedelia; responding to the fact that all of the artifacts in the collection that are now white, i.e. white marble/stone, were actually painted back in ancient times. Time has reduced what was colorful to the Baer material. I contracted a box with a peep hole. The view inside was of an expansive bedazzled ancient scene with a slow Rave-like light system.
2. Misogynia Historia Pot; a repeating theme in the interviews was the exposure of penises in the Getty Villa collection. This led to the conversation of the role of misogyny in ancient times. The pot was fabricated by Wayne Perry and is a recreation of a pot in the Getty Villa collection. We created medallions around the vase that represent various aspects of the penis in ancient and contemporary culture. From the base of the vase is a sound loop of six US artists who are responding to the question; “If you had one wish for Women in the future….”. Participants include Mickalene Thomas, Faith Ringold, Suzanne Lacy, Yong Soon Kim, Amy Uyematsu and Lezley Saar.
3. April Fools Vase; inspired by an April Fools joke heard on NPR, where an alleged French Scientist discovered a laser technique that transcribed from an ancient Greek vase, a conversation between to ceramicists who were using a wood dowel to create a texture on a vase spinning on a potters wheel. Guests are encouraged to place the modified record needle onto the grooves on the vase, a replica of a vase in the Getty Villa collection, reproduced by Wayne Perry.
4. Enter to Win; inspired by the incredible collection of mummy portraits in the Museum, this was a sandwich board that solicited entries for a drawing. The winner would receive their own custom mummy portrait. Samples of the mummy portrait on the sample boards included Prince and Amy Winehouse. At the final exhibition date, all of the entries were put into a jar and one lucky winner was selected randomly. I then created a mummy portrait for that winner and delivered it within 30 days.
Photography by Nakagawa and Abby Han/ Getty Villa, All rights reserved
Funded by the Getty Villa
Cerritos College Printmaking Artist Residency, 2017
CERRITOS COLLEGE PRINTMAKING STUDIO ARTIST RESIDENCY
Artist and master printmaker Sergio Teran manages and teaches in the Cerritos College printmaking studio.
As an experiment/ pilot project, Sergio Teran invited three artists who are not known to do printmaking. The artists were Audrey Chan, Wayne Perry and I. Ironically, all three of us worked on my MYTH NOT MYTH project at the Getty Villa a year earlier. Was this fate or designed? Sergio said he had no idea about this past connection.
My main projects which they all so lovingly guided me through were:
1) A series of etchings inspired by the data I collected during my research at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art in 2015, where I studied the history of the hearing aide.
2) Using those etching plates to form a speaker cabinet
3) Binary Board; a series of silkscreened skateboards centered around a quote I wrote in a past zine I produced; "You don’t have to have a vulva to be a feminist, just don’t be a dick."
4) Binary T shirts and stamps; to accompany the skateboard
Slanguage (Karla Diaz/ Mario Ybarra Jr.) had a residency at LAXART in Hollywood and they would curate exhibits within this little room they had where they would conduct workshops and lecturers.
They’d been there for a couple of years but decided to end their tenure. I was asked by Karla if I wanted to show there and she was specifically interested in the drawings that I kept posting on social media. These drawings were the ones I did while riding the Metro Purple Line to DTLA. I secretly draw fellow commuters. It helps the commute time go by faster while honing my drawing skills. For that moment, most people stand or sit still but you have this finite amount of time to finish and it's unpredictable. Will they get off the next station? You don't know.
I had no idea at first that this was Slanguage's last LAXART project but was deeply honored when they told me.
I added some other work I already had and displayed the LADOT zines, which were available for free. There was a little room to the side which they used as a mini-screening room so I showed my video animation which is primarily comprised of hand drawn images; The Aleurone Layer and the Cosmic Understanding of Communication.
The cool thing about this little set up Slanguage had at LAXART is it was the last remnant of when it was a recording studio back in the day. There's even a LA Heritage Commission sign on the street. Legends like Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Ray Charles, the Jackson Five and the Beach Boys recorded there. Hollywood!!! The room had a large glass window over looking the larger LAXART gallery. This was the sound booth. The little room that was used to screen videos, I was told, was were they used to keep the master tapes.
To support some ideas in conjunction with my LADOT AIR, I proposed to learn how to create basic animation and produce a short piece about traffic safety, that would then be projected somewhere in the public. Somehow, it would relate to Vision Zero. Luckily, Echo Park Films Center Residency Program accepted my proposal.
I had the privilege of working with artist/ animator Gina Napolitan who is on staff at EPFC. She taught me the basics of hand drawn animation as well as introduced me to a software program called Dragonframe.
The initial idea was a symbolic equalization of responsibilities between motorists and bicyclists. Hand drawing was tedious and time consuming. Gina then introduced me to rotoscoping which really sped up production.
As part of this AIR, I also arranged two workshops. The first workshop was an introduction to oral history and podcasting. I was surprised we got a number of participants. It was a two hour workshop. The second presentation was a panel discussion about Ear Meal Webcast, which had ended the previous year after six years of live streaming. Mark Walsh, Nisa Karnsomport and I screened excerpts of some of our favorite shows and discussed various points about our experience which was followed by a Q & A. Some of the artists who had appeared on Ear Meal Webcast were in the audience and shared their experiences as well. EPFC taped the entire presentation which was screened at Angels Gate Cultural and Art Center later that year during SoundPedro.
Back to the animation itself, I finished the black and white short and titled it Speed Kills.
On the evening of March 20 2017, Elon Shoenholz and I drove around projecting this animation on walls facing freeways along the perimeter of Downtown LA. Elon and I had never done anything like this so it was thrilling and stressful. I wore my LADOT vest hoping no one would call the Police. We used my pick up truck to haul a generator, tripod, lap top and video projector. Elon was great because as a professional photographer, he's used to productions on location, although not necessarily under these types of conditions.
An evening documenting the animation and projections was presented as a final presentation at EPFC on March 30, 2017.
As I was told, Danielle Brazell, General Manager for Cultural Affairs and Seleta Reynolds, General Managers for LADOT were sworn in at City Council on the same day as new appointees by Mayor Garcetti. I wish I could see shots of that. There must be some on the internet somewhere. Anyway, that’s the day they met and hit it off. I know they’re GM’s and very official but they’re also two of the coolest folks I’ve ever met. It makes total sense that they bonded in a matter of moments when they said to one another that they wanted to work on a project together and that’s really where all this started.
In 2015, Cultural Affairs had a think-tank and one of the wish list items was "an artist in every city department.” So Danielle took that to Seleta and said, “I got the project for us.” Or something like that.
Later that year, a national Call for Artist was issued for a Creative Catalyst Artist in Resident for LADOT. I applied and got it.
This was a dream job with a dream team in a challenging situation.
1) I was assigned to the Vision Zero Team. Their goal was/is to eliminate traffic fatalities in Los Angeles, which, per capita, ranks first in traffic related fatalities among cities in the USA.
2) LADOT as a culture had been transitioning from a car first mentality to a people-first mentality; several generations of an engineer-driven focus was trying hard to integrate elements like bike-culture and pedestrian-first traffic methodologies. How would art fit into this culture and mandate?
Given that I knew nothing about LADOT, I thought I could utilize my oral history training and asked Seleta and the person who would become my main comrade, Nat Gale, for a list and introduction to a dozen of the staff current or retired. I proposed to interview these folks and edit the audio recordings into podcasts. This would be LADOT’s first podcast series, which we called LA Dot POD. It has since been made available online at ladot.org and collectively is a chronical of the history of Los Angeles transportation.
Having heard all of these amazing stories through this process and experiencing the Vision Zero Teams outreach strategy, I felt what was missing was a sense of narrative. Many of the staff felt the same way. Specifically, at that time, the Vision Zero team was basing its direction, primarily, on traffic data, which makes total sense from an engineering stand point but if we were going to change the hearts and minds of the City, then the stories behind the number needed to rise to the surface as well. I proposed that we have a storytelling workshop for the engineers and it was accepted. I am a big fan of the Moth Story Hour, a national radio show/podcast. I contacted Gary Buchler, Los Angeles Producer for the Moth. Gary conducted a storytelling workshop with Moth Grand-Slam winner Jessica Lee Williamson. The workshop went really well but what was very VERY informative was the Q & A that followed. Specifically, the engineers stated that they were trained to be objective and hence interjecting stories or their personal opinions and subjectivities went against their norm. Seleta said that she understood that but that for Vision Zero, maybe we should add the narrative in order to reach the emotional register? She said that no one is saying to change how we do our work but rather to add this as another part of the overall strategy. It was a very interesting moment. After that, much seemed to change with the team and how we communicated what we needed to communicate. Maybe these changes were going to occur anyway? it's not clear. What was clear that many of the staff were open to these ideas.
I was able to execute several projects during my residency;
a. LA Dot Zine 1.0 (drawings, photos, poems, collages by LA artist about traffic and pedestrian rights. 5000 printed and distributed by Vision Zero and the LA Libraires)
b. Caffeine Tour/ Zine Distribution (17 coffee shop tour to distribute zines to the caffeinated)
d. LA Dot POD (a dozen podcasts of current and former LADOT staff, ladot.org)
e. Ghost Bikes LA (A bridge between LADOT and Ghost Bikes was created in order to support the Vision Zero goal of eliminating traffic fatalities)
f. The Neighborhood Justice Program (Through the City Attorney’s office, ghost bike fabrication became part of the City’s restorative justice initiative)
g. Mar Vista Great Streets Project
g1. LA Dot Zine 2.0 (drawings, photos, poems, collages by LA artist about traffic and pedestrian rights. 5000 printed and distributed by Vision Zero and the LA Libraires)
g2. Street Haiku’s (36 haiku’s installed above existing Bike Lane signs both facing traffic and not facing traffic on Venice Blvd between Beethoven and Inglewood)
g3. Perfume Bus Stop (June through October 2017, a bus stop on the corner of Venice and Centinela was retrofitted with art panels and a perfume machine. Three Street Perfumed; Into Town, Economic Development and Hollywood Springtime rotated in the dispenser.
Image of Nakagawa Metro Farewell Party Group Shot by Harry Gamoba Jr.
All others by Nakagawa
Funded by the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs and Los Angeles Department of Transportation.
Special thanks to Seleta Reynolds and Danielle Brazell for their support. Nat Gale for his commitment and guidance. The LADOT staff, Vision Zero Alliance, Ghost Bikes LA, LACBC, Metro, CICLAVIA, Echo Park Film Center, Camilo Cruz, the Office of the City Attorney Los Angeles, Gary Buchler, Jessica Lee Williamson, City of LA Printshop, Mar Vista Artwork, Councilman Bonin's office, LADOT Vision Zero's team, Theodore Payne Foundation, Green Communication Initiative, Philosopher's Stone Poetry, City of Los Angeles Sign Shop, LADOT Westside Team, City of LA Department of Engineering and the Mar Vista Community.
Three Day Opening of the Broad Contemporary Art Museum/ LACMA
Outside of the FOUND SOUND tent was a half circle of cymbal stands with found objects and mallets or sticks to hit them. This was called Percussion Forest and was the precursor to Sound Forest, which I would later use at public events.
SOUND FOREST @ CICLAVIA
On a traffic island in the LA Garment District, all are invited to partake in found object beat making. Thousands of bicyclists ride by while hundreds accept the invite to bang on stuff. Collaborative mayhem ensues.
West Angelus/ Crenshaw
Wilmington Ave/ Watts
Three community events include a version of Sound Forest to garnish the rhythmic genius of LA communities.
In the 2010’s the Southern California drought went crazy, to a point that information and resources to counter it became readily available, i.e. discounts for rain barrel through governments and non-profits, drought tolerant gardening classes and the halt on using sprinklers for your lawn or washing your car, etc.
Our backyard became a dirt lot. My family, now retired, was in the habit of watering the lawn on a regular basis. They were somewhat aware of the ban to water your lawn on the daily so they decreased it to every other day but were basically watering dirt at some point. I did have an argument about this at one point with them but alas, I realized that in a world of no hobbies and endless cable channels in their world of retirement, this was perhaps one of their few opportunities to go outside so I thought rather than watering a dirt lot, perhaps I should plant something instead?
I had no gardening skills or experience, so I took a class at Theodore Payne Foundation in Burbank, a local non-profit dedicated to eco-friendly planting and indigenous plant species. After I took this class I was soon off to a new opportunity on the other side of the Nation, six weeks at the MacDowell Art Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire. It’s the U.S.’s first artist residency (1907) and is located in a huge forest area. The main building is surrounded by an amazing garden and one day, some of us took a tour of the garden given by the resident arborist/gardener. It was awe inspiring, filled with tips and passion. I was hooked. It made me determined too start my garden once I got back to LA.
The class I had taken at Theodore Payne taught me that my garden needed a focus or a theme, otherwise, the curation of it will get lost at some point; plants gotta jive with each other I heard on the radio that butterflies were endangered. The Theodore Payne Nursery sold indigenous plants and each lot had a didactic where many of them had icons of butterflies labeling them; an easy directive for me to mix and match. BUTTERFLY SANCTUARY!!!! I felt that a drought-tolerant vocabulary for the good of butterflies and not my diet i.e. vegetable garden felt like it would be more of an incentive to be diligent about its upkeep.
I started the garden in 2015 with baby steps. First a small lot, compost bin, mulch, then a rock river bed, then another little lot, then the morning glories on the fence, wind chimes and additional plant gifts from friends. (like Rhett Beavers, Landscape Architect; a cactus)
In 2016, the Department of Cultural Affairs, City of LA produced its first public art festival. One of the projects was by artist Mel Chin. I volunteered to be one of many recipients of this gardening project. At the Bowtie Park through Clockshop, we pledged to plant a 18’ x 18’ lot on our property of a pre-determined and customized design utilizing a menu of specified butterfly friendly plants.
I planted that around November 2016 and due to that heavy rain in January 2017, it grew to be as big as the original two lots of my garden.
So, here we are. I have a butterfly sanctuary in my backyard.
TIMED is a site-specific sound-based installation, a combobulated hyper-collage of disparate elements trying to define a state of mind difficult to put into words; Chauvet Caves, Hiroshima Atomic Dome and the Organ of Corti, all in response to the demolition of the Cerritos College Fine Arts Campus.
In October 2016, I was given permission to conduct a three-point audio recording of the Hiroshima Atomic Dome’s interior. It was an honor, semi-spectacle and part of a journey to complete my project, : “Peace Resonance; Hiroshima/Wendover”, which is partly a semi-autobiographical sound-based artwork .
TIMED is the first “sketch” that incorporates the Hiroshima Atomic Dome audio recordings and is a continuation of my ongoing interest in memory and the tactility of sound waves.
I was invited by Cerritos College Professors Sergio Teran and James McDevitt to visit a ‘shack’ in preparation for the FAR Bazaar event. We briefly discussed the idea of permanency, destruction, time and my experience in the Hiroshima Atomic Dome the previous year. The next evening, I happened to watch Werner Herzog’s documentary “Cave of Forgotten Dreams”. For the past couple of years, I’ve been increasing my drawing practice (pen, charcoal, conte and watercolor). Herzog’s film really puts into gesture, the state of mind you can hit while drawing, which is so familiar in rhythm with the dream-state/ memory. This film put together all of the elements floating in my mind.
During the weekend event, many visitors came to view TIMED and the other diversely amazing installations throughout the soon to be demolished fine arts complex. I was most honored by three Hiroshima Bomb Survivors, who had specifically come to see TIMED.
There are other connections, maybe of insignificance. 1. My career as a public art administrator. In this field, we differentiate between permanent artwork and temporary art work. Contractually, these are often defined by a month to five years (temporary) and up to thirty years or more (permanent). 2. My family is from Hiroshima and although they did not live in the city-center that was devastated, they did experience dramatic hardship after WWII. I have often wondered if I’d be alive if they lived closer to ground zero? 3. The issue of gentrification is on our minds these days and in the past several months, I have been interviewed by a host of artists about my experience during the LA Riots and the changes I have seen in my Koreatown neighborhood. We have lived in the same house in L.A. since the early 1960’s. All together, the issue off permanence and impermanence seemed to preoccupy me.
I’d like to thank Sergio Teran and James MacDevitt for their trust and encouragement. Cerritos College and FAR, thanks for the shack! The support of Ave 50 Gallery, Art Matters Inc., Bruce Yonemoto, Araceli Garcia, Edgar Garcia, CLUI, Hikmet Loe, Aandrea Stang, City of Los Angeles, City of Hiroshima, Wendover Hangar, Tom Clancey, Lea Kim, American Society of Hiroshima-Nagasaki A-Bomb Survivors, Southeast Construction Products, Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, the Japanese Consulate General, Shizue Yamashiro and my family.
Photography by Nakagawa
Funded in part by artist and Cerritos College
MUDSLING is a sound-based installation consisting of a long aluminum bed that houses speakers projecting an audio loop of a recording based on a New Hampshire thunderstorm.
Mudsling is an emotional response inspired by the beauty of a thunderstorm to someone who comes from a drought stricken marine desert (me). It was during a six-week artist residency in 2015 at the MacDowell Art Colony in Peterboro, New Hampshire. It was my first group artist residency, first experience in New England, first experience living in a forest and first time living through a thunderstorm season. I loved it!
Compared to my drought stricken home of Los Angeles, this green, lush environment literally ignited a series of artistic inspirations for me. The sound loop is based on this one thunderstorm that passed over the art colony one afternoon. I processed the field recording and enhanced the frequencies that I felt would vibrate the sound bed more and filled it with additional field recordings, frequencies, some folly work and the sound of a marble game I was shown by MacDowell staff Blake Tewksbury.
Mudsling is an enveloping sound sculpture about nature. At the time, the Presidential campaign was picking up momentum in the New England region. Candidates were coming into the area and it was common for the town folk to talk about the candidates in the coffee shops. In retrospect, a thunderstorm was fairly metaphorical. Mudsling shows us that nature constantly reminds us who is still in charge.
City of L.A. Artist Fellowship (C.O.L.A) Exhibition, L.A. Municipal Art Gallery/ Barnsdall Park
Oyaji; the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind is a portrait of my late father, Toshio Nakagawa. My relationship with my father, a Japanese immigrant was complex and somewhat mysterious growing up. He died in 1989 at the age of 49 and I was awarded the C.O.L.A. at the age of 49.
The ship represents the ship that my mother, her siblings and her mother ventured on at the port of Hiroshima to meet my grandfather and uncle in Los Angeles in 1957. They were leaving the hardships of Hiroshima to a more promising life in the U.S.. On the ship, was a young kitchen assistant, my father. My Mother and Father literally ran into each other on the ship, as the story goes, my mom, running after some kids and my father carrying a tray of vegetables to the kitchen, around the corner and BOOM!
INSTALLATION: Two sound beds are placed in the center of a dimly blue lit room and above the beds, a lamp. The lamp is made out of Japanese handmade paper. It is the shape of a ship. As you lay on a sound bed, a series of sounds, based on my memory of my father, weave through. The sound vibrates the participant’s body. As they experience the frequencies and look above at the blue ship shaped lamp, I am hoping to transform them to the voyage of that ship, half a century ago, on the Pacific Ocean, as they hover above its voyage.
The frequency clusters used are taken from the work of 1930's scientist Royal Rife. Specifically, they are the clusters associated with Rife's alleged experiments in killing pathogens and in this case, the frequencies associated to the cancer types my Father died of. Additional sounds relate to horse racing, mahjong and cooking.
Funded in part by artist and Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs
ORGAN OF CORTI, 2013
ORGAN OF CORTI (work in progress) was first performed at REDCAT (Disney Hall, L.A. CA) as part of its 2013 STUDIO SPRING series. It was a eight minute excerpt on stage with two sound beds. Two volunteers from the audience lay on the sound beds and the seated audience were all given ear plugs and balloons, which they held to experience the vibratory effect of the sound work by holding the balloon at their finger tips. Projected on the screen was a video of imagery inspired by a reoccurring dream I had as a child.
The premier of ORGAN OF CORTI was presented at East LA REP.
Balloons and ear plugs will be available at the door.
If you have your own ear plugs and/or balloon, please bring them.
Organ of Corti is the first full length vibratory sound work composed specifically for Sound Beds. Organ of Corti will be a sound art performance consisting of a live electro acoustic performance which will be amplified through a sound system including speakers inside each Sound Bed--a series of aluminum and wood bed like structures. The sound composition is designed to hear as well as feel the vibratory sound composition. The audience will experience frequencies, sound textures and vibrations in a uniquely intimate and transformative sound environment. Using a series of frequencies inspired by the work of 1930s scientist Royal Rife, Nakagawa will perform a sound work consisting of audible and sub-sonic tones in a combination of modulators, oscillators, effect boxes, and found objects, as well as my Iso Cube and field recordings. The audience will venture through the room wearing ear plugs and holding inflated balloons at their fingertips to feel the vibrations. They may also take turns laying on the bed-like structures, wearing the Sound Suits and listen as well as feel the tonal composition via the vibrating musical bed. It will be like laying on a cello. The goal is to present music in an inventive way and enjoy the tactility of sound.
ALAN NAKAGAWA is a sound artist and hyper-collagist based in Los Angeles. He combines sonic and subsonic frequencies inspired by the scientist Royal Rife with noise music and video montage. Nakagawa developed his main instrument, the Iso Cube, to isolate micro percussion and found objects. He plays objects in the Iso Cube and processes the sound through modulators, distortion effects and sound loops. He is currently developing vibratory music using Rife's frequency studies with interest in micro and sub-sonic tones.
He has presented his work at REDCAT, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Getty Center, Japanese American National Museum, Eternal Telethon, the wulf., Oogimachi Museum Square (Osaka), and La Panaderia (Mexico City). He curates the weekly experimental music webcast Ear Meal and co-founded the multi media arts collective Collage Ensemble Inc. Nakagawa is a recipient of the 2012 California Community Foundation Mid-Career Artist Fellowship, the Monbusho Scholarship and the Cultural Exchange International Grant through the City of LA Department of Cultural Affairs. He received his BFA from Otis Art Institute of Parsons School of Design and his MFA from UC Irvine, and researched stage design at Japan University School of Fine Arts in Tokyo.
In addition to his solo work, he is currently working with Ear Diorama Ear (Kaoru Mansour), Joseph Tepperman and the Southern California Soundscape Ensemble. More information: www.collagecollage.com
After seven years of being a theatre company, EAST LA REP transitioned into a creative center. The company went through a complete change, including, structure, logo, mission, vision and core values, but, the essence of the company, to support art, artists and the communities in and around East Los Angeles remained, and helped shape the new path. As a creative center, EAST LA REP was able to branch out into other disciplines and is steadily building an infrastructure that will support the new model and the programs, projects and events that stem from the creative center. East LA Rep is currently housed at the former Hazard Park Armory in partnership with social service organization, Legacy L.A.
This event is made possible in part by the California Community Foundation, City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, DEW Foundation and USA Projects.
Thanks to Catasonic Studio, Infrasonic Sound, Bill Smith Custom Records, Stroughton Records, REDCAT, and laartstream.com.
Special thanks to Heidi Zeller, Michael Amescua, Greg Mena, Ironwood, Jason Saunders, Kim Abeles and Carl Stone.
First four images are by Steven A. Gunther, courtesy of CalArts
Additional images by Elon Schoenholz
Funded in part by artist, Cal Arts, REDCAT and California Community Foundation
ORGAN OF CORTI PART 2/ homage to Nancy Holt's Sun Tunnels, 2014
ORGAN OF CORTI PART 2
LIME LIGHT/ CORDARY ART GALLERY
Artist Thinh Nguyen had this amazing art gallery and periodic gallery night event for a short while called Cordary Art in Hawthorne CA. He invited me to be part of a group/ multi-artist studio evening he called Lime Light. It turned out to be very successful. He did an amazing job getting the word out and organizing this event.
This was an odd alley-like private street that was in the center of a block and spanned an entire block length of side by side garage-studios. It was an alley way, much like Chung King Road in LA’s Chinatown. Up until recently, this had been primarily machine shops although the wonderful artist Robert Wilhite had been renting his studio there for decades.
I was allowed to install my sound beds in one of the open studios and placed Moondog Pole, a sound sculpture across the way on an existing telephone pole.
The sound beds were used to mimic Sun Tunnels by Nancy Holt. I hadn’t visited Sun Tunnels yet but was planning to within a couple of months of the show. I really liked the philosophy behind Nancy Holts seminal earthwork. She had passed away earlier that year and I had met her long time friend writer and historian Hikmet Loe.
So in this gallery I was assigned was a small front room. I set up a projection of a short film that was inspired by this reoccurring dream I had as a child. A bunch of X’s in a sepia-like environment, there’s counting backwards and it feels like it’s happening inside your body.
Once you enter the gallery, the four beds are displayed. Balloons and ear plugs are available. You experience the frequencies coming out of the beds by laying on them and holding your inflated balloons by your finger tips.
Photography by Elon Schoenholz
Funded in part by artist, California Community Foundation and Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs
Aleurone Layer and the Cosmic Understanding of Communication, 2015
(taken from the press release for the SALT exhibit at Granary Gallery, Utah)
From a galaxy, billions of light years away, comes the Aleurone Layer diaspora dispersing strategically throughout space in search of ionic compounds to re-generate by creating the ultimate protein and mineral combo. In this other world, the high lack of ionic compounds has reached an emergency level, a dire time for their world. It has caused the inability for their regeneration; no cause and effect, no push and pull, no speak and listen, no communication. This has resulted in a sharp decline of the mortality/ production of Aleurone.
In 1969, Earth was hit by a multitude of alien visitors in the form of grain-like vessels, which were actual space pods congregating at bodies of salt. The international governments, in order to not alarm the general public, staged a first man on the moon media story. It worked. No one noticed the little pods. To this day, the aliens live amongst us, harvesting salt and transporting it back to their world. This is the storyline which is abstractly expressed in silent black and white video. I was taken by the industry around the Great Salt Lake and the various machines and silos visible from the freeway. I like this juxtaposition between nature and the manmade. The silo inside the Granary Art Center reminded me of Capitol Milling’s silo in Los Angeles’ Chinatown. So this relationship between industrial shapes became the springboard for a kind of story about communication. In my mind, the silos were talking to each other and this inspired the video.
As a sound artist, I wanted to challenge myself with creating an artwork with no sound. I would approach it in a similar manner as I would sound composition, that is, the sculpting of themes, beats, textures in patterns in duration. I liked the black and white look which is a response to an animation by Jonathan Borofsky, 1985. It was a simple animation of a dog on a tight rope which I found mesmerizing. It seemed to bounce between being an animation and being a drawing, which I enjoyed. As opposed to traditional animation which is made up of drawings but gives the illusion of movement and in a sense distracts us from the truth that it is a series of drawings.
The construction of the film is influenced by a silent video of rapid imagery by Nam June Paik that I saw during a festival at the University of California San Diego. I am not certain what year it was or what video festival it was but it might have been in 1987.
This work is also influenced by my attraction to the funk band, Parliament and the 80’s Sci-Fi film Buckaroo Banzai. Lastly, this work is also somehow a response to diabetes.
Photography by Nakagawa.
Funded in part by Granary Gallery
Proyecto Pastoral/ Great Streets, 2016
In 2017, I was hired as the Art Consultant for LA Great Streets, a project through Mayor Garcetti's office to support community projects that were addressing neighborhoods in need of traffic safety and beautification.
Our first project was a POP UP by Proyecto Pastoral, a social service organization in Boyle Heights originally a project through Dolores Mission in Pico Aliso.
America Aceves was the lead and she said she liked this project she saw online where a community customized pedestrian walking signs. Proyecto Pastoral's hope was to mobilize the community in wanting the City to address the safety issues on 4th Street which had become crazy dangerous due to the increase in traffic since the demolition of the 6th Street Bridge.
Through Self Help Graphics, Joel Garcia recommended artists Joan Zeta and Gabriela Claro and they recruited Andi Xoch and Ever (all who were in the process of becoming Ni Santa, a feminist Chicano art group) and with the support of photographer Rafael Cardenas we hosted a workshop at the local community center right on the street the Pop Up would eventually happen; 4th Street.
America Aceves got an incredible multi-generational group of local residents to show up and pose for us. We had so much fun. The workshop was really much more than we thought it was going to be. It was a party. The community was magical.
Joan, Gabbie, Andi and Ever took Rafa's photos and made stencils. I constructed the temporary signs using buckets, PVC pipes, wood panels, paint, concrete and rebarb.
I delivered the sign/posts to Self Help Graphics and Joan, Gabbie, Andi and Ever took over.
The day of the Pop Up (May 6, 2017) was fun, the installation was successful. The signs were donated to Proyecto Pastoral and hopefully they'll use them again as they move forward with their campaign to address this traffic safety project.
Funded by Great Streets LA
LITTLE TOKYO UTILITY BOX PROJECT/ HOMAGE TO MISORA HIBARI PART 1 & 2, 2015-16
HOMAGE TO MISORA HIBARI 1 & 2
LITTLE TOKYO UTILITY BOX PUBLIC ART PROJECT
L.A.-based Japanese and Japanese American Artists were asked to submit ideas for utility boxes throughout Little Tokyo in Downtown LA by the Little Tokyo Service Center and Japanese American Cultural and Community Center.
Because there’s a large population of elderly living in the many senior apartments in Little Tokyo, I picked Enka Queen, Misora Hibari, who was popular every decade following WWII. She symbolizes the rebuilding of the Nation and when she died in 1989, Japan was devastated and in mourning for weeks if not months.
My collage of paintings, found paper and stamps was in a style of faux graffiti or a utility box plastered with fliers and stickers. In this composition was a QR-Code that accessed my ambient sound work that samples Misora Hibari’s recordings.
The two-sided work lasted approximately two years.
MOONDOG POLE is my tribute to the great outsider musician/composer/inventor/poet, Moondog. MOONDOG POLE is an interactive sound art piece inspired by Moondogs invention, the “Oo”, a harp like instrument
MOONDOG POLE will be installed onto a standard city light pole. It consists of a wood armature that suspend guitar/bass strings and will span approximately eight feet from the ground. The bottom half is a sonotube and tope half is the harp and placed at inside the sonotube is a playback system amplifying my recitation of Moondog’s couplets. The sonotube acts as a resonator for the strings and the couplets. The audience may pluck the strings like a harp, playing to the couplets, similar to Moondogs style of music.
I chose to honor Moondog because his music has influenced me so much. I very much appreciate not only his music but his spirit, inventive power, outsider aesthetic and historical significance to experimental music and sound art.
2013 Soundwalk, Flood, Long Beach CA
2014, Lime Light/ Cordary Arts/ Hawthorne CA
"Omoi for Japan", curated by Mari, was a series of short works by various sound artists in memorial of the one year anniversary of the Fukushima tsunami/power plant disaster. Mari gave us a visual score and we were to interpret the score entitled "One for All", the night of the concert. SASAKI was Alan Nakagawa's interpretation of Mari's score, which started the evening at the wulf in Los Angeles CA, March 10, 2012. SASAKI was in memory of a family friend who lost his life that fateful morning. Nakagawa utilized four burners of an electric stove, four Jiffy Pop Popcorns, a Glamour Box, EHX Memory Boy and amp.
I wanted to amplify leaves, paper and other small little found objects and then run that through effects boxes, loops, etc. Some of this was so delicate that it was too easy to get feedback so I devised an isolation box with two holes you could put your hands in and play whatever object(s) was in there. I call this the Iso Cube and there have been three variations.
I was one of many early fans of Coolhaus Ice Cream, when they were only one ice cream truck (2008) and did pop ups around LA. Now they’re all over LA, Dallas and NY via trucks and brick n mortars.
Having very fond childhood memories of ice cream trucks, I had always wanted to compose music for one, so for the 2011 Soundwalk, an annual sound arts festival, I proposed to do just that.
Freya at Coolhaus agreed to give me access to one the night of the 2011 Soundwalk in Long Beach CA and with the help of my friend Pauline Kamiyama, we retrofitted speakers to match their iconic pink truck.
I created magnetized signs for the retail side of that explained the concept and listed the thirty-five ice cream truck pieces of music I composed and recorded. It was a two-hour sound loop that played while folks at the festival bought and ate their ice cream in front of Fingerprint Records.
Most of the works were song-like in their structure while others were more experimental or ambient. As part of the making of the project, Coolhaus gave me access to their cookie factory, ice cream kitchen and main offices where I gathered field recordings. These all appear on the songs on the loop. I even went to Cal Poly Pomona to record cows. One piece was a composition of interviews of the ice cream company’s namesake, Rem Koolhaas.
I was overjoyed to watch people eat ice cream while my music was playing full blast. I think people thought I was some weird random dude hovering around the truck but sometimes I would introduce myself as the composer but I kind of liked being the weird random dude.