November 14, 2009

At Stake

In 1977 I set some small wood stakes in the front yard of the house I rented on Mariposa Street near downtown Los Angeles and stretched yellow twine between them, forming two large X’s on either side of the walkway leading up to our front door. The piece was called I Stake A Claim In LA and had the supplemental component of a want-ad I ran in the Los Angeles Times for the duration of the week the piece existed.

As initial announcement of my arrival in Los Angeles, the stake piece served as my address of Southern California conceptual art and my figurative insertion into its history. Here in the city of John Baldessari, Ed Ruscha, Chris Burden, Robert Irwin, Billy Al Bengston and Ed Keinholz, I felt there might be possibilities to explore. What was "at stake” in LA was my cross-country move from St. Louis and my intellectual engagement with those forces of time-based, informational, ephemeral, process-driven work emanating from LA's concrete wasteland of movie stars and endless cars.

I Stake A Claim In LA bears the mythology of prospecting, gambling for a “strike,” working with available resources to tap infinite wealth. There was guerilla-based, outlaw consciousness at work here, ignoring what was permissible in art and expected of tenants. It was downbeat, off-the-tracks and under the radar; I expected no real notice from either the “art press” or the neighborhood locals who strolled by those two yellow-twine X’s. What was important to me was to fashion an anonymous marker that would distinguish my “site” as a theoretical positioning of my practice. The time had come for me to “be” in LA and this was the coming-out ritual.

My time in LA ran twenty years. Before those years came to an end, I wrote bout how obscurism creates “aart,” did street performances “dangerously ventur[ing] into heavy traffic,” played punk rock, founded an alternative art space, toured with Nina Hagen and taught film noir and “Outlaw Culture” at the Pasadena Art Center.

Every minute of my years there I was aware of my position in LA’s “alternative” art community being measured. My understanding of the broader aspects of my contributions as “cultural producer” now rests on that obscure, marginalized, yet recorded history.

This marks the 32nd year of my involvement with conceptual art, music and art theory. For the remainder of 2009, I will post a series of documents, works and texts as a record of my first conceptual works of '77-'79. These posts will serve two purposes. First, to foreground my continuing art practice and future direction in visuality. Additionally, I want to acknowledge and honor my past so as to better comprehend the depth of my personal commitment to this history.

Images: “I Stake A Claim In LA” (1977); twine and wood stakes; 40 feet square; destroyed; © Copyright 1977-2009 by Mark Cameron Boyd.

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