Friendship at Sundown

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Story for Textfield, pp 4-5, Issue iv, Fall 2005 {text & jpeg}

Friends, I saw them everywhere when I lived in New York, on the street, in the stores, on my bike, even when I didn’t want to.. Then I moved to my house on Sundown Drive in the Glassell Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. I was afraid that suburban alienation would set in. Moving first from New York’s East Village, then from pedestrian Silver Lake, I felt on the inevitable path toward a unique sort of 21st century isolation, computer, car, work in my studio at home, never seen again.

We crave ‘experiences’ today. We long for tactile, visceral interaction with others. We want to connect; it is our most base human need. In a world of engineered food where every apple in the market looks the same, we also long for the unique, the eccentric, the handmade, the local, the unexpected, the not-quite-ready, the unformed thought. Every step forward in our increasingly homogenized, processed and ‘connected’ world continues to further isolate us physically and numb us mentally.

I knew that if I didn’t create a structure for seeing people in a stimulating, meaningful way, I never would. This house also seemed fit for much more than just living and working. Sundown Salon started in 2001 as a casual forum for bringing an extended group of friends together to share work. On periodic Sunday afternoons it becomes a gathering place for the free exchange of ideas and art through events, happenings, gatherings, meetings, pageantry, performances, shows, stunts and spectacles.

After 20 events, hundreds of participants and almost 5 years they have grown increasingly elaborate, and the network of friends has expanded exponentially with each gathering. Each salon is catalyzed by a friend with an idea, an inspiration. Knitting, boys, a dance, deliveries, a meeting, animals, haircutting, fashion, political ennui and it grows from there. Who are the others we know with the same interest? Who else is thinking about this?

The Salon is on a Sunday throughout the afternoon, the sunset and into the evening. The ‘piece’ or ‘project’ of the salon begins with the preparation for the event, the meetings, the planning and continues as a gathering of people, exchanging ideas, all in the context of a day of focused activity, experimenting, sharing. The Salons dismiss the idea of the solitary creator, isolated artist in the pure neutral white box of a studio and instead celebrates the truly engaged human, responding to their time, environment, community, friends, neighbors, weather, history, place.

Because it is in a house, it is inherently intimate. There is an immediate familiarity among people. The house is made of many small gathering spaces, the dome above, a cave-like space below, garden rooms outside. These are not neutral institutional gallery, museum or performance spaces, but rather very complex, diverse and assertive spaces that play a central role in the work that is presented, specificity of people, time and place is important.

What is left behind? What is the residue? Sometimes a physical mark, a wall painting, a garden sculpture, a floor sticker, that stays as evidence of what happened. More important, but less quantifiable, the house is witness to fertile human interaction, people meet for the first time, have an inspiring discussion, fall in love, learn something new, form a connection, begin to collaborate, glimpse a stranger they see later, learn about another’s point of view, make a friend.

– Fritz Haeg, 2005