We started the Echo Park Time Bank in March 2008 at the dawn of the economic collapse. We started with 20 friends in my living room not knowing that six years later it would be 1200 members across thirteen L.A. neighborhoods trading 8,000 hours per year. We never really did outreach, approximately 10-30 people apply per month based primarily on word of mouth. Our non-profit is called Arroyo S.E.C.O (Sustainable Economies Community Organization). In addition to the Time Bank we manage a learning network for Time Banks across California called the CA Federation of Time Banks. We also recently launched the Community Revolving Loan Fund and Local Economy Incubator to support small business and cooperatives.
I see the economic meltdown as a great opportunity. We can't go on in this unsustainable way forever. This Time Bank experiment makes me feel secure because I know that my community can thrive even in dire circumstances. We are resilient and have found a way to adapt to the crisis by supporting each other. It's improved my quality of life and sense of well-being. Hopefully it has for others as well. The economic recovery will not happen by trying to repair the existing system. We need to look at alternatives and there are plenty of good ones available. I'm optimistic.
As for the sharing economy, I'm thrilled that it is finally in the popular consciousness. Any ventures that aim to profit off sharing probably won’t survive long term. Middlemen and hierarchies are old paradigms. I'm most excited about cooperatives these days. Workers can't be exploited if they own the business. The challenge will be to change the consciousness from competition to collaboration. It's human nature to collaborate but we've had to suppress it for so long. There will be growing pains but it will be worth it.
Interview with Echo Park Time Bank founder Automn Rooney, discussing the changes that the Echo Park Time Bank has experienced since the first publication of A Map For An Other LA in November, 2009.
In Los Angeles on the night of Barack Obama’s electoral victory, in late 2008, at the corner of Sunset and Alvarado in Echo Park, at the car wash across the street from the building where Machine Project and the Echo Park Film Center are, an ever-larger and diverse crowd gathered to celebrate and yell at the night. We cheered joyfully to the passing cars and for ourselves “Socialism,” claiming for him the refused yoke the Republican party tried to put on candidate Obama’s shoulders. We banged on pots and pans too, borrowing a symbol of redress and demand from the Argentinean economic crisis of 2002. Curiously, about 5 years earlier I’d sat in a café next door to Machine Project alone with two friends on the day the United States started dropping bombs in Iraq. There I dreamed aloud about how we really should take the intersection of Sunset and Alvarado. I was inspired by the organization of the Bay Area anti-war demonstrators who’d successfully orchestrated the shut down of their city on March 20, 2003. In the span of 6 years a socially engaged creative community here in Los Angeles had gone from a sense of isolation to one of collective hope, personified in some ways through this election night celebration of Barack Obama. And it is this collective sense of hope that is displayed in the 2009 publication, A Map For An Other LA. That map was the first guide of the LA based Llano Del Rio Collective, whose aim is “to frame practice, not be a practice.”
Our collective’s first map “describes locations that support, dream, act and aid in the creation of an other Los Angeles.” The guide is a distillation of that moment in Los Angeles, when a decade’s worth of life/art experiments in a community attempting to create different ways for being in the world, was at its most unified and idealistic. In the subsequent years of A Map For An Other LA’s publication the landscape of this “other LA” has changed. It has done so as the economy has shifted; both the art economy, and the general creative economy.
For Automn Rooney, the continued development and proliferation of Los Angeles’ creative and sharing economy has meant the growth of her non-profit project Arroyo S.E.C.O. which serves to create non-cashed based exchanges. Social innovators like Rooney who seek differing models for sustainable living in LA, have seen their projects expand exponentially since 2009. And while the digitally based “sharing economy” puts stresses on the non-capitalist ideology surrounding “sharing” (as seen in for-profits like Airbnb and Lyft), she feels that by magnifying what are innately human connections this other LA can continue to emerge. The same can be said for the bicycling community.
There are a lot of different folks who have activated a lot of great stuff in the last few years. Diversity, equity and cleverness.
Kelly Marie Martin of the Bicycle Kitchen, Bicycle Bitchen, and the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition on the transitions taking place in the cycling community in LA since 2009.
By 2009 the model developed by the founding “cooks” at the cycling incubator, the Bicycle Kitchen, was already being replicated by other groups throughout Los Angeles. A Map For An Other LA sites Venice’s Bikerowave and Highland Park’s Bike Oven as other community held cycling centers. Also identified on the map are DIY repair shops and DIY cycling organizations such as the influential Midnight Ridazz. The Ridazz, like LA Critical Mass before it, had an uneven relationship with Los Angeles Police Department. As late as 2010 LA City didn’t know quite what to do about the growth in popularity of cycling as a means of transportation and joy throughout the city. 2010 was the year that (then LA Mayor) Antonio Villaraigosa was hit by a car while bicycling, as well as the year of the first CicLAvia [www.ciclavia.org/]. While advocates had been arguing for years about the need to implement safe-biking standards around town, the accident underlined the seriousness of the issue. And CicLAvia demonstrated LA’s commitment to an implementation of a bikeable city. Since then, CicLAvia events, massive officially coordinated citywide bike-rides, have been held semiannually drawning over 100,000 riders on a single day’s ride. The city, and its new Mayor Eric Garcetti continue to show an interest in cycling as a creative and ecological expression of another Los Angeles in local models of “new urbanism” being advanced today throughout LA.
Short of writing a history of Social Art in Los Angeles, starting in late 2008 the three major Los Angeles museums (MOCA, LACMA, Hammer) each began developing ambitious programs that tapped into the local community and art Zeitgeist. The money for these programs was all largely tied to grants premised upon creative place-making, and diverse community involvement. Ideologically these dynamics of “participation,” “diversity,” “engagement,” are the positive qualities reflected within “new urbanism.” However in its implementation new urbanism – the practice of developing cities as livable, sustainable, walkable, and human-scale entities – has meant for others something entirely different; namely gentrification, and displacement.
With Machine Project Field Guide To The Los Angeles County Museum Of Art (2008) and Fallen Fruit’s EatLACMA (2010), two multiply-curated cacophonous socially-oriented events at hierarchical art institutions began to insert a new form of social representation upon these formally locally held “art” collaborations. This rupture, rearranging the context of what were until then seen as quirky and local institutions (Machine Project, an expansive curatorial experiment based in Echo Park; Fallen Fruit, a gleaning manifesto and action group based in Silver Lake) opened up a more complicated narrative for socially based project. Firmly inserted was a narrative of “professionalism” and political-economy; until then these projects primarily existed in the realm of gift-economy only. In launching ambitious projects at premier art institutions, a discourse beyond what-one-friend-can-do-with-another was introduced. Previously Machine Project or Fallen Fruit had been able to count on the participation of its extended network of friends in co-developing ideas for small idiosyncratic projects for free or little renumeration; the question of representation and payment by wealthy institutions became an issue, unlike before.
The bike movement in South LA/Watts is on the raise since 2009. ESRBC is taking charge in showing our community that cycling is important and can be another sport for our youth. We’re also leading the way on advocacy in the south of LA and southeast communities.
John Jones of East Side Riders Bike Club on the transitions taking place in the cycling community in LA since 2009.
Certainly! I have a different relationship to social practice than I had earlier. Certainly it is a more nuanced one.
Matias Viegner, former member of Fallen Fruit, on the Transition of Fallen Fruit since 2009.
SEEDS INSIDE/OUTSIDE LA → View & Download
In 2009 Blum and Poe opened up an immense museum-sized gallery in Culver City. Previously Blum and Poe had been a modestly sized, yet ambitious, art gallery at the fringes of Santa Monica. With its modern architecture and contemporary blue-chip roster Blum and Poe’s new expansion was a declaration of serious capital and purpose. In the intervening years this strategy has been copied by a growing group of commercial galleries in Los Angeles (Hauser Wirth and Schimmel, François Ghebaly Gallery, David Kordansky Gallery, 365 Mission, etc.) wanting to broadcast a similar relationship to spectacular consumption and contemporary art. Since the economic collapse of 2008, oddly enough, the contemporary art market in Los Angeles has emerged as an area of major capital investment. With those able to participate in it, and with the development of the transnational art fair economy to support it, the symbolic capital made tangible by the mansionification of Blum and Poe has been an irresistible statement for other LA art galleries.
This is the story of Davida Nemeroff and her Night Gallery. Not listed in A Map For An Other LA (it opened in 2010), the Night Gallery formerly was a louch DIY art gallery in a strip mall in the lowbrow neighborhood of Lincoln Heights. Then, its attitude of “Come, hang-out together, we’re in Lincoln Heights,” and “Yeah, arts on the wall, but the conversation here between us is even better,” would have clearly put the Night Gallery on A Map For An Other LA if its timing had been right. However, in January of 2013 it opened its own designer art mausoleum in Downtown Los Angeles:
The transitions that Night Gallery has undergone, I assume are most typical of any homegrown and heartfelt community organizing turned for-profit endeavor. Once money, or the potential for money, "fame," and "power," come into the picture a community that was brought together by socializing and making/conversing turns into a string of affiliations based around individual interests. It surely is not like it was before both in terms of participants, clientele, and physical environment to the point where I do not hang out there anymore, and haven't for some time. The magic got lost somewhere before it moved to its new location when true artists turned into a combination of aggressive and aspiring young professionals, and teeny-boppers looking for free beer and weed as well as a scene to grab onto that was publicized as cool. The usual disappointing ending to what began as an interesting project.
Anonymous on the transition of Night Gallery from a funky art space in Lincoln Heights to a large commercial gallery in Downtown Los Angeles.
A MAP FOR AN OTHER LA → View & Download
Today if the Llano Del Rio collective were to create a new Map For An Other LA it would have to wrestle with contradictions of capital that were not fully realized when the map was created. The frames of gentrification and art-capital had not entered into the picture fully for this earlier community in Los Angeles. While this expansion has been good for some (time banking, cycling), in the strict area of “art” it has brought some challenges. By being inserted into a political economy, where previously there had been only an economy of generosity, in some sense the utopian trajectory of the strictly cultural sphere in LA has been tamped down.
I spoke with the younger artist John Burtle about the effects of this expansion. John, a member of the Llano Del Rio Collective, is also a member of the wildly successful, artists run and oriented, radio station KCHUNG. KCHUNG has received critical notice in the New York Times, and will be included in the “career making” exhibition Made In LA at the Hammer Museum in 2014. Burtle suggests that with this success KCHUNG has been asking itself about the organization’s goals. They can continue to be a volunteer run radio station (as they are today). Or with the money that the large collective project earns from engagements, they can imagine hiring a paid staff person who might be able to administer the station successfully. John states that this would allow for adding new broadcast time slots; success in this case would enable KCHUNG to open up its broadcast schedule to even more of the waiting pool of creative DJs, artists, writers, and performers populating LA.
On the flip side John says that with the LA based community oriented art projects having expanded into a more professional context, they have to negotiate their image now; down to how they conduct press releases. “If Machine Project does something in the basement versus in a large museum, and they announce it in the same manner, physically there’s a limit there,” Burtle goes on to state;
There’s freedom and trust with a smaller audience, they know you and there is less immediately at stake. There’s also a higher tolerance for failure. You already have something going with them. When you are working with a larger institution there’s a desire for it to be “good.” And with KCHUNG, the way we do events with, say, the Hammer Museum, you can’t have the same limitless “Whatever you want to do is ok!,” regarding our programming. As things become institutionalized things become less flexible. So often, but not always, growth can be less conducive for experimental programming. Gained is larger exposure, different contexts, and prestige. Also some times my mom goes to museums.
A Map for An Other LA was created to incite a collectivist imagination amongst an interdisciplinary and expansive community of artists, ecologists, and anti-capitalists. Its hope was to envision what we could be if we moved together. As the nature of the creative and sharing economy has changed in Los Angeles, so too has the vision and trajectory of this Other LA. In my conversations with Burtle, he holds out the possibility that despite the complications that capital-expansion provides there is still a possibility for innately experimental groups to create transformative artworks, images, and solutions that effect broad publics. I too hold onto this image for an Other LA. On election night 2008, in Echo Park, shouting out together “Socialism” to the darkness and the passing cars, I felt it as well.
Robby Herbst is an interdisciplinarian interested in socio-political formations; social and behavioral architecture, languages of dissent and counter culture. He's a writer, artist, teacher, and something other.