LOS ANGELES INSTANT LANDSCAPE
“...Los Angeles is instant architecture in an instant townscape.”
Reyner P. Banham
Los Angeles is a set of instant landscapes traversed by cars, an imaginary landscape made of signs, billboards, stores, interminable streets, rolling hills.
But the Californian metropolis, where the sun never sets, is also made of invisible, fragmented scapes, which
only a protracted visualization, like the one offered by photography, makes apparent. Los Angeles has not
been as taken seriously by photography as it has by cinema. Unlike New York, Los Angeles somehow escaped portrayals by the likes of Alfred Stieglitz, Berenice Abbott and Walker Evans. So, it is an endless, limitless city for two European photographers who, following on the heels of English historian Reyner Banham, analyze and interpret it on the road, driving/reading the metropolis. “If one analyzes the history of Los Angeles,” writes Banham,
“it is evident that no other city has ever been the product of such an extraordinary mixture of geography, climate, economy, demography, mechanics and culture.”
Los Angeles Instant Landscape collects different intersecting vistas: the landscape of the Los Angeles River portrayed by Marco Introini, and Emanuele Piccardo’s road trip from Los Angeles to Zabriskie Point.
Introini has an analytical vision based on the redesign of urban maps. As these maps unfold, they help register the existing territory and, moreover, they make possible, at a later stage, the development of place on celluloid. The LA River or, better said, its concrete canal, is not visible from the road. In fact, the speed with which you cross the metropolis is fixed in memory: objects as large as this, natural and artificial, that delimit a strip of water stretching for 77 km, from the beginning, at the confluence of Bell Creek and Arroyo Calabasas, in San Fernando Valley, up to the mouth of the Pacific Ocean
at Long Beach. The Los Angeles River is a hidden landscape of infrastructures, bridges, viaducts and dams, alternating with the seriality of industrial and residential settlements, a river that is used by filmmakers rather than by the residents as a set for the films, such as Grease, Terminator 2, Drive, In Time, The Core and the famous video clip Happy by Pharell Williams.
The river is never experienced as a landscape made for free time, as it is in Italy and in Europe. It is a necessary and useful infrastructure, yet never a community space per se. This is notwithstanding the Los Angeles River Revitalization act, ongoing since 1991. Introini’s work relates the changing landscape of the river, tensioned as it is between artificial elements such as bridges and dams and those areas where nature gets its upper hand and where, therefore, the metropolis is no longer perceivable.
Conversely, Piccardo makes of the road trip the only instrument with which to rethink the metropolis. Composing photographic sequences that range from the urbanely dense to the extreme rarefaction coinciding with the desert scape, Piccardo is able to retrace Banham’s vision of LA as well as the historian’s complex relationship with the desert. In this way the work generates what is tantamount to the limitless road with its contradicting episodes and attitudes. From north to south, from east
to west, an obsessive asphalt ribbon leads the viewer
to Death Valley, a mythical place and the setting for Zabriskie Point, Antonioni’s first American film. Introini and Piccardo’s work and their attempt at defining the complex iconography of LA offers surprising, often unknown and diverse points of view. Los Angeles Instant Landscape, in this sense, is a first take of LA’s particular landscape as experienced by the photographers’ lived-memory, one that grants the California metropolis a consistency and a coherence rarely offered by the city of angels itself.