Following on from Raf Simon's 2011 Berlin edition, this year it is the turn of Beastie Boy Mike D to take hold of the second instalment of Mercedes Benz Avant/Garde Diaries Festival, Transmission LA: AV Club. A large scale audio visual exhibition held at LA MOCA, currently directed by forward thinking gallerist Jeffrey Deitch, the show features 17 visual artists alongside music performances and installations by street food pioneer Roy Choi, pioneering LA art book store, Family and even an interactive coffee bar.
Aimed at discussing the relationship between music and art, sculptor Tom Sachs, known for his Chanel logo emblazoned guillotines and chainsaws, regular Beastie Boy artwork collaborator Mike Mills, digital media artist Cory Archangel and Robert McKinley, who has previously worked with Donna Karen and Armani, all feature in the multi-sensory show, highlighting the diversity of Mike D's vision of contemporary art. Rather than simply platforming artwork in a tradition 'white cube' style space, the exhibition is a fully immersive environment, leading the audience to search, explore and discover with hidden rooms and spaces that put you at the centre of the work as opposed to observing from a distance. This is not an exhibition where you stand back observing art on a wall, the audience participation and involvement is integral to the understanding of what Mike D is looking to communicate. Alongside the exhibition, Santigold, J-Rocc, Peanut Butter Wolf, Diplo and the late LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy, will perform gigs in front of the museum throughout the duration of the festival.
Dazed Digital: What has been the biggest challenge in curating a visual art exhibition?
Mike D: With music, I know what the red tape is going to be like. I have been extraordinarily lucky in the past because, as part of the Beastie Boys, we were given the freedom to ignore the rules in a lot of the work we did. Here I really had to relearn what it was like to fight for every single thing that you want to do, even if it's just a little bit different from what the rules allow.
DD: Would you curate something again?
Mike D: If I had a couple of months to rest then yes.
DD: The Echo Park art community has really taken off in the last couple of years, although it has been brewing for a long time now. Has that inspired you?
Mike D: I live in NYC now but I went through a period of time living here in LA. The first place I lived was Echo Park, but that was a long time ago when it really was vastly different. I never would have guessed that it would have become what it is today. I think it is an interesting juncture in Los Angeles, in terms of the art scene. People have been talking for some time about an exciting art world coalescing here in LA, but I think now it really is the case. Whether that is because of the art schools or because NYC is so prohibitively expensive, I think LA is a great hub at the moment.
DD: What is coming out of LA at the moment is centred around the Psyche Art movement and that definitely is something that comes through in this show. Why do you think that's happening?
Mike D: I think it's just really in the DNA of LA. It is a city where cults of personality, of all types, have been given a place to grow, ferment and become something. That in turn feeds the art that is made here. It wasn't part of the original thesis of the show, but it is interesting because I realised how much it has emerged as the show came together.
DD: You have described the exhibition as a theme park for adults. Where did that come from?
Mike D: I was working just the other night and I had that thought. I was looking at Jim Drain and Ara Peterson's pin wheels, which had just been finished. We had just got the coffee bar done and I was playing records on Tom Sach's speaker stacks. I was like a gleeful little child, really enjoying the whole process. It made me, as an adult, happy in the way that a child is on an amusement ride. That is what I want to instil in people when they come through here.
DD: You have also curated a whole series of music performances that are held here at the museum. Is there a shared point of communication between the artists and the musicians?
Mike D: It was important for me to have music as a part of the whole picture of what is happening here at MOCA, because when I talked to the first couple of artists about doing work for the show, both of them happened to come to me with pieces that are based on, or informed by, music. To me it was about illustrating the dialogue that takes place between art and music. Santigold is a great example of that. Her new album cover is painted by Kehinde Wiley, an artist from New York who used to show at Jeffrey Deitch's gallery. Kehinde is an artist who paints iconic musicians and Santi is a musician reaching out to him to collaborate on what she is putting out into the world. To me that kind of says it all.
DD: What did you think of the Tupac hologram that Snoop Dog showed at Coachella? It seems like that might have been an almost fitting installation for this show?
Mike D: Well actually that was something that me and Jim Drain have talked about a lot. We really wanted to bring it here as I didn't get a chance to see it at the festival, but unfortunately they are showing it again this weekend, so we couldn't.
DD: Would you ever consider resurrecting anyone as a hologram yourself?
Mike D: I think it would be nice to have a whole holographic universe in my home. You know, wake up in the morning, have breakfast with Miles Davies and Jimi Hendrix. That sort of thing.
Mercedes Benz Avant/Garde Diaries Festival, Transmission LA: AV Club curated by Mike D is at Geffen LA MOCA April 20th to May 6th