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Christopher Owens, San Francisco (April 2011)

Hedi Slimane's California Song

Curator and Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Jeffrey Deitch speaks to Dazed about the upcoming exhibition of the celebrated photographer

The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles, opens a new exhibition this Saturday (12th Nov), presenting the work of Hedi Slimane, titled ‘California Song’. The show centres around the photographer’s ‘California period’, a time in which he extended his explorations of urban youth culture and artistic communities through installations of photographic essays, exhibitions and publications. In recent years Slimane has built up a global reputation first appearing on our radar as designer for Dior Homme. Since then he’s documented emerging musicians and artists, brought out publications about British punk-rock and even become synonymous with the term ‘online photo diary’ by establishing and popularising the technique with his own diary created in 2006.

The exhibition at MOCA encapsulates his most recent work and will manifest itself on two floors of the museum. The ground floor will contain an installation and a series of his minimal, yet power black and white prints from his California years, with the second floor featuring a motion-photography installation produced especially for MOCA. Also taking place is The Billboard Program, a street extension of the MOCA exhibition where a selection of Hedi’s work will become posters that will be placed on 89 digital billboards and will evolve during the exhibition period. We decided to speak to the curator and recently appointed director of MOCA, Jeffery Deitch to find out why he thought MOCA suited Slimane’s first West Coast outing of his work.

Dazed Digital: Why do you feel the latest expo from Hedi fits MOCA specifically?
Jeffrey Deitch: Hedi is creating a new way to be an artist, working across a range of media and encompassing the presentation and communication of the work as an integral part of the art. It is part of the mission of the museum to present the work of artists who are redefining what it means to be an artist.

DD: Can you elaborate on the sonic, motion-photography installation and performance art space that’s based on the second floor of the exhibition? What is the importance of utilising different mediums in a single exhibition?
Jeffrey Deitch: California Song is an immersive work. It presents a contemporary version of synaesthesia, with several media: music, motion-photography, architecture fusing together.

DD: What impact do you feel Hedi Slimane has had on the world of art today? What makes the new Hedi exhibition different to his past expos?
Jeffrey Deitch: Hedi's work extends his artistic vision through music, design, and through the narrative of his photo diary. His work brings a new audience into art. He is articulating an expanded vision of art. The exhibition builds on his previous work.

DD: What's next for you and MOCA?
Jeffrey Deitch: MOCA is opening three exhibitions this week with artists who use photography and film in new ways to expand the possibilities of these media: Hedi Slimane, Kenneth Anger, and Weegee (Naked Hollywood). Each exhibition focuses on the artist's interpretation of their California. We will continue to  develop exhibitions and projects that explore an expanded definition of what art can be and connect contemporary art with contemporary life.