Critical Practice

Art and curatorial projects which programmatically  examine cultural and political phenomena.

Reading Ours (2018–2019)

Reading Ours is a micro-gallery celebrating the book, published objects, the history of publication, and the reader. It’s a place for big ideas from a small garage in Los Angeles.

Reading Ours is interested in an effective object, an issue, a book, a magazine, issues, books, magazines, micro-cultures, subcultures, countercultures, the worlds and networks distribution defines and makes.

Exhibtions Hosted:
Operation Manual For The World’s Largest Paper Spaceship – Zephyros Learning Exchange and The Whole Earth Educational Network

Landfill – Selections From the Social Practice Archive 2011-2014

The Making of Past/Forward – The LA Phil at 100 (organized by Kimberly Varella)

Millie Wilson – Errors of Nature (organized by David Evans Franz)

Sunny Mirrors, Marc Allen and Emily Joyce

Pochette D’Allumette – A Matchbook Collection

 Zen Anarchist Garage Sale – Sam Gould

See also: Operation Manual for the Worlds Largest Paper Spaceship

Model Cities/Citizen Control (2019)

Model Cities/Citizen Control was an installation and happening at Automata Arts in Los Angeles by designer Kimberly Varella and artist/ writer Robby Herbst. Using found text and images the installation represents a history of the Great Societies anti-poverty program known as Model Cities (1969 – 1974). The installation reflects on “citizen control” of anti-poverty programs, a goal of Model Cities in its infancy.

The Model Cities Programs of LBJ's administration was founded to empower and enrich disenfranchised communities nationwide. It aimed to give direct federal dollars to organize low-income community groups to develop their own community led anti-poverty initiatives. This Great Society Program, which operated between the years 1966 and 1974, grew directly out of the social unrest of the early Civil Rights era.

The program was controversial in its day. Criticism from the right held that it created dependency; squashed entrepreneurialism; and radicalize aggrieved communities. Criticism from the left argued that the program underfunded infrastructure changes; didn't address structural racism adequately; and divided communities against one another. Model Cities/Citizen Control presented theses dialogues - and asked viewers to reconsider their welfare imagination.

Additionally, Citizen Participation/A Model Cities Happening, took place at Automata. The idea of “participation” was as important to the Model Cities program as it was to the art of the happening developed during the same era. The event played with notions of history, participation, and the legacy of the liberal Model Cities program for our reactionary era.

See also: Drawings, Performance/Happenings

Operation Manual for the Worlds Largest Paper Spaceship (2020)

Reading Ours presents The Operational Manual For the Worlds Largest Paper Spaceship - organized by Robby Herbst

Saturdays, 12–4pm
December 14, 21, 2019 and January 4, 11, 18, 2020

Curatorial walkthrough with Robby Herbst
Saturday, December 14, 1:30 pm

Screening of The Wave
Saturday January, 18th at 3:00 pm

It’s a 12 x 10 foot poster, as a magazine, distributed as issue #13 of the Deschool Primer in 1974, published by the Zephyros Education Project. It’s as if Mad Magazine met with Peter Max who met the Halprins, who met Dick Higgins, and they all had a conversation with Stewart Brand. A billboard printer printed one hundred copies, and its colors are still vibrant. Trust me, it’s celestial, and I’m not sure it’s meant for the classroom or the art museum.

The poster’s central image of a spacecraft is framed by two sets of directions; one describing possible uses for the preposterously sized illustration; the other is twelve imaginative suggestions on how the illustration itself could be used.

The Reading Ours exhibition presents Issues #13, and #14, of the Deschool Primer, as well as the Big Rock Candy Mountain anthology (BRMC, 1972). BRMC was a Whole Earth Catalog/Portola Institute project influencing Zephryos. The theme of Deschool Primer #14 was games. It includes a section contributed by the New Games Foundation, and a section of computer games contributed by the People's Computer Company.

Zephyros published sixteen issues of the Deschool Primer between 1972 and 1975. It’s best described as a magazine meant for educators (of all stripes) interested in teaching to liberate. It’s strongly representative of the rich Bay Area counter-cultural brew, where humanistic ideology and active counter-power mixed to make interdisciplinary forms aiming to trouble and advance society. Zephyros was affiliated with a collection of highly idiosyncratic Bay Area organizations interested in expanding human knowledge; among them The Whole Earth Catalog, Big Rock Candy Mountain, Farallones Institute, The Peoples Computer Company, Sunflower Source, and the New Games Foundation.

The exhibition closes with a VHS screening of The Wave. Based on the story of the Third Wave written by Ron Jones (first appearing in the Whole Earth Review in 1976), The Wave retells the story of a classroom lesson gone awry. True to life, in 1967 Ron Jones was a new high school history teacher in Palo Alto when a students said something like "Nazism couldn't happen here in America". In 1972 Ron Jones is the founder of the Zephyros Education Project and the Deschool Primers.

See also: DrawingsReading Ours

Chats About Change: Critical Conversations on Art and Politics in Los Angeles (2015)

Cal State LA — January 15, 2015
Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE) — January 17, 2015
(many details to follow)

Chats About Change: Critical Conversations on Art and Politics is five conversations addressing contemporary themes creative practitioners are developing in Los Angeles today. Organized by artists Elana Mann and Robby Herbst, the conversations will explore ways individuals, at times labeled “artists” and “organizers,” are seeking alternative futures. The event will take place at California State University Los Angeles, “The people’s university,” and at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE), the innovative contemporary arts institution. Assemblies will be structured around the problematics surrounding participation, creative dissonance, spirituality, professional-hybridization, and the politics of land in a session co-organized with Sandra de la Loza. Chats About Change asks questions, wages debates, and strengthens community among people seeking experimental ways to affect Southern California.

Event Preview Article
Event Roundup 1
Event Roundup 2
Event Roundup 3

See also: Race Art & Survival: Michelada Think Tank & Chats About Change

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