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  Public Dialogue

Between 1995 and 1999 a series of lectures, panel discussions, and other public forums were used to inform the development of L.A. as Subject, while simultaneously creating a video, audio and photographic archive of related topics that emerged as a result of the project’s research and resource development activity. The following three series of lectures and panel discussions helped to frame and inform the work of LA as Subject:

The first series was presented in 1995, in collaboration with another Research Institute project, Imaging the City in the Americas. This series entitled LA Archives and Collections: In Search of Urban Histories explored the formation and display of urban identities from three perspectives (1) dominant or highly mediated institutions as consumers and cultural translators, (2) artists and scholars as users of archives and collections, and (3) private collectors and medium-sized institutions as managers and collectors of cultural materials. The panel presentations were:

Collections and Archival Repositories: In Search of Urban History
Monday, March 13, 1995
Partners: GRI, LA as Subject and Imaging the City in the Americas
Venue: GRI, 7th Floor Auditorium, Santa Monica
Description: This discussion panel examined the role of public repositories, such as libraries or museum and university resource collections in shaping the very nature of archives in general and, more specifically, the range of archival materials that are available to the researcher today. The panel moderated by Mike Davis included Robert Marshall, Jennifer Watts, Victoria Steele, and Frances Terpak.

The Production of the Authentic Voice: Artists and Scholars as Users of Collections and Archives
Monday, May 15, 1995
Partners: GRI, LA as Subject and Imaging the City in the Americas
Venue: GRI, 7th Floor Auditorium, Santa Monica
Description: This discussion panel brought together scholars and artists to examine how our understanding of the history of Los Angeles is determined not only by the nature of the archive in general and the range of materials available, but also by the ways in which archives are used to create knowledge and to render our cities meaningful. The panel moderated by Nancy Troy included Doug Flamming, Dan Kwong, George Lipsitz, and Pat Ward Williams.

Personal Preference, Collection Policy, and the Historical Record: Public and Private Collectors
Tuesday, July 25, 1995
Partners: GRI, LA as Subject and Imaging the City in the Americas
Venue: GRI, 7th Floor Auditorium, Santa Monica
Description: This discussion panel critiqued the process of collecting as highly subjective and often influenced by institutional or personal preferences, social policies, and what is culturally valued or privileged. It examined where and how these subjective influences intersect with a sense of civic responsibility to the historical record of a city, focusing particularly on Los Angeles. The panel moderated by Charles Merewether included Paul Apodaca, Mayme Clayton, Carolyn Kozo Cole, and Kevin Mulroy.

The second series was presented in 1997 and examined the transformative nature of Los Angeles communities. The series included:

LA: Global Village or Ethnic Enclaves?
Monday, January, 27, 1997
Partners: Sponsored by GRI, LA as Subject
Venue: GRI, 7th Floor Auditorium, Santa Monica
Description: This program brought together five authors and cultural critics for a conversation about the social, political, and cultural aspects of how we form and practice "community" in the Los Angeles region. The panel moderated by Ruben Martinez, included Peter Theroux, Ron Wakabayashi, Marisela Norte, and George White.

Topography of the LA Metropolis: Time, Space, & Transformation
Monday, March 17, 1997
Partners: Sponsored by GRI, LA as Subject
Venue: GRI, 7th Floor Auditorium
Description: This program brought together five scholars, urban planners, and community historians to examine the urbanization and cultural transformation of the Los Angeles region, through time and space, looking particularly at how Los Angeles has evolved from an oasis for indigenous inhabitants to a cosmopolitan icon of the late twentieth century. The panel moderator was Leo Estrada and included Randy Young, William (Bill) Mason, Rick Moss, and Linda Wong.

Apocalypse and Utopia: The LA Narrative of the Late Twentieth Century

Date: Monday, April 28, 1997
Partners: Sponsored by GRI, LA as Subject, in partnership with the GRI Scholars & Seminars Program, Perspectives on LA
Venue: The Getty Center, HMW Auditorium
Description: This program brought together a distinguished panel of five writers in a moderated discussion to examine the question: What is the literary archive being formed by contemporary writers about Los Angeles, and what will this archive tell future generations about how we imagined and lived in the LA region of the late twentieth century? Panelists discussed this topic by exploring the personal meaning of their work as cultural producers, and the role of their work as public culture within the prevailing literary genres of the LA narrative. The panel moderator was Hector Tobar and included writers Octavia Butler, Mike Davis, Carolyn See, and Gerald Horne.

The third series was presented in 1998 and explored issues of local, national, and international cultural recovery. Public dialogue forums included:

Cultural Recovery in Early Korean Printing History: Eastern and Western Canon in Dialogue

Date: Thursday, January 29, 1998
Partners: GRI, LA as Subject, Santa Monica College, and Korean Cultural Center of Los Angeles
Venue: Santa Monica College, Art Lecture Hall
Description: This lecture presented in conjunction with an exhibition from the Republic of Korea on early Eastern Printing culture Study the Past, Create the Future, examined questions of historical authority in the recovery of Eastern artifacts, which reposition Western scholarly points of historical reference. The lecture explored newly recovered contributions of classical cultures to the multiple contexts of human history. The guest lecturer was Kyung-Jun Ra, Eastern printing history scholar and museum curator, Chongju Early Printing Museum, Republic of Korea. Lecture respondent was David Ziedberg, Western printing history scholar and Avery Director, the Huntington Library. The discussion moderator and translator was Richard McBride II, cultural consultant, Korean Cultural Center of Los Angeles.

In Conversation with August Wilson: History, Critique, and Recovery of Black Theater in American Arts and Culture
Thursday, May 7, 1998
Partners: GRI, LA as Subject and Dartmouth-based African Grove Institute for the Arts (AGIA)
Venue: Getty Center, HMW Auditorium
Description: This performance lecture provided a public forum in Los Angeles for two-time Pulitzer Prize recipient, August Wilson, one of the most important American playwrights, to continue his examination of the history of Black American Theater and its contribution to American Cultural life. Wilson read excerpts from his noted works and his work in progress and then joined in a discussion, moderated by Ifa Bayeza, by two of his Colleagues from Dartmouth College who were also co-convenors of AGIA: Dr. William Cook, Chair of the Department of English and Dr. Victor Walker, Professor of Dramatic Arts and Film Studies. The conversation was followed by a discussion with the audience.

Arabs and Jews Beyond Boundaries: Culture, Identity, and Community
Tuesday, June 2, 1998
Partners: GRI, LA as Subject, National Association of Sephardic Artists, Writers, and Intellectuals (IVRI-NASAWI), and Los Angeles Central Library
Venue: Los Angeles Central library, Mark Taper Auditorium
Description: This public dialogue brought together writers, scholars, and cultural leaders from the Jewish and Arab communities to discuss the interactions of these two communities in the Los Angeles region. The dialogue was structured as a nonpolitical and religious forum to examine shared experiences, issues of identity formation, and common cultural indicators of these two "Diaspora" communities. It offered the public a rare opportunity to witness leading figures from two vibrant communities, which together number more than one million people, contextualize and practice their sense of community within the social and cultural ecology of the Los Angeles region. The discussion was moderated by Jordan Elgrably, and included Diana Abu-Jaber, Elie Chalala, Gina Hamoui-Ross, Myer J. Sankary, and Nabil Azzam. This is now a continuing public dialogue program sponsored by IVRI-NASAWI.

Symposium: Mapping LA: A Global Prototype
As a culminating activity of the public dialogue component, LA as Subject developed a two-day symposium Mapping LA: A Global Prototype, which was held June 7 & 8, 1999 at the Getty Center. This symposium was sponsored by the Getty Research Institute and convened by the LA as Subject Advisory Forum. Using "mapping" as a metaphor for how the Los Angeles region is studied and translated, this symposium examined how cognitive, social, cultural, economic, political, electronic, and cartographic categories are used in the theoretical and applied mapping of the region’s heritage.

This symposium brought together topics investigated by LA as Subject. Over a four-year period, from 1995 to 1999, LA as Subject explored a wide range of issues concerning the preservation, recovery, and accessibility of Los Angeles’s rich material culture. Central to this exploration was the catalyzing question: What are the resources, practices, and theories that inform our understanding of the history and lived culture of the Los Angeles region? Public discussions included such topics as: (1) how we practice community in Los Angeles: whether we live in ethnic enclaves or a global village; (2) the utility of "less-visible" archives and collections in promoting new research, scholarship, and artistic practices; (3) the topography of the Los Angeles region over time; and (4) the role of late-twentieth-century Los Angeles writers in constructing their city’s literary archive of the future.

One outcome of LA as Subject’s interest in the collected material culture of local communities is an operating database and publication of little known archives and collections. This publication, Cultural Inheritance/LA: A Directory of Less Visible Archives and Collections in the Los Angeles Region, produced by the LA as Subject Advisory Forum and published by the Getty Research Institute, was released to the public in conjunction with this symposium.

Included in the symposium was a videoconference, which explored international comparative dimensions of local mapping practices. The live video link connected a panel at the Mapping LA symposium in Los Angeles to a panel in Prague sponsored by the New York based Fund For New Performance/Video at the site of its principal partner, EastWest Institute–Prague Center, in the Czech Republic. Central to this panel discussion were two projects, the Prague Stories Exchange project and the Los Angeles-based LA as Subject project—both of which were grounded in a common idea that the plurality of lived culture, locally and globally, is a collective enriching inheritance. Using similar strategies of community collaboration but different program methodologies, these demonstration projects illuminated the value of less visible cultural resources in advancing humanistic traditions through new research, scholarship and artistic production. The local environments of these projects each incubated common strategies of: cultural recovery through exhibitions, integration of local culture as economic/cultural policy, and preservation that merges the theory of scholars and the practices of community practitioners.

An interactive exhibition Documentation Strategies: Making LA Visible, developed in conjunction with this symposium,was displayed during the symposium in the Harold M. Williams auditorium lobby. The exhibition was designed to further engage symposium participants and the general public visiting the Getty Center in thinking about how material culture can be used to open new paths of inquiry about intersecting community histories and locations that instigate a sense of place within the regional geography of Los Angeles.

Day-one of the symposium brought together an invited group of scholars, researchers, program officers, community heritage preservationists, and cultural practitioners to explore the theoretical dimensions of how Los Angeles is metaphorically and historically mapped. Day-two was open to a public audience and was structured as an exploration of practices used in the public sphere to map LA, demonstrated by projects involved in the recovery, preservation, display, and dissemination of local culture.

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