LOS ANGELES — You have to work to find the Now Instant Image Hall. Either that or a friend will recommend it to you, or you might just stumble upon it by accident. A space dedicated to art and film, its bookstore and theater is in an assuming little building in Eagle Rock, a neighborhood at the furthermost northeast reach of the Los Angeles sprawl. Its website is sparse, without even an “about” page. Mostly, it plainly lists the Hall’s slate of programming. The organization has no social media presence besides an Instagram account. The whole project has been as pared down as it can be since it was launched in October 2018.
This is entirely purposeful. “No one wants to have their hand held, or to be spoon-fed,” said Sam Raphael, one of the three people running the space. “Economy of language and of image is more important now than ever. Better to allow work to speak for itself.” That work has been highly eclectic. In the course of less than a year, the Hall has hosted book and magazine launches, local video pieces, and films by the likes of Jean-Pierre Gorin (who’s become something of a friend to the space), Shirley Clarke, Barbara Hammer, Kevin Jerome Everson, Guy Debord, and many others. Raphael asserts, “The programming isn’t strictly cinematic. We’re a community space. Our doors are open if someone has a proposal that works.”
The other creators behind the Hall are Ted Gerike and Andrew Balasia. Gerike, who runs the small press Solano Archives, curates the texts in the space. Balasia previously worked with 8 Ball TV, an online public access station based in New York. This work led to the group’s first film program, Radical American Images. Made in collaboration with filmmakers such as Kahlil Joseph, Rodney McMillian, and Basma Alsharif, it played at the Cinefamily in June 2017. Raphael then started SYMP-OSIUM, a series of shows held in Elysian Park where various artists would present films that had an impact on their work. Rat Film director Theo Anthony introduced Hiroshima Mon Amour, and Come Tees‘s Sonya Sombreuil chose Harlan County USA. “We’d cook dinner and invite folks out to come and present,” Raphael said. “It was a good year. It helped us to realize that the demand was there for something more permanent.”
They eventually established this permanent home in the new Eagle Rock location. Raphael explains: “There were a few walls knocked down. It took some time to interpret the scale and the layout.” It’s obviously not easy to run this kind of business, much less an art film venue in Los Angeles, which has historically had difficulties maintaining such spaces, especially compared to cities like New York. But Raphael is confident of the Hall’s ability to handle any growing pains. “It’s been a challenge reconfiguring expectations. Some expect to find the droned hum of a traditional repertory venue here. They’re surprised we operate outside of that structure. It’s more important to us to bring in new voices that wouldn’t normally be presented in the context of the cinema.”
So far the Now Instant Image Hall has done a low-key but impressive job at sticking to that philosophy. Upcoming shows range from a film and performance from Alexandra Cabral and Escape-ism’s Ian Svenonius to an evening dedicated to venerable Mexican director Arturo Ripstein (once an assistant director under Luis Buñuel). The Hall is already carving out an identity for itself as a venue for artists no one else in the city will show. When asked what kind of a mission statement he might lay out for the space, Raphael offers: “Listen to the image! Does it sweat?”
The Now Instant Image Hall is located at 5319 York Boulevard, Eagle Rock, Los Angeles.