LOS ANGELES — Ayman Ahmed, who lives in a tent in Los Angeles’s Echo Park, wanted his roses to live. He had planted the small rose bed — “my babies,” he called them — in the community garden a few weeks before, a painted white cross staked in the soil.
The garden is a collaboration between performance artist Paige Emery and Echo Park Rise Up, an autonomous collective of unhoused people living at Echo Park Lake for the past seven months. While most guerrilla gardens are situated in vacant lots and abandoned pockets of the city, this one sits in a highly trafficked public park, slivered along the grassy edges of Echo Park Lake, where giant, swan-shaped pedal boats bob in the water.
Emery, a housed neighbor in Echo Park, is a multimedia performance artist with a keen interest in ecology. A co-director of the activist group the Future Left, she became involved with Echo Park Rise Up after attending a memorial for Brianna Moore, an 18-year-old resident of the park who overdosed in August. Now, where Moore’s tent once stood is a small cross, her photos tacked onto the wood, surrounded by onions and tomatoes growing in recycled dresser drawers.
In the encampment, residents have jobs: cooking meals, organizing and distributing food donations, working security, or cleaning up the trash in the park. Everyone who participates receives 40 dollars per day from a communal pot sustained through donations to the collective’s money-sharing apps.
“We’re building our own kitchen, we’re building our own medical tent, we’re building our own garden, and we’re building our own way out of poverty,” said Ahmed, one of the group’s main organizers. And yet, the encampment is still threatened by the routine police sweeps that regularly strip the houseless of their belongings. “This could be taken down at any moment,” said Emery.
The garden lends itself to metaphor, inviting language about rootedness, biodiversity, and sowing seeds for the future. Emery views it as regenerative work, bringing people together across difference. “All of it has been a collective work between housed people and unhoused people, and between humans and nonhumans, kids who walk by, and adults who live here,” she said. “That is an eraser of edges.” Every day, she says, something new appears that had not been there the day before: a new footstool, a fresh plant bed, a bouquet of flowers with “For Brianna” scrawled on the thin, pink tissue wrapping.
The garden grows fruit and flowers, and also medicinal plants, like chamomile, to ease chronic stress. “It’s free healing food,” Emery said. One evening, I found Emery and Ana Bega, the community’s cook, cutting up aloe vera. Bega had grown up on a farm in Honduras, and had worked for many years as a housekeeper in wealthy neighborhoods like Beverly Hills. The harsh chemicals used in the cleaning products could hurt your hands, she said. She sliced the thick stalk of aloe in half and knifed off the clear thick gel, rubbing it over her palms. Later, she would apply a section of the plant to the wound on another resident’s shoulder, pressing it against the raw, whitened part where the skin had abraded.
The community-sourced garden, Emery said, models an alternative to the capitalist values of private property, scarcity, speed, and individualism. “We have so much scarcity with food. And we don’t have to, you know?” she said. “This is what I’ve been calling an economy of gifting, because everyone’s giving each other these things, including from nature. The plants are gifting, and we’re gifting to the plants. There’s no capital involved in this. It’s an economy of care.”
Lewis’s tattered canvases and pasted over drawings mirror a world in need of constant upkeep and repair.
Seeing the Toronto Biennial of Art through my daughter’s eyes helped me push past some of its challenges by experiencing it on a primordial level.
Installations by Jessica Campbell, Yasmine K. Kasem, Suchitra Mattai, Haleigh Nickerson, and Nyugen E. Smith are now on view at JMKAC in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
With its titular blend of Western culture and Asian ethnicity, Tyrus Wong’s “Chinese Jesus” painting embodies Asian American identity.
Prehistoric Planet is visually ambitious, but the docuseries often fails to contextualize those visuals for the curious viewer.
The first global survey dedicated to the use of clothing as a medium of visual art features works by 35 contemporary artists, including Nick Cave, Kent Monkman, Louise Bourgeois, and Mary Sibande.
Imelda Marcos and her husband were accused of plundering billions of dollars from the country.
Probably not, but it sure looks like one.
Who says tragedy has to be tragic? Co-presented with National Black Theatre, this fresh, Pulitzer-winning take on a classic centers Black joy and liberation.
I won’t bother you with talk about how obscenely decadent and out of touch the Frieze art fair is. And yet…
Curators Tahnee Ahtone, La Tanya S. Autry, Frederica Simmons, Dan Cameron, and Jeremy Dennis offered the public a window into their curatorial processes through the work they produced during their fellowships.
As part of Hyperallergic’s Emily Hall Tremaine Journalism Fellowship for Curators, Jeremy Dennis presents an exhibition to offer insight into his curatorial process.