Los Angeles is lucky that an organization such as LAND calls the city its home. LAND (Los Angeles Nomadic Division), a kind of “museum without walls,” is responsible for projects like Fritz Haeg’s Wildflowering LA, whereby owners of 50 select sites received wildflower seed mixes and worked in conjunction with The Theodore Payne Foundation for Wildflowers & Native Plants to cultivate their land with wildflowers. Or the upcoming Alter/Abolish/Address, which will be part of 5×5:2014, a project by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities that will feature various artworks throughout publically accessible spaces in DC.
Pauli Ochi from ArtBlitz LA was able to speak with Shamim M. Momin, director and curator at LAND, about the organization’s beginnings, future plans and how they’re celebrating their 5-year anniversary.
Fritz Haeg, Wildflowering L.A. Site #25, 2013-2014. A LAND (Los Angeles Nomadic Division) Exhibition. Images courtesy of Isabel Avila
How do you describe Los Angeles Nomadic Division (LAND) to people who have never heard of it?
LAND (Los Angeles Nomadic Division) is a non-profit art organization founded in 2009 as a public art initiative committed to curating site- and situation-specific contemporary art projects, in Los Angeles and beyond. LAND believes that everyone deserves the opportunity to experience innovative contemporary art in their day-to-day lives in order to develop new ideas and ways of thinking about their world. In turn, artists deserve the opportunity to realize projects, otherwise unsupported, in the public realm to present their unique ideas.
In less formal terms, we often refer to LAND as a “museum without walls,” to convey the level of programmatic innovate and quality we are committed to, the seriousness of our curatorial intent, and the notion of making this more available to the public.
Tell me about the name. How did you come up with it?
My colleague and co-founder, Christine Y. Kim (now associate curator at LACMA), should take primary credit for this—we wanted a name that could function meaningfully, but is also easy to say and remember, so we were leaning toward the acronym idea. LAND did everything we were looking for—the full name tells the story of its place of origin and mission in terms of movement, change, unfixed (nomadic), but also organized, team, professions (division). The acronym LAND exists as both noun and verb that conveys concept—land as ground, place, a site, which is a critical aspect of site specific thinking, and to land as the verb, coming to rest from the air, for a time, not implicitly permanent.
It seems like you were drawn to Los Angeles as a specifically desirable locale for the kinds of projects LAND does. Is that correct? If so, what about LA makes it a good fit?
It’s somewhat of a multifaceted story, but the principal elements stemmed from my experience at the Whitney, working on commissioned projects with contemporary artists for our off-site, public space (across from grand central), as well as the amazing cross-country research I was able to do in planning for two biennials and other contemporary projects. In other words, having the experience of a public, “non-deliberate” art audience, commissioned projects in a non-gallery space, and seeing artists, so prevalently in Los Angeles in particular, working with an increasingly expanded practice across multiple, concurrent disciplines/types/structures/media, came together in the idea behind LAND. Los Angeles is an exciting place to have hubbed the organization, in part because of how open, dispersed and varied the city itself is, and also that at the time there was no other organization specifically dedicated to this mission. The other major reason is the artist community itself—such an extraordinary history of artists’ communities, ever more expanded now, and centered so much around the amazing schools that have always been the organizing hub here (versus, to my mind, museums and galleries more so in New York).
Briefly explain the Manifest Destiny Billboard Project and how LAND selected the artists for it.
The Manifest Destiny Billboard Project is a series of artist-produced billboards and activations that will unfold along Interstate 10 Freeway from Florida to California through spring 2015.
Using approximately 100 billboards total, 10 artists will create “chapters” along I-10, each a unique interpretive link to the exhibition thematic. The billboards will move through and punctuate the landscape by tracing territorial expansion from east to west, along one of the country’s busiest freeways, concluding in Los Angeles. The billboards will be activated through various events, programs, and social media outlets for dialogue and interaction with local communities.
The project was conceived by artist Zoe Crosher and is co-curated by she and I together. Using the concept of Manifest Destiny – America’s territorial expansion across North America – we selected artists who we thought could explore this problematic and layered history in very different ways. By physically moving through and mapping the very landscape that has been so fantasized, dreamed about, and capitalized upon in a breadth of positive and negative ways, the artists have the opportunity to address their work to the idea in a variety of ways – opaque or direct, tangential or political, macro and micro.
The current chapter is Eve Fowler’s in Houston, followed next by John Baldessari in San Antonio.
How can people support LAND?
Given that the organization is constantly mobile with respect to projects, and hopefully increasingly extending throughout the country and ultimately internationally, we find it very important to have as developed a digital presence as we can, to give as many viewers as possible a sense of our projects and our mission and our presence—possibly closer to them than they might know! Since all of our exhibitions and events are free and open to the public, the main means of support are individual memberships, or our artist benefit editions, or of course, the fundraisers—the moveable feasts series, for example, or our annual fundraisers that remain—like most small organizations—our primary operating support.
This is LAND’s 5th year. What kinds of events do you have going on to celebrate? What can we look forward to this fall?
We’ve actually just held the first of our 5th year celebrations, this one at The Beach Club in Santa Monica, which was a great success—both beautifully fun and very productive for LAND. I mean, it’s hard to complain about champagne, food, bonfires and petanque right on the beach, not to mention the great work at auction just inside the club! In honor of this being our 5th year, we are also holding a major gala dinner event in Miami at the start of Art Basel week, at the Raleigh Hotel. We have a very ambitious goal for this event; our hope being to establish a beginning endowment for operating budgets of LAND’s next 5-year stage. This event will also be dedicated to innovative women in culture—not just art but across the board—as part of our particular focus on creative women this year.
Exhibition-wise, in addition to the ongoing Manifest Destiny billboard chapters throughout the fall (San Antonio, El Paso, New Mexico), we are also opening a major exhibition of site-specific, commissioned projects in Washington DC, called Alter/Abolish/Address. And there are always plenty more programmatic and immediate events that come up, so please join the mailing list and keep an eye out for a LAND project in your hometown….