Aura Los Angeles (trailer), 2020, HD video, stereo sound, 0:33 minutes © Dominik Krauss
Aura Los Angeles is a documentary short film of closed art venues across the city during the pandemic in spring 2020. It captures the locked facades of project spaces, art galleries and museums, collaged with scenes from empty and dystopian cityscapes. ‘Aura’ here is drawn from Walter Benjamin’s critique of the mechanical reproduction of art, in which he defines aura as ‘a strange tissue of space and time: the unique apparition of a distance, however near it may be’.1 Although out of sight and out of reach, one can almost feel the presence of the artworks behind closed doors through the proximity to their aura, whereas digital reproductions made available online during this period can only contribute so much to the physical experience of encountering art.
As strange as it might seem under the current circumstances, gallery closures are not entirely foreign in the canon of art history. Experimental gallery closures and interventions have been its own stream of practice within conceptual art from the 1960s onward. Robert Barry’s Closed Gallery (1969) involved the closing of Eugenia Butler (Los Angeles), Art & Project (Amsterdam) and Galleria Sperone (Turin) for the duration of his exhibition, extending Yves Klein’s legacy of ‘empty galleries’ into physical inaccessibility; it has subsequently been re-created in galleries around the world.2 A true Californian luminary following this line of thoughts was Michael Asher. He created highly site-specific interactions with art institutions throughout his career, repositioning and removing artworks and spatial elements and thus challenging the meaning of empty and closed art spaces.3 A more contemporary iteration would be Maria Eichhorn’s 5 weeks, 25 days, 175 hours, which reflected institutional labour structures through a closure of London’s Chisenhale Gallery in 2016.4 In the same year, the Kunsthalle Fribourg dedicated the exhibition ‘A Retrospective of Closed Exhibitions’ to artists who have sealed off art spaces as a radical artistic gesture.5 The context of these works are in no way comparable to the public health crisis we are facing, but it does however encourage us to reflect on what the aura of artworks – the unique time and space they inhabit – means in today’s world.
1. Walter Benjamin, The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility: Second Version (1936), ed. by M.W. Jennings, B. Doherty and T.Y. Levin (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2008), pp. 23.
2. ‘Please Come to the Show: Invitations and Event Flyers from the MoMA Library’, Museum of Modern Art (2013) <www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2013/please_come_show>
3. James Rondeau, ‘Thinking Space’, Frieze Magazine (2008) <www.frieze.com/article/thinking-space>
4. Chisenhale Gallery, ‘Marie Eichorn: 5 weeks, 25 days, 175 hours’, Chisenhale Gallery Archive (2016) <www.chisenhale.org.uk/exhibition/maria-eichhorn>
5. ‘A Retrospective of Closed Exhibitions’, Fri Art Kunsthalle Fribourg (2016) <www.fri-art.ch/en/exhibitions/a-retrospective-of-closed-exhibitions>
The second part of the project takes place on Instagram. Featuring individual portraits of closed arts venues and links for their digital representations it brings spotlight to arts spaces indiscriminately. Featured venues are listed below in alphabetical order*:
Materials & Applications
Y Lee Fine Arts Gallery
* Further suggestions welcomed.
Some venues couldn’t be captured in the film, but we would like to mention them:
Through its meticulous documentation within a perplexing emptyness, Aura Los Angeles celebrates the city’s diverse art spaces and architectural typologies. More importantly, it serves as a reminder of the fragility of the art ecosystem and the need to sustain it despite and beyond the direct impacts of this crisis.
The following initiatives support and connect those within the arts*:
*Please let us know of any further initiatives to be added to this list.
Aura Los Angeles is a personal project of Dominik Krauss, who went to California for a research sabbatical at the Getty Research Institute. Just as he arrived at the Institute near Santa Monica to register on Friday, 13 March 2020, it was announced that the facilities would be closed from the next day onwards. The misty weather, with occasional glimpses of sun rays filtering through the vast Southern Californian landscape, created a surreal moment for the unexpected news. Undeterred, he developed the idea of documenting closed arts spaces around the city as a therapeutic approach to digest the new circumstances he had been thrown into. Having initiated several art project spaces and worked as a designer for galleries and museums himself, he understands acutely the precarious reality arising for art venues. Aura Los Angeles is as much an artistic investigation into the untouchable aura of art as his call for solidarity to support one another.
Concept and design: Dominik Krauss, editor: Janice Li. © Dominik Krauss 2021. All Rights Reserved. No part of this website (including images, films, graphics and texts) may be reproduced without written consent of the author. In spite of thorough control, I assume no liability for the content of external links. For the content of pages linked to my website, their publishers are fully liable.