Sometimes, you need to smash things: the system, the patriarchy, the kitchen plates. Into Action, the pop-up event that opened on Friday night and runs through January 21, has the tools to do all three.
Into Action’s fusion of art and activism is going down inside a complex on the warehouse-lined edge of Chinatown. It’s filled with socially-relevant, politically-charged works from high-profile artists: Shepard Fairey, Sage Vaughn, Tara McPherson, Ken Gonzales-Day and Star Montana amongst them. Meanwhile, there is a bounty of panels and workshops covering topics like immigration, prison reform, and food justice. Celebrity guests, like Black Eyed Peas and Chuck D, turned up for panels over the weekend.
On opening night, my eyes darted to a piece titled “Born to Ride.” It’s the physical manifestation of a digital work from Egyptian artist Marwan Shahin made in collaboration with L.A.-based artists Brynn Gelbard and Lisa Donohoe of Londubh Studio. In it, a veiled woman rides a motorcycle customized in 22-carat gold leaf, her feet turned up enough to reveal the Louboutin red soles of her shoes. Both Gelbard and Donohoe referred to her as a “superhero.” She looked ready to take on any villain.
Into Action spoke to the ’90s teen that I once was, fueled by Bikini Kill and The Handmaid’s Tale, armed with photocopied zines and ready to Rock the Vote. That excitement, though, was nearly quelled by the cynical adult since formed by never-ending war, the financial crisis and the rise of Internet trolls as a political base.
On gallery walls, artists explored racism and sexism, police violence and reproductive rights. In the Impact Hub, groups like Planned Parenthood and ACLU served information. Interest appeared strong and there were crowds throughout the weekend. However, these are likely people already interested in social justice. Is this desire for change strong enough to defeat the religious leaders and political pundits preaching hate and intolerance, the administration working to undo the few strides in liberal progress this country has made?
Thinking about divides in the country is frustrating enough to make a person want to break something. The persistent crashing sounds from the back of the gallery became soothing. Ann Lewis has been encouraging plate-throwing since 2015. She’s the artist behind the interactive installation “Shattering.” People write on plates, indicating something they want to break– Lewis says that “Donald Trump” and “45” have increased in popularity since the 2016 election– then they throw the dishes. The remains are used to build art pieces. “Sometimes, we need to destroy things and take the pieces that work and discard the things that don’t and reconfigure our views on how these things should be looking or feeling or structured,” says Lewis. It’s also a way to release stress.
At Into Action, Lewis went through 350 plates on opening night. On Saturday, a few hours after the installation opened, about 200 plates were tossed and they ran out of release forms for participants to sign.
On Sunday, I caught the end of a workshop led by Theresa Farthing, chef and community outreach specialist for L.A. Kitchen, and Jocelyn Ramirez, founder of Todo Verde, intended to show people how to curb food waste.
After the panel, Farthing said that sharing knowledge is key. “If you spread it to someone in your family and they’re amazed by the information you’re giving them and then they spread it to their friends, then this cycle of not wasting food can go farther than what you expect,” she added.
I was reminded of the feminist mantra, “the personal is political.” That’s where an event like Into Action is most effective. It’s not necessarily about big political statements or superstar-support. It’s about the education we can gain by listening to others and the changes, in ourselves and our communities, made as a result.
With that, I went back to “Shattering” and wrote a message on a plate. I put on a pair of goggles, entered a closet-sized room and threw the plate towards a growing pile of broken dishes. When it fractured, I felt like I had just made a resolution.