Early in the twentieth century, cinema was quite alive and at home in downtown’s spaces, to this day its theaters’ marquees still light the city’s streets. Cinema’s theaters still line Broadway between Third Street and Olympic Boulevard and now comprise the city’s Historic Theater District. And though marquee bulbs still flicker and neon still shines on Broadway, they no longer signify newsreels, performances or even second-run late-night cinema features. The vibrant screens that once displayed projections of the American imagination now remain silent and blank (if they remain standing at all), housed in abandoned or converted real estate.
In the Fall of 2007, my semester’s final projects were explorations of Downtown LA’s geography, specifically focusing on this major thoroughfare of Broadway. Through these projects I experimented with forms that were new to me – cultural geography, animation (via AfterEffects), Google Earth, and the photo essay. My explorations of Broadway were most interested in the opportunities the location allowed for exploring melancholy, affect, and death through physical and lived spaces, in its converted movie houses, consumerism desired new devices and found different demographics. This sense of convergence culture displaces the elitist consumer as the vanguard of globalization, as written in my photo essay for Anne Friedberg’s “Convergence and Medium Specificity” class:
As the Hollywood industry once gave psychical power to the cinema as a signifier of glamour, consumer electronics communicate high technology and advancing modernity in Gomez-Peña’s description of his family’s investments in buying electronics. As Gomez-Peña states their function was as much pragmatic as it was social, ritual, sentimental, symbolic, and aesthetic. The display of this function is obvious on a Sunday afternoon stroll through Broadway. It is a convergence not only of times and entertainment mediums, but also of the conceived notion of Los Angeles and the lived reality of Los Angeles’ dreams of Hollywood, technological progress all delivered through global networks of commerce serving a transnational demographic.
An animated video in-progress that explores Broadway, completed in Mike Patterson’s Experimental Animation class (CTAN 495a, Fall 2007):
“Stored in Broadway’s Theaters” – from “Convergence and Medium Specificity,” taught by Anne Friedberg (iMAP 600, Spring 2007)