Reports From Hyperreal Hollywood

For the last few days I have been hanging out here in Los Angeles. As you travel around this city (or rather giant extended suburb) you cannot but be struck by the way that Los Angeles seems to have magically been plunked down overnight by some giant mythical property developing giant. In contrast to a city like New York L.A. seems to have no connection to any sense of historical past, but rather seems stuck on loop in some perpetual sunny present, a fecund ‘today’ which seems to carry an implicit promise of making everyone’s dreams come true.

This erasure of memory is not just about a lack of historical architecture or an absence of connection to the land, it is rooted in a mass consensus of individuals to disconnect themselves from their pasts, from who you were before, and to give themselves over completely to the task of continual regeneration. L.A fosters a lifestyle of constant makeovers, be they cosmetic surgeries, new age spiritual cleansings, or a consumerist metamorphosis.

L.A. attempts to halt time, to stay on the cutting edge of trends, to fight aging, to by sheer work create a spring of eternal youth, in which the present never ends. This worship of today, means that hedonism will always be a constant companion, and consequence and responsibility will always be distant. Tomorrow will also be worshiped, it’s patron saint Walt Disney will always hover above the city wand in hand, ready to make the dreams of it’s citizens come true. However the problem is that tomorrow never comes, so the good people of L.A. always find themselves in a constant state of waiting, being primed and ready for good fortune to reach down and sweep them up into its arms. This waiting means that behind the terracota roofs and shabby chic interiors a gnawing anxiety lives.

Yesterday I watched a group of tourists walk along Hollywood Boulevard; they spoke Russian and had Asiatic features, they were probably Khazaks or Uzbekis. As they walked along the walk of fame, and looked down at the various stars names underneath their feat, you could see the palpable confusion in their eyes, the sense of disconnection between the hyperreal Hollywood that they had experienced as they sat through a thousand movies, and the reality of the sad, dirty, and very ordinary urban street beneath their feet. As they walked I realized that there are two L.A’s. One is the city situated on the edge of a desert in Southern California, the other floats above the ether, somewhere in our collective memories. Like holy scriptures of old it carries our global culture’s most basic of myths, it is also home to a pantheon of gods with names like Marilyn and Elvis. This imaginary L.A. sends out its emanations and shapes wants, desires and expectations of the the people of world.

Over and out from the city of dreams.

3 thoughts on “Reports From Hyperreal Hollywood

  1. I listened to a talk by photographer charlie white a few years ago where he pointed out the difference between New York and LA. In NY people live on top of each other in apartment buildings creating a sense of community, whereas in LA people try to live as far away from each other as possible in, like you say, an extended suburb.

    I wonder what came first the geography or the sense of alienation. White’s work is really good, you should check it out if you don’t already know it. It relates to a lot of your content i think.


  2. Hey Mark, Interesting musings from the road – La La Land sounds like a city that’s fallen from grace, even if the ‘grace’ was celluloid rather than real. As for your post about not mentioning who you have been meeting, I don’t think that has to be a self-serving exercise – it depends what you want to say about them to some degree – can you shed light on their writings, did you gain anything from them that is worth sharing and so on. Don’t be so scared of ‘ego’ that you dont’ share good things that have happened…. your experiences can inform us all. Travel safely.

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