In the spirit of Halloween, Visitor Welcome Center presents Totenpass, a two week exhibition featuring original works by Anthony Bodlović, Gelare Khoshgozaran, Young Joo Lee, Yoshie Sakai, Semi-Tropic Spiritualists (Astri Swendsrud & Quinn Gomez-Heitzeberg), and eliot yasumura & Aziz Yonuss.
Totenpass, or German for “passports for the dead,” are inscribed metal tablets found in burials of initiates into ancient Egyptian, Semitic, Orphic, and Dionysiac religions. The exhibition uses the artifice of a “haunted maze” to deconstruct the gimmicks and scare tropes of those spaces in order to examine intimate fears and personal losses. Visitors will enter Totenpass alone and have individual experiences with each work as they make their way through the gallery.
You will encounter a ringing bell and find yourself in an antechamber furnished with tables and cards. The Semi-Tropic Spiritualists are calling the dead, and you are witness to the unknown. Displacing you from your sense of reality, they lead you into a hallway of remembrance, where Bodlović’s hollowed bodies of wax confront you with loss in their morbid silence. Suddenly, Sakai’s dollhouse thrusts you into the world of childhood, parental expectations, and adolescent trauma through frightening memories of suburbia and melodramatic tropes of television dramas. In a two-channel video, Lee looks to the chicken egg as the answer to the impending doom that the commercialization of human identities and reproduction may bring. Hell awaits, or does it? Stepping through a door into an in-between space—one that is not quite dead, yet not quite alive—familiar faces from the past make their return to remind you of what has been lost. What happens in the immediate aftermath of death? Yasumura and Yonuss reflect on the experiences of war and combat, revealing the bone-chilling reality, fantasy, and anxiety of our numbered days on earth.
From the core of the earth, crude oil bubbles to the surface in a video projection, seeping through the memory of its discovery in Iran, and its subsequent colonial and global impacts. Accompanied by images of oil rigging in a View-Master and a motorized flip book animation, Khoshgozaran offers a crude reflection of history, while an adaptation of Gholamhossein Saedi's story “Azadaran-e Bayal (The Mourners of Bayal)”—a tale of a mysterious object abandoned on the road that becomes reverent upon encounter, and whose fate leads to unexpected demolishment and violent change—offers itself to be read in reflection.
Totenpass is a downward spiral into the past, whose memories have left us living out our traumas in the present. They say the serpent eats its own tail, that the paradox knows no beginning or end. You are alone.
About the Artists
Anthony Bodlović is an artist, art therapist, and educator. He obtained his PhD in Culture and Performance Studies at UCLA, and is currently an Assistant Professor at Loyola Marymount University in the Marital and Family/Art Therapy Department. His scholarship focuses on meaning making and ritual in peripheral communities.
Gelare Khoshgozaran گلاره خوشگذران is an interdisciplinary artist and writer. Born and raised in Tehran and living in Los Angeles, she envisions the city as an imaginary space between asylum as 'the protection granted to a political refugee' and 'a mental institution.' Her work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions at the New Museum, Hammer Museum, Human Resources (Los Angeles), Articule (Montreal), LA><ART and the Queens Museum, among others. Gelare’s essays and interviews have been published in The Brooklyn Rail, Parkett, X-TRA, Temporary Art Review, Jadaliyya, Ajam Media Collective, and Art Los Angeles Contemporary Reader. She was the recipient of a Creative Capital | Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant (2015) and an Art Matters Award (2017), and is a co-founding editor of contemptorary.org.
Young Joo Lee was born in Seoul, South Korea, and grew up partially in Germany. The difference in culture and language which she experienced during her adolescence brought the realization that the perception of reality relies on personal experience, memory and identity. As she continued to study painting, film and sculpture in Korea, Germany and USA, this interest persisted throughout her works. In Lee's recent animation and video works, drawings and performances, she borrows the narrative structures of myth and dream and combines them with current issues in society and her personal experience. Lee currently is a College Fellow in Media Practice at Harvard University, in Theater, Dance and Media. She researches on the history of immersive media and the possibility of new technology as a tool to experience an alternative reality.
Yoshie Sakai is a multidisciplinary artist, working in video, installation, performance, and sculpture. She received her BFA from California State University Long Beach and her MFA from Claremont Graduate University. Recent solo exhibitions include Antenna in New Orleans (2016), Groundspace Project in Los Angeles (2017), and Verge Center for the Arts in Sacramento (2018). She attended the ACRE Residency Program (2016), the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (2014), and received the 2012 California Community Foundation for Visual Artists Emerging Artist Fellowship. Her work has been shown throughout the United States in film festivals and art exhibitions from Los Angeles to Miami, as well as internationally in Cambodia, Canada, Germany, and Japan. She is currently a Praxis Studio Artist in Residence at California State University, Dominguez Hills, which will culminate with a solo showcase in January 2019. Yoshie Sakai lives and works in Gardena, a city southwest of Los Angeles.
Semi-Tropic Spiritualists began in 2012 as an ongoing series of performance works, objects and illustrated texts by Los Angeles-based artists Astri Swendsrud and Quinn Gomez-Heitzeberg. Their works explore the history of spiritual belief and metaphysical practice in Los Angeles through the Semi-Tropic Spiritualists, an organization that created a campsite meeting place outside the city limits of Los Angeles in 1905. Spiritualism has described itself as a science, a philosophy and a religion. The artists are interested in this system as a model for examining ideas of faith and skepticism, belief and charlatanism, as well as for the development of a space dedicated to investigation and the search for knowledge. The Semi-Tropic Spiritualists have exhibited their installations and performance works at Richard Telles Fine Art, Klowden Mann, The Vincent Price Museum, and Chime & Co. in Los Angeles; Shangri-La, Joshua Tree, CA; and Llano del Rio, CA among other locations. A solo exhibition of their work, What Can The Semi-Tropic Spiritualists Do For You? is on view at General Projects in Los Angeles through November 4, 2018. Their new book The Semi-Tropic Spiritualist Guidebook is available now through Insert Blanc Press.
eliot yasumura and Aziz Yonuss are artists based in Los Angeles.