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Whitewaller DTLA: Alex Zhang asks How Artists Imagine the Future

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Summit LA19 takes place November 8—11, 2019. It is the annual flagship event for Summit, bringing together an international group of 2500 people for a series of talks, immersive art installations, culinary experiences, and performances.

Summit—founded in 2008 by Elliott Bisnow, Brett Leve, Jeff Rosenthal, Jeremy Schwartz, and Ryan Begelman as a way to connect with like-minded young entrepreneurs and creatives—designs year-round experiences that connect, educate, and inspire today’s brightest leaders. Through a series of invitation-only events, they work to foster a global community of entrepreneurs, artists, and creatives to affect positive change in the world.

Alex Zhang, courtesy of Summit.

This year, the third and final in the Downtown Los Angeles location, we’re excited to present a Whitewaller DTLA Edition for Summit LA19. To kick things off, we speak with Summit’s Art Director Alex Zhang about what to expect from the various art experiences this week.

WHITEWALLER: Tell us about the theme for this year’s Summit LA arts program and how you chose the participating artists?

Sissel Tolaas, courtesy of Summit.

ALEX ZHANG: I’ve become really interested in how artists use their practice as a way to understand and imagine the future. Some are hopeful, some are doubtful, but all these artists focus on moving forward and reimagining different realities.

From reinterpretations of technology and motion like Nicole Miller’s laser projection work For Now or Studio Drift’s kinetic flower blooming Shylight, all evoke a simultaneous sense of beauty and darkness, and this year I was particularly drawn to that blurry line in between.

Studio Drift, courtesy of Summit.

WW: You’ve said that the context of an experience is almost as important as the experience itself. How does the context of downtown LA impact the experience of these projects?

AZ: Curating within any dense urban environment requires you to first take into serious account how humans occupy and flow in certain spaces.


Justin Brice Guariglia, courtesy of Summit.

Transience vs destinations, what people use vs. don’t use, and more importantly how they use it and what they are using it for. Jane Jacobs has always made the point that a proper city thrives on multiplicity of choice. The more choices, the more opportunities are created for groups of people to organically self select into smaller subsets.

We really try to lean into that across all of our programming at Summit LA, and the busy, layered format of Downtown really provides a great backdrop for that.

Downtown LA as a canvas will undoubtedly affect attention spans but this year we will continue to strive and catch people off guard by injecting art into public event discourse and create further launching points for conversations rather than decorative placement.

WW: Summit is all about making new connections across disciplines and creating a larger community. How are you hoping viewers will engage and connect through this year’s art program?

AZ: In general, I believe viewing art trains the mind to see and evaluate things differently.

I hope people will look at things multiple times. Sometimes it takes multiple studies to find a connection or deepen an understanding to something.

For example, we are collaborating with leading smell researcher and artist Sissel Tolaas this year to expand our audience’s perception of smell as an art form and its connection to memory by creating a custom smell for Summit this year.

I hope this approach is then adopted across different touch points throughout the event, and eventually other aspects in your life. Through questioning everything and not being afraid to change your opinion, everything becomes a lot more fun and I hope this year’s program will be an enjoyable breeding ground for this mentality.

WW: Can you tell us about the public projects and how they aim to engage with the public outside of Summit?

AZ: As a part of Summit LA19, Justin Brice Guariglia and video art platform Daata will be creating public projects available for DTLA’s community to engage and participate in.

Justin Brice Guarigilia will present “ECO-HAIKUS FOR MARQUEES”, a series of playful yet deadly serious phrases that will be displayed across the historic Ace Theater and Los Angeles Theater marquee signs along Broadway. This is an adaptation of his “WE ARE THE ASTEROID” series displayed on highway signs in major public places.

These aphorisms will hopefully remind us of the challenges in understanding climate change and hopefully inciting a wider conversation around how to communicate just how vast this predicament really is.

On view outside the Ace Theater and Los Angeles Theater from Nov 7 – 11, Daata will be displaying a series of established video artist’s work in collaboration with eyewear brand Gentle Monster. By turning the front half of Gentle Monster’s flagship store into an immersive viewing theater, we hope to encourage locals to discover the breadth of video art and create a meeting place for video art enthusiasts. Exhibiting artists include Tabita Rezaire, Zadie Xa, Takeshi Murata, and Jakob Kudsk Steensen.

WW: What are you looking forward to seeing and doing in LA this November, outside of Summit?

Funny enough I’m looking to get out of LA for a bit to reset. Probably a quick trip to Big Sur.

I’m looking forward to seeing Tatiana Trouvé’s show in November and Shirin Neshat’s at The Broad.

My family is in LA so spending time with them for the holidays, and then counting down the days until winter at Powder Mountain!









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Kelly Wearstler




Go inside the worlds of Art, Fashion, Design and Lifestyle.


Whitewall spoke with Kelly Wearstler about the evolution of her practice, and why her projects are rooted in tension and synchronicity.
Whitewall had the opportunity to speak to Capron about breaking the boundaries of self-identity with gusto and celebrating infinite possibilities.


Go inside the worlds
of Art, Fashion, Design,
and Lifestyle.