5-7-5: an open air text-based art project at Ace Hotel DTLA

person singing

Haiku: a Japanese poem of seventeen syllables, in three lines of five, seven and five, traditionally evoking images of the natural world.

5-7-5 was an open air text-based art project, displayed on the marquee at the Theatre at Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles, that ran from September through December 2020. Twelve poets, songwriters and text-based artists each contributed a short text, loosely based upon the rules of the haiku — poetic reflections on persisting through a difficult time in our collective history.

5-7-5 was created and programmed by a curatorial team consisting of Andrew Berardini, independent curator and contributing editor of Mousse Magazine; Rita Gonzalez, Department Head of Contemporary Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Joseph Mosconi, co-director of the Poetic Research Bureau, and Warren Neidich, artist, independent curator and Director of the Saas-Fee Summer Institute of Art. 

Contributing artists in the 5-7-5 project were David Horvitz, Jibade-Khalil Huffman, Lisa Anne Auerbach, Sofia Le Fraga, Lawrence Weiner, Harry Gamboa Jr., Kim Gordon, Charles Gaines, Carlos Lara and Joyelle McSweeney. 

What was the organizing principle when selecting artists for this project?

Warren Neidich, chief curator: We wanted the project to be interdisciplinary, [and] to include artists who used text in their works, as well as poets and songwriters. We were interested in reaching out to different communities of artists and poets in order to make it as diverse as possible. 

Is your approach different when curating for commons or public spaces? How do you think the marquee as canvas informed your curatorial approach, or the work of the artists? 

Warren Neidich, chief curator: The empty, vacant marquee presented a blank slate and ground zero for artistic interventions in the pandemic climate. The social, political, economic and psychological conditions of the pandemic have been very disabling, but at the same time have opened up new opportunities and spheres of attention. 

The unused private space of the marquee, left dormant by the litany of cancelled events, becomes an archive of memories that might have been, and events that disappeared as if into thin air. If only. 

The artists using the marquee became substitutes for the town crier. Each expressing their moment to moment relations as a public tweet. 

Looking back at the series, were there any unexpected or surprising submissions? Did any common themes emerge? 

Warren Neidich, chief curator: I think that, for the most part, most of the artists were responding to the atmosphere of the time. The submissions were all engaging, but what I liked most was how the structure of the triple screen changed the readings of the poems; they became more like diagrams and maps with multiple readings and meanings.

Can you give us some background on the meaning or intent of the haiku you submitted to the 5-7-5 project? 

Lawrence Weiner:

There Can Be No Explanation For A Work That Has Meaning And No Specific Form

I Am Convinced That What I Presented Might Be Perplexing For The Public

But In Fact It Is Quite Discernable And Quite Understandable

I Think We Demean Our Public By Treating Them As If They Dont Understand

The Public Is Not Stupid

Carlos Lara: It was entirely spontaneous. You can tell by the aura of the diction. The sort of emotive ambiguity, and the ability to read the poem across the marquee or vertically down each panel, are two things that surprised me. I didn’t plan on making such a seamless piece, but perhaps language seeks balance after all, when we aren’t trying to control it. 

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