With your year long Carla subscription, you will receive a new issue right to your doorstep every 3 months.
Our advertising program is essential to the ecology of our publication. Ad fees go directly to paying writers, which we do according to W.A.G.E. standards.
We are currently printing runs of 6,000 every three months. Our publication is distributed locally through galleries and art related businesses, providing a direct outlet to reaching a specific demographic with art related interests and concerns.
To advertise or for more information on rates, deadlines, and production specifications, please contact us at email@example.com
Ever since California became part of the United States in 1850, small but active groups have called for its secession from the Union. One current iteration of this movement, formalized as “Calexit,” is a libertarian dream that pushes for full privatization via the capitalist ingenuity of Silicon Valley. In his current exhibition, FREESTATE, artist Cole Sternberg co-opts the language of these secession movements and twists it into an anarchist vision, swapping individualist ideals for communal empowerment. The exhibition is not an antagonistic challenge of separatism, but rather, an earnest advocation for the formation of “The Free Republic of California.” Sternberg’s presentation of this new nation acknowledges the darker realities that have shaped California, offering the public boilerplate legal documents, petitions, and pledges that would help the Free Republic live beyond the Anthropocene while the rest of the United States is left to decay under climate change and capitalism.
Sternberg takes over three rooms at the El Segundo Museum of Art (ESMoA), presenting a reverse chronology for the genesis of The Free Republic of California. To offset the dryness of the legal documents on view, the artist includes colorful propaganda and decrepit physical artifacts—wrought iron gates, gnarled chicken wire, a piece of an oak tree infested with parasites—that reference colonization and fractured American dreams. Yet, a campy idealism permeates: The Mamas & the Papas’ song, “California Dreamin’” plays on repeat, a soundtrack that proudly glorifies The Free Republic’s fictional constitution and United Nations Treaty, both of which are on view.
Symbols of California freedom include a towering, multi-paneled, paper and wood mosaic that pictures a sunset sinking into the Pacific, the water aligned with your feet as if you were standing on the beach, about to be swallowed by the edge of the world. But here, Sternberg has rubbed away portions of the sunset, scarring the dreamscape and pointing to the fissure present in dreams of the West. From this idyllic vision, the wrought gates and mangled wire fills the gallery—stand-ins for devices that have both blocked out migrants and caged them into the manual labor that has helped California become the fifth largest GDP in the world. Sternberg’s humanitarian vision of The Free Republic cannot erase the past of exploitation and genocide that plagues our state, and, like a war memorial, Sternberg spotlights a murky California history so that new Free Republic secessionists understand what cannot be replicated, and what must be atoned for, in a new idealistic society. Hanging on the far wall, the flag for The Free Republic of California—the seal in the center, blue and green stripes representing peace and the environment, a single red star nodding to the first flag of California—concedes that these fraught symbols are integral to its history and secessionist future.
As the many bureaucratic documents on view demonstrate, Sternberg has made a valiant effort to make the ideal of independence more tangible. In The Free Republic’s constitution and budget—both fully researched and fact-checked documents that Congress could sign into law if they somehow reached their chambers—Sternberg cuts military spending by more than 75 percent, redirecting those funds to social security, universal healthcare and education, and environmental conservation. These priorities are at odds with the more libertarian ideations of Calexit, which include a willingness to contract with the U.S. Military, hesitance to raise taxes to bolster social services, and a refusal to define who owns public lands or utilities (The Free Republic avoids acknowledging these shortcomings, which are only revealed through a deep dive into Calexit’s platform).
The blurry distinction between the two movements is made trickier by the very first component of FREESTATE that you see when entering the gallery: the swag, apparel, and agitprop, which look attractive and trendy, mimicking popular streetwear designs. Because they precede the next two rooms of thoughtful documentation and symbolism, the swag must be interpreted as an earnest contribution to the exhibition—if mistaken for satire, it brings the rest of FREESTATE into the realm of comedy, invalidating Sternberg’s efforts to show us a truly alternative society. However, if a reimagined society still relies on capitalism to bring its revolutionary tenets to life, it risks breeding the same dissatisfaction with government policies that inspired the secessionist movements Sternberg hopes to innovate. But maybe that’s the problem: in America, an alternative society is so incomprehensible that even the most well-researched and means-tested visions cannot mirror anything other than capitalism.
Cole Sternberg: FREESTATE runs from October 8 2020–September 18, 2021 at ESMoA (208 Main St., El Segundo, CA 90245).