Issue 36 May 2024

Issue 35 February 2024

Issue 34 November 2023

Issue 33 August 2023

Issue 32 June 2023

Issue 31 February 2023

Issue 30 November 2022

Issue 29 August 2022

Issue 28 May 2022

Issue 27 February 2022

Issue 26 November 2021

Issue 25 August 2021

Issue 24 May 2021

Issue 23 February 2021

Issue 22 November 2020

Issue 21 August 2020

Issue 20 May 2020

Issue 19 February 2020

Letter from the Editor –Lindsay Preston Zappas
Parasites in Love –Travis Diehl
To Crush Absolute On Patrick Staff and
Destroying the Institution
–Jonathan Griffin
Victoria Fu:
Camera Obscured
–Cat Kron
Resurgence of Resistance How Pattern & Decoration's Popularity
Can Help Reshape the Canon
–Catherine Wagley
Trace, Place, Politics Julie Mehretu's Coded Abstractions
–Jessica Simmons
Exquisite L.A.: Featuring: Friedrich Kunath,
Tristan Unrau, and Nevine Mahmoud
–Claressinka Anderson & Joe Pugliese
Reviews April Street
at Vielmetter Los Angeles
–Aaron Horst

Chiraag Bhakta
at Human Resources
–Julie Weitz

Don’t Think: Tom, Joe
and Rick Potts

–Matt Stromberg

Sarah McMenimen
at Garden
–Michael Wright

The Medea Insurrection
at the Wende Museum
–Jennifer Remenchik

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Mike Kelley
at Hauser & Wirth
–Angella d’Avignon
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Issue 18 November 2019

Letter from the Editor –Lindsay Preston Zappas
The Briar and the Tar Nayland Blake at the ICA LA
and Matthew Marks Gallery
–Travis Diehl
Putting Aesthetics
to Hope
Tracking Photography’s Role
in Feminist Communities
– Catherine Wagley
Instagram STARtists
and Bad Painting
– Anna Elise Johnson
Interview with Jamillah James – Lindsay Preston Zappas
Working Artists Featuring Catherine Fairbanks,
Paul Pescador, and Rachel Mason
Text: Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Reviews Children of the Sun
– Jessica Simmons

Derek Paul Jack Boyle
–Aaron Horst

Karl Holmqvist
at House of Gaga, Los Angeles
–Lee Purvey

Katja Seib
at Château Shatto
–Ashton Cooper

Jeanette Mundt
at Overduin & Co.
–Matt Stromberg
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Issue 17 August 2019

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Green Chip David Hammons
at Hauser & Wirth
–Travis Diehl
Whatever Gets You
Through the Night
The Artists of Dilexi
and Wartime Trauma
–Jonathan Griffin
Generous Collectors How the Grinsteins
Supported Artists
–Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Donna Huanca
–Lindsy Preston Zappas
Working Artist Featuring Ragen Moss, Justen LeRoy,
and Bari Ziperstein
Text: Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Reviews Sarah Lucas
at the Hammer Museum
–Yxta Maya Murray

George Herms and Terence Koh
at Morán Morán
–Matt Stromberg

Hannah Hur
at Bel Ami
–Michael Wright

Sebastian Hernandez
–Julie Weitz

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Alex Israel
at Greene Naftali
–Rosa Tyhurst

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Issue 16 May 2019

Trulee Hall's Untamed Magic Catherine Wagley
Ingredients for a Braver Art Scene Ceci Moss
I Shit on Your Graves Travis Diehl
Interview with Ruby Neri Jonathan Griffin
Carolee Schneemann and the Art of Saying Yes! Chelsea Beck
Exquisite L.A. Claressinka Anderson
Joe Pugliese
Reviews Ry Rocklen
at Honor Fraser
–Cat Kron

Rob Thom
at M+B
–Lindsay Preston Zappas

Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age
of Black Power, 1963-1983
at The Broad
–Matt Stromberg

Anna Sew Hoy & Diedrick Brackens
at Various Small Fires
–Aaron Horst

Julia Haft-Candell & Suzan Frecon
at Parrasch Heijnen
–Jessica Simmons

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Shahryar Nashat
at Swiss Institute
–Christie Hayden
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Issue 15 February 2019

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Letter to the Editor
Men on Women
Geena Brown
Eyes Without a Voice
Julian Rosefeldt's Manifesto
Christina Catherine Martinez
Seven Minute Dream Machine
Jordan Wolfson's (Female figure)
Travis Diehl
Laughing in Private
Vanessa Place's Rape Jokes
Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Rosha Yaghmai
Laura Brown
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Patrick Martinez,
Ramiro Gomez, and John Valadez
Claressinka Anderson
Joe Pugliese
Reviews Outliers and American
Vanguard Art at LACMA
–Jonathan Griffin

Sperm Cult
–Matt Stromberg

Kahlil Joseph
–Jessica Simmons

Ingrid Luche
at Ghebaly Gallery
–Lindsay Preston Zappas

Matt Paweski
at Park View / Paul Soto
–John Zane Zappas

Trenton Doyle Hancock
at Shulamit Nazarian
–Colony Little

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Catherine Opie
at Lehmann Maupin
–Angella d'Avignon
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Issue 14 November 2018

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Celeste Dupuy-Spencer and Figurative Religion Catherine Wagley
Lynch in Traffic Travis Diehl
The Remixed Symbology of Nina Chanel Abney Lindsay Preston Zappas
Interview with Kulapat Yantrasast Christie Hayden
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Sandra de la Loza, Gloria Galvez, and Steve Wong
Claressinka Anderson
Photos: Joe Pugliese
Reviews Raúl de Nieves
at Freedman Fitzpatrick
-Aaron Horst

Gertrud Parker
at Parker Gallery
-Ashton Cooper

Robert Yarber
at Nicodim Gallery
-Jonathan Griffin

Nikita Gale
at Commonwealth & Council
-Simone Krug

Lari Pittman
at Regen Projects
-Matt Stromberg

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Eckhaus Latta
at the Whitney Museum
of American Art
-Angella d'Avignon
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Issue 13 August 2018

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Letter to the Editor Julie Weitz with Angella d'Avignon
Don't Make
Everything Boring
Catherine Wagley
The Collaborative Art
World of Norm Laich
Matt Stromberg
Oddly Satisfying Art Travis Diehl
Made in L.A. 2018 Reviews Claire de Dobay Rifelj
Jennifer Remenchik
Aaron Horst
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Anna Sew Hoy, Guadalupe Rosales, and Shizu Saldamando
Claressinka Anderson
Photos: Joe Pugliese
Reviews It's Snowing in LA
at AA|LA
–Matthew Lax

Fiona Conner
at the MAK Center
–Thomas Duncan

Show 2
at The Gallery @ Michael's
–Simone Krug

Deborah Roberts
at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles
–Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi

Mimi Lauter
at Blum & Poe
–Jessica Simmons

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Math Bass
at Mary Boone
–Ashton Cooper

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Condo New York
–Laura Brown
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Issue 12 May 2018

Poetic Energies and
Radical Celebrations:
Senga Nengudi and Maren Hassinger
Simone Krug
Interior States of the Art Travis Diehl
Perennial Bloom:
Florals in Feminism
and Across L.A.
Angella d'Avignon
The Mess We're In Catherine Wagley
Interview with Christina Quarles Ashton Cooper
Object Project
Featuring Suné Woods, Michelle Dizon,
and Yong Soon Min
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Reviews Meleko Mokgosi
at The Fowler Museum at UCLA
-Jessica Simmons

Chris Kraus
at Chateau Shatto
- Aaron Horst

Ben Sanders
at Ochi Projects
- Matt Stromberg

iris yirei hsu
at the Women's Center
for Creative Work
- Hana Cohn

Harald Szeemann
at the Getty Research Institute
- Olivian Cha

Ali Prosch
at Bed and Breakfast
- Jennifer Remenchik

Reena Spaulings
at Matthew Marks
- Thomas Duncan
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Issue 11 February 2018

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Museum as Selfie Station Matt Stromberg
Accessible as Humanly as Possible Catherine Wagley
On Laura Owens on Laura Owens Travis Diehl
Interview with Puppies Puppies Jonathan Griffin
Object Project Lindsay Preston Zappas, Jeff McLane
Reviews Dulce Dientes
at Rainbow in Spanish
- Aaron Horst

Adrián Villas Rojas
at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA
- Lindsay Preston Zappas

Nevine Mahmoud
at M+B
- Angella D'Avignon

Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960- 1985
at the Hammer Museum
- Thomas Duncan

Hannah Greely and William T. Wiley
at Parker Gallery
- Keith J. Varadi

David Hockney
at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (L.A. in N.Y.)
- Ashton Cooper

Edgar Arceneaux
at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (L.A. in S.F.)
- Hana Cohn
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Issue 10 November 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Barely Living with Art:
The Labor of Domestic
Spaces in Los Angeles
Eli Diner
She Wanted Adventure:
Dwan, Butler, Mizuno, Copley
Catherine Wagley
The Languages of
All-Women Exhibitions
Lindsay Preston Zappas
L.A. Povera Travis Diehl
On Eclipses:
When Language
and Photography Fail
Jessica Simmons
Interview with
Hamza Walker
Julie Wietz
Object Project
Featuring: Rosha Yaghmai,
Dianna Molzan, and Patrick Jackson
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos by Jeff McLane
Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA
Regen Projects
Ibid Gallery
One National Gay & Lesbian Archives and MOCA PDC
The Mistake Room
Luis De Jesus Gallery
the University Art Gallery at CSULB
the Autry Museum
Reviews Cheyenne Julien
at Smart Objects

Paul Mpagi Sepuya
at team bungalow

Ravi Jackson
at Richard Telles

Tactility of Line
at Elevator Mondays

Trigger: Gender as a Tool as a Weapon
at the New Museum
(L.A. in N.Y.)
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Issue 9 August 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Women on the Plinth Catherine Wagley
Us & Them, Now & Then:
Reconstituting Group Material
Travis Diehl
The Offerings of EJ Hill
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
Interview with Jenni Sorkin Carmen Winant
Object Project
Featuring: Rebecca Morris,
Linda Stark, Alex Olson
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos by Jeff McClane
Reviews Mark Bradford
at the Venice Biennale

Broken Language
at Shulamit Nazarian

Artists of Color
at the Underground Museum

Anthony Lepore & Michael Henry Hayden
at Del Vaz Projects


Analia Saban at
Sprueth Magers
Letter to the Editor Lady Parts, Lady Arts
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Issue 8 May 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Kanye Westworld Travis Diehl
@richardhawkins01 Thomas Duncan
Support Structures:
Alice Könitz and LAMOA
Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Penny Slinger
Eliza Swann
Exquisite L.A.
taisha paggett
Ashley Hunt
Young Chung
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Alessandro Pessoli
at Marc Foxx

Jennie Jieun Lee
at The Pit

Trisha Baga
at 356 Mission

Jimmie Durham
at The Hammer

Parallel City
at Ms. Barbers

Jason Rhodes
at Hauser & Wirth
Letter to the Editor
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 7 February 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Catherine Wagley
Put on a Happy Face:
On Dynasty Handbag
Travis Diehl
The Limits of Animality:
Simone Forti at ISCP
(L.A. in N.Y.)
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
More Wound Than Ruin:
Evaluating the
"Human Condition"
Jessica Simmons
Exquisite L.A.
Brenna Youngblood
Todd Gray
Rafa Esparza
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Creature
at The Broad

Sam Pulitzer & Peter Wachtler
at House of Gaga // Reena Spaulings Fine Art

Karl Haendel
at Susanne Vielmetter

Wolfgang Tillmans
at Regen Projects

at Chateau Shatto

The Rat Bastard Protective Association
at the Landing
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Issue 6 November 2016

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Kenneth Tam
's Basement
Travis Diehl
The Female
Cool School
Catherine Wagley
The Rise
of the L.A.
Art Witch
Amanda Yates Garcia
Interview with
Mernet Larsen
Julie Weitz
Agnes Martin
Jessica Simmons
Exquisite L.A.
Analia Saban
Ry Rocklen
Sarah Cain
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Made in L.A. 2016
at The Hammer Museum

Doug Aitken
at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA

at Tif Sigfrids

Jean-Pascal Flavian and Mika Tajima
at Kayne Griffin Corcoran

Mark A. Rodruigez
at Park View

The Weeping Line
Organized by Alter Space
at Four Six One Nine
(S.F. in L.A.)
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Issue 5 August 2016

Letter form the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
at The Underground Museum
Catherine Wagley
The Art of Birth Carmen Winant
Escape from Bunker Hill
John Knight
Travis Diehl
Ed Boreal Speaks Benjamin Lord
Art Advice (from Men) Sarah Weber
Routine Pleasures
at the MAK Center
Jonathan Griffin
Exquisite L.A.
Fay Ray
John Baldessari
Claire Kennedy
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Revolution in the Making
at Hauser Wirth & Schimmel

Carl Cheng
at Cherry and Martin

Joan Snyder
at Parrasch Heijnen Gallery

Elanor Antin
at Diane Rosenstein

Performing the Grid
at Ben Maltz Gallery
at Otis College of Art & Design

Laura Owens
at The Wattis Institute
(L.A. in S.F.)
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Issue 4 May 2016

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Moon, laub, and Love Catherine Wagley
Walk Artisanal Jonathan Griffin
Marva Marrow's
Inside the L.A. Artist
Anthony Pearson
Mystery Science Thater:
Diana Thater
Aaron Horst
Informal Feminisms Federica Bueti and Jan Verwoert
Marva Marrow Photographs
Lita Albuquerque
Interiors and Interiority:
Njideka Akunyili Crosby
Char Jansen
Reviews L.A. Art Fairs

Material Art Fair, Mexico City

Rain Room

Evan Holloway
at David Kordansky Gallery

Histories of a Vanishing Present: A Prologue
at The Mistake Room

Carter Mull
at fused space
(L.A. in S.F.)

Awol Erizku
at FLAG Art Foundation
(L.A. in N.Y.)
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Issue 3 February 2016

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Le Louvre, Las Vegas Evan Moffitt
iPhones, Flesh,
and the Word:
at Arturo Bandini
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Women Talking About Barney Catherine Wagley
Lingua Ignota:
Faith Wilding
at The Armory Center
for the Arts
Benjamin Lord
A Conversation
with Amalia Ulman
Char Jansen
How We Practice Carmen Winant
Share Your Piece
of the Puzzle
Federica Bueti
Amanda Ross-Ho Photographs
Erik Frydenborg
Reviews Honeydew
at Michael Thibault

Fred Tomaselli
at California State University, Fullerton

Trisha Donnelly
at Matthew Marks Gallery

Bradford Kessler
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Issue 2 November 2015

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Hot Tears Carmen Winant
Slow View:
Molly Larkey
Anna Breininger and Kate Whitlock
Americanicity's Paintings:
Orion Martin
at Favorite Goods
Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal
Layers of Leimert Park Catherine Wagley
Junkspace Junk Food:
Parker Ito
at Kaldi, Smart Objects,
White Cube, and
Château Shatto
Evan Moffitt
Melrose Hustle Keith Vaughn
Max Maslansky Photographs
Monica Majoli
at the Tom of Finland Foundation
White Lee, Black Lee:
William Pope.L’s "Reenactor"
Travis Diehl
Dora Budor Interview Char Jensen
Reviews Mary Ried Kelley
at The Hammer Museum

Tongues Untied
at MOCA Pacific Design Center

No Joke
at Tanya Leighton
(L.A. in Berlin)
Snap Reviews Martin Basher at Anat Ebgi
Body Parts I-V at ASHES ASHES
Eve Fowler at Mier Gallery
Matt Siegle at Park View
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Issue 1 August 2015

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Metaphysical L.A.
Travis Diehl
Art for Art’s Sake:
L.A. in the 1990s
Anthony Pearson
A Dialogue in Two
Synchronous Atmospheres
Erik Morse
with Alexandra Grant
at François Ghebaly
Jonathan Griffin
#studio #visit
with #devin #kenny
Mateo Tannatt
Jibade-Khalil Huffman
Slow View:
Discussion on One Work
Anna Breininger
with Julian Rogers
Reviews Pierre Huyghe

Mernet Larsen
at Various Small Fires

John Currin
at Gagosian, Beverly Hills

Pat O'Niell
at Cherry and Martin

A New Rhythm
at Park View

Unwatchable Scenes and
Other Unreliable Images...
at Public Fiction

Charles Gaines
at The Hammer Museum

Henry Taylor
at Blum & Poe/ Untitled
(L.A. in N.Y.)
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
1301 PE
Anat Ebgi (La Cienega)
Anat Ebgi (Wilshire)
Arcana Books
Artbook @ Hauser & Wirth
Babst Gallery
Baert Gallery
Bel Ami
Canary Test
Carlye Packer
Charlie James Gallery
Château Shatto
Chris Sharp Gallery
Cirrus Gallery
Clay ca
Commonwealth & Council
Craft Contemporary
D2 Art (Inglewood)
D2 Art (Westwood)
David Kordansky Gallery
David Zwirner
Diane Rosenstein
François Ghebaly
Gana Art Los Angeles
George Billis Gallery
Giovanni's Room
Hannah Hoffman Gallery
Harper's Gallery
Hashimoto Contemporary
Heavy Manners Library
Helen J Gallery
Human Resources
in lieu
LaPau Gallery
Lisson Gallery
Louis Stern Fine Arts
Lowell Ryan Projects
Luis De Jesus Los Angeles
MAK Center for Art and Architecture
Make Room Los Angeles
Matter Studio Gallery
Matthew Brown Los Angeles
MOCA Grand Avenue
Monte Vista Projects
Morán Morán
Moskowitz Bayse
Nazarian / Curcio
Night Gallery
Nino Mier Gallery
NOON Projects
O-Town House
One Trick Pony
Paradise Framing
Park View / Paul Soto
Patricia Sweetow Gallery
Regen Projects
Reparations Club
r d f a
REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney CalArts Theater)
Roberts Projects
Royale Projects
Sean Kelly
Sebastian Gladstone
Shoshana Wayne Gallery
Smart Objects
Steve Turner
Stroll Garden
Tanya Bonakdar Gallery
The Box
The Fulcrum
The Hole
The Landing
The Poetic Research Bureau
The Wende Museum
Thinkspace Projects
Tierra del Sol Gallery
Tiger Strikes Astroid
Tomorrow Today
Track 16
Tyler Park Presents
USC Fisher Museum of Art
UTA Artist Space
Various Small Fires
Village Well Books & Coffee
Outside L.A.
Libraries/ Collections
Baltimore Museum of Art (Baltimore, MD)
Bard College, CCS Library (Annandale-on-Hudson, NY)
Charlotte Street Foundation (Kansas City, MO)
Cranbrook Academy of Art (Bloomfield Hills, MI)
Getty Research Institute (Los Angeles, CA)
Los Angeles Contemporary Archive (Los Angeles, CA)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles, CA)
Maryland Institute College of Art (Baltimore, MD)
Midway Contemporary Art (Minneapolis, MN)
Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles, CA)
NYS College of Ceramics at Alfred University (Alfred, NY)
Pepperdine University (Malibu, CA)
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (San Francisco, CA)
School of the Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, IL)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY)
University of California Irvine, Langston IMCA (Irvine, CA)
University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA)
University of Washington (Seattle, WA)
Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, MN)
Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, NY)
Yale University Library (New Haven, CT)

Defying Narrative Containment, for E.L. and Others

Leer en Español

Maya Gurantz rehearsing Elisa movement in an elevator set in her studio, Los Angeles, 2015. Image courtesy of the artist. Photo: Christopher Bordeaux.

In a poem, one line may hide another line,
As at a crossing, one train may hide another train.
—Kenneth Koch1

Usually when I write, and often when I make work, I know where I’m going. That’s not the case as I’m writing this. It was also most emphatically not the case in 2015 when I decided to go to Pieter, an East Los Angeles dance space, twice a week for the foreseeable future, compelled by the following task: I would learn the last known physical movements of a dead woman.

Those movements had already become a global spectacle, public property. In January 2013, Elisa Lam, a 21-year-old Chinese Canadian woman on a trip up the West Coast, went missing in Los Angeles. To locate her, the LAPD publicly released video of her last known sighting, captured by elevator surveillance. Six days later, her naked body was found in the rooftop water tank of the Cecil Hotel, a Downtown L.A. flophouse. The footage then went viral—irresistible because of both the mysterious circumstances of her death and the uncanniness of her documented movement.

She enters and exits the elevator seemingly without purpose. Pushes the buttons all in a row. She’s still, then lunges wildly. Appears shocked. Relaxes. Holds both hands at her temples, draws her fingers through her hair. Gesticulates to someone who may or may not be there.

Watching the footage feels both unnerving and weirdly tantalizing. As soon as you begin to think you understand what her movement signifies, it changes. She resists narrative containment.

That did not keep people from trying to contain her, narratively. Thousands of online viewers reposted the video, inventing conspiracy theories: she was possessed by ghosts; pursued and murdered by felons living at the Cecil; schizophrenic; high; having a psychotic break. As soon as October 2015, an iteration of Elisa appeared in Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story: Hotel. Hollywood trade magazines reported stories of screenwriters with development deals to write scripts inspired by the footage.2 In 2021, Netflix released the wildly popular Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel, a four-part true crime documentary series. Clickbait abounded.

Mystery, horror, and true-crime procedural—the narrative genres imposed on Elisa’s story—all deploy the same structure: Patriarchal order, briefly threatened by monstrous chaos, ultimately gets restored. We are allowed to experience visual and visceral pleasure-in-horror only because power (usually in the form of a male hero—the detective, doctor, policeman, or exorcist) prevails. It’s deeply reactionary.

Elisa’s cause of death remains inconclusive. Void of resolution, the world frantically keeps trying to dominate her body into coherence through genre storytelling. At present, Listen Notes, an online podcast directory, lists over 1,900 separate Elisa Lam podcast episodes in multiple languages worldwide.3 She’s become our generation’s Elizabeth Short —our Black Dahlia, another legend of a woman coming to a violent, enigmatic end in Los Angeles.

When I began learning the movements in the surveillance video, I really didn’t know why I was doing it, only that there had to be another way of knowing. Over eight years, this practice evolved into a series of videos and dance works, Poem of E.L.,4 which critiques the capitalist, misogynist media machine that so entirely exploited and digested these original images. More poetically and personally, it suggests that Elisa had knowledge in her body, and that such knowledge, even if inchoate, remains real and important.


Around the time Elisa’s story first hit the news, our cat Lou abandoned us for a personal trainer who lived around the corner.

We learned that Mandy was a celebrity fitness personality, both in that she trained celebrities, and that she also kind of was one. A gifted natural athlete, she’d been a competitive gymnast, dancer, and majorette as a child. As an adult, she’d won international bodybuilding competitions and been on dozens of magazine covers. She trained movie stars and porn stars and everyday schmucks like us. No wonder Lou left.

Mandy felt guilty about the cat and offered us her friends and family rate to train with her. My husband and I figured, why the hell not? It would be our L.A. story.

We quickly realized that Mandy was extraordinary, a master of her craft. Deep in my thirties and after my first child, I’d surrendered my body to an inevitable slow slide but was suddenly finding myself doing things of which I’d never imagined being capable.

The start of any arduous physical discipline invites a deep spiritual reckoning. After the initial thrill of possibility, you’ll encounter your deep internal resistance to change. Push past that, and old anxieties about your body will surface as your new limits loom. It’s a destabilizing long dark night of the soul, but if you keep going, it’s possible to be transformed, to enter a new physical and psychic reality.

That was my experience, anyway. I doubt I could have been brave enough to hold space in the studio, alone and choreographing movement, without meeting Mandy. We became close. She was the first person at the hospital when our second child was born. She had a key to our house and came over every morning for coffee and to snuggle with our kids.

She also became my portal into an L.A. I’d never otherwise encounter: weekends at the Roosevelt Hotel pool and dinners at Craig’s; industry people whose jobs you’ve never heard of but whose anonymous labor powers Hollywood; small business owners keeping the beautiful people beautiful with spray tans and lingerie and facials. Mandy’s flamboyant charisma, cartoonishly muscled body—the otherworldly way the camera loved her—also drew in an alarming collection of vampires. Stalkers of every gender and sexuality. Women clients trying to win the social media serotonin sweepstakes. And of course, an endless parade of men who seemed to want to possess her without really knowing her. Unlike many of the starlets she’d come up with, Mandy refused to be devoured. This was her world, she was insightful about it without becoming hard or cynical, or letting it repress her essential joy and strength.

In October 2018, almost four years after I began going to the studio to learn Elisa’s movement, Mandy’s dead body was found in her bathtub.

The Los Altos, where she lived, is one of those glamorous old-fashioned Hollywood buildings with neon letters on the roof and a swank lobby full of dark leather chairs and carved stone fireplaces. We crowded there in shock, nervously waiting for the EMTs to bring her body downstairs.

The investigators from the coroner’s office said that Mandy did not seem like she knew she would die. Her home was freshly tidied. No drugs or paraphernalia. To-do lists on her desk, nice candles burning. She was ready for tomorrow. They reassured us that it all looked like a good death —in the absence of further detail, this reassurance pointed grimly to the many bad death scenes they had witnessed.

But Mandy was only 42 and a perfect physical specimen— professionally perfect. And she was somehow, improbably, gone. In the nightmarish weeks that followed, people from Mandy’s life—friends, lovers, clients, neighbors—found one another, often for the first time. She’d kept us separate. Did becoming a different person in different contexts allow her to manage the tension between her outsized public persona and her everyday self? Our disoriented new little community watched in horror as her death ripped across the tabloids—TMZ, People, Daily Mail. Her status as a niche sex symbol and the mystery of her dead body in a bathtub made for a tawdry, titillating story.

What quickly seemed most urgent—even more so than organizing her memorial—was influencing the press. We pooled our information. The initial autopsy revealed no clear cause, and we were terrified she had overdosed. Not because she was a user, but because she wasn’t, and it felt like fentanyl was suddenly everywhere. Word around the Los Altos was that another resident had died from it the week before. In my own extended circle of middle-class, middle-aged parents, a dad at a party had recently taken what he thought was a Xanax and OD’d.

Mandy carried chronic pain from years of extreme fitness, and she carried the burdens of a lifetime of hardships alone. It was very easy to imagine she’d been randomly handed a spare Vicodin from someone who’d gotten it from the wrong place.

But we all knew that wouldn’t be the story should the toxicology report come back positive. We released a quote to the tabloids to try and preempt any ugly “model overdose” clichés. We stressed how hard she worked, the demands on her body, her herniated discs—trying to shift the subtext from one archetype (sexy drug-user) to another (exhausted entrepreneur).

I still feel regret about our panic because the toxicology report found nothing in her system, of course. No drugs or alcohol. No supplements. A good death. A mystery.

I think about Mandy every day. People still write me to ask, do you know what happened? I have my theories. I keep them to myself.

Maya Gurantz, Elisa Extractions (video still) (2016). Video, 11 minutes and 24 seconds. Image courtesy of the artist.


In 2021, artist and curator Jane O’Neill asked me to perform at the Other Places Art Fair (OPaF) around the theme of “parasocial,” a psychological term used to describe the one-sided emotional relationships audience members have with public figures.

I immediately thought about my Endurance Performance Propositions, performance scores I’d begun in graduate school, where I re-perform a cultural artifact under some condition of stress (duration, repetition) to investigate how the body holds and transmits cultural information. And I thought about Britney Spears on Instagram.

After a year of strange social media silences in 2019—a year in which she apparently refused to work and was, in retaliation, sent by her father to a mental institution5—Britney spent all of the Covid quarantine posting videos of herself dancing on social media. She’s always in her giant living room in a sports bra or crop top and short shorts, enthusiastically performing for millions but alone, clearly reduced to being her own clumsily amateur choreographer, cinematographer, dancer, costumer, and editor. Stripped of the production value usually scaffolding her, straining against her aging body, the manicured pop princess is rendered almost hilariously incoherent. Major publications printed article after article about how strange these videos appeared.6

Some viewers found them disturbing on another level, seeing a cry for help from a woman who had spent more than a decade held hostage in a conservatorship that made her, for all legal purposes, a child.

Britney’s adult life can be read as a series of punishments for not remaining the childish persona that made her famous: the Sexy Baby, virginal yet erotically available, not a girl but not yet a woman. When she was revealed to be an actual woman—when she quickly had two children with a corny backup dancer, gained weight, shaved her head, exploded in anger at tabloid intrusion—she was deemed incapable of managing her own life. Her father, who’d never previously engaged with his daughter’s career, seemed thrilled to take charge of her chaos, her body, and of course, her money, of which he spent a great deal to maintain his status as conservator and her status as incompetent.7

Under her father’s new regime, Britney produced hits, lost weight, toured, made millions. But something changed in her body. Britney had been a preternaturally talented mover. She’d trained as a dancer and participated in Olympic coach Béla Károlyi’s competitive gymnastic camp.8 She’d been an undeniable performer, loose and confident at the same time as she hit moves hard. (Search “Britney Boys Dance Break Live” on YouTube. You’re welcome.)

After the conservatorship, she looked increasingly wrong onstage. It wasn’t only that she was tottering clumsily on heels, marking far simpler choreography than what she used to do “full-out.” The shift seemed internal. She used to inhabit every inch of her body—now her essential being appeared deeply bound within herself.

In her Instagram videos, Britney roars back to life. She’s pushing herself wildly, half-naked, hair slipping out of her ponytail, seemingly driven by the propulsive need to express herself, attempting to take back some measure of control over her means of production.

You would think the movement itself would be freer or more interesting. Instead, even at her most improvisatory, Britney’s lifelong training has restricted her to a sadly limited choreographic palette. She twirls compulsively, flips her hair, illustrates lyrics with literal gestures, poses, and pouts in constant eye contact with the camera.

When you watch the movement, it’s one thing. When you do the movement over and over, as I did in multiple performances of Britney’s choreography, it’s different. You experience both the profound technical demands of playing a Sexy Baby, and the ridiculousness of it; you step into the container in which she’s been allowed to move her whole life and it’s tiny. It’s sobering. It can make us think about our own training, our own containers.


I have to acknowledge that part of what draws me to the Elisa footage—part of what I think draws everyone to it—is her lack of physical inhibition. It’s the polar opposite of Britney. Elisa is captured by surveillance but does not know she is being watched. She’s in the strangeness of pure movement directed by unclear, constantly shifting instincts.

By this time in my life, in general, I have become so well-managed. I sleep and exercise and eat healthy foods. I know when to call my therapist. I self-medicate only with black tea but know what to ask for when my usual strategies aren’t working.

On the one hand, these tools are great because I’m not dead. I am here, generally uncorroded, a stable mother, wife, friend, daughter, teacher, and artist.

Late in making Poem of E.L., I went through Elisa’s still-online Tumblr with a fine-toothed comb, sorting her own writing from GIFs and reposts. When I read her direct voice, I am brought back to myself at 21 with a startling immediacy (she describes herself as “so self-confident in my opinions and yet so critical and aware of my own faults”). She does not seem mentally ill, no more so than I am or was at that age. She knows she’s too jangly, too loud, too unwilling to be tactful (“I don’t tone it down when I meet someone new either so it’s just….getting slapped with too much at once”). She’s discovering that so many heroes are fools or monsters (“lost all respect for [Gandhi] after reading how he treated sub-saharan africans [sic]”). She’s angry, horny, sharply observant. She yearns to be seen.

I wonder sometimes, what’s lost in my management? What road to insight gets blocked? Where does my considerable rage go? In attempting to create solid ground for my children in a profoundly horrifying time in this world, what am I avoiding? In my teens and twenties, my struggles often paralyzed my ability to make work. Is that what makes my self-management valuable? That I’m more “productive” now?

Either way, this is the compromise I’ve made—a part of myself missing, forever, in the need to exist within a secure container. Some call this compromise “maturity.” I’m ambivalent about it for myself but every day pray my children will safely cross the Rubicon of the brains they inherited from me to experience such stability.


I often feel like the real work of Poem of E.L. was the thing no one could have seen: months by myself, golden light streaming in through Pieter’s industrial windows as I repeated Elisa’s movement second-by-second, as precisely and carefully and directly as I could, with no end goal in sight.

As I learned and re-performed her movement, I tried to be completely present. This notion of presence, a radically heightened now-ness, forms the basis of so many somatic and performance practices—meditation, yoga, dance, music. It’s why I watch sports: Pro athletes operate at such a superior level of fitness that the body strangely ceases to matter and it becomes about witnessing something else—the spirit fully present in a body.

An exercise I think about all the time comes from my directing mentor James Luse. You come to presence by describing physical sensations or emotions as pictures located within your body. Is there a wad of pink flabby gum under your shoulder blade? Do you have a wire brush slowly grinding burnt oil off the internal surface of your stomach? Is there a blue bead vibrating on a string in your right temple?

James would have us describe the image in minute detail, then, in our mind’s eye, walk up to it, reach our hand out, and push through it. He’d tell us that at any point the image would and could change and encouraged us to continue describing what we saw as it shifted from one picture to another, one sensation to another.

Learning the surveillance footage, I would ask—where were the shifts in the center of gravity? What parts of the body initiated every gesture? What pictures revealed themselves? I began playing with dynamics, turning the “volume” up and down on those discoveries. I started finding movement underneath the movement.

Each movement became a container for another movement. Every gesture a world of potential other gestures. As I excavated, re-performance became a ritual of other ways things could have been, unwinding the notion that everything Elisa did was only another step towards the inevitability of her terrible death, elevating the ongoing potential of what she was in every moment, opposing the violence of imposed narratives.

Early on, I knew the final piece of Poem of E.L. would be called Last Walk. In a speculative surrealist film shot entirely in POV (point of view), the viewer would travel from the elevator to the rooftop, cutting associatively between memory, dream, reality, and hallucination—these states of being all existing simultaneously, all equally real. Even though I knew the film’s structure, actual ideas for the scenes refused to come until I went into the dance studio, got present, and started “walking down the hall.” I moved my body, and the pictures poured out.

I was not trying to solve a mystery, but to be inside of it, present, honoring its chaos, open to its discomforts, its dangers, its pain. It is a strange utopia, but it is a utopia nonetheless.

This essay was originally published in Carla issue 36.

Maya Gurantz rehearsing Elisa movement at Pieter Performance Space, Los Angeles, 2015. Image courtesy of the artist.

Maya Gurantz, Endurance Performance Proposition #4 (#FREEBRITNEY) (performance view) (2020–21). Other Places Art Fair, San Pedro, California, 2021. Image courtesy of the artist. Photo: Denise Torres.

Maya Gurantz, Last Walk (video still) (2023). Video, 13 minutes and 48 seconds. Image courtesy of the artist.

Maya Gurantz, Last Walk (video still) (2023). Video, 13 minutes and 48 seconds. Image courtesy of the artist.

  1. Kenneth Koch, “One Train May Hide Another,” from One Train (New York City: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994),
  2. Mike Fleming Jr., “Sony Pictures Wins Fright Spec ‘The Bringing’; Mystery Revolving Around L.A.’s Cecil Hotel,” Deadline, February 27, 2014, https://deadline. com/2014/02/sony-pictures-wins-fright-spec-thebringing- mystery-revolving-around-l-a-s-cecilhotel- 690590/.
  3. “# Elisa Lam Top podcast episodes,” ListenNotes, accessed April 9, 2024, top-podcasts/elisa-lam/.
  4. A solo show of this work presented by Prospect Art at LA Artcore in November 2023 included eight videos, a wall drawing, and multiple performances.
  5. Bridget Read, “Britney Spears Responds to Fans Concerned About Her Well-Being in Instagram Video.” Vogue, April 24, 2019, britney-spears-instagram-video-mental-health-response.
  6. See, for example, Rachel McRady, “Britney Spears Says Her Dance Posts ‘Aren’t Perfect’: ‘I’m Doing This For Fun!’” Entertainment Tonight, February 2, 2021, https://www.
  7. Framing Britney Spears, directed by Samantha Stark. (Century City: FX Networks, 2021).
  8. Kerry Howley, “The Curse of Kentwood,” Vulture, November 7, 2022, jamie-spears-britney-spears-conservatorship.html.

Maya Gurantz is an L.A.-based artist. In video, performance, installation, and writing, she interrogates American social imaginaries and how constructions of gender, race, class, and progress operate in our shared myths, public rituals, and private desires. You can learn more about her work at

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