MapFund

About the Grant

$15,000 to support Exhibit A (MAP 2007), a series of three interlocking stories about obsessive collectors of objects that combine to make up a full length performance, incorporating film and puppet theater, that delves into the compulsion to hoard as means of self preservation and cultural survival.

About the Project

Exhibit A consists of three interlocking stories. Combined together they will be a full-length performance created with objects about obsessive collectors of objects.  It is a common complaint that Los Angeles carries with it the very little residue and resonance from the past. It is a city of constant erasure. Yet within the city there have been individuals, scavengers of objects, who have single handedly preserved parts of history. Exhibit A will tell the story of three obsessive collectors who struggled to collect and protect memory objects in a storm of forgetting. This will be a performance of objects; objects as code, objects as identity, objects as ghosts, objects as evidence, objects as voice. Looking inside the shoe box, file folders, and index card minds of these collectors, this work will explore the compulsion to collect, categorize, and catalog and the burden of doing so.

The first show will look at Jim Kepner who started collecting ephemera of gay culture of Los Angeles in the 1940’s before there was any such thing as a gay identity. He was collecting evidence of a culture that sought, in its own protection, to erase all proof of its existence. He wished at the time that homosexuals would organize, but in the absence of that he organized newspaper clippings, playbills and letters, mounting evidence in some ways of his own existence. The second show will also look at a group of men in Los Angeles known as the Electric Train Society. These are people who most identified with a public transportation system long vanished from Los Angeles. When one of the key members of the group died he left a rusting trolley car in his backyard as well as maps, technical drawings, schedules and official Red Car documents in the walls of his house. For a year after that the members of the group struggled with very few resources to move the trolley car, an unbelievable albatross, to safety at a restoration shop in Chicago.  Finally the third show explores the minutiae of the collection of Mayme Clayton an African American librarian.  A single-minded collector and fierce negotiator she came to possess an incalculable collection of artifacts of African American history from the colonial era to the present. Over the course of her lifetime she amassed 75,000 photographs, 9500 sound recordings, hundreds of early films featuring African Americans, dozensslave narratives (one as early as 1773) and stored them all in her ramshackle garage in Los Angeles.

Exhibit A will be premiered as a whole in May, 2008 at The Manual Archives.



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