We spent several lively evenings with Bernhard Zünkeler, the curator of ESMoA, the El Segundo Museum of Art. He sees Los Angeles as a city that crosses all borders, harboring a constantly renewing amount of people from all over the world (although more Asia-oriented than Africa-oriented). The transnational City, according to Paul Knox in his Atlas of Cities. Bernhard added that it is a pity though, that the different groups don’t mix at all. His mission, the museum’s mission, is to stimulate people, young people, to mingle and open up for the unexpected, to step out of their comfort zone and face bigger questions. Art and artist can play an important role, as can writers and researchers in many fields.
El Segundo seems to be a perfect laboratory. This small city, one of the 87 cities that together with Los Angeles form the Los Angeles County, is built in between the airport LAX, the 405 Highway, an immense oil refinery of Chevron (their second, hence El Segundo), an enormous sewage plant and an energy plant NRG along the ocean. Everybody knows El Segundo, nobody has ever been there (for the Amsterdammers: El Segundo is as little as Hoofddorp, but directly surrounded by industry the way Ruigoord is). A small white labour-community highly influenced by the voices of industrial firms that are world leaders (Boeing, Space and Missile center, Chevron) or else belong to the most important ones in California. In El Segundo’s main street a small alley is being bought by a real estate developer who happens to collect art. Out of this alley, his wife built a museum for their collection with on top, a refuge for artists in residence.
Could the little alien-place in Mainstreet become the eyes of a transnational Los Angeles? Could this become the place from where tracks can be followed into other unknown parts of cosmopolitan LA? Could the combo oil, waste and energy be expressed, envisioned and disputed in such a way that it can add to more sustainable streams in Los Angeles? Or are these ambitions way too farfetched? Standing on the rooftop, overlooking Chevron and leaving a busy exhibit with the greatest street-artists of LA downstairs evokes the spirit: “let’s be the first to try”!