A residency in Los Angeles envisions a radical future for experimental art – cialisdfr
A residency in Los Angeles envisions a radical future for experimental art
A residency in Los Angeles envisions a radical future for experimental art

LOS ANGELES — In 2019, my passion for experimental music led me to the nonprofit Coaxial Arts Foundation during the Nikita Gale BLANK/OPEN resident exhibition. I was captivated by the immersive, multi-channel sound that plays out when viewing and interacting with the architecture, and have followed Coaxial’s evolution ever since. As the organization approaches its ninth anniversary, I discussed its journey and impact with founder Eva Aguila.

An artist and community organizer, Aguila decided to return home to Los Angeles from Oregon in 2013. “It was hard for me to find a place for myself and my own art,” she told me. “I had a free studio in Portland where I created an online public access television show called Experimental half hour. When I got back to LA, I no longer had a free studio or any equipment.”

Aguila began organizing fundraisers for new equipment that year and worked on projects including a collaboration with KCHUNG radio station for the Hammer Museum’s 2014 Made in LA biennial, laying the groundwork for what would develop into coaxial. Aguila and her partner Brock Fansler, the current treasurer, started the foundation to address the shortage of spaces for avant-garde art and create an alternative to blue-chip galleries.

“It became very difficult to travel around with all the equipment, so I wanted to find a home base,” Aguila explained. “Something that won’t just be for my own project.”

The facade of the Coaxial Arts Foundation in downtown Los Angeles, with video works playing inside, visible from the sidewalk. (Courtesy of Coaxial Arts Foundation)

Launched in 2016 with grant support, the Coaxial residency is housed in a storefront building in downtown Los Angeles with a large exhibition and performance area loaded with projectors and screens. The residency aims to enable artists to work without curatorial supervision, providing them with studio space and access to video and sound equipment. Its inaugural residents included video artist JJ Stratford and musician Suzy Poling, and the space quickly became a major gathering place for artists.

“We see it as an incubator space, so as an artist it has allowed me and others to experiment. It freed us up and our ideas blossomed into something new,” Aguila said. “I’m always very happy when I see someone start something in a space that expands into other spaces, like Michaela Tobin’s opera.” Tobin’s live Almost Songs of the Bakunawa (2020) continued to screen at Redcat and Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions.

Buoyed by the loss of three key grants, Coaxial has faced financial challenges over the past two years and now relies more on fundraising. “Losing those grants made things difficult,” Aguila said. “But then we’re reaching out to the community, and right now everyone is trying to help us get those resources so we can continue.” That includes a ninth-anniversary event on April 14 at Zebulon Cafe and Music Venue to help maintaining operations, with tickets priced at $32.71.

Current artist-in-residence Dulce Soledad Ibarra vividly demonstrates the transformative effect of the program in i want to sleep forever, delving into the experiences of undocumented people in America. “Living and working with everyone at Coaxial empowered me to think about how I use aspects of personal or family narrative in my work,” they told me. “It’s something I want to explore more in the future.”

Aguila sees organizations like Coaxial as essential, adding that “artist-run spaces can help take the pressure off artists” through opportunities that “aren’t focused on making money.” She wonders about their future and how they can create sustainable partnerships. “I feel like there should be some kind of reciprocity and it shouldn’t just be these smaller organizations fighting for a few grants.”

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