- Greggory Moore
By Greggory Moore, Contributing Writer
On a temperate October night in 2013, the artist and curatorial collective called FLOOD transformed Long Beach’s East Village Arts District into an indoor and outdoor gallery of sound-art installations.
Four square blocks of downtown were converted into one big audiovisual playground; people leisurely explored about 40 installations. The experience was unique for each visitor: simple novelty, deep meditation on sound as a transformative environmental factor or a chance to get stoned and trip out in Long Beach’s closest approximation to Burning Man.
It was called SoundWalk (soundwalk.org), and for 10 years running it was the city’s most unique arts event. But a decade is a long time, enough for sound art to move from the fringes to the mainstream — well, sorta. It became big enough for the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles to host a sound-art exhibition of its own. So FLOOD decided to close the book on SoundWalk.
FLOOD promised to return in 2015 with “a more expansive and more daring event that [would] explore and respond to the synaesthetic experience in which cognitive boundaries dissolve and the senses converge.” When that didn’t happen as scheduled, SoundWalk devotees couldn’t be blamed for some pessimistic nostalgia.
But this past June, FLOOD suggested that perhaps the best is yet to come. It introduced soundpedro, a reconceived SoundWalk in indoor and outdoor spaces at San Pedro’s 36-acre Angels Gate Cultural Center. Staged with a commanding 360-degree hilltop view of the horizon as a background, soundpedro’s dozens of fixed, mobile and interactive installations were so well received that another was immediately green-lighted for 2018.
But soundpedro was a detour on the way to fulfilling FLOOD’s original promise, which will be honored in full beginning Oct. 7 with PUMP — an acronym for Public Urban Multisensory Presentations. PUMP will encompass an array of exhibits, sculptures, environments, installations, site-responsive works, projections, interactions and performances tailored toward isolating or linking our senses and methods of perception in Long Beach.
If you ever went to SoundWalk, you have some sense of the delights in store with PUMP. If you never went, it’s time to find out what you missed.
FLOOD’s impetus for PUMP is not merely to celebrate art for its own sake, but to combat what the group views as “local communities’ and governments sometimes dismissive attitude and stance towards arts and culture, [which has] result[ed] in waves of arts scenes coming and going throughout Long Beach history.”
FLOOD stated on its website that this pattern affects artists lives frequently:
“[T]hose artists who are able to make the transition from bohemia to the ‘Art World’ no longer, literally or figuratively, count Long Beach as home, with some pulling up stakes and moving elsewhere and others residing but no longer exhibiting here. [PUMP] recognizes our city’s identity as a point of artistic origin while, at the same time, attempting to explore the possibilities of making Long Beach an end point and destination for artists and art lovers.”
The dismissive attitude that artists have felt is one of the reasons SoundWalk is no more.
“People are still talking about SoundWalk, but it became logistically impossible to keep doing it downtown,” said FLOOD member Marco Schindelmann, who is the vice-president of the Arts Council for Long Beach. “As the economy recovered [from the financial crisis of 2007–08], businesses weren’t as generous with accommodating installations. But Amy Eriksen [executive director of Angels Gate Cultural Center] was a big fan of SoundWalk and offered up Angels Gate. That’s how we were able to put on soundpedro.”
Unlike SoundWalk and soundpedro, PUMP is a series of events spread across two weeks. While some works can be experienced at various times during the entire two weeks, others will happen only once. PUMP venues and spaces include the Packard, the Icehouse, the East Village Arts Park, the Collaborative, WE Labs, the Artist Co-Op Gallery and Studios, the Pacific Court Apartments and galleries and studios at 3rd and Elm streets.
Although neither the Packard nor the Icehouse was originally conceived as an arts venue, Schindelmann said this typifies the city’s art history.
“A lot of art in Long Beach happens in places that were not designed to feature art but have been adapted to do so,” he noted.
Aside from its extended physical and chronological footprint, PUMP will also have more of a multisensory thrust. Even though many SoundWalk and soundpedro installations had a strong visual component, Schindelmann said PUMP aims “to move from multimedia to the synaesthetic,” more fully merging sensorial experience — with increased emphasis on the tactile and even the olfactory — rather than giving sound top billing. That being said, attendees will not be lacking for aural stimulation.
PUMP kicks off on Oct. 7, featuring no less than three opening receptions, which include performances and installations by more than 30 separate artists and groups. As with SoundWalk, soundpedro and every other event FLOOD has ever staged, all aspects of PUMP are free to the public. This is part of FLOOD’s mission to make art accessible.
FLOOD will be able to stage PUMP’s installations largely thanks to two producers, Michelle Molina and John Chiang. Molina is well known for supporting the arts in Long Beach. While Chiang is less well known around town, the five cavernous floors of the Icehouse give FLOOD an opportunity in terms of scale that the Long Beach arts scene has never seen.
“Without knowing exactly who we are, Michelle and John are letting us do what we want to do,” Assadi said. “We couldn’t afford these spaces based on our budget.”
While FLOOD co-founder and President Kamran Assadi expressed pragmatism about the great seismic shift Long Beach needs, he knows from experience how things can take root and grow in the city.
“I was talking years ago with people about doing this and they called me crazy,” he said. “But SoundWalk started with just three or four of us talking about how nice it would be to bring sound art to Long Beach and by the end it had become an internationally known sound-art event and a signature event for the city.… We’re not expecting Long Beach to become an arts mecca from just one event, but hopefully PUMP will help change the dynamic.”
For all things PUMP visit lbpump.org.