LA City Beat- June 2005 - No one walks in LA-

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No one walks in LA – Except Artist Lisa Salem

Fuelled more by conceptual fascination than any green hued political agenda, UK born artist Lisa Salem decided to navigate the streets of Los Angeles on foot for an undetermined period over a month ago - May 15 to be exact, documenting her trip with a decidedly poetic online video blog - www.walklawithme.com & http://walkla.blogs.com

After stopping people on the streets and getting them to walk with her for a while, she is videoing the results of these meetings. She will compile these moments into her video blog, along with photographs and writing.

The documented journey will later become a film, a retrospective catalogue of her on road exploits “A film about what Los Angeles revealed itself to me as when I threw down my gauntlet – the real LA for the real me,” Lisa explains

Why? “I am fascinated with the idea of what I might find if I choose to encounter LA with no agenda or preconceived notions, “ she says. “I am going to trek Los Angeles as if I were an explorer. A tourist in my own home town. I will view it with true eyes, not the insulated eyes of a car driver. Nor the eyes of a movie-watcher – everything pre-seen an pre-processed. I will see Los Angeles anew, at a human pace, with clear sight, for the first time. “

“I love that all you have to do is walk in LA to be radical, that alone is a good enough reason to do my project. It’s hysterical and yet soberingly real, walking here can be seen as an act of defiance, of self assertion and individual choice, of empowerment.”

With no real plan, other than to walk the whole city, Salem has since relied on the charity (and couches of over forty strangers, and shared her walk with an eclectic mix of locals, including an Iraq veteran, a burnt out rock star, Chinese women enjoying their evening walk and an assortment of homeless panhandlers.

She also endured a major setback early in her trek, after her trolley and portable camera mount suffering irreparable damage. The trolley underwent redesign and reconstruction between May 20 and 27, seeing Salem retreat to the domestic sanctuary of her Echo Park home.

Now, after psychological and mechanical consolidation, Lisa has a heightened enthusiasm about the project. Meeting up with her as she trekked through the blandly officious mid-Wilshire district, I queried her about her more unusual experiences since commencing the journey. “To be honest, the most unusual experience has beenjust not going home when home is so close and I've often been exhausted. Choosing a couch or the floor over a bed every night. Echo Park (where I live) sometimes seeming as far away as San Francisco instead of the customary Los Angelino 20 minutes between every destination.”

“I’ve have been surprised by people’s willingness to open up and tell a lot of what's in their hearts and on their minds when we're just walking a few blocks together, says Salem. “I love that sense of fleeting connection. It's intimate, and then each of us goes our separate ways, probably never to meet again.

Lisa says she’s also been touched by a sense of humanity in the people she has met.” Its just people wishing to reach out, to connect. I haven't felt alienated here since I've been doing this walk and yet I used to be so confident in describing LA as alienating.

Conversationally, Salem says LA’s danger is a recurring topic of discussion with those that walk with her. Perhaps it’s due to the fact she’s perceived as a target by others in being a single woman walking alone in LA.

“Most people are preoccupied with how dangerous they feel LA is, Lisa confides. “Within a minute or so of meeting almost anyone, that's what comes out of their mouths, security guards have spoken to me in hushed breath, fearfully, about the danger in this city.”“I'm not saying that I think they're wrong, I just think it's interesting that this is the collective consciousness of this town. Does it come from experience or what has been cultivated as the folk lore?

Asked when she expects to end the walk, Lisa says she doesn’t know. Yet pragmatic issues seem to override personal choice at this point. “Right now I'm very low on cash. If I don't get more donations, I'll have to cut it short.

Same with couches. I'm still trying to build up enough places to stay so that I can continue. If I had my dibs, I'd keep going for at least another month, more likely two. This project could be done over a year really. I'm just touching the surface, that's been a big revelation.”



Written by Craig Stephens

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