Framing Downtown's Fenced Off Spaces: Q&A with S.c. Mero and Wild Life

You may have noticed some new additions to construction / security chain link fences around Downtown - holes with picture frames inserted into them. They're part of another urban intervention by some of our favorite artists around, S.c. Mero and Wild Life. We spoke with both of them about the project, what it's like putting up their work, and what inspires them in Downtown LA.

GDT: How did you come up with the idea for frames?

SM: Like a lot of the work we do, we simultaneously thought of it and we just went ahead and did it.

GDT: How did the idea of putting frames and fencing come up for you?

WL: When I was six, I used to love to hop the fence over to Mr. and Mrs. Tarbox’s house. When I would hop that fence, I would imagine myself entering a completely different world, like what was beyond the fence was an unexplored universe. I drew from that imagination when I was working on this project.

SM: We were walking together one day and Wild Life was carrying a frame for something unrelated. And we held it up, and thought, wouldn’t it be great if we removed part of a fence and created a picture based on that.

GDT: Did it feel like the goal was more about creating a picture, or creating transparency into a space…

SM: Both. It’s all based on perspective and landscapes. When you’re removing part of a fence, it calls into question why that fence is there to begin with, which can be for a lot of different reasons. For a construction site, for a parking lot, for a park that’s closed down...

GDT: I’m assuming you’re referencing Angels Knoll?

SM: Yeah, that’s always a go to for us.

GDT: You both have done a lot of work in Angels Knoll alongside Calder and others too. What is about Angels Knoll you love working with?

SM: For anybody who was here when the park was open, it meant something special for them. For people who weren’t here then, it’s sort of a “What’s going on with that space?” You always hear different things about it. I personally really love the park because it’s in between what Downtown used to be and what it is now. It felt like a very spiritual space.

GDT: I think the frames get exactly at this “in between” you mention - it separates. It’’s an untouchable space that’s being worked on and something’s supposed to be happening. A lot of Downtown projects appear to live in a limbo state, especially for those of us who walk these streets every day.

SM: Yeah, like “Broadway Construction Site 24”, the one at 4th and Broadway. 

[Deciding they did not wanted to be recorded, Wild Life draws a message to us to talk about the titles]

SM: I don’t know if you noticed the tag on that one, but it names all the elements of the “picture”. So for that one it was dirt, concrete, but then we thought we should write in a bulldozer since it’s under construction. But when we went to actually install the frame, they had actually put a bulldozer, right smack in the picture. It’s almost like we had planned it.

GDT: Where else are these located? Are they all gone?

SM: We have some around Civic Center, two in the Arts District - we put up 7 so far and envisioned 10 total, like an album.

[Wild Life scribbles: We’ll send you pics]

SM: One key thing about this project is that different photos taken of it reveal completely different scenes from different angles. It’s an interesting perspective about perspective - I’ve seen other pictures people have taken of them, and it really changes what you see in the frame. Thus, the artist really becomes the person taking the picture - it’s about what they choose to frame.

GDT: What’s next in the Downtown landscape for you two to work with?

SM: We can’t reveal what’s next. But I will say, one of the many reasons we work well together is because even if we’re doing something that people really like and that works, we don’t beat it to death. Like with these frames, we might do two or three more but then we’ll move on. We’ve already started working on something completely unrelated to this.

[Wild Life notes to us: Mention the security]

GDT: You two have always teetered the line - all of your work involves messing with the public realm in some way.

SM: Yes. While many recognize our work as art, to security guards and others the intention isn’t so clear. With this one, we had wire cutters and we’re cutting apart fences. The one by City Hall was a funny example - we just showed up to do it with the largest frame of any of them. There was a security guard who came over right away, and as I’m cutting the fence, he asks, “What are you doing?” I reply, “Oh we’re just putting up some art,” and he responds, “Oh cool, I thought you were cutting the fence, I thought I was gonna have to bust you,” even though we were clearly cutting the fence. It wasn’t til later he realized what we had done, but as he yelled at us and ran to get a supervisor, we made a run for it.