Metro PCS, A Chinatown Art Space, Ascends to DIY Heaven

We prepare to say goodbye to another local art venue, metro pcs. Hoisted above Hill St in a two-story nondescript orange building anchored by Thanh Vi Restaurant, the amateur gallery and performance venue ends its three year lifespan with a one-night event - which by name and purpose - will lift them up from their humble Chinatown location and up to heaven. In this realm of DIY space afterlife, they will have lots of company. Recently deceased Perhspace is the newest soul swirling around this invisible ether, an intangible realm made of articles in the LA Weekly archive, visual works obfuscated by whatever raucous party followed the exhibit's opening, and further fuzzying memories as time passes by.


We chatted with metro pcs co-founder/organizer Ian James, who alongside Matt Siegle, has run the space since 2013.

What brings metro pcs to its end?

We only planned to run it for two years. But in summer 2015, as we wondered whether to continue, our friends encouraged us to keep it going so we decided to give it one last year. We always wanted to be artists first and foremost. We never planned for it to be a commercial gallery or institution. We've kept it really nimble and flexible, just two of us running things.

What's the fate of your actual space?

I'll still be here! I have some future plans that will continue to use the space for art-making as a participatory zone. And with Matt going London for several months, it feels right to be wrapping this up after three years and let it morph into something else.

It's easy to assume these days that the end of a DIY space is a product of rent increases and changes is affordability.

Agreed. It's something we've thought about since 2013, as we've seen all the recent development around Chinatown. But our landlord has been great and nothing has happened like that. We've been keeping our fingers crossed. Our broad thinking is that artist project spaces are meant to exist on the edge of the knife - they in their nature are not necessarily meant to last forever. It's best when they burn hot, burn bright, and disappear.

What's a particularly burning hot moment moment in metro pcs's history you're particularly fond of?

It was during this performance that Mark A. Rodriguez did in July 2014 called "Exclusive Power Night." He hired a comedian and motivational speaker who seemed really ruffled and disheveled in the best way possible. He went through these strange team building and group activity exercises, like something you'd encounter on a dark corporate retreat. Meanwhile, a woman wanders in off the street who'd been having a schizophrenic breakdown. She came in and out throughout the performance, and at one point stood on a chair and started stripping her clothes off. But most people thought the woman was part of the piece. It worked really strangely and in tandem, playing with audience's expectations.

 Say farewell to this current incarnation of metro pcs in Chinatown this Sunday evening 9/4. (photo via the gallery)

Say farewell to this current incarnation of metro pcs in Chinatown this Sunday evening 9/4.
(photo via the gallery)