News

Anti-gentrification activists at a protest in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles. Photo: Ted Soqui

Boyle Heights Gallery Event Canceled After Activists Threatened to Disrupt It

Independent publisher Semiotext(e) canceled a conversation between the writers Chris Kraus and Bruce Hainley that it had planned to host at a gallery in Los Angeles’s Boyle Heights neighborhood after anti-gentrification activists pledged to disrupt it, Jason McGahan of LA Weekly reports.

Hosted by the gallery 356 S. Mission Rd., the October 5 event was part of a book launch for Kraus’s new biography of writer and artist Kathy Acker, which was published in August. The I Love Dick author was also recently approached by activists associated with the Boyle Heights groups while serving on a panel at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City. Several of them held a banner that read: “I LOVE DIckSPLACEMENT.”

“In this climate of harassment and online trolling, there’d be no point trying to have a conversation between Bruce Hainley and Chris Kraus about biography, fiction, and historiography,” Hedi El Kholti, coeditor of Semiotext(e), said in a statement. He added that the publisher had been contacted by activists demanding that they denounce the gallery and its founders and issue an apology. They also urged the company to remove its books from the Ooga Booga bookstore and design shop that shares a space with the gallery.

“As a Moroccan immigrant who grew up in a country with no freedom of the press and general censorship of books, I am troubled by the idea of being asked to remove books from any bookshop and to denounce people who are friends and I believe to be easy scapegoats for a much larger issue that we absolutely care about deeply,” El Kholti said.

The incident is the latest in a series of actions carried out by activists fighting to push galleries out of Boyle Heights. A number of arts spaces had reported they were being vandalized in 2016 and PSSST, a nonprofit space that had only been in Boyle Heights for about one year, closed its doors last February, citing “constant attacks.”

According to a representative at 356 S. Mission Rd., pressure from activists led the arts space to abandon plans for a screening of artist Ambar Navarro’s Watch Me Age last February. It also had to relocate a concert by Japanese noise band Hijokaidan that was scheduled to be held there in June.

In defense of the activists’ motives, Angel Luna, a member of the group Defend Boyle Heights, said, “We are asking all of the art galleries of the warehouse district of Boyle Heights to relocate somewhere else and not contribute to the gentrification of Boyle Heights. We understand that art galleries are a useful tool to increase financial speculation and drive up profit in gentrifying areas. This is our reality and our reason for the boycott.”

Both Kraus and Hainley are regular contributors to Artforum and artforum.com.

LATEST NEWS