By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
History is one thing when it’s happening on the opposite side of a continent, and something else in your own back yard. The Skirball exhibition is something of a homecoming. “I’m curious about how it’s going to be received, since so much of this did happen in L.A.,” says Mesches. “I’m wondering if any of the people who are still alive and who knew me in those days are going to read this stuff and know exactly what went on. A lot of people were involved in the political scene in those days, and a lot of those people will be coming to the show. They’re all going to know and remember all of these incidents as I did when I read the files the first time.”
Is this going to be awkward? Has he ever confronted the people he’s been able to identify? “The truth of the matter is I don’t want to. I don’t want to know these people anymore. And a lot of them are dead. And who the hell needs it? It’s over with — it’s a long time ago. You go on. These people have to live with what they did. I did what I felt was necessary in life.”
In spite of its historical timeliness, narrative complexity and physical beauty, the most impressive function of “The FBI Files” remains as evidence. Not of such unwholesome activities as advocating equal rights for minorities or sane nuclear policies, but evidence of the capacity of art to take what should have been a bitter and devastating disillusionment and transform it into a rich, occasionally sardonic, but essentially life-affirming, sensual experience. If that’s communism, sign me up.
ARNOLD MESCHES: THE FBI FILES| At SKIRBALL CULTURAL CENTER, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles | January 30 through March 28
Mesches will discuss the exhibition on Thursday, January 29 at 7:30 p.m. On Saturday, January 31, at 2 p.m., he will join Tom Hayden, Ellen Geer and others in a panel discussion of domestic surveillance, moderated by Tony Kahn. Tickets for both events: (323) 655-8587.