While the 2012 presidential election is the biggest reason people are hitting the polls, we all know that local campaigns can be just as important, and here in Los Angeles, that means the ballot itself is a lot more interesting, compared to those in other parts of the country. Given the recent syphilis outbreak in the adult-entertainment industry, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation is urging us to bring condoms back to porn by voting "yes" on Measure B. Meanwhile, local artists such as Mia Doi Todd, Frohawk Two Feathers and Om'Mas Keith are going out of their way to tell Californians to vote "yes" on Prop 37, which would place labels on genetically engineered foods.
With so much responsibility in our hands, it's easy to be overwhelmed, so why not exercise our right to take part in a little culture? From politically-themed theater and environmentally-minded art to exhibitions we can visit from the safety of the couch, here are 10 shows that get our vote.
10. Los Angeles Comedy Festival
Yes, we know the election is serious business, but we also know from experience that taking the time to fit in a few laughs is a major initiative, especially when it comes to politics. While the LA Comedy Festival isn't exactly held in conjunction with the election, the timing is perfect -- and whether or not the comedy fest is a political event, we think the election itself should help inspire the bulk of the material. Various Hollywood locations; Nov. 2-11; various prices. LAComedyFest.com.
9. Soo Kim: Midday Moon
In her second solo exhibition at Angles Gallery, artist Soo Kim subtly raises issues related to overpopulation, capitalism and the economy with a new series of photographs depicting densely-packed metropolitan landscapes. From NYC's Times Square and London's Piccadilly Circus to the city of Taipei, Kim's images reflect commercial activity as a global urban phenomenon. 2754 S. La Cienega Blvd.; opens Nov. 3, 6-8 p.m.; Tues. - Sat., 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.; through Dec. 22. (310) 396-5019, AnglesGallery.com.
8. 44 Plays for 44 Presidents
Perhaps inspired by the Nails' 1980s one-hit-wonder "88 Lines About 44 Women," 44 Plays for 44 Presidents at the Attic Theatre is just what you'd expect from the title: bite-sized plays for attention spans that have been compromised by the Internet.5429 W. Washington Blvd.; Thurs. - Sat. 8 p.m., through Nov. 3, special election-night performance Nov. 6, 8 p.m.; $15. DriveTheatre.org.
7. Chor Boogie, Divided States of America
Speaking of the Internet, online exhibitions can be just as politically provocative as any of the ones you'll find at brick-and-mortar galleries and museums. Case in point: aerosol artist Jason Hailey, aka Chor Boogie, takes iconic U.S. images such as the Statue of Liberty, the American flag and the dollar bill and manipulates them into new images that provide commentaries on issues of immigration, class disparity and poverty in general.
Up next: David Mamet and other plays
6. Black Women: State of the Union -- Taking Flight
The Skylight Theatre hosts a range of art exhibitions, plays and other events produced by the Katselas Theatre Company, including this series of plays written by black women (for more see our stage feature on the show). Sigrid Gilmer's Simulacra casts a critical eye on the representations of Black women in film while the The Follicle Prison by Penelope Lowder parodies African-American notions of beauty and hair weaves in the not-so-distant future. Those are just a few of the highlights in the five-week program designed to encourage Black women to take pride in their culture and effect change. 1816 N. Vermont, Los Feliz; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m. and Sun., 3 p.m., through Nov. 18; $25. (702) KTC-TKTS, www.ktctickets.com.
5. Facing the Sublime in Water, CA
Water reclamation has been a central issue in California's social, cultural, intellectual and political history for more than 150 years. In conjunction with the Water, CA book and website, Facing the Sublime in Water tackles the fundamental resource in a stunning show curated by the Armory Center for the Art's director of gallery programs, Irene Tsatsos. 145 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena; Tues. - Sun., 12 - 5 p.m., through Jan. 20, 2013; $5 suggested donation. ArmoryArts.org.
Love him or hate him, David Mamet is a fixture in the theater world, and his plays often ruffle more than a few feathers. November at the Mark Taper Forum is no exception. 135 N. Grand Ave., Downtown; Thurs. - Sun., through Nov. 4; various prices. (213) 628-2772, CenterTheatreGroup.org.
Up next: Fox vs. MSNBC
3. Jonathan Horowitz: Your Land / My Land: Election '12
Jonathan Horowitz's interactive art project takes place simultaneously in various museums across the country, and the Hammer Museum is one of them. The multimedia exhibit features a monitor in a red area broadcasting Fox, while another monitor in a blue area broadcasts MSNBC, both calling attention to the two-party system, as well as the inherent subjectivity of all news sources in general. The exhibit is open late on election night, so even if you don't have a TV, you can see the evening's events play out live and call it "art." 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood; Tue. - Fri ., 11 a.m. - 8 p.m. and Sat. - Sun., 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. $10. Free and open late on election night, Nov. 6. (310) 443-7000, hammer.ucla.edu.
2. Center for the Studies of Political Graphics, "Decades of Dissent"
The Center for the Studies of Political Graphics has sourced more than 75,000 political posters and counting. CSPG brings its vast collection to the public both online and in-person via traveling exhibitions, including "Decades of Dissent" at the Skirball Cultural Center. That's where Angelenos can see a wide array of political posters from the 1960s and '70s, including images for the first Gay-In and the first Earth Day, as well as iconic imagery for campaigns such as "Black is Beautiful" and "Make Love Not War." (323) 653-4662, PoliticalGraphics.org.
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1. Democracy Matters
Technically, the Skirball's "Democracy Matters" features four exhibits in one campus-wide initiative, but we didn't think it was fair for the museum to take four out of ten spots in this little roundup, even though it deserves to. Along with the aforementioned "Decades of Dissent," there's "Creating the United States," which features items from the Library of Congress on issues of slavery, womenʼs rights, Japanese internment and more. Meanwhile, an installation in the Skirball's permanent gallery has pieces on loan from the Lincoln Presidential Museum, including an original copy of his second inaugural address. Finally, "Free to Be U.S." invites the public to push some buttons (literally) as they temporarily take on the role of Supreme Court Justice, along with issues ranging from censorship to gun rights. With so many different ways of seeing how politics consciously and unconsciously shape our lives, the Skirball wins our number-one vote for a political show by a landslide. 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd.; Tues. - Fri., 12-5 p.m. and Sat. - Sun., 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., through February 17, 2013; $10. (310) 440-4500, Skirball.org.