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5 Artsy Things To Do in L.A. This Week, Including an Opera With Robots

View of Renzo Martens' "Enjoy Poverty sign," with the video Episode III playing in background
View of Renzo Martens' "Enjoy Poverty sign," with the video Episode III playing in background
The Box L.A.

This week, there's high-tech performance art in Westwood, low-tech performance art in Culver City and paintings of televisions in Hollywood.

5. Opera with robots
Tod Machover composed his first interactive opera in 1996. It debuted at Lincoln Center and both live and online audiences could participate. The opera started in something of an arcade, full of computerized instruments that allowed you to do things like drive a musical note down a road. Then people moved to a theater to watch a performance incorporating sounds they had just made. In Machover's new opera, Death and the Powers, a man named Simon Powers wants his consciousness to live on in the manmade minds of robots. Robots will be involved, and though the show debuts in Dallas, a live simulcast with multiple screens and surround sound will bring it to an audience at the Hammer Museum. 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Wstwd.; Sun., Feb. 16. (310) 443-7000, hammer.ucla.edu.

4. How to build pyramids
eb, "The Jersey Genius," invented what he calls the Boonsburg Egg - it looks like a spool, though it's not a perfect circle. According to eb, whose persona is that of a self-taught pseudoscientist, the egg explains the Big Bang, how the heart works and how the Egyptians built pyramids. He'll have a two-day show at Arcana, the art bookstore in Culver City, where he will demonstrate how the egg can be used to move heavy weight uphill and will display other tools he's made. 8675 Washington Blvd., Culver City;  Sat., Feb. 15, 6-9 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 16, 6-8 p.m. (310) 458-1499, arcanabooks.com.

3. The Golden State
Mark Roeder's show at Michael Benevento is a history of California boosterism painted in black and white. He used sources ranging from 19th-century pamphlets to surfer blogs, and the paintings, which look like illustrations for a handmade coloring book, reference psychedelic rock, the Chumash tribe, the "Republic of California" bear flag and ocean sunsets. They're hung one on top of another, covering most of the wall space at Michael Benevento's main gallery, and when you run your eyes up and down the wall, it's hard not to search for throughlines, as if you're a detective trying to find clues to the real story. 7578 Sunset Blvd., Hlywd; through March 1. (323) 874-6400, beneventolosangeles.com.

2. Color vision
Albert Mertz had a blue and red phase that lasted from around 1968 until his death in 1990. He would paint objects blue and red (chairs, a television set) and also paint abstractions or other scenes in those same colors. Tif Sigfrids' new show of work by Mertz, called "Watch Red-Blue T.V.," includes some black in addition to the red and blue, and most images depict boxes that could pass for television sets and people in profile, watching. It's an endearing mix of whimsy and singlemindedness. 1507 Wilcox Ave., Hlywd; through March 1. (323) 907-9200, tifsigfrids.com.

1. Pleasure in poverty
Renzo Martens ran into photojournalists in Congo who told him their publications paid well for imagery showing how bad things were there - malnourished children, refugee camps, evidence of violence, etc. Martens relayed this to a group of men who had previously made $1 a month photographing weddings and parties. Maybe they could make more if they photographed violence and poverty? There are lots of problems with this scheme - the men point out that they don't have market access, for one. Martens' video, Episode III, playing in a gallery at the Box - which also includes Marten's neon "Enjoy Poverty Please" sign and three photos the men he trained took of starving children - can and should be cringe-inducing. But it's not really Martens who's offensive. It's the whole situation, and the artist treats his subjects with genuine interest and respect, even as he comes up with impossible schemes for them to profit from poverty. 805 Traction Ave., dwntwn.; through March 1. (213) 625-1747, theboxla.com.


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