What do a NASA lab, a singing hologram and James Ellroy have in common? They're all having free events in L.A. this week. Start and end your week with art — a post-architectural exhibit at SCI-Arc (which we recently named Best Art Gallery Inside an Architecture School) opens tonight, and on Thursday don't miss a free performance of immigration stories with musical accompaniment at USC. Over the weekend you can take your pick of two spacey festivals: an open house at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory or an expo for Japanese singing animation Hatsune Miku. Wanna get a little more serious? Stop by James Ellroy's reading of his new epic novel, Perfidia


5. Get Dirty with Architecture
Bryan Cantley, the force behind the self-described “post-architecture” firm Form:uLA, opens a new season at SCI-Arc’s on-campus gallery with a three-part installation, “Dirty Geometries + Mechanical Imperfections,” which delightfully bites the hand that feeds it. His show gleefully articulates his firm’s conceptualist practice with a series of offerings for wall and floor that expose the flaws inherent in the architectural design process. In transforming, transcending and reinterpreting the exhibition space, Cantley makes a case for honoring the analog and imperfect, even in the kind of space-age digital environment that SCI-Arc itself famously promulgates. With drawings both intimate and large-scale/site-specific serving as the backdrop for the related objects, Cantley subverts the normal function of architectural renderings, transforming them into a visual environment that has little in common with the discipline’s clean lines and conventional mathematics. Hear more about it as Cantley speaks with Eric Owen Moss at the opening reception — or check it out during the run and find out why SCI-Arc’s gallery made our 2014 Best of L.A. list. SCI-Arc Gallery, 960 E. Third St., dwntwn.; Fri., Oct. 10, 7 p.m.; free. Exhibition continues, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily, through Nov. 30. (213) 613-2200, sciarc.edu. —Shana Nys Dambrot

4. Sing Along
Hatsune Miku isn’t a real person, but she’s nevertheless a pop star presence who’s won fans across the globe. The turquoise-haired character is by far the most popular mascot for Vocaloid — the Japanese software program that mimics human singing voices — spawning countless fan-made songs, videos and art. Her fans are a hard-core lot. When Miku turned up at L.A.’s Anime Expo in 2011, the crowd swarmed Nokia Theatre to see an animated figure play on an actual stage. Miku returns to Los Angeles Oct. 11 and 12 — and this time, there’s more than a concert. Both days at Los Angeles Center Studios, curious folk can check out a free Miku fest to learn more about Vocaloid and maybe pick up some exclusive merchandise. A Halloween exhibition will feature holiday-themed art centered around the character. There also will be karaoke, live painting, dancing and more. Then head over to Nokia Theatre to see Hatsune Miku live — or live(ish)? Expo at Los Angeles Center Studios, 1201 W. Fifth St., #T-110, Westlake; Sat., Oct. 11, 11:30 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 12, 10:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m.; free. Concerts at Nokia Theatre, 777 Chick Hearn Court, dwntwn.; Sat., Oct. 11, 7 p.m. (doors 6 p.m.); Sun., Oct. 12, 12:30 p.m. (doors 11:30 a.m.); $55-$125. mikuexpo.com/la. —Liz Ohanesian

See also: 30 Free Things to Do in L.A. Any Time

3. Play in a Lab
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory took its name in 1943 in La Cañada Flintridge after a few madmen set off some homemade explosives in the Arroyo Seco and managed to get a government funding contract out of it. JPL, as we call it today, is now a NASA field center containing various rooms that could melt your skin off, as well as a bunch of remote controls for our robot friend the Curiosity Rover. Usually JPL is not a place where you can walk in and poke a bunch of stuff, but this weekend it’s a Jet Propulsion Laboratory Open House. There will be first-come, first-served lines for various tours around the facilities, as well as some top-level nerds to pose various conspiracy theories to. Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 4800 Oak Grove Drive, Pasadena; Sat.-Sun., Oct. 11-12, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.; free. (818) 354-1234, jpl.nasa.gov. —Sean J. O’Connell

Keep reading for two more great (and free!) events, including a reading with James Ellroy and Dreaming Sin Fronteras.


Credit: Hatsune Miku

Credit: Hatsune Miku

2. Be Bookish
If James Ellroy sat next to you on a bus, you’d probably consider moving your seat. In nearly every publicity photo, he looks severely disappointed in the photographer and on the verge of a well-worded put-down. Ellroy probably is upset in those photos simply because the act of being photographed meant he wasn’t at home furiously writing another installment of his grisly take on our fair city. Previous works such as L.A. Confidential and The Black Dahlia dig deep into the seedy side of Los Angeles. Sex, violence and money are three of Ellroy’s defining themes, and none of them is lacking in his newest novel, Perfidia. At 720 pages, the hefty tome digs deep into the murder of a Japanese family in the tension-filled month of December 1941. Tonight, instead of sitting on the bus or taking publicity photos, he’ll be discussing and signing the new book — no doubt with a grimace. Skylight Books, 1818 N. Vermont Ave., Los Feliz; Thu., Oct. 16, 7:30 p.m.; free, book is $28.95. (323) 660-1175, skylightbooks.com

1. Follow the DREAM
After L.A.-based actor Antonio Mercado’s mother died of cancer, he found himself back in his native Denver, teaching high school. There he found himself struck by just how many of his straight-A students were undocumented — and that high school graduation left these otherwise all-American kids bereft of options. That experience inspired Dreaming Sin Fronteras, a night of storytelling with musical interludes, which premiered in Denver in March and now comes to L.A. for a one-night stand sponsored by USC’s Visions and Voices. The stories are true, though the performers relating them are actors — and, of the eight stories to be presented here, only two come from the Denver production. The rest come from SoCal kids telling SoCal stories. After this evening, the production moves to Arizona and Texas, but this isn’t just a stop on the tour. “L.A. is special for personal reasons,” says Mercado, a UCLA grad. “And [Mayor Eric] Garcetti’s speech opening the doors to kids from Central America was a big deal.” Hizzoner will even make an appearance — or, at least, a USC student playing him will. USC Bovard Auditorium, 3551 Trousdale Parkway, University Park; Thu., Oct. 16, 7:30-9 p.m.; free, RSVP required via visionsandvoices@usc.edu. usc.edu/dept/pubrel/visionsandvoices. —Sarah Fenske

See also: Movies to See in L.A. This Week: Film Festivals in Highland Park, Venice, Hollywood

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