Held on the street corner outside of the Chinatown nonprofit art space Human Resources, the event was a celebratory launch for their new zine publication, An Antagonist's Guide to the Assholes of Los Angeles. The guide provides a crowd-sourced listing of numerous targets of anger and/or protest in the city, such as the 10 freeway, the weapons manufacturer Raytheon Company, ARCO gasoline, Eli Broad, LAX, the Venice Whole Foods and “that fucking whore who cut me off at the Robertson exit,” among many others.
A funny and provocative pamphlet that acts as a sort of tool for creative social agitation, Assholes also features substantive essays, ranging from Lisa Anne Auerbach's humorous account of her day-to-day encounters with assholes around the city to Jennifer Flores Sternad's consideration of historic works of street-oriented performance art by artists of color and Marisa Jahn's dialogue on the meaning of the term “agonism” (defined by theorist Michel Foucault as “a relationship built on mutual incitement and struggle”).
Taking that agonism to heart, the event was billed as “a self-initiated performance festival and celebration of antagonists,” and attendees were invited to bring their own images of favorite assholes and douchebags to be taped up on the wall outside of Human Resources. This writer did not recognize most of the faces taped up on the wall, which included such visually unrecognizable figures as the head of American Apparel. However, I was happy to contribute my own images of such overtly obvious assholes as Ann Coulter, Ryan Seacrest and the creepy mutual admiration society known as James Franco and Marina Abramović. As an accompaniment to the asshole viewing pleasure, organic prune juice was served.
In the style of a protest rally, four local writers each got up on a milk crate and used a bullhorn to deliver readings and diatribes related to antagonism. Lisa Anne Auerbach made an eloquent argument against potluck meals, proclaiming them “an exercise in randomness; an ego massage for some, a hassle for others and an insult to the idea of cuisine.” Jen Hofer read a series of paragraphs that she had collaged together from Valerie Solanas' S.C.U.M. Manifesto, F.T. Marinetti's Futurist Manifesto, and Valentine de Saint-Point's Manifesto of Futurist Woman (Response to F.T. Marinetti) — the resulting parade of vitriol could have been made into a reality show called Extreme Gender Wars.
On a more constructive note, Janet Sarbanes thoughtfully read Diane di Prima's 1971 poem, “Revolutionary Letter #19,” followed by the 2009 “Statement from the Occupation of Campbell Hall, UCLA.” The similarity of philosophy seen in the two documents, created nearly four decades apart, showed a direct lineage of anti-capitalist struggle. The readings ended with a dramatic flourish when Stephen van Dyck delivered a collection of comments that he had gleaned from a wide variety of online newspaper articles. Touching on such hot-button topics as right-wing journalism, legalizing marijuana, gun control, home schooling and creationism vs. science, these comments were a font of hostility in which readers questioned one another's intelligence while showing little evidence of their own.
The best moment of the festival may have been an entirely unrehearsed one. Riding past on a bicycle, a young black man spotted the small crowd gathered around a speaker with a bullhorn. Raising his fist in the air, he shouted “White power!” Everyone laughed at this moment, which seemed to be a perfect satirical summation of all types of fun assholery.