Bob Paris - Disturbance, 2006

Universal Dissolvent: Fragments from the Southern California Megalopolis

curated by Alex Young
San Diego Art Institute, San Diego, CA
march 6, 2015 – april 10, 2015

Universal Dissolvent is an exhibition and in-progress archive showcasing artists whose work confronts the challenges of the Southern California megalopolis and addresses the spatial, historical, and social conditions of the region and its geopolitical ‘centers’: Los Angeles and San Diego/ Tijuana. The individuals, collaboratives, and collectives within employ multiple disciplines and critical approaches to a diverse set of concerns into the past, present, and future shaping of the urban totality of Southern California. The exhibition is comprised of projects, spanning over 20 years, including new and rarely seen works, providing insight into a breadth of critical regional practice from recent history. 

Examining the urban geography of Southern California: its environment, its political and spatial organization, and its position within broader collective consciousness; the exhibition seeks to probe the specificity of the region, its reputed exceptionalism, and its argued place as the paradigmatic American metropolis for the 20th and 21st centuries. The apparent product of an impossible practice; Southern California, through the intervention of waves of enterprising inhabitants—boosters, engineers, real estate schemers, and dreamers of edenic abundance—has in the course of little over a century transformed from a semi-arid desert environment and a few sun-blasted frontier towns into the home of the world’s largest bi-national conurbation, one of the continent’s largest megapolitan populations, its busiest shipping port, and a dominant global force within everything from popular culture and consumer products to engineering, urban planning, and intellectual discourse. 

The exhibition’s title, Universal Dissolvent, refers to the mythic substance of the same name once sought by alchemists as the elixir of life, a facilitating agent of transformation, and moreover a substance to dissolve all substances. Vernacularly, it denotes something much simpler, more tangible, appreciably vitalizing, namely: water. Invoking the conquest of the arid American southwest and the extension of mass habitability to the spoils of Manifest Destiny through grandiose feats of engineering in irrigation and infrastructure; Universal Dissolvent attempts to address the challenges of the region’s growth and asks: What is to be made of Southern California? How can we address Southern California’s dissolution: of the natural environment, of the city, of the public, of distance, and of the universals of imperial modernism and global post-modernism? Universal Dissolvent looks to situated practice and critical regionalisms to question the possibilities of sustainable, specific, local, civic, cultural, renewable, edaphic, geologic, and geographic within a region synonymous with the anti-urban, ecological disaster, militarized space, simulacral eden, economic collapse, and longstanding wars on labor, poverty, and immigration.

Mónica ArreolaNatalie BookchinLouis Hock, Janet Koenig & Gregory SholetteLos Angeles Poverty DepartmentCharles G. MillerThe Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Colonia LibertadOwen MundyBob Paris, The Periscope Project, Omar Pimienta & Gabriela Torres Olivares, Nils Schirrmacher, SPURSE

Top to bottom, left to right: 
1. SPURSE, Eating Place SD , 2015
Mónica Arreola, Disinteres Social, 2013 – 2014
Louis Hock, Feral, 2004
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Colonia Libertad, Pasaporte Libre, ongoing
Charles G. Miller, The People’s Drinking Straw, 2009/ 2015
Janet Koenig & Gregory Sholette, disLOCATIONS in Southern California History, 1994/ 2014
Charles G. Miller, Hidden in Plain Sight: La Jolla/ UTC Annex, An Edge-City, 2013
10 . The Periscope Project, Drone Readymade: Fine Military Detritus, 2011
Owen Mundy, Camp La Jolla Military Park, 2008
Los Angeles Poverty Department, UTOPIA/ dystopia, 2007
Bob Paris, Disturbance, 2006

works in exhibition:
Mónica Arreola - Disinteres Social, 2013 – 2014
Natalie Bookchin - Parking Lot, 2008
Louis Hock - Feral, 2004
Janet Koenig & Gregory Sholette - disLOCATIONS in Southern California History, 1994/ 2014
Los Angeles Poverty Department - UTOPIA/ dystopia, 2007
Charles G. Miller - The People’s Drinking Straw, 2009/ 2015
Charles G. Miller - Hidden in Plain Sight: La Jolla/ UTC Annex, An Edge-City, 2013
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Colonia Libertad - Pasaporte Libre, ongoing
Owen Mundy - Camp La Jolla Military Park, 2008
Bob Paris - Disturbance, 2006
Bob Paris - Constellations, 2006
The Periscope Project - Drone Readymade: Fine Military Detritus, 2011
Omar Pimienta & Gabriela Olivares Torres - turismo de salud (health tourism), 2013
Nils Schirrmacher - Bungalow II & IV, 2008
SPURSE - Eating Place SD, 2015

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Colonia Libertad - Free Citizenship
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Colonia Libertad will be issuing Pasaporte Libres. Join the archive of Free Citizens. 

SPURSE - Eating Place SD
SPURSE co-founder Iain Kerr will lead EATING PLACE, an urban foraging expedition and pedagogical platform on urban ecology.