Silver Lake’s so-called Bates Motel—it’s actually the soon-to-be-demolished Sunset Pacific Motel—is in the process of getting whitewashed with lime wash as part of French artist Vincent Lamouroux’s installation, Projection. The undertaking, which opens to the public on Sunday and lasts for two weeks, was sponsored and organized by downtown LA gallery Please Do Not Enter. AN West Coast Editor Sam Lubell talked with Lamouroux to get the scoop on his ambitious urban piece.
AN: How get this idea? Why the Bates Motel? Why Los Angeles?
Vincent Lamouroux: I first saw the hotel 15 years ago passing by, and I was very interested. Over the years I kept looking at the building and nothing was happening to it. No change at all. So I was curious, and I became more and more excited. I came up with the idea of doing something with it two years ago. I was interested in finding a way to capture the entire building and its periphery: the motel sign, the billboards, the palm trees. To bring together all these elements that were an idea of LA, or an idea of the California Dream.
What is it about? Does it symbolize anything about Silver Lake? Los Angeles? The fleetingness of things?
I wanted to bring attention to the particular site. Something about the building’s relationship with the urban environment on Sunset Boulevard. I got the idea to transform the hotel with a white coat of lime on it, to differentiate the landscape and make it both appear and disappear within the site. The idea of the white is also about making something appear. The idea was also to reveal the nature of everything. That things change constantly from one state to another. We have a quest for symmetry, for stuff that could stay always the same. But everything that comes to life will die. I wanted to indicate this idea of change for the building, but in relation to the urban landscape.
I’m also trying to understand how desire works, and how we get attracted to things. How our attention is captivated by something. We experience something every day in a city that is full of signs and advertisement and colors. Lots of things that capture our attention. By adding this white, a blank color, it draws attention by being a kind of rest or quiet moment in the urban landscape.
What were the specifics of the installation?
We use spray guns and firehoses and fire nozzles for the inside parts; the courtyard and rooftop. For surfaces connected to the streets we use spray guns. The title, Projection, refers to the process of applying the lime and the idea of how we project ideas, possibilities, dreams, onto something. There are different solutions for different parts of the building. They all stick directly to the building. So far because it’s not raining at all it should be fine. I like the idea that the piece is going to disappear. We are just proposing a specific space and a specific time for it. Because it becomes true to life it’s going to disappear and change.
Is the building being torn down?
We don’t know. The developer has plans for it, but they appear to be on hold.
Please Do Not Enter enabled this to happen?
Before opening the gallery they were art collectors and they collected my work. Just before they moved to Los Angeles I told them I had an idea here. I brought them an architectural model of the project. I asked them to look at it once I was in Los Angeles. They were excited about the idea. The gallery is called Please Do Not Enter, so it was perfect. They paid for the whole project. We got the support of the community, of some other people involved in the project. But they made it happen.
Do you live in L.A.?
I live in Paris. I probably spend four months of the year in Los Angeles.
Did you anticipate just how bright this white would be?
Not completely. Even myself, I have to wear sunglasses all the time, especially when we’re in the courtyard. I knew the lime would have the quality to catch and reflect the light. It’s the material we use to make buildings whiter.
To me the whiteness gives the motel the feeling of a ghost.
I like the idea of a ghost. The idea that the whole motel would become a cinema screen, a white canvas, for the projection of desires. We live in a world of objects, and all the objects around them are surfaces for projections of desires. Something completely blank like this looks somehow kind of unfinished. By the fact that it’s unfinished maybe you can ask yourself what was, what is, and what will be there. Also the building is closed. People don’t get access, creating a sense of mystery.
What is your next project?
I’m doing another site specific project in Portugal, near Lisbon. I’m trying to build a suspended island on the sand dunes near the ocean. I’m going to work with wood. It’s a wood construction floating above the ground that will be designed as an island in the air.