The question of immigration policy and immigrant rights is inseparable from any discussion of Mac Arthur Park. Directly in front of the Westlake Theater is the park itself, where some of the most visible displays of solidarity among immigrant communities have taken place. In 2006, approximately 500,000 people marched in the streets of Los Angeles and gathered in Mac Arthur Park to protest H.R. 4437 and the criminalization of immigrants in the United States. Such shows of solidarity and political agency would be quelled one year later when at the same site an immigrant rights protest was violently repressed as police shot rubber bullets at thousands of peaceful protesters.
Our interest in the Westlake Theater lies not in a restoration of its architecture, but rather in its ruins. The theater's repurposing by the immigrant community provides a glimpse of a palimpsest in which the co-existence of past and present reveals culture as historically dynamic. In the Westlake stood a rare instance in which this transformation was not erased but rather shown for what it is-- as the ruins of one space and the life of another. As we pass into an era of the rapid development of this area, we have to ask for whom and on whose terms such development is being realized. The discourse of development is one that applies not only to processes of local gentrification but also to global discourses of the World Bank and IMF. On the margins of all these discourses of development lie the people who inhabit these formerly colonized locales, shuttled in the impossibility of contemporary globalization. Westlake Theater suspends a moment of transition and is an invitation to consider the affect that fills its process of erasure.
-Michelle Dizon and Camilo Ontiveros
as part of a group show called 'never very far apart' curated by IMPRENTA organizer ryan innoye