Imperial Courts – Dana LixenbergExhibition 31 May – 3 June 2018documenta-Halle
Dana Lixenberg’s Imperial Courts project (1993-2015) tracks the changing shape of a small, inner-city community from South Central Los Angeles through a combination of beautiful black and white photographs, and a series of videos made in the final years of the work. These photographs and videos result from Lixenberg’s familiarity with the neighborhood and community of Imperial Courts, and from her extended and collaborative relationship with its residents. The project comprises 393 black and white photographs, compiled in a monograph published by ROMA Publications in 2015, and a 69 minute 3-channel video projection. These cumulatively mark the generational passing of time as sons become grandfathers, daughters become mothers, and parents, neighbours and friends pass silently into the grave. Imperial Courts is a work that frames the continuity of community against the changelessness of an inner-city landscape-each of which we discover through Lixenberg’s tender, elegant and visceral work. In 1992, Lixenberg travelled to South Central Los Angeles to photograph a magazine story on the riots that erupted following the acquittal of four LAPD officers filmed mercilessly beating Rodney King. What Lixenberg encountered there inspired her to revisit that part of the city, and eventually led her to the Imperial Courts housing project in Watts. Beginning in 1993, and continuing until the spring of 2015, Lixenberg gradually created an extensive portrait of this community over twenty-two years, electing to face away from the spectacle of destruction, and to look toward those whose lives typically receive public notice only in the event of calamity. Her portraiture addresses the individuated characteristics of the residents with delicacy and specificity, reflecting a series of individuals who collectively constitute an evolving community. In parallel with her black and white photographs, Lixenberg created a series of short videos within Imperial Courts beginning in 2012. These function as a series of vignettes that skip across three channels, adding color and continuity to the stillness of her black and white portraits. Imperial Courts was awarded the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2017. Dana Lixenberg is represented by GRIMM Gallery in Amsterdam/New York.