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Radar L.A. Review: 'Sometimes I Think, I Can See You' At The Grand Central Market

Anna Escher |
September 27, 2013 | 2:00 p.m. PDT

Contributing Writer

"Sometimes I Think, I Can See You" at the Grand Central Market. Photo courtesy of Radar L.A.
"Sometimes I Think, I Can See You" at the Grand Central Market. Photo courtesy of Radar L.A.
“He’d pay for this later, driving home. A full lemonade in his stomach screaming to get out as he sat on the 405. But that’s why he kept that jar in the glove compartment. Just kidding,” reads a typed message displayed by an overhead projector on a blank wall space in the food filled frenzy that is Grand Central Market, downtown Los Angeles.

The “Sometimes I Think, I Can See You” exhibit, directed by Mariano Pensotti, is part of the Radar L.A. Festival, and features writers who observe the scenes occurring in the Grand Central Market. They cast their impressions of the market-goers, which range from descriptions of the mouth-watering papusas, soft tacos and horchata, to lengthy analyses of the surrounding people’s lives up on the walls above. Most are oblivious to the fact that they’re the center of this artistic case study.

The projected text dislayed on the overhead prjector is connected to the laptop of Michael Yichao, one of four writers spaced out within the market, who types clandestinely at a table in one of the dining areas. He is observing the scene around him, focused on a bearded man who is drinking a venti-sized lemonade and eating a burrito. The man has noticed that he is being observed. He chuckles and snaps a picture on his iPhone.

At this moment, Yichao is zoned in on the lemonade-drinking man, who is greatly amused by the prediction of his soon to be bladder crisis projected on the wall up behind the diners. “No rush, just a nice lunch. It's nice to enjoy a nice lunch by yourself. Not lonely, but alone. Space for oneself is important. It's hard to have time to be a person, and its important to be a person before being with a person,” the screen reads, hypothesizing this man’s life philosophy. Lemonade man’s eyes glaze over, as if Yichao’s analysis of him has hit the nail on the head, and he leaves.

One particular oddity of “Sometimes I Think, I Can See You” is that it is nearly hidden. The exhibit is divided into four of these overhead displays interspersed throughout Grand Central Market. Between fruit stands with handwritten signs that read “5 bananas 59 cents” and soft taco fixings behind glass cases with steaming vapor rising from them, four writers (Michael Yichao, Gloria Alverez, Padraic Duffy and Gabriela Garcia Medina), silently observe and record life in the market.

“When I was writing in the other areas of the market yesterday, I was more separated from the people around me. There was a delineated space between me and them, so it was easier to write about them. Now I’m sitting with them as I write about them,” remarks Padraic Duffy. He is seated at a bright red six-person table at which a Latino family scrapes plastic forks through Styrofoam to-go boxes. A mother is scooping Spanish rice and beans into her daughter’s mouth. The family clears their napkins and leaves.

Grand Central Market is a microcosm of Los Angeles, complete with businessmen who tap on their iPhones and place little white headphones into their ears and the women who converse, all the while waiting for their turn to talk about themselves. They sit next to families who spoon feed their toddlers and hand spare change to beggars in tattered baseball caps who idly pass through the rows of tables and out across the Mexican food vendors. The writers in “Sometimes I Think, I Can See You” record these lives and tell the possible stories these crowds carry with them—their thoughts both amuse and haunt the people passing by.

“Writers usually work alone,” Gloria Alvarez, one of the writers explains. She smiles through round shaped glasses and her fluffy dark hair bounces as she introduces herself. “This experience is different. But most people are friendly when they realize I’m writing about them up on that screen, they either walk away or start talking to me. Some even ask to add me on Facebook, or stop to give me their cards.”

“Sometimes I Think, I Can See You” is an exhibit about infiltrating a public space and simply listening. An odd communication pattern begins when one of the writers describes a person, and when they begin to pay attention to the screen and realize they are being studied, first unaware that they are being watched. No eye contact happens between the writer and the subject. Just an exchange and cycle of behavior and written response. The exhibit collectively poses the question of how we see other people. Four writers open the discussion of how others see us, what assumptions do they make based on our behavior? How accurate are they?

Who is watching you?

"Sometimes I Think, I Can See You" will be happening through September 29 at the Grand Central Market (317 Broadway, Los Angeles). Free admission. For more information visit the Radar L.A. website.

More coverage of the Radar L.A. Festival 2013 can be found here.

Contact Contributing Writer Anna here or follow her on Twitter.



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