On September 11, 2010, LAXART will open its fall exhibition season with Casting Call, a one-day performance event organized by artist Charlie White. The event will entail a daylong casting call aimed at locating one “California Girl” between the ages of 13 and 16 to appear on a Los Angeles billboard as part of the LAXART Billboard Project series. This live performance will invite viewers to witness the entire casting process within LAXART, where a windowed wall will divide the main exhibition space into two areas: a casting office on one side, and a public viewing room for onlookers on the other.
It goes on to say that this is about looking into the “complexities of the American teen as cultural icon, image, and national idea” and “exposing the casting process as a nexus of public spectacle and individual ambition”. All in all, this exhibition makes me extremely uncomfortable, and not in a “I’m being challenged” sort of way. If what I gather is correct, I will be standing on one side of a one sided mirror watching 13-16 yr old girls* are auditioning to be on LAXART billboards throughout the city. I’m not an actress, have no desire to be an actress, but from what I understand from a few of my friend’s who are actors and actresses, the auditioning process is an extremely trying and difficult experience. I don’t agree with the statement that the casting process is a nexus of public spectacle, outside the recent slew of casting of superheroe movies and that dragon tattoo flick, it doesn’t seem to be a nexus of anything, except maybe of the hopes of working actors/actresses trying to realize their dreams maybe. Am I being a little protective over girls who are just barely in/out of puberty about to put themselves on the line for a group of some of the snobbier people in Los Angeles? Why couldn’t the girls have been 16-18…or even 18-21 as very few actual teenagers play teenagers anyway. I am sure that the parents are fully aware of the situation and signing off on it, and I hope the children are as well. It all feels exploitative, and too easy to get that “shock” or easy publicity.**
I guess what I’m saying is, I understand what Charlie White is trying to accomplish here, but I think that it could have been executed with more nuance and grace than what he has decided to be “performed”.
*This is not an open call, the girls are already selected from Burbank Casting Company.
**Which yes, I am also feeding into.