The bird of paradise is the official flower of the City of Los Angeles. It is not a native plant, and yet is a visual staple of our city’s urban landscape. The flower’s reputation is that of exotic import, and has migrated from status symbol to sex symbol to taken for granted as a low-value “Home Depot” plant. At the time it was declared our city’s official flower, it even carried religious weight. It became the flower that would represent the City of Angels.
The flower was initially selected as the visual thumbprint of the LAX Festival because of my attraction to it’s bold coloring, angular structure, and it’s ability to be aesthetically aggressive, curiosity-invoking, and also broadly appealing. As a symbol of Los Angeles, I felt it represented a unique kind of intrinsic motion- even in still images. In 2005, the LA Times wrote a feature on our city’s flower, which resonates, for me at least, with our city’s understanding of contemporary performance. The article is titled A Glorious Flock, and if I stretch the comparison to it’s limits, there may be parallels to be drawn between this history-rich bloom, and the jeweled yet forgotten history of modern dance and contemporary performance firmly rooted in Los Angeles.
In the last two centuries, we have renamed it bird of paradise, idolized it and reviled it, made it the flower of royals, the emblem of star-crossed love, the Los Angeles city flower and finally, the floral retort to Florida’s plastic pink flamingos. The only thing we have failed to do is consider the plant on its own merits.
The bird of paradise serves as a visual cornerstone, and symbol, for my aspirations with the LAX Festival. In my attempt to create a kind of “performance paradise,” what better representation could I ask for than an imported flower that represents urban elitism, the sex appeal of hollywood, the draw of the new. Simultaneously, they are not treated with any level of preciousness or granted sufficient resource for survival. And the birds thrive here.
The contemporary performance scene of Los Angeles is brimming with opportunity. We are operating without rules. We are in the wild west. Our artists are pushing at the boundaries between metier, form, and experience. They are working with a fresh level of rigor, and are asking questions with global resonance. The LAX Festival will provide a platform for this exploration and discovery. Like the bird of paradise, our roots will be strong, and our story complex. Before you know it, we will be an assumed fixture in the cultural landscape.
I hope you enjoy this year’s LAX Festival. Please let us know how we’re doing, or reach out if you’d like to be involved. firstname.lastname@example.org
// Miranda Wright