Best know as a musician, Moby is quickly gaining lots of attention for his “weird architecture blog” that is centered around his fascination with Los Angeles architecture. In this video published by 1883 Magazine, Moby discusses his thoughts on some his personal favorites, starting with Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ennis House, which Moby depicts as an Incan spaceship from 100,000 years ago.
G: What drew you out here?
M: A bunch of things. One: the desire to be warm in the winter. Two: the desire to live in the strangest city in the western world. Three: to be around an odd artistic and professional environment founded on creativity regardless of the dreck that comes out of here, it’s still creative. Whereas if you go to a party in New York, you meet people who do jobs I don’t understand. They’re in arbitrage, or corporate accounting, or they are hedge fund managers. They don’t make anything. They just sort of figure out how to generate money off of other people’s efforts. You come here and you meet very successful people who make things. There is this sort of roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-it-done attitude that exists here that you don’t find in other places. I also think that one of the defining characteristics of LA is the overwhelming rate of failure.
You know, hedge fund guys…they don’t fail. Wall Street guys? They are born, they grow up in Connecticut or grow up in Bedford and they come from privilege and they’re entitled, and they go to Penn and then Harvard Business School and then they go to work on Wall Street and then it’s all success from day one.
I once saw a video of David Hockney discussing a Chinese landscape scroll. A provocative little art-geek film (or so it seemed at the time) entitled, ”A Day on the Grand Canal With the Emperor of China (or Surface Is Illusion but So Is Depth)”.
On the surface, the film’s subject is a 17th-century Chinese scroll painting. The depths, however, are personal and make the film more about the artist himself, a target for his projection. So, if surface is illusion but so is depth, then what we have is an interesting problem.
In this sense, he wasn’t trying to lay down any absolute truth or theory about Chinese landscape painting, or even himself. But merely his understanding at that moment in time—a moving target exploring another moving target. What would Hockney say about the scroll now?
When I first noticed Moby blogging about architecture, this film, long-buried in my art history memory, was one of the first reference points that came to mind. Like Hockney with the scroll, Moby is seemingly unrolling Los Angeles and winding his way through it’s weird little buildings and spatial complexities. The hills–and one does not always associate hills with Los Angeles–are uncannily similar to the hills in the Chinese scroll.
Below is the Hollywood Reservoir. I’m two hours early for this interview because, as usual, I’ve guessed the traffic incorrectly. You see, I’m not really from LA. Have never considered myself from here. I’ve lived here most of my life, but I’m not from LA. Being from or not from here usually goes unspoken. It’s typically assumed you are not from here…and never will be.
I park at a trailhead. I’m in dress shoes. Black dress shoes. Black shirt. But I have a scarf and a jacket to fight the wind. Rain coming. The sky is a neapolitan of grays, blues, and whites, laid out horizontally with little light filaments touching down. The canyon is absolutely quiet even though I can see some bulldozers crawling up and down the side of a precarious ravine in the distance. They remind me of the sandcrawlers from Dune. This seems just the type of place where famous LA murders would have taken place. The fact that Ray Manzarek lives in this neighborhood somehow makes it seem more eerie.
I imagine Moby watching from his tower window, watching me turn away from the house and down the dusty trail in my black dress shoes. I’m obviously early. He might think I’m intentionally heading out for a hike. Like I worked this into my itinerary because I knew there was a trail here. Actually, I had no idea. I have never been in this neighborhood and rarely come to this side of town. Just like I have no idea what I’m going to ask him. At this point, I’ve lost almost all interest in architecture, buildings, and the reasons he’s blogging about these things.