I Didn’t Play

By Gracie HadlandDecember 19, 2023

I Didn’t Play
AT THE WOLFORD HOUSE, WOLFORD HOUSE, Los Angeles, December 9, 2023.

F.R.I.E.N.D.S. at P.E.O.P.L.E., Los Angeles, December 9, 2023.

AND/OR, Pasadena, December, 10, 2023.

On Friday, I read a whole book in one sitting, which always makes me feel productive and advanced. It was Constance Debré’s new book Playboy, the sequel to which I reviewed for this publication last year. Her voice is so thrilling that I feel like I can’t stop until I’m finished—not because I want to “see what happens” (not much happens) but because I need her frenzied but firm narration to come to an end where she intended. (This summer, Constance and I were in the same train station at the same time but didn’t see each other. I was coming; she was going.) This book is more about class, and her family, than the other one, which ended up being about motherhood and writing, kind of. They’re both about “lesbianism.” The language is deceptively simple, the complexity of its meaning bursting in the short chapters that begin with statements that are almost shocking: “I’m rich she’s poor. That’s why I’m going to win. It’s inevitable. The rich always win. And the poor always perish. It’s not my fault. It’s not my fault if it’s the rich who win. It’s not my fault if I’m rich.”

Sometimes I read to avoid writing or I clean or exercise. Or I read to avoid doing those things to avoid writing. I went to the launch of Jason McBride’s biography of Kathy Acker. Matias Viegener had brought in Kathy’s writing desk, which sat on the stage while Jason read. We clapped for the desk. It’s kind of an ugly desk, my friend said. Jason read about how Kathy thought “reading was writing” and “sexuality was writing,” which I found comforting because that means I’m writing without trying.

On Saturday, I went to two openings at new project spaces. One before the sun set was at the Wolford House in Mt. Washington, a historic midcentury house where Lena Daly is organizing shows. There were a lot of people dressed in Canadian tuxedos with pointed heels peeking out of their baggy jeans. The work in the show was refreshingly not so designy or furniturey, which I feel tends to happen at shows hosted in architectural venues. After sunset, I went to Koreatown to a new space called P.E.O.P.L.E., to see a small group show in an apartment in an old Victorian. People sat drinking beer on old floral brocade couches watching Nicole-Antonia Spagnola’s video of an English real estate show selling the musician Syd Barrett’s house. Here the crowd was wearing hoodies, ripped T-shirts, and heavy leather boots. I liked Zoe Barcza’s purple painting, a kind of black-and-white portrait where the torso is a grinning mouth. 

Sunday night I went to an opening at a space called And/Or. I talk to someone about how there are these galleries that have names that are prepositions or articles or pronouns so that they don’t really tie themselves to anything as loaded as a noun. He tells me about a gallery he went to recently called “Probably.” And/Or is in the upstairs unit of an office building in Pasadena, with fluorescent lights, cement floors, and cheap blinds on the windows. A group of crusty-looking guys stood around a monitor that was in a black box; it was a video game that the artist Oliver Payne had designed. Apparently, you got more points when you didn’t use ammunition, a kind of pacifist video game or a game pushing you to the point of inevitable violence. There was wine with a heavy metal font on the label and a little plastic cup of pins with the name of the exhibition. We watched the player hit keys on a chunky black keyboard, waiting for our turn. It was like being in a basement watching boys watch each other play video games, which is something I’ve never done and have always tried to avoid. I didn’t play.


Photo by contributor.

LARB Short Take live event reviews are published in partnership with the nonprofit Online Journalism Project and the Independent Review Crew.

LARB Contributor

Gracie Hadland is a writer living in Los Angeles. Follow her on Twitter @disgraciee.


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