Why Rainn Wilson Hates LACMA (and other ‘Cell Phone Stories’)


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Rainn Wilson wants to tell you all the reasons why he hates the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. And the museum is happy to help him do it.

Wilson, who plays Dwight on NBC’s ‘The Office,’ gave Culture Monster a preview of what he’s thinking: ‘LACMA’s a very valuable piece of property that really should be developed. I’m thinking condos immediately. I know it’s by the Grove but I think another mall might be a good idea as well. My mission is to destroy the remaining art institutions in L.A. and look at the value of the real estate beneath them.’


The actor will share such ideas in a ‘hostile’ takeover of LACMA’s Twitter feed on Friday and Saturday as part of ‘Cell Phone Stories,’ a summer-long project in which guest artists are using mobile-phone technology and social media to create ‘episodes’ designed to re-imagine the museum experience.

In seriousness, Wilson says, he’s a LACMA member and has been going to the museum for years. He and his father collect art. He loves LACMA’s collections and said he is a fan of ‘the Broad wing, which I think is one of the greatest buildings in Los Angeles.’

Wilson also is a Twitter master -- he estimates he has about 2 million followers -- so it’s easy to see why he was recruited for this episode (which is succinctly named ‘I Hate LACMA’). ‘They want to show that you can poke fun at the museum and that a museum can have a sense of humor,’ Wilson says. He’s eager to oblige. ‘I’m gonna take ‘em down.’

‘Cell Phone Stories,’ which was launched in May and ends Sept. 6, was conceived by artist Steve Fagin at the request of LACMA director Michael Govan. Subscribers receive weekly texts alerting them to offerings on the museum’s Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Rita Gonzalez, an associate curator of contemporary art, says Wilson is expected to prompt a jump in subscribers -- now numbering nearly a thousand -- and appeal to ‘some people who might not normally be aware of LACMA.’

The project already has received a boost from Kate and Laura Mulleavy, founders of the eclectic Rodarte label, who created five fashion sketches after visiting the museum’s collections. (You can view more of their sketches and other ‘Cell Phone Stories’ entries here.) ‘They were interested in not just contemporary or modern art, but going all over the place in terms of pre-Columbian and Korean and the Japanese Pavilion,’ says Gonzalez, ‘cutting and stitching a lot of references as they do in their work.’

Video and performance artist Rich Bott, a.k.a. ‘The Texting Detective’ kicked things off on May 29 with a mystery caper -- inspired by a Charles Willeford story -- in which he roamed LACMA in search of a stolen sculpture.


Writer Barry Yourgrau has been using what Gonzalez calls ‘different rhetorical strategies like a letter, e-mail and a press release’ to produce pieces about the museum even though he’s never been there.

Fagin and artists Adrienne Ferrari and Kianga Ford are presenting separate miniseries. A ventriloquist’s dummy serves as Fagin’s alter ego, Gonzalez says, as he explores ‘lofty ideas--such as the idea of utopia and how it’s been shaped through modern art--with humor, imagination and Facebook simulation.’

Ferrari is tweeting, says Gonzalez, merging ‘a personal, almost obsessive, diaristic account with a kind of research account to examine aspects of the museum one wouldn’t necessarily consider, like the cafe.’

Ford opened her audio series with a remix-reading of the introduction Govan wrote for a book about the Broad Contemporary Art Museum at LACMA. Suggested listening place: the BCAM escalator.

‘This is the first time we’ve done anything like this,’ says Gonzalez of the project. ‘It’s been a bit of a learning process. But we’re developing a diverse new audience and tapping into different artistic takes on what it means to visit LACMA virtually.’

To sign up for ‘Cell Phone Stories’ text LACMA to 67553.

-- Karen Wada

Top photo: Rainn Wilson. Credit: Associated Press