Influences: Early Morning Opera’s Lars Jan


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Even with the genre-bending eclecticism of today’s avant-garde, Lars Jan stands out. “Abacus,” the piece he brings to town next week, draws from opera, film and performance art, and concerns, among other things, the arbitrary state of national boundaries, the craze for TED presentations and the communication style of mega-churches.

“I’ve become really interested in our heavily screen-based society,” the multimedia artist says. “This is the screen age. I feel like screens have kicked the pants off performance since cinema was invented,” increasing the advertising beamed at us and limiting our ability to have long-term thoughts. “I wonder what will happen when the pendulum begins to swing back.”


Jan is a polymath in other ways too: The son of émigrés from Afghanistan and Poland, he’s worked in Japan, Afghanistan and Ukraine and studied at Swarthmore and CalArts. (“Abacus” came out of his Los Angeles-based art lab, Early Morning Opera.)

Jan, 33, discussed his influences from Sundance, where he premiered “Abacus” before bringing it to REDCAT Feb. 2-4.

Federico Fellini: Above everything. I think it’s because he had an incredibly strong handle on the surreal but was also able to cover vast emotional territory. There’s a vast melancholy to it, though it’s also joyous. He’s trying to get at what our culture is about and at a certain kind of emptiness. Gerhard Richter: I was in Queens and walked into an exhibit at P.S. 1. I didn’t know it was the work of a single artist. What’s struck me about him is his ability to reinvent his style and still always be him. I’m going for that in my work -– I’m breaking my own habits.

Buckminster Fuller: He’s an uncategorizable person. I love these people who are six different things, cross-disciplinary figures who are not specialized. I feel like his expression, especially as a poet and thinker, brings him to a unified place.

My collaborators: I’ve been blessed to work with artists who are great models for me. That’s how I keep educating myself -- keep working with new people.

Julio Cortazar: I was a literature major and was really fascinated with magical realism, especially Borges. What I like about Cortazar is he shows how funny tragedy can be. Fellini can be a little over the top, a little stylized. Cortazar never is. “Hopscotch” may be my favorite novel: I read it right as I was becoming an artist. I realized I wanted to formally innovate, just as that novel does. I like its sense of play and nimbleness.


More Influences in jazz, Broadway and classical music

-- Scott Timberg

Early Morning Opera: ‘Abacus’, REDCAT, 631 W. 2nd St., Los Angeles. 8:30 p.m. Feb. 2-4. $20 and $25. (213) 237-2800.