Oh how cultured was my Valley

A sort of Southern California art world diaspora, always in progress, carries images of local life into the wider culture. In a recent conversation with Flash Art International (, Paris-based video artist Cameron Jamie, who grew up in the San Fernando Valley, talks about the roots of his work, which has dealt with such themes as haunted houses and backyard wrestling:

“I think that my curiosity to explore and document happened naturally at a very early age, and came out of an interest in trying to understand people and certain types of ritualized practices produced by people in the local neighborhoods. I suppose the mixture of how the Valley has been portrayed in the media of Hollywood movies and novels with its reputation of having kooky architecture, earthquakes, IQ-challenged teenagers who talk funny, the capital of the porn industry, the Rodney King beatings, and the Manson family, to name a few things have all contributed in building this very mythic image of the Valley to the outside world. But these cultural myths make it feel like a place that doesn’t really exist, like a dead wonderland. I think the San Fernando Valley is actually very cultured in many ways....

“I was trying to capture something mysterious that made the viewer feel lost and disoriented by what he or she was seeing.... . It was very important to show the middle-class utopian suburbs in America as a Third World hell.”