Porn Talk Stalks L.A. Art Project

Times Staff Writer

It was an accusation of porn in the corn that aroused Aaron Landy’s scorn.

The experimental filmmaker and documentarian was kicked off a 32-acre lot in downtown Los Angeles that has been planted with corn and turned into an art installation after officials claimed he had shot a pornographic movie among the stalks and husks.

Landy, 45, of Hollywood denies that any nudity occurred during the months he spent photographing local artists and dancers staging their own performances at the agricultural-themed exhibit called Not a Cornfield.

Landy alleges that he’s being slandered and is demanding an apology from the Annenberg Foundation, which is financing the $2.2-million exhibition on state park property near Chinatown.

The conflict comes as harvest time arrives at what the foundation characterizes as a “living sculpture” that has transformed a onetime barren rail yard.


Landy said he photographed more than two dozen local dancers, poets, actors and artists offering samples of their own work against the cornfield backdrop before he was ordered out by project administrators.

He said he was filming a dancer in a colorful, flowing gown near a row of cornstalks Nov. 4 when project general manager Adolfo Nodal accused him of producing pornography. Nodal called in Los Angeles police and a state park ranger to force him off the leased park property.

Nodal -- former general manager of the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department -- denied Landy’s assertion.

“We never accused him of filming pornography. But there were people filming naked people. We had an open policy, but then things started to happen,” Nodal said.

But Landy had his highdefinition video camera rolling during the confrontation and secretly recorded Nodal.

“You guys are shooting pornography,” Nodal says on the tape. “You also cut a crop circle in the middle of the cornfield. You guys have been shooting porn in here. We have a lot of witnesses.”

On the videotape, Nodal is shown telling officers that “these people aren’t allowed here. We’re going to kick them off every time they come.”

The video shows police officers listening carefully, first to Nodal and then to Landy before acknowledging they needed to investigate further.

But the park ranger was quick to assert authority upon his arrival. He asked to view Landy’s previously shot footage, advising the filmmaker that he would be allowed to retain only videotape that the ranger found “not objectionable,” as he put it. The ranger warned Landy he would seize the camera if he found Landy filming again.

After Landy objected that Not a Cornfield was a public art installation staged on public property, Nodal relented slightly, agreeing last week to allow additional filming during three-hour periods on Wednesdays and Thursdays. But the cameraman was ordered to comply with strict rules and pay the cost of a security guard who would watch him at all times.

Landy was also barred from attempting to film Lauren Bon, the artist and Annenberg Foundation trustee who organized the Not a Cornfield exhibition.

In a letter sent last week to Bon, Landy denied that he had created crop circles or shot pornography or nudes at the field. He complained that exhibition employees defamed him by telling families visiting the cornfield last week that he was “a porn guy” -- an assertion that he said sparked an angry confrontation by one set of parents.

Landy said he had been falsely blamed after Not a Cornfield employees found a section of cornstalks flattened and condoms scattered around the ground.

“Ms. Bon, we hope you understand the legal aspects of your staff’s allegations,” Landy wrote.

Bon said she has not read Landy’s letter. She said security was increased at the field because its 12-foot-high stalks have begun to dry out and “production areas” bearing 2 million ears of corn need to be protected.

“Perhaps this is a fellow whose art is fueled by controversy,” she said of Landy. “My guess is he’s trying to create controversy because controversy feeds his work.”

Landy disputed that suggestion when he returned to the field Thursday with a friend, Hollywood musician Danny Shorago, to do more filming. Shorago was clad in what he called “mutant lounge-wear” -- a red-spattered tuxedo outfitted with a fake pig’s snout.

“I don’t know how much is due to her or to the people working for her,” Shorago said of the accusations and new security.

According to Landy, he and a partner, artist Bobby Israel, set out to film at the cornfield as a way of encouraging local artists to get out of their “little boxes and lofts and get connected with the earth.”

But the corn project’s organizers “treated us like lowlifes and made it pretty clear that this was a private club that we were not invited to.” The result, he said, is a frosty fall harvest ahead for this cornfield.