by Rosten Woo
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE ROOTED?
As someone who is trying to establish roots in Los Angeles, but sometimes feels frustrated in it, I feel that rootedness has to do with creating interdependencies with others. Showing up for others and feeling that others show up for you. I find my LA to be a place where showing up is maybe less valued than other places I have lived. Where busy-ness, geographic distance, and traffic, etc, conspire to create an environment where people are both flake a lot and are very forgiving of flaking. It's something I struggle with, especially with a small child now - making the effort to get out and be with others and making the effort to invite others in.
HOW IS TIME PERCEIVED?
I notice that I've started perceiving time in new ways the last few years. One, watching your children grow in such pronounced and clear ways really emphasizes the fleetingness and specialness of time for me. Secondly, as I've started to become more domestic (cooking most of the meals our family eats and starting a small garden) and as such, recognizing seasons in the growing cycles of plants more clearly than before. The "seasons" of LA feel more real to me as I watch more closely what produce shows up at markets and I see my plants struggle and bloom and whither.
WHO CAME BEFORE US AND WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED FROM THEM THAT NEEDS TO BE PASSED ON? HOW DO THESE LESSONS APPLY TO CONTEMPORARY LIFE?
This is such a big question I don't even know how to begin! As someone whose parents broke very heavily from their family's traditions, I find that most of the lessons I try to learn from "those who came before us" have to do with artists and organizers who I admire or who have mentored me in some way. I'm often envious of people who have a more direct set of traditions or rituals to work with.
HOW HAS SCARCITY OR ABUNDANCE AFFECTED US?
I've never experienced true true scarcity. But I do find that I prefer the challenges of mild scarcity to the challenges of abundance. There is real joy in finding ingenious ways to stretch resources and I find real anxiety on how to best use resources when they are truly abundant.
WHAT ROLE DOES FOOD PLAY?
Food is, to me, the great mediator. It's the greatest and best engagement tool. The most accessible form of culture and also one of the deepest!
HOW DOES PHYSICAL SPACE AND SCALE IMPACT CULTURE?
I feel that there is no obvious and consistent connection. I've seen beautifully maintained spaces become more or less abandoned and seen mini-mall storefronts with no particular charm become absolutely essential to a cultural practice. To me, it is the animation of the place (and the existence of the space at all) that seems most important.
Rosten Woo is an artist, writer, and educator living in Los Angeles. He produces civic artworks, tools for community organizing, and works as a collaborator and consultant to a variety of grassroots and non-profit organizations. His work has been exhibited at the Cooper-Hewitt Design Triennial, the Venice Architecture Biennale, and various parks. He is co-founder and former executive director of the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP), winner of the 2016 National Design Award for institutional achievement.