Brightly Coupled 14

3 Questions with Brian O'Connell

Why L.A.? Why did you choose to work in this city in particular?

In early-May 2000 I arrived at LAX on a flight from JFK. It was my first time here as an adult. I rented a car, consulted the map given to me at Budget and pulled out onto Century or Sepulveda in search of the 405. Lost somewhere near Manchester Blvd, still trying to find the on-ramp, I decided to turn back and start over. The light was red but I knew in California I could turn right. I hadn’t noticed the two lanes of oncoming left-turning traffic facing me. I was immediately hit by a man in a small red convertible with a large painting in the passenger seat that extended well beyond the back of the car and at least as high above it. His engine died on impact. We got out of our cars and pushed his car — with the painting — to the nearest parking lot. Then I remembered I’d left my car in the middle of the street with the keys in the ignition and the engine running. It was only when I got back to my car and turned around that I noticed the building in the parking lot: a four-story-tall, three-dimensional beige donut. This was only the beginning of a series of happy accidents (mostly my fault) that have me in L.A.

How has your time in L.A. shaped your work?

L.A. gives me the space and time to come up with and try things that I only imagine when I’m working elsewhere. I feel an ability to be alone without being anonymous and to work and think freely without feeling a need to demand autonomy. It has a weird mix of sociable people and anti-social infrastructure that makes me think about how we fit into larger frames of time and space. The sun helps a lot too.  

Favorite place in L.A. Go.

The top of Mount Wilson on a rainy day in the city: the cloud layer beneath you replaces the normal haze and stretches to the horizon below your feet. You can see the outline the entire city. Every so often a plane pops through and flies off. 

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Tags: Made in L.A., Brian O'Connell