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Hailey Loman Is Building an Oral History Collection

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Portrait
Hailey Loman

Welcome to the 21st installment of the interview series Meet LA’s Art Community. Check out our past interviews here.

This week, we interview Hailey Loman, a multi-disciplinary artist and the founder and director of Los Angeles Contemporary Archive (LACA), an artist-run archive and non-circulating library “in which contemporary creative processes are recorded and preserved.” Loman also recently founded the Autonomous Oral History Group (AOHG) a cooperative that examines the ethics of leadership roles. The AOHG is an ever-evolving archive of interviews, recordings, and transcriptions, exploring a rich range of subjects, from tribal law and rent control to reggaeton and dog collars. Currently, the AOHG is having conversations with healthcare workers, on and off the frontline.

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Artwork
Autonomous Oral History Group, “Evidence” (2020), inkjet print, 72”x44” (image courtesy the artists)

Where were you born?

I was born in Ventura, California at Community Memorial Hospital. My grandfather was an old timer Angelino who was born and raised in Boyle Heights and ran a pharmacy called Loman Pharmacy in West LA. My parents moved to Ventura in 1980. My father is a surfer and wanted less wave competition in the water. I went to Ventura High School, a public school about five minutes walking distance from my home.

How long have you been living in Los Angeles?

I’ve been living in Los Angeles for the past eight years. Previously, I left the US after school in 2008 when the recession hit.

What’s your first memory of seeing art?

I was given a book on the SFMOMA permanent collection when I was little. I remember memorizing the pages. Years later, walking through the permanent collection, I remember being startled that I knew every artwork’s date and how everything was installed having never physically been there. Only later did I remember this book that was super precious to me.

Do you like to photograph the art you see? If so, what device do you use to photograph?

I rarely photograph art. I do photograph a lot of ephemera and scan materials at LACA. This is challenging because I am conscientious to not make the photograph a new artwork and rather a record of the material.

What was your favorite exhibition in Los Angeles this year?

Rodney McMillian’s exhibition, Brown: videos from The Black Show at the Underground Museum, paired with his performance, “Hanging with Clarence” at Bethlehem Baptist Church, were very impactful to me. He managed to turn his audience into a “congregation” and then back into an art audience, in a really beautiful way.

I also visited the Mildred E. Mathias herbarium on the UCLA campus this year. They have around 200,000 specimens of mostly vascular plants. They reuse these super simple, handmade wooden containers to press plants outside on the ground in the sun. This kills bugs as part of the freezing process, which is done in an old frigidaire freezer in the back. It reminded me how simple preservation strategies can be.

What’s the best book you’ve read recently?

The Five Hundred Year Rebellion: Indigenous Movements and the Decolonization of History in Bolivia by Benjamin Dangl (AK Press) for the chapter on the Andean Oral History Workshop (THOA). Being Together Precedes Being: A Textbook for The Kids Want Communism by Joshua Simon published by Archive books. And I am going through Gabrielle Civil’s Experiments in Joy: A Workbook, which was co-published by CO-Conspirator Press and the Women’s Center for Creative Work.

Do you prefer to see art alone or with friends?

Getting to see art with friends is a luxury for me. Especially friends from whom I can learn and see how they analyze an artwork.

What are you currently working on?

I have been building an oral history collection called Autonomous Oral History Group (AOHG). It is a cooperative examining ethics operating in leadership roles. The interviews, recordings, transcriptions, and ephemera collected during the process are assembled and made available in various contexts.

Right now we are having conversations with healthcare workers, on and off the frontline, who are coping with COVID-19. It’s important to gather conversations between people before the news tells us how to think, feel, and remember what the pandemic was like. The oral historians I work with are creating listening journals and we are doing drawings and gathering ephemera related to these conversations.

What is one accomplishment that you are particularly proud of?

We passed LACA’s five-year mark and are running on year six. We are young in the archiving field, but it was a big hump to get past.

Where do you turn to for inspiration for your projects?

I collect things that become sources of inspiration for me. I love trading sites and finding websites from the ’90s that are still somehow up and running. I hunt around for things like miniature Pesach plates, church fans with advertisements stamped on them, maps painted on khaki military trousers, Edwardian poodle collars, and a school furniture site from a shop in New Delhi. I cannot always afford these items, but they are multi-layered, and I can pull endless inspiration from them.

I also have become increasingly interested in reading old meetings minutes from heritage organizations. I love the way people framed their discussions and how they allude to roles or dynamics in the group.

Otherwise, I am often inspired by friends and colleagues. I try to spend time picking fellow artists’ brains on their projects and perspective on art at this present moment. I appreciate getting to see how friends verbalize what they are mulling over into language and how we choose to share these bits and pieces of ourselves with each other.


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