Living Room Light Exchange

Address: Varying living rooms across Oakland and the San Francisco Bay Area
Contacts: Elia Vargas, Liat Berdugo
Open Hours: Third Tuesdays of the month, 7-11pm


How is the project operated?
The Living Room Light Exchange is artist-run by Liat Berdugo and Elia Vargas. It runs off of hot toddy-sharing and the open doors of Bay Area artists and cultural producers of many sorts.

How long has it been in existence?
Since November, 2014, but ask anyone and they’ll tell you it’s been around for years.

What was your motivation?
We saw an absence of a dialogue in the Bay Area surrounding new media art forms in and of themselves. Amidst the cultural and quite literal landscape of the tech industry, we sought to create a community of people who explore, synthesize, and create works of new media. We’re committed to art as research: to looking critically at new media art as a form in and of itself, rather than as a spectacle or market driven force.

Number of organizers/responsible persons of the project.
There are two organizers: Elia Vargas and Liat Berdugo

How are programs funded?
Currently we operate without external funding. True to our salon roots, we rely on artists, curators, and intellectuals across the Bay Area opening their living rooms to us. All those invited bring a bottle of something to share.

Who is responsible for the programming?
Liat Berdugo and Elia Vargas curate the programming.

Number and average duration of exhibitions/events per year.
We have one event per month.

What kind of events are usually organized?
Each month we host an evening of three speakers in different living rooms throughout Oakland and the San Francisco Bay Area. All those invited to the evening are gathered not as an audience, but as a collection of cultural producers, each bringing their own engagement with artistic practice or contemporary scholarship. We question, we laugh, we argue, we share drinks. We ask all our speakers to bring their most current and vulnerable work. We’re less interested in formal talks and polish, and more committed to present undertakings, unanswered questions, and the ability to jump into the thick muck of works-in-progress as a group of artists and thinkers.

Do you accept proposals/submissions?
At times hosting members will present us with novel ideas regarding the arrangement and presentation of the speakers for that event. For instance, one host was a curator, and so we invited all speakers for that month to bring physical works to install around her home. We are very open to reinterpreting what presentation or a home-exhibition might look like.

What is your artistic/curatorial approach?
We seek to curate themes that link seemingly disparate work. We aim to create an environment of producers in casual living room contexts with the hope that this circumstance produces honest, intimate, and challenging discourse.

What’s working? What’s not working?
By locating these events in people’s living rooms, we are adopting an intimate space that is highly influenced by the host. Each event has varied drastically from the others for this reason. The variety of space and of speakers as result has been very positive.

It is difficult to plan for attendees because each space has natural occupancy limitations – different maximums, but also different optimum numbers. The number of audience members plays an important role in how the evening feels. While this has not been problematic yet, it is easy to see how it might be at times.

What kind of role do you hope to play in your local art scene or community?
Our hope is that we provide an outlet to expand on ideas of art and technology or technology-driven materials. We are interested in reestablishing the mechanisms of new media forms as an artistic practice, not as economy. This is especially important now – and in the Bay Area – as it can be tempting to pitch everything around us as either involved in the tech industry or as pitched against it. We don’t believe in either of these extremes. We do believe that there needs to be critical discourse that unfolds alongside it – or perhaps, ahead of it. We hope that the artists and contemporary theorists involved in The Exchange find that space within our events, programming, and community.

What idea are you most excited about for the future?
Each living room creates its own set of ideas, and each group of speakers create their own linking theme. We continue to be surprised by how these forces act upon each other. Perhaps what we are most excited about is to observe how this project matures: how past Light Exchanges influence new ones, how the community grows and changes, and how each participant’s understanding of the event continues to shape the new situations we create.



Images courtesy of Living Room Light Exchange.

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