The Center and the Center of Hollywood
Light Box Display Under Hollywood and Highland

212 The You Are Here/Not Here CLUI display panels in the subway station in the heart of Hollywood. CLUI photo

AN EXHIBIT OF IMAGES FROM the Center’s archive is on display at the Metro subway station at Hollywood and Highland, in the heart of Hollywood, California. The exhibit, a commission from the LA County Municipal Transit Authority’s Metro Light Box Program for public art in the subway, includes several large light boxed images, each depicting a close up of a locative map somewhere in the USA, focusing on the text You are Here, selected from among many such images in the CLUI’s archives.

The conceptual structure of this project can be read in a number of ways. The most immediate reading is that even though these “you are here” signs are meant to place you in space, the viewer of these images clearly is not “there.” The image of the sign is not the sign, and the place depicted in the sign is not the same as the place where the image of the sign is.

The seven images have been selected to represent different geographies, but also different types of orientation signage and graphic methods, such as the simple line drawing, the colored map graphic, National Park Service iconography, campus map, and a painted colored aerial rendering. The selection of sites the images depict is significant, but not completely clear in all cases. The clues are there, making for a kind of place-finding puzzle for viewers, who wait for a train, or take pause while on their way down a normally familiar corridor.

Here, in the subway, people are en-route, going somewhere, thinking of other places. If they are on a daily commute, they are perhaps thinking longingly, romantically, of exotic places outside their routine, or simply of home. If they are tourists, or subway riders trying to find their way, this project might help take them further in their understanding of where the heck they are.

The panels will travel to a few other subway stops in Los Angeles over the coming years, but for now they are viewable in the subway station at Hollywood and Highland. On February 11, 2011, they will travel to Wilshire/Normandie, on July 11, 2011 to the Universal City station, in February 2012 to Vermont/Beverly, and in July 2012 downtown to 7th/Metro.

246 This sign is at the Temple of Sinawava, at Zion National Park, Utah, near the mouth of one of the most dramatic canyons in the country, a real “temple of nature,” remembered by anyone who has visited it. The graphics are typical of National Park Service signage, and suggests a well visited place – the word “here” is worn out by repeated fingers, showing how people need to point at the exact spot (on the map at least) and make a physical connection to the place by touching the sign.

247 This sign is in the remains of the 1964 World’s Fair, in Flushing Meadows Park, Queens, New York. The site is a notable location in the history of place-based symbolism, a sort of azimuth for modernity. There are different scale maps ranging from an outdoor map of New York state spread out in tiles on the ground, the amazing model of New York City in the nearby museum building, and the 140’ wide globe called the Unisphere at the center of it all.

248 This simple graphic map suggests a more local kind of place, and it is, but one of national significance. The site depicted here is a small natural area that has taken root in what was once a shoreline housing development, known as the Brownwood Subdivision, in Baytown, Texas. It was evacuated and abandoned due to flooding brought on by land subsidence from groundwater pumping by the nearby oil refinery (Exxon’s Baytown plant, the largest refinery in America).