Adolescence Plays Itself

Jesy Odio


To the curators of the ultimate teenage dream exhibition, “You’re My Playground Love” at KK Los Angeles, the concept of adolescence is an American invention. It’s hard to argue with that since most youth films come from American filmmakers and take place in our own backyard (and no, Eurotrip does not count as an exception). KK’s Pascale Georgiev and Kingston Trinder created the show in collaboration with Charlie Lyne’s documentary debut, Beyond Clueless, which he calls his “poisoned love letter to the teen film genre”.

The mythology of adolescence in film runs deep. There’s Rebel Without a Cause, American Graffiti, Dazed & Confused, Ferris Bueller, Heathers, Clueless, Mean Girls, and plenty of others–enough that at the start of the new millennium, it felt appropriate to name a film, Not Another Teen Movie.

photograph courtesy Pascale Georgiev & Kingston Trinder

“The red cups, the locker halls, the merits of being prom queen” are all motifs Trinder sees as uniquely American. Trinder grew up in New Zealand and Georgiev in Canada, and saw America mostly through the lens of our movies and TV shows. Perhaps that’s why this duo are perfectly suited to mastermind an exhibit about the exaggerated nostalgia and angst of American youth. A native of England, director Charlie Lyne is also an outsider looking in on the teen realm. “Nothing was cliche and everything was cliche,” says Georgiev.

With works from artists like poet Gabby Bess and professional doodler Hattie Stewart, the exhibition is a kalaedoscopic teen fantasy. Finish illustrator, Annu Kilpelainen brings her fascination with riding in cars with boys to Los Angeles, a sensation all too familiar to some girls growing up in Southern California. An installation by L.A.’s own multimedia artist, Seth Bogart, takes over an entire wall with his vanity dresser. Looking like the bedroom set of some 90’s teen movie, the dresser is adorned with lipstick smears and ceramic models of a blow-drier, Miss Dior’s Cherie, and Maybeline’s indispensable ‘Great Lash’. On the neighboring wall hangs the dreamiest leather jacket, a collaboration between Hattie Stewart and painter Alice Lancaster. Anonymous Sex Journals line a bookshelf with confessions and erotic anecdotes. Mature and sensual reds blend in with tender pinks throughout.

“No medium does love-hate better than the collage film,” says Lyne about his decision to create a cinematic scrapbook of the teenage genre. “It’s an art form that strokes with one hand and slaps with the other.”

photograph courtesy Pascale Georgiev & Kingston Trinder

This contrast between adoration and detestation is also deeply imbedded in Georgiev-Trinder’s “Playground Love”. Growing up, Pascale watched She’s All That in theaters about five times and is obsessed with Clueless (but thought the TV show was a big disappointment). Kingston admits he has never finished a single teen movie. The dichotomy between the girl that was always part of the clique and the boy that never found a way of fitting in is perhaps what makes this exhibition feel like a true manifestation of the high school experience.

To Kingston’s dismissal of teen movies, Pascale responded with a quote from the Virgin Suicides: “Obviously, you’ve never been a fourteen year old girl.” The theme song from that film (Air featuring Phoenix’s Thomas Mars) also gave this exhibit its title.

This is Georgiev and Trinder’s first themed show and their third exhibition together. As curators of a show in collaboration with Lyne’s film, it’s clear that their role goes beyond art retailers.

“Curating ends once the show opens, we want to broaden that experience,” says Trinder. On this, Georgiev and Trinder are on the same page. “Every exhibition needs to be a massive experience–an emotional, intrinsic sensation,” says Georgiev.

Lyne’s Beyond Clueless had its L.A. premiere at Cinefamily, where Thom Andersen’s magnum opus Los Angeles Plays Itself was recently screened. Lyne’s exploration of coming of age in front of the lens is a youthful answer to Andersen’s documentary about filmmaking in Los Angeles.

The film will have a secondary screening at Cinefamily on October 10th.

“You’re My Playground Love” will be up until October 4th at KK Los Angeles.
963 Chung King Road, Chinatown, Los Angeles.