From 1977 to 1981, multimedia artist Stephen Seemayer took a Super-8mm movie camera and captured some of the artists and denizens of downtown L.A. in their unnatural habitat. He filmed them at work and at play, discussing art and the experience of living amid the gritty alleys and deserted industrial buildings at the city’s urban core. A rough cut of the resulting documentary, Young Turks, was screened at a 1981 event called the Downtown Drive-In. The film was projected onto the wall of a warehouse that had been converted into artist studios. Then it was put into storage and never seen again. Newly digitized and fully reedited with additional footage, Young Turks has been re-envisioned by Seemayer, along with film editor Pamela Wilson, with an eye to sharing it with a new generation. In 1981, rents were cheap and life was edgy in downtown L.A. The artists featured in Young Turks discussed their reasons for moving there and how it affected their work. Seemayer also turned his camera on those less fortunate who made the streets their home. He managed to capture an intimate snapshot of downtown at a crossroads, before skyscrapers and the Museum of Contemporary Art, when “loft living” was more than just an advertising slogan.
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