Dana Bull


Reasons to go: exciting new friends and relationships, a funky independently owned bookstore, the distinguished city of Los Angeles, downtown.  A spontaneous decision to go, “I’M IN”.

A solo drive, the 10 West, the 101 North, stop and go (doesn’t matter). All four windows are down; I have a half pack of cigarettes, a cool beverage, cash in my pocket and the sun and wind feel great on my skin.  It’s Friday and I am pleased.

One-way streets.  $5 parking.  A double check to ensure the doors are locked.  4th and Spring Street, “DON’T FORGET”.  A 24 hour café, a parklet, lunch with friends, and we are on to the next.  A bar, a beer and a diverse set of conversations.

Reasons I am really here: A poetry reading at 7pm, a blog post and again, the city of Los Angeles.

Individual. Independent. Unique. Eclectic.  A large two story filled with books, records, art, and a vision, various visions.  Almost instantaneously I was flooded with a soft yet heavy feeling, the history and life and all the characters I was breathing in and that were surrounding me made me feel warm, comfortable and inspired.

An informal grouping of standard chairs, a mic, a D.J., a host and 15 strangers who are willing to share their words, story, art and poetry, with a now filled room.  The nights’ topic: Place and identity.  Substantial.

Reasons why this is worth writing about:  The 15 strangers.  These people embodied all the noteworthy characteristics that I had experienced on this day thus far and more.  My new eclectic friends and our unique conversations and even the independent bookstore didn’t move me in quite the same way as these individuals did. They made me feel warm and comfortable and inspired. Their stories, poetry, and definitions of what place and identity meant to them was emotional. It was my reaction to these strangers’ opinionated and passionate speeches that was the true substantial element of my day, simply them and nothing else.

Reason to go back: For the full spectrum of individuality found in the city Angels.


Shigeru Ban was born in Tokyo, Japan in 1957. He studied architecture at Southern California Institute of Architecture from 1977-1980. Ban then studied under John Hejduk at Cooper Union School of Architecture from 1980-1984. After he received his bachelor’s degree in Architecture, he started his own private practice, out of Tokyo. Starting around 1993 Ban began working as an adjunct professor, and to this day has worked at universities including: Tama Art, Yokohama National, Nihon, Columbia, Keio, Harvard, Cornell and Kyoto University of Art and Design. What sets Ban’s work apart from others is arguably his choice in materials and application techniques. Paper tube structures that are largely recycled, cheap and fairly easy to find, alongside the simple yet dynamic forms created, make his material choice not only attractive, but also effective. Another considerably noteworthy highlight regarding Ban’s work is the fact that he gets involved in so many disaster relief projects. Whether or not the disaster is natural or manmade, Ban has a talent of creating structures that can be assembled and dismantled quickly, as well as a passion to help the less fortunate. In an interview discussing natural disasters, Ban said, “We don’t need innovative ideas. We just need to build normal things that can be made easily and quickly. A house is a house.” One of Ban’s first substantial disaster relief projects was Paper Church in 1995. After a severe earthquake struck Kobe Japan, Ban and 160 local volunteers set out to build a new house of worship. The structure consisted of 58 paper tubes that were placed around an elliptical shape, and the building was completed in less than five weeks. The church was disassembled in 2005. Paper church was simple, significant and stunning.

The U.S./Mexico border field trip was one filled with intense and forceful reflection. The scenery played a part in the emotional state I experienced that day, but more so, it was the idea of the gates and border itself that I had a reaction to. The concept of controlling people and limiting ones access is nothing shy of showcasing extreme authority. The notion of “No you can not enter” for some, contrasted to “Yes, welcome” for others, is a reality we all live with and yet we do not allow ourselves enough time to comprehend the weight of that idea. A government’s constraint upon a large group of people, and their free will, is deeply profound. As I stood on one side of the gate-watching people on the opposite side, I could not help but to think, why can I and they cannot. Suddenly, a forceful feeling of separation rushed over me. The differences between “me” and “them” were abruptly apparent, and frankly I did not like the feeling. I felt upsettingly fortunate. I felt confusingly capable. There was even moments of disheartening embarrassment. I experienced an abundance of thoughts and emotions that day, mostly related to the concept of control, but perhaps it was my reaction to these ideas and feelings that was most surprising. I went into this day knowing that it would be deep and emotional; these are weighty words, and yet they did not do justice my actual experience. I was taken back by my acknowledgement of the gates, the authority, and the separation. Truthfully I never felt that I had overlooked these ideas, in reality, I had. I now have a new outlook on my heart and minds capability of change. I have had an unanticipated understanding of what a humbling process is.

A fieldtrip. Sounds great to me, I thought. A chance to get off campus and see interesting landscapes with my fellow classmates. A perfect opportunity to explore, learn, communicate, escape and enjoy. Day 2, First stop. U.S./Mexico Border. State Beach. Key word: UNDERESTIMATED. Loud helicopters circling the area, nonstop. An in depth and informal speech regarding the local ecosystem. A lecture on contaminated mud. Human excrement. WATCH OUT! A careful and calculated walk to the water, one mile. Beautiful native and invasive species of plants spread throughout the sandy textured soil, hugging my surroundings. The sun, hiding. The breeze, briskly blowing. The salt, infiltrating my nostrils. I am not even to the border yet and I am flooded with thoughts, images and emotions. I see the water, amazing, beautiful, moving (in more ways than one). Tainted. Feces. Upsetting. The sand compressing under my heavy thoughts and feet, every step until I reach the first fence. One half mile. A fence? A gate? A limit? A barrier? An object to control? What am I looking at? This is no longer reading as an object to me, this is heavy and overwhelming. I continue walking to the second larger, thicker, stronger gate. GET BACK, CANNOT TOUCH, NOT ALLOWED! Border patrol is on us, and fast. I recede back to the first. I observe people on the other side. I try to quickly compare my day with theirs. My experiences, opportunities, limits and theirs. My day on one side of the border and theirs. I feel lucky, embarrassed, confused, humble, mad, disgust, pity, caution, rebellion, disheartened, provoked and sympathetic. I feel overwhelmed. I would not consider myself a naive person, and I am usually not an emotional one either, but I am sensitive. I do feel. I touch the rusty chain link fence and allow myself to have a final absorption moment of my surroundings and senses, and then I shut down. I will not be able to process all of this today, I know myself better than to assume I can. It was a heavy experience, and I will allow myself time. I underestimated my day.