LOS ANGELES — Miranda July is sitting on the lawn of the Pacific Design Center, indulging in a bit of people watching with a smile on her face. It’s the Los Angeles opening of July’s show “Eleven Heavy Things,” which she initially created for the 53rd International Art Exhibition at the Venice Biennale in 2009.
“Just look at this woman,” she says, nodding toward a middle-aged woman in khakis posing for a picture with her head inside one of July’s cast fiberglass sculptures. “I wonder what she is thinking with this giant headdress on her head.”
She calls over to her camera-toting husband, fellow artist/director Mike Mills, and says, “Would you mind taking a picture of her?”
“That’s been my greatest joy, just sitting and watching people pose,” July explains. “That’s the great thing, it all happens without me. When I was installing the show I was sometimes taking pictures for people who they definitely didn’t know I was the artist. I was like, ‘I really know how to do this well, you asked the right person.’“
Those who didn’t know what July looked like at the opening might be able to place her face after her second feature film, “The Future,” opens in Los Angeles today.
The film, in which July also stars, explores the relationship between a young couple who live in Los Angeles’ Los Feliz neighborhood, where the director also lived for years. Although she appears to be the quintessential Los Angeles hipster filmmaker, July hails originally from Berkeley, Calif., and lived in Portland, Ore., before moving here in 2004. The manner in which her two most recent projects dovetailed in her adopted hometown is actually more of a happy coincidence. July was in the process of securing financing for “The Future” when she was invited to be in the 2009 Venice Biennale.
Ever industrious, July has also recently completed a non-fiction book called ”It Chooses You,” which will be published in the fall by McSweeney’s. It grew out of a project she started before “The Future” about people who sell things through Pennysaver classified ads. She is also at work on a novel and a performance art piece, but says it’s too early to discuss details on either.
Back on the Pacific Design Center’s lawn, MOCA director Jeffrey Deitch eventually stops by to survey the scene.
“This is even better than Venice,” he says. “It’s brilliant and very contemporary that Miranda understands that the artwork doesn’t just stop at the object.”
With Deitch as a producer, July completed “Eleven Heavy Things” in 2009 then shot “The Future” in the beginning of 2010.
“The start of the recession is not a great time for the art world or the film world but [the art] was a lot more doable than financing a movie at the moment,” she says. “The Future” debuted in competition at the Sundance Film Festival in January. Though its proper theater run began last weekend in New York, there was a premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival ahead of today’s release date in July’s hometown. It may have seemed like genius marketing to open “Eleven Heavy Things” in L.A. at the same time, but July says it was serendipitous.
“When you make a movie, you just put it out there and hope for the best, but it’s probably better to just act like I planned it that way,” she says.