Scott Benzel: Mindless Pleasures book release | Parafictions 1: News Media, Television & Docu-Fiction research journal launch | panel discussion with Scott Benzel, Hande Sever, Misael Oquendo, and Holly Harrell, moderated by Jan Tumlir

November 3rd, 2021 7–9:00pm

Please join Los Angeles Contemporary Archive (LACA) November 3rd, 7-9pm for the book release of Scott Benzel: Mindless Pleasures with essays by Jan Tumlir, Lee Foley, Hande Sever, Scott Benzel and Alan S. Tofighi, and the digital release of Parafictions Research Journal 1 by Holly Harrell and Misael Oquendo.  We will discuss both new publications in a conversation moderated by Jan Tumlir. 

Mindless Pleasures (2021, Los Angeles Contemporary Archive, 156 pp. softcover) examines Los Angeles artist Scott Benzel’s multifaceted project from its origins in a Spring 2019 course at California Institute of the Arts to a Fall 2020 exhibition and subsequent “addendum” works and texts. Mindless Pleasures (named for the abandoned working title of Thomas Pynchon’s novel Gravity’s Rainbow) is Benzel’s examination of the forces of leisure, chaos, and compulsion from the mid-20th Century to the present. The course examined a wide range of phenomena surrounding the evolution and social impact of cybernetics, chaos or complexity theory, chance, and gambling while the exhibition explored iconographic and performative aspects of Las Vegas’s (the artist’s hometown) casino culture, inviting audiences to interact with pieces such as Hybrid Monte Carlo (2020), a multimedia installation that prominently featured an operational data-gathering roulette wheel.
From Jan Tumlir’s essay for the book: “If the highly ambiguous figure of the gambler remains perhaps the preeminent archetype of modernity, it is for good reason: freely renouncing command of the situation, he nevertheless aims to break the bank. For Benzel, the figure is also the key to unlocking our present. The mutating abstractions produced by his oscilloscopes conform to formulae devised by the mathematicians Henri Poincaré and Edward Lorenz, forefathers of what has come to be known as chaos theory. That this term, which once might have been understood as an oxymoron, barely raises an eyebrow today is worth bearing in mind. Although the world wars are now behind us, we still live in a state routinely defined in terms of “precarity”, a word that points to the existential upshot of chaos, the sense that everything one should be able to count on—particularly as this relates to money—is always spinning out of control.”
Edited by Hailey Loman and designed by Sita Valrun, the book features incisive essays by Jan Tumlir, Lee Foley, and Hande Sever, an expanded course syllabus with handwritten marginalia by Sever, notes by Benzel and Alan S. Tofighi, and schematics for the analog electronics featured in the works by Alan S. Tofighi/AST. Printed by Colpa Press and published by Los Angeles Contemporary Archive in Fall 2021.

Pre-sale: Order your book HERE. Or purchase your book on site. 


Parafictions 1: News Media, Television & Docu-Fiction is a research journal created by Los Angeles artists Holly Harrell and Misael Oquendo. Parafictions, which the duo define as the presentation of fiction as fact, is a subject that aptly parallels critical issues which emerged with the contemporary politics of post-truth. The research journal is part of the duo’s ongoing exploration in understanding the role which parafictional media plays in the production of our social realities. This first journal focuses on parafictions in specific historical forms of media such as news media, television and docu-fiction.

The duo produced the research journal through a survey of archival materials from video distribution sites such as the Electronic Arts Intermix (New York City, NY) and the Video Data Bank (Chicago, IL).

Download the PDF HERE


Scott Benzel’s work has been shown or performed at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum Of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, LA><ART, Los Angeles,  The MAK Center for Art and Architecture, Los Angeles, The Palm Springs Art Museum, and the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, and was featured in Made in LA 2012 at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. Benzel has curated shows at the Los Angeles Contemporary Archive, the MAK Center for Art and Architecture (Schindler House), Los Angeles and the Welcome Inn, Eagle Rock, CA, as part of Pacific Standard Time organized by the Getty Museum, among others. He is a member of the faculty of the School of Art at California Institute of the Arts.

Misael Oquendo (born in Puerto Rico, 1993) is a video artist and writer based in Los Angeles. In 2020 Oquendo graduated from the Aesthetics & Politics program (MA) at the California Institute of Arts. He also received his BFA with a focus on film and visual critical studies from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2016. Oquendo’s writing and research engages the peculiarity of Los Angeles as a setting for creative production. One such research project (Autonomy Potemkin) led to a study of Los Angeles' contemporary art market, architecture & visual culture as at times literal and figurative Potemkin villages. His video practice combines diaristic & fiction writing with the critical frameworks in his research practice through a myriad of experimental animation, AI, CGI & visual effect techniques, often foregrounding language & text in relation to image.

Holly Harrell is a Los Angeles based video artist and performer. She completed her MFA at the California Institute of the Arts and holds a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Harrell often blurs fantasy spaces with historically relevant sites to emphasize the struggle of living in a place that has already ended. She plays on the hysterical and absurdist emotions of figuring out how to perform within this construct. She received a grant from the Roger Brown Study Collection to re-enact tours of the White House as Jackie O at different vernacular art environments throughout the Midwest as well as junkyards and grocery stores, which she continues to explore. She has performed at DFBRL8R and the Hyde Park Art Center in Chicago and has participated in screenings throughout New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. She wrote and directed a performance score with the Los Angeles based project space Hosting Projects, exhibited in a group show at the Mackey Apartments- MAK Center for Art and Architecture and recently completed a performance series at Cirrus Gallery.

Hande Sever is an artist and writer working at the intersections of decoloniality, vernacular architecture, ecosophy and emerging technologies. Her writing has been published by the Getty Research Journal, the Art Institute Review, the Stedelijk Studies, the Journal of Arts & Communities, and X-TRA Contemporary Art Quarterly, among others. As an artist, her work often takes up her family’s history of persecution to explore divergent lines of inquiries addressing military violence, surveillance, and censorship. Sever’s works have been presented at Hauser & Wirth Somerset, UK; MAK Museum Vienna, Austria; CICA Museum Seoul, South Korea; the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, IL; A.I.R. Gallery in New York; BOX Gallery in Los Angeles, CA. Sever received her MFA in Art and Technology from the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) and her double BA in Visual Arts and Computer Science from Emory University. She is currently a PhD candidate in the Art History, Theory, and Criticism program at the University of California San Diego (UCSD), and prior to joining UCSD she was a visiting faculty member of CalArts’ Photography and Media program. Sever’s works have been supported with grants from the Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation, California Arts Council, Getty Foundation and Henry Luce Foundation.

Jan Tumlir is an art writer and teacher, who lives and works in Los Angeles. He is a contributing editor for the art journal X-TRA, and his writing has appeared in Artforum, Aperture, Flash Art, Art Review, and Frieze. Tumlir is a member of the humanities and sciences faculty at Art Center College of Design.