Talk: Tales of the Floating Class

  • Event
  • Lecture
  • Panel Discussion
  • Publication
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

835 N Kings Road
West Hollywood, CA 90069
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Talk & Book Launch 
Norman Klein in Conversation with Michael Ned Holte

Norman Klein‘s new collection of essays, Tales of the Floating Class, reveals shared ironies in the arts and urban culture over the past fifty years. It studies the amnesiac effects of globalization upon the narrative structure of television, video, animation, photography and installation art, as well as the shapeshifting that has overwhelmed cities and entertainment spaces. Using Los Angeles and the West as one focal point, various case studies trace the growth of the Floating Class, an expression from the late nineteenth century referring to the outliers who would mill around city parks, crowding the rallies, while listening to rabble-rousing public speakers. These sites were also known as “bughouse squares,” because they sponsored extreme haranguing of all sorts. In earlier centuries, many had been fairgrounds for vendors selling artisanal goods. After 1850, they became a sounding board for the new city, even for avant-garde movements across the arts. Today, the Floating Class exists more internally, for example, in vigilante social networks. Its precarious numbers have grown a hundred-fold. They suffer the mad indignities of a gig economy, and neo-feudal indenture. They try not to feel caught like wild salmon in Trump’s hair. Klein writes in comic flourishes that layer fact and fiction. That is because the line between the real and the imaginary has radically blurred, inside the comic picaresque that defines our history today. Featured are twenty-two essays and fictions that have been reedited from their original published version.

Norman M. Klein is cultural historian and novelist. His books include: The History of Forgetting: Los Angeles and the Erasure of Memory; Seven Minutes: The Life and Death of the American Animated Cartoon; Vatican to Vegas: The History of Special Effects; Freud in Coney Island; the award-winning media novel Bleeding Through: Layers of Los Angeles, 1920-85; The Imaginary 20th Century (co-authored with Margo Bistis). His newest book was published in 2019: Tales of the Floating Class: Essays and Fictions, 1982-2017. His next book, Archaeologies of the Present: The Dismantling of the American Psyche is due out in 2021. Klein is a professor at California Institute of the Arts.

Michael Ned Holte is a writer and curator living in Los Angeles. He organized the exhibition “Routine Pleasures” at the MAK Center for Art and Architecture at the Schindler House in 2016, and co-curated (with Connie Butler) the 2014 edition of “Made in L.A.” at the Hammer Museum. His writing has appeared in publications including Artforum, East of Borneo, and X-Tra, and he is the recipient of a Creative Capital Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant for a forthcoming book on art and microinstitutions in Los Angeles. He teaches in the Program in Art at CalArts.