It’s eleven years since I lived in Los Angeles. Something subtle seems to have shifted here, and for the better. One example of why is Fallen Fruit, a collective of two artists and a writer who live in the Silverlake district who started to map all the fruit and trees in their neighbourhood, the ones which had branches hanging over onto sidewalks so you can pluck their oranges or figs for free.
I’m here for a couple of days researching art projects that are about growing food and about the places where you grow it so I’m due to meet them later in the day. In the morning I check out their website, fallenfruit.org. For the last couple of years they’ve been holding Public Fruit Jams – communal jam-making sessions – handing out free fruit trees for people to plant next to their fences, or encouraging others to make fuit maps of their neighbourhoods.
I notice that there’s a map for where I’m staying – Echo Park, made by someone who’s taken up their enthusiasm. After a couple of minutes trying to figure it out I notice there’s a group of fruit trees right next to my friend’s house. I walk 30 yards out of the door and there they are, just as they are shown on the map, right next to each other. A lemon tree overhanging the pavement, fat with ripe yellow fruit, and right next to it a small fig tree, figs just a few weeks away from being ripe. I stand there, smiling, ridiculously happy to have found them.
They’re by no means the only example of this kind of strangely unironic sincerity that has taken root among some of the art projects here. I’m also here to see the artist Fritz Haeg whose Edible Estates Attack on the Front Lawn has been encouraging people to replace the uniformity of grass with fruit and vegetables.
I reach up and pluck a lemon from the tree. I doubt I’d have even noticed these trees normally.