Daring performance artist who walked across LA’s ‘Graffiti Towers’ speaks out

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In a shocking video recorded this weekend, a slackliner is seen walking 80 feet between two graffiti-filled towers on the Oceanwide Plaza Development in downtown Los Angeles.

Ben Schneider said he’s a performance artist. He walked on the slackline Sunday morning more than 40 floors up and more than 500 feet high.

“I wanted to create the greatest art piece Los Angeles has ever seen,” Schneider said.

Schneider’s stunt is the latest problem at Oceanwide Plaza. In 2019, construction stopped when the Chinese developer ran out of money. In recent months, the abandoned complex made national news after graffiti artists tagged dozens of floors on all three unfinished towers.

After the graffiti, there were base jumpers at the complex and now slackliners too. Schneider said he wore a safety harness in case he fell and they used a drone and fishing wire to help fly the slackline from one tower to the other.

He said he entered the Oceanwide complex Saturday night and walked Sunday morning.

“The only thing going through my mind when I was walking was pretty much, ‘Don’t look down, don’t fall, and die,’” Schneider said. “There’s fire trucks beneath me, there’s police officers, they were just all at the bottom. They didn’t come up and do anything, they were just watching from the bottom I guess.”

“We did it like six to seven times and we were like, ‘Well, we’re probably going to get arrested pretty soon, let’s get out before the cops arrest us,’” Schneider said.

Graffiti artists who vandalize the buildings at Oceanwide Plaza open up about why they use the property as their canvas. Lolita Lopez reports for the NBC4 News I-Team on April 18, 2024.

He was able to escape without getting caught by the LAPD.

“They got past LAPD. They got upstairs and they did what they did,” Los Angeles City Councilmember Kevin De Leon said.

In February, De Leon and the rest of LA’s City Council unanimously approved more than $1 million to build a fence around the property. LAPD still surrounds the site 24 hours a day. De Leon said he always knew that the fence wouldn’t keep everyone out, but he’s hesitant to spend more taxpayer money or LAPD resources on the abandoned towers.

“The LAPD, our law enforcement agency, they are not the security guards of this private developer that went belly up,” De Leon said. “I am hesitant to put any more dollars, any more pennies into this.”

Nick Sozonov shot drone video of a few of the dangerous stunts. He said the LAPD was simply slow to respond to the break-ins.

“They’re all on their phones, distracted most of the time, not taking effort to come quick when they see something happening,” Sozonov said.

If you drive past the Oceanwide complex today, you will see that the slackline is still in place.

Schneider feels like he left his mark on these towers that are supposedly secure.

“Every time I drive by the highway I say ‘Hey, I walked that.'”

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