The 14th Factory
We Los Angelenos are extremely fortunate to live in a city that has such an explosive contemporary art scene. From LACMA to MOCA, the walls of our prestigious museums rotate collections from a diverse group of pioneering artists whose work is as radically progressive as it is world-renowned. Beyond the walls of these well-established institutions lies a cityscape of warehouses and repurposed buildings suitable for large-scale installations and retrospectives that make experiencing an artistic point of view truly 3 dimensional. Given the right space, the sky is honestly the limit. It’s that feasibility that makes downtown Los Angeles such an attractive place for visionaries like Simon Birch looking to create a multi-sensory encounter with art such as The 14th Factory.
Inside 3 acres of industrial warehouse space sandwiched between an old jailhouse and Goodwill store in Lincoln Heights, is a mixed media universe showcasing film, sculpture, paintings, photographs, music as well as pre-scheduled live performances and interactive on-going art projects and so much more. 14 artists from China, Canada, the US and the UK have come together in collaboration across various disciplines to present a collective commentary on the overall social and historic intersection between the east and the west through industrialized capitalism and pop-culture. “Conceived by Hong Kong-based British artist Simon Birch, the vision of The 14th Factory is to create a new, independent paradigm for socially-engaged art, a kind of guerilla action where art occupies and re-energizes under utilized or even derelict urban spaces and gifts them back to the community in the form of a transformative experience,” (the14thfactory.com). Birch has designed it so that the visitor enters the building to embark on a global artistic journey—one that explores light and darkness and challenges the senses through sound and image.
According to Robert Peckham’s article Inside the Factory of the World, the word “factory” refers to the Chinese trading stations of Canton in the 1800s where foreign merchants were allowed to obtain tea, silk, porcelain and opium. These trading stations were located in a specific district known as the 13 Factories where international trade took place for a contained period of time during the year. When foreign merchants objected to the Chinese control of trading profitable commodities such as opium, it catalyzed the Opium Wars of the mid-1800s—bringing an end to these peaceful trading practices. “For Birch, the 13 Factories are emblematic of a world riven with strife and divided up into competitive nation-states. In contrast, Birch’s 14th Factory is imagined as an all-encompassing space, where differences may be accommodated,” (Peckham).
Thus the expansive setting is no accident and neither is the “factory” element. A nod to Warhol and the art spaces of major urban cities like Manhattan, London and Berlin that defined contemporary art, the labor associated with art-making is striped of its glamorous elitism and reduced to that of traditional factory work—like sweat shops producing inane objects for sale.
Whether you are walking through salvaged airplane tails protruding from a pool of black water in the “Clear Air Turbulence” or marveling at “This Brutal House” featuring the slow motion movements of men tumbling and turning in midair, the viewer is meant to confront their own ideas of globalization. Invisible forces of nature both man-made and supernatural demonstrate how the past influences the present through social constructs. “These themes—violence, interconnectedness, nostalgia for lost identities and cultures that have been submerged in the ‘universal inter-dependence of nations’ recur throughout The 14th Factory,” (Peckham)
Open for public consumption until April 30th 2017, the exhibit is overwhelmingly spectacular with every nook and cranny offering the next thought-provoking work of art to reflect upon. Although all the pieces are compelling, below are a few standouts that I particularly enjoyed.
I stepped into a long black tunnel with a giant screen at the end of what felt like a football field. I heard ambient sounds that were hard to interpret and felt swift movement in the air around me. As I walked towards the screen I could see human forms vacillating between male and female. There were breasts, hands, arms, fists and faces all morphing in circular symmetry—spiraling at the center. The video installation was dwarfing in size and mesmerizing—I imagine it’s what it would actually feel like to be inside a kaleidoscope.
During a three-week period the artist, Movana Chen is on-site working with the audience to continue her interactive community-knitting project. Chen has gone all over the world since 2004 knitting magazine clothes. This particular 14th Factory piece began in 2011. “By rearranging and constructing new clothes out of shredded papers, Chen subverts the function of garments as a way to examine the traditional relationship between clothing and the media, consumption and commerce,” (The 14th Factory).
Garlands (The New World)
After emerging from the stark white light of “The Barmecide Feast”—an exact replica of the monolith set piece from Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001:A Space Odyssey, I continued through the black maze to the very center of the factory. There a bright open green lawn with a line of swings hovered above red poppies. The green grass covered mounds of uneven dirt signifying earth and “the lunar landscape where the Apollo space missions tried and failed to navigate,” (The 14th Factory). Like the poppy fields in the Wizard of Oz, here the thematic reference to the Chinese opium trade in the Garlands represent a peaceful yet subliminally dangerous resting place. While swinging I admired the surreal photographs of Asian people in traditional village garb floating in midair
The Crusher (The Talisman)
Hundreds of salvaged pitchforks point down from the ceiling. Rings that vary in widths and distance symbolize historic moments of resistance and revolution throughout the ages. The colors of the pitchforks represent the colors of cars that crashed during the 20th century. “The Crusher,” refers to Reginald Lisowski—a famous American wrestler that inspired a 1960s pop song covered by punk band The Cramps in the 1980s. “All of our civilization’s industrial histories as an unstoppable force, pulled by time, by progress, heading toward its end: recycled, re-used, re-imagined,” (The 14th Factory)
Location: 440 North Avenue 19Los Angeles, CA 90031
Hours of Operation:
Tue: 11am – 6pm
Wed: 11am – 6pm
Thu: 11am – 8pm
Fri: 11am – 8pm
Sat: 10am – 10pm
Sun: 10am – 6pm
NOTE FOR HOW TO VISIT: The time (10am/11am) in brackets next to dates is simply the start time of the whole day - NOT the time you have to arrive! Please select your desired date and then your desired time slot to confirm your entry.
Parking: $10 Cash Valet
Catch The 14th Factory before it closes April 30th 2017