Leave it to a certain someone to fill me in on the existence of yet another hidden oasis of art happening on the fringes of the L.A. area. Her forwarded email promised a unique installation experience happening somewhere near Cypress Park, among the carcasses of closed pastry facilities, and voc-tech schools. True to form, the enigmatic 14th Factory, is a long in the planning, transporting, occasionally absorbing journey into worlds both outward and inward. British artist Simon Birch, and a host of fellow explorers transformed a long in disuse factory into an occasionally pitch-black labyrinth of sculptural, photographic, filmic, and found artworks, all seemingly centered on realms of the transformative. Inspired by eighteenth century China, and its "thirteen districts", the repurposed factory serves as a mythic continuation where expression of seemingly disparate disciplines, styles, and worldviews find themselves ready to collide, and in turn open forum toward completely fresh, utterly new shapes and languages.
Upon entering the facility, we are invited toward deceptively foreboding tunnels and paths, and into several captivating displays of innovative works that no simple museum could contain. Each work leaving impressions of years toiling under diverse conditions. Presentations on par with extended film shooting, often involving travel and collaboration. Within these corridors, are a glimpse into work that is the antithesis of the cliche of a lone creator.
For example, this incredible environment comprised of what resembles shattered obsidian, like the remnants of a mysterious meteor impact. Or a most foreboding alien mountain pass. Conceived by Birch, and co-designed by Taylor Philips Hungerford, the several hundred square foot room cleverly hides what soon sets my inner cinema nerd mind ablaze..
That's right. Within the core of the impact lies The Barmecide Feast. An environment that almost wholly resembles the Louis XVI room from Kubrick's 2001. Guests are encouraged to remove their footwear, and are allowed to explore the room within four minute intervals. It's a truly captivating moment. As you can see here, even E was impressed. I found myself agape at just how close they were able to replicate the opulent and utterly mysterious ream David Bowman slipped into during those classic final moments.
Many more enchantments awaited us upon our visit. Was soon welcomes by this hill laden park at the center of the factory. A shame we are unable to use the swings. Surrounded by images of China's hidden tribes, as well as intense close ups of seeds borne out of the region's agrarian culture adorn the surrounding walls. Themes of levitation and joy permeate the sunlit courtyard, not to mention several open chambers to other works in several directions.
A room that both entranced and disturbed, The Inhumane, by Wing Shya, and Birch, is a striking multi-screen tale of collaboration and collision. A factory full of workers both states of togetherness, and utter chaos in a slow motion ballet of violence. The imagery being unsettling, but no less beautiful. The ability to walk between and around each screen capturing different angles of the event further bolstering the participation of the visitor. We are one with the struggle. A struggle that could at times seems ready to consume all who enter, or transform them.
Which seems to be at the heart of 14th Factory. Works beginning in enclosed circles, inviting new eyes and minds into a collaborative effort. An effort that promises metamorphosis for the inclined. Celebrating cycles, only to invite their ultimate dissolution and recreation. Circles, like the piece above, innocuous at first, but soon granting endless possibilities with nary a change of position, change of light, gender, belief, perspective, humor, baggage. Birch and company have fashioned a documentary in progress centered on not only the role of the work, but of the public's. Cameras follow us into the labyrinth, inviting us to openly discuss, capture photos, comment, intermingle. We become an extended part of a larger whole. Witnesses to the end of one economic ideology, and into a wholly new era.
The 14th Factory, runs through April 30th.