Housebroken at Flux Factory

Housebroken, the inaugural show at Flux Factory’s new space in Long Island City, was a mind boggling feat that included well over 100 performances and installations embedded within and distributed throughout every nook and cranny inside the old two floored factory. I entered and left not as a viewer passively observing an artwork. I entered and left as a participator having experienced art and life as it happens, simultaneously, shared and performed by everyone. There was a relentless energy I felt reverberating throughout the space, a pride of having done-it-ourselves, a gratitude for sharing it with others, an excitement for just being there, present, reveling in the fact alone that it was happening. The seamless balance between the physical space and the artwork cast a loud but subversive foundation for us to view, admire, react, interact, play, experiment, participate, and revel in.

I arrived shortly after 8 when a line going around the block was yet to form. Upon entry I saw dear Lauren in a lab coat with the words Make it Happen spread on the back. She greeted me by the sign up sheet and had me answer the question “What do you want to make happen? I wrote, love. tonight. (yea…) I was swiftly directed to a gentleman sitting at a desk and for the next couple minutes we analyzed and questioned in the most benign therapy-session way about what and who and how I will “make it happen.” Do I have someone specific in mind to love? no. Do I want a sustainable romantic love or a one night love affair? either. Am I picky about who I want to engage love with? yes. Is there anyone in this room right now that I would make out with? Hell, no. Am I afraid to walk up to someone and shoot the shit while potentially increasing my chance to love and be loved? Hell, yes.

I was diagnosed and treated with a request to spend the evening to talk to at least one gentleman, a complete stranger, and potentially make out with that person that night. We shook hands and I was directed to Tracey sitting at another desk who filled out a prescription form, asked me to fill out my address to follow up with me, making sure I made it happen, tonight,  and photographed me with the form, holding me to the promise I made to cure myself of this wanting. The calendar board had post its with the “it” written down and marked on whatever day so and so wanted to make “it” happen. End of story, I didn’t make it happen, nowhere close. I don’t approach strangers and that’s that. Unless they are spectacularly good looking and there was no such thing there, so I failed. Sorry Lauren.

Heading to the second floor there was dear Ali’s work installed on the walls of the staircase, two guardian angel statues protecting the entrance of the dreamscape wonderland that is Flux Factory. I never can get enough of Ali’s work, the innocent and naive intermingled with a disturbed nostalgia and sadness, the figurative formed by accumulations of geometric shapes and patterns, telling sad untold stories with playful gestures.

In the kitchen and dining room there was a couple in silver glitter hats serving soup, plenty platters of campari drinks that grossed me out and two girls in Victorian wear performing modern dance with the dining table. I was most enraptured by this woman’s face expressions, her grimaces clashed with the graceful flips, her arms and legs folding in and around the table.

I’ve been told there were about 15 people living in this factory, with studios for them to work in as well. This led to finding spaces and rooms where items were installed with as much deliberate intention as an artwork. The wall paper, lamp, plant, suitcase table, were placed with an air of precision and warmth.

Down another staircase I went (there were many staircases) and was greeting by a guy with a blond wig and a white suit singing a song about self-help. His looks and voice were unsympathetic, impassioned and dry, matter-of-fact and hysterically monotone. The words self help donned the front and back covers of a book he was supposedly reading from. The piano/beats player glared out of space, robotic and void of emotions. It was one of my favorite performances of the evening.

Next to the performers was a concoction involving a production line treadmill thing covered in cotton, cocked at an angle with a camera, blue light, and a toy airplane hanging above. It set the image for the live video being streamed of an airplane in movement created by the treadmill cotton as background sky for the airplane flying during the day. Pretty straightforward.

Next door there was a guy who looked like a ghostbuster giving electric chaircuts to any adventurous volunteer in need of a trim. The participant was seated and promptly taped and wrapped, eyes and mouth covered, body constricted with little room to move. He was then subject to the hairstylist’s buzz and snaps, the tools of which are connected to pedals and amplifiers that react with a deafening echo, each snip and buzz. It was sadistic yet benevolent, creepy yet tempting. I would have jumped on the opportunity to be blindfolded and wrapped, silenced by the vibrating sounds of scissors and trimmers were I not deathly afraid of his chopping my hair off that took a decade to grow.

Across from him were two white paper coneheads droning in robot talk about sending postcards to your future self in the present moment. They asked for donations to pay for stamps.

On the other side of the room were two studios. Here, again, the space itself were carefully arranged and treated as much like artworks than the artworks themselves. Everything was so consciously placed, mindfully thought out, I took great care to observe each nook and cranny of the space. I don’t know this artist’s name but she came in with a platter of drinks and encouraged me to flip through the book of prints and take whatever I wanted. I took two images of messy abstract fields. I especially loved the small drawings above the flowers.

Man Bartlett‘s studio was minimal and on a table were drawings in process, obsessive fields of circles, tiny tiny tiny shapes repeated one after the other, laborious to no end, compulsive with an inability to grasp in its entirety. Think Daniel Zeller and Yayoi Kusama making love.

Stepping outside I saw standing inside a pigeon coop, with a lair beneath the stairs (more stairs) made of thick branches. There was a girl there speaking with much authority pointing to the grid of nests with prettiest of pigeons hopping around. Created by The Deterritorialized Church, the psycho-geographical social sculpture was a humbling co-existence exercise of humans nesting along pigeons, trapped inside a staircase prison.

Up another staircase I went and caught sight of a mini sculpture wedged between a table and the wall on the stairs. It was an architectural view of a mini world, with stairs. It was precious.

I got to spend a significant amount of time with this wig-infested duo, holding a small portable stereo, in the bathroom line. They were very involved with this wigged stereo, caressing it’s hair, fondling it’s antennae, listening fondly to the dj on the radio, taking turns lip syncing the conversation happening and bobbing their heads to its tunes. They seemed to also be quite drunk and couldn’t walk properly and spent a good 15 minutes in the bathroom doing god knows what. Bizarre.

The bathroom itself was quite fascinating; prints of colored silhouettes engaged in all sorts of sexual activity, voices of two people conversating about being pregnant and sitting on a toilet seat, the door installed with a grid of door lock hooks, a mirror with an image of a scruffy man peering from the side (also by Lauren). It was quite interactive and entertaining.

I left the opening when it started to become unbearably crowded and I finished checking out each corner and crevice of the factory. I asked my friends what they thought of the show and they didn’t seem as impressed as I was. For one reason or another I loved and appreciated the unbiased and balanced intermingling of space, artwork, artist and viewer, all spread along the same visual plane, giving the opportunity to interact and co-perform. Each moment and each spot was an artwork waiting to happen or already happening. Surely the show would look completely different in the daytime and when the performances weren’t all happening all at once. It was energy of the night, of the people, of the simultaneity of it all that was gratifying to me.



Filed under Art

3 responses to “Housebroken at Flux Factory

  1. Joann,
    I’m sorry you feel as though you failed in your attempt to Make it Happen. Tracy, David, and I have been exchanging thoughts about your post. Is failing to make it happen, still making it happen? Make it Happen is a piece about initiative and motivation, and flipping that switch in your brain that makes you go out and, well, make that one thing happen in your life that you want to see happen. The facilitators of Make it Happen do not claim to be magicians, but only colleagues who want you to find the inspiration in yourself to get anything you want out of life.

    That said, perhaps our intake procedure should incorporate a more in-depth assessment of defining whatever your “it” is – maybe then we could help you attain more realistic goals for yourself (with a good balance of risk-taking, which we believe is a healthy ingredient in making it happen.) For example, you agreed in the intake procedure to talk to a stranger (which is obviously a risk for you), and then you didn’t – well, of course you are going to fail! Make it Happen helps you realizes your dreams by breaking down unattainbale things into baby steps, and in your case, it was talking to a stranger.

    But, my dear Joann, it’s OK to fail. It’s part of the process of making it happen. Like Samuel Beckett, we suspect there may be value in failing a few times. It’s a great way to warm up to making it happen later. As the playwright wrote, “No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” Make It Happen counsels patience and persistence in all endeavors.

    So go out there and Make it Happen, Joann. In the short time I have known you I have been impressed by your motivation and enthusiasm that fuels your passions. You have the potential to be a Make it Happen star.


    p.s. My mirror piece was in the upstairs bathroom, not the downstairs bathroom. Sorry you missed it.

  2. I love that you wrote this as a narrative experience, rather than a mere review. Not to mention…. your brilliant commentary, brutal honesty, and Ali ‘s installation looks awesome!xo

  3. Peter Hristoff

    Thanks for writing about the downstairs bathroom!
    I will periodically “up date” the walls with other prints so keep coming to Flux!

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