Three acres of anti-capitalism.
14th Factory is a “multiple-media” art installation which transformed an empty, industrial warehouse into a mystic, rolling landscape of meteors, glowing floors, rolling hills, skylights, knitted waves, smashed Ferraris, and wingtips from the Mojave Desert.
14th Factory is possibly the most accessible and exciting art show I’ve been to in a long time. So much so, that I need to blog about it post-closure. Gah! I know! I’m failing at my job since I’m letting you know about this art show after it’s closed. However, for those of you who had the privilege of seeing Simon Birch’s 14th Factory in Downtown Los Angeles, you know to look ahead for any 14th Factory pop-up art shows in LA. I will most definitely be letting all of you know about any future 14th Factory art shows since I learned about this art show its closing weekend.
Simon Birch, a British, Hong Kong-based artist, conceptualized 14th Factory, the nonprofit which made the three acres of anti-Capitalism happen. Simon Birch gestated it over three years so that 14th Factory could be a monumental collaboration of artists which would transform an abandoned warehouse into a gift to the community.
14th Factory featured a global, interdisciplinary group of artists who transcended art boundaries to contribute to this guerilla art pop-up show. Yet, simultaneously, 14th Factory intended to bring together social and historical intersections of the East and West, all while Birch brought two art encampments together: East and West.
The notion behind the nonprofit’s name (14th Factory) comes from Eighteenth century China’s “Thirteen Factories” of the Canton region which provided a commercial haven for European and Chinese traders. Simon Birch’s intent with 14th Factory was to shrug off parallel, winding histories which drove a schism between old-world (as well as contemporary) divisions.
Set in an abandoned factory, 14th Factory’s Los Angeles debut pays homage to the lifecycle of Capitalism: an arc of potential, success, ruin and excavation.
Simon Birch intended 14th Factory to frame a hero’s journey. The hero’s journey which depicts this cyclical rise and fall of Capitalism brings the notion of Capitalism back to the individual, and ultimately the very people who visited 14th Factory became the individual hero.
In the interest of space, I’ll highlight some of my favorite exhibitions of the art show.
14th Factory began with an entrance down a dark hall (and I mean a pitch-black hall), leading to a kaleidoscope of nude human body parts and effects. This ‘tunnel’ was meant to be a rabbit hole, leading to a rebirth.
The rebirth in the next room took the form of a glowing white room housed inside a ‘meteor’. The glowing room was a reconstruction of Stanley Kubrick’s "2001: A Space Odyssey," done from memory alone since the set designs had been burned years ago.
Flowing from this came a portrait hall of Avatars and Demons, which flowed into a painted white brick structure fencing in an actual rolling hill of grass (complete with swings and children playing on the grass).
Not to be outdone by the extreme interior gardening, a room full of pitchforks hung, representing revolution throughout time.
Then comes a film, directed and scored to portray 300 Beijing factory workers brawling it out on six screens filling a room. The rat race, in true, brutish form.
Fast forward past the mangled Ferrari video and pieces, comes a room full of crowns. Crowns of virtually every imaginable carve-able or malleable material. Granite crowns, faux-gold crowns, paper crowns, 3-D printed crowns adorn pedestals throughout a hall displaying the Hypercaine (The Reward) exhibit. While the majority of the rooms were intellectually accessible to a large audience, this exhibit was the most easy to fit into the overarching theme of Capitalism. Hypercaine can be considered the reward, and forms of reward people in Capitalistic societies dream of.
While I failed to notify you of this art show in time, I’ll wax poetic about the hero’s journey within 14th Factory. If we gladly undertook the journey through the exhibition, shouldn’t we consider that perhaps we aren’t the heroes of Capitalism? Traditionally, Western mythological heroes have denied undertaking a journey, and we so readily jumped to tour the three acres. Maybe this is the disconnect Birch wanted to foster. We are supposed to be the heroes of our own Capitalistic story, but by undertaking the journey through Capitalism itself, we’ve already undermined our importance.
As much as this art show traversed media boundaries, it continues to live across media boundaries. Be on the watch for the 14th Factory documentary that was being filmed during the art show.
Exhibition: 14th Factory
Where: 440 North Avenue 19, Los Angeles, CA 90031
Artists: Simon Birch ∙ Cang Xin ∙ Dominique Fung ∙ Doug Foster ∙ Eric Hu ∙ Gary Gunn ∙ Gloria Yu ∙ Paul Kember ∙ Li Wei ∙ Movanna Chen ∙ Prodip Leung ∙ Sara Tse ∙ Scott Carthay ∙Scott Sporleder ∙ Stanley Wong ∙ Wing Shya ∙ Yang Zhicha ∙ Lily Kwong