Flux Factory Flexes
Art Community Constructs & Deconstructs
Is Art Chaos With Meaning?
LIC / Long Island City Queens / March 5, 2010. Continued from the first page of the LIC / Long Island City section. The Flux Factory isn’t so easily defined [unless you can intuit meaning from the definition given above]. I suppose one could say “hence the name”. In this day and age, when everything is so cut and dried, it was refreshing to find people and a place that had real, living-on-the-edge vitality to it. Flux Factory artists seem to not only to find creative ways to survive, but also thrive on beating the odds while doing some innovative things. I would even go so far as to describe the Flux Factory as avante garde, but Jean, the artistic director and a Frenchman, didn’t seem to appreciate my borrowing a French phrase to describe the gestalt into which he was so heavily vested.
Flux Factory - A Community Of Artists
All of the Flux Factory’s starving artists appear to do other things to help pay their rent via freelance and part time gigs. Cool. Yeah, cool when looking in from the outside, as we don't have to live through the monthly scrambling to buy food or pay the monthly rent or energy bill. Although, given the times we live in, some members of the audience may also be living closer to the edge than they'd like.
Flux Factory - Housebroken Exhibit In LIC
Living on the economic edge is not only scary, but it can also be terribly motivating. Making ends meet forces these artists to get out into the world, every day, to Make Things Happen. At the Flux Factory Housebroken Opening party, the Flux Factory created a performance art piece, wherein several artists dressed up in white lab coats, and took on the role of corporate recruiters, signing up party goers in an effort to set goals and then have them Make It Happen. Make what happen? Whatever the party-goer came up with. The performance piece was a spoof on corporate goal setting, and I admit finding it very amusing.
Flux Factory Housebroken - Making It Happen In LIC
After leaving the party, I pondered how the artists at the Flux Factory were making fun of corporate goal setting, while these entrepreneurial, artistic go-getters were, in fact, actually doing something quite similar, that is – Making Things Happen.
Part of the reason this irony struck me was that on my first visit to the Flux Factory, only hours before, I arrived unannounced [emails and telephone messages hadn’t worked] and found the place in a complete state of disarray. I bumped into Jean while looking to speak with someone who represented the Flux Factory. He nonchalantly oriented me to the building and then let me roam, while he returned to the work at hand - preparing for the opening reception which was about two hours away.
I was so impressed by the calm collective creative energy of the twenty or so people scurrying around the Factory, that my curiosity forced me to return after 11 pm that night to see how they had fared in making it all come together. Not to overplay their theme, but they did a nice job of Making It Happen. So, I roamed through the party, photographing the exhibits, doing a sort of ‘before’ and ‘after’ the photographic sketch, before I headed home.
Flux Factory Origins & History
I followed up the next week via telephone with Chen Tamir, the Executive Director. Chen gave me a nice chronology and description of the Flux Factory. She informed me that the Flux Factory had started in 1994 in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. This was back in the days when Williamsburg was an emerging destination in the New York art world. A number of artists from the New School were living in a loft space. They threw parties, performed theatrical acts, played music and created artistic works in a completely random and spontaneous mode.
Flux Factory Moves To LIC Long Island City
Over time they institutionalized these informal gatherings into the Flux Factory and in 2001 – 2002 they moved north to Queens to a space in Long Island city, along the Sunnyside border. They stayed in this space until 2008 evolving their artistic programs and their collective community, and it is during this time that I became aware of them.
Chen joined the Flux Factory through an artist residency in 2006. In the fall of 2008, as the Flux vacated their first Queens home with nowhere to go, Chen assumed the role of Executive Director. Throughout most of 2009, the Flux Factory transitioned into their new space, which they took possession of in June 2009. In addition to her role at the Flux Factory, Chen works as a curator, freelance writer and art critic / feature writer. Both she and Jean can be reached via email from the Flux Factory website, a link to which is provided below.
Jean, the Artistic Director, joined the Flux Factory about ten years ago. His encounter seems to have happened somewhat serendipitously for all involved. He decided to come to New York, packed his bags – or shall I say boxes – and flew over here. The boxes are a bit of an aside, as he was literally a starving artist, so he packed up his things in cardboard boxes, which he taped into a ‘box robot’ using duct tape. And then he actually flew over here with all of his worldly possessions in the robot box.
Flux Factory Art - Mission
Flux Factory’s mission is three fold: 1) to commission experimental art work by new artists [many of these are collaborative in nature and have been done with the New Museum, the Queens Museum Of Art, as well as European Museums and other U.S. museums], 2) to offer residency positions to a number of artists by providing them with studio space in which they can work [currently the Flux Factory is sponsoring fourteen artist residency positions], and 3) ongoing development of the artist collective [there are literally hundreds of artists involved in the Flux Factory collective].
Flux Factory Art Collective - LIC Queens
The Flux Factory is currently a collective of literally hundreds of artists. Some of them are inextricably involved in Flux Factory operations and programs, and they participate in its mission on a constant basis. In the Housebroken exhibit there are about 80 different exhibits which were put together by approximately one hundred artists. The pieces are technically not for sale, but if you really ‘must have one’ notify someone at the factory and it might possibly be arranged for you to purchase it.
Flux Factory Housebroken Exhibits
I returned to the Flux Factory a week later to do in-person, on-site follow up interviews with both Chen and Jean. I was still searching for more insight in order to write my story. Unfortunately, due to the weather Chen couldn’t make the in-person interview. But the inclement weather provided me with access to Jean when he had some unexpected downtime as the show that evening had been postponed. Hence we had a chance to chat without interruptions or distractions.
Since we had sat down in the Make It Happen performance space, I queried Jean as to why he was involved in the Flux Factory and what he was hoping to do with his position there. You know, what are your goals and what are you doing to Make It Happen? He seemed fully aware of the humor and irony.
I asked him, “Is this an existential thing for you? Is this your raison d’etre?” While asking the question I wondered if it was just coincidence that once again the best phrase I could find to express myself ... happened to be a french one.
He replied, “This is what I do. I don’t know how to do anything else.” I would soon learn that his answer, like some of the Flux Factory art, appeared straightforward at first, only to reveal deeper meaning later. After we'd spent a while conversing, we began to tour the house. For the first time, I began to actually 'see' some of the exhibits that I had only 'looked at' before.
Housebroken Exhibits - Reveal Themselves With Scrutiny
For example I had previously passed by luminescent wallpaper that is white in the light, but shows a design in the dark. There is a hologram, in a frame, which looks like a pure black box, until you see it from the proper angle, when it shows a distorted face. And inside what looks like a normal refrigerator freezer, one can see an installation of dapper little James Bond-like men hanging out in the ice box [by Paul Burn].
In addition to being the Flux Factory’s Artistic Director and curator for the Housebroken show, Jean is also an installation artist, carpenter and furniture maker. Hence his earlier reply had sort of masked the depth and breadth of his talents. When I asked to see a sample of his furniture, he informed me that there was only one piece in the Flux Factory Housebroken exhibit. Subconsciously I envisioned the piece to be a chair or a table, but when he showed me a suitcase, affixed to a wall containing wine glasses hanging from inset racks, I was taken by surprise. Once again this was a piece I had looked at before, but without 'seeing it': it was a kitchen cabinet.
Modern Art In LIC - Flux Factory
I toured some of the other exhibits, asking questions along the way. Ian Burns had done a conveyor belt, which looked so at home in the Flux Factory, that I had to ask Jean if in fact it was an exhibit, as I wasn’t entirely sure. Gabriella Vainsencher created this ominous hand above the conveyor belt, which I took a liking to because it seemed so ominous, like the Lord's Hand reaching out.
And then there was the room turned movie set which was created by Jaime Iglehart. She had done this in collaboration with a number of other artists in the collective. It included a soothing waterworks surrounding a chair, which I had the opportunity to enjoy for a while as Jean and I were conversing. It was really very soothing.
In the room there were also a number of fictitious consumer products with names like Lard Cakes for which Jaime has produced a commercial that has been posted on You Tube. And the room included a time machine which enabled passage into and out of the room through what resembled an old fashioned stove or what one party-goer had described as a fire place.
Flux Factory - An Art Installation In Queens NY
Before I left Flux Factory, Jean explained to me that Flux is a myriad of things. He described Housebroken as a sort of art installation, which I found to be an interesting concept. It seems art installations and performance art are the direction into which the 21st century art world seems to be moving. Perhaps Housebroken is an example of the art world in flux, morphing from the existentialism of the 20th century into the experiential of the 21st.
Housebroken Exhibit Days & Times
The Flux Factory Housebroken exhibit will run through Sunday, March 21st, although some of the exhibits, like the chandeliers, rugs and wallpaper; will likely remain as quasi-permanent installations, staying long after the exhibition has ended. Flux Factory does not charge admission, but donations are welcome [remember they're starving artists]. Flux Factory is located at 39-31 29th Street only a few doors down from the Holiday Inn in Long Island City, just off the N, W & Q subway stop at 39th Avenue [see map where we’ve included a photo of the front door]. They are open weekends from 12 noon to 6 pm on Saturday and Sunday.
Flux Factory Future Exhibits In 2010
For the year 2010 the Flux Factory will do four major shows. The Housebroken show will be followed by ‘Science Fair’ which uses grade school science fairs as its theme. Self Destructive Art will be the theme for this fall. And Congress Collectives will be one of their major exhibits in the year 2011.
Flux Thursdays - An Artists Montly Open Mic
Flux also hosts an event on the second Thursday of every month, which they call Flux Thursdays. It’s what Chen described as an impromptu ‘Open Mic’ art party which generally starts between 8 and 9 pm. Originally you had to be a Flux Factory member to attend, but it’s become a bit more open than that. Email them to be sure.
Flux Factory is perhaps best known for its Going Places / Doing Stuff bus tours. Between six and eight of these will be given over the summer and they are all oversubscribed. They are free, but a $20 donation is appreciated. The tours are hosted by artists, wherein you are given a meeting place, as well as a time to meet and list of things you’ll need to bring with you. And then off you go.
Click here to view a map of the Flux Factory in LIC Long Island City Queens. Click this link to obtain their contact info on the Flux Factory website.
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