Interview with Mark Allen of Machine Project

Ahead of the next Friday Salon Machine Project Presents!, we caught up with Los Angeles based artist.

ICA Events

20 Jun 2013

Ahead of the next Friday Salon Machine Project Presents!, we caught up with Los Angeles based artist, educator and curator Mark Allen to give us an introduction to the community project space he founded.

What is Machine Project?

Mark Allen:

1) Machine Project is a storefront space in the echo park neighborhood of Los Angeles that hosts events about all kinds of things we find interesting – scientific talks, poetry readings, musical performances, competitions, group naps, cheese tastings and so forth. We usually do about two events a week, open to the general public and free of charge. Usually at 8pm. Information on upcoming events can be found on our future page.

2) Machine Project is an informal educational institution located in the the same storefront space as mentioned above. We teach all kinds of things we find interesting – electronics, sewing, pickling, computer programming, car theft and so forth. We usually have one or two class going a week, open to the public for a fee by pre-registration. Information on upcoming classes can be found on our classes page.

3) Machine Project is a loose group of artist/performer collaborators, who do projects together when invited by other people and institutions, usually museums. Information on special projects can be found on our projects page.

You describe Machine Project as an ‘informal educational institution’. What do you mean by that?

We are interested in how knowledge is shared, created and circulated among people outside of formal institutions of learning. We are excited how learning can be a continual non-so-hierarchal pursuit driven by curiosity, joy, and casual utopianism.

Within most projects there appears to be a community dialogue that is intended to provoke and mobilize diversity of thought and practice. Can you speak a bit about the role of community in the projects you commission/curate?

I am most excited to bring together different communities of interest and see how they might enjoy each other's different subjectivities. An example of this was the Machine Project Confuse-a-tron, where we had simultaneous drop in workshops on plant cloning, kimchee makeup, turning cacti into musical instruments, and tranimal drag makeup.

Watch a video of that project here:

Interdisciplinary practice seems to be at the core of the Machine Project philosophy. Do you find that working on interdisciplinary projects has enabled Machine Project to reach out to a wider audience? And if so, how?

I think about art as a way of investigating whatever humans do. Just as a geologist could look at Michangelo's David from a strictly material analysis of the marble used, we can look at actions of a geologist through the lens of what artists think is interesting to talk about, such as questions around subjectivity, power, pleasure, the experience of consciousness and what is reality anyway (to name a few). Therefore the subject matter of our inquires are as wide ranging as whatever people are up to.

What exciting projects have you got coming up?

This summer we've invited 30 artists to create 30 new projects that respond to 30 notable architectural sites around the city of Los Angeles. The events range in size and scope and include a lecture on the history of aquariums inside a $3 million Frank Gehry-designed aquarium, an experimental theater piece performed in the only Schindler spec home ever built, a movement piece for pregnant performers in a domed church, a theatrical performance of The Odyssey set in a Honda Odyssey circling the freeways, and a Miracle Mile memorial Starline bus tour guided by the spirit of Whitney Houston.

Each project will also be a short film which we are in the process of shooting and editing. Some photos of the projects which have happened so far can seen on our Flickr page.

Friday Salon: Machine Project Presents! with Mark Allen is on Friday 21 June at 3pm.

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