British Hong Kong-based artist Simon Birch transforms an empty warehouse in Lincoln Heights into a mythic universe created collaboratively through video, installation, sculpture, sound, paintings, and live performance.
The 14th Factory is located inside a 3-acre warehouse complex across from the long abandoned Lincoln Heights Jail on a quiet industrial street just north of downtown L.A.
The massive multimedia art project “weaves together elements of popular culture–science fiction, punk music, graphic novels, and film–with critical re-examinations of social and historical narratives, especially interconnections between East and West.” – The 14th Factory
The show’s title is a reference to the 13 factories, or warehouses, of Canton (now Guangzhou), which in the 18th and 19th centuries were the centers of foreign trade — the Chinese called them “barbarian houses.”
But its structure also alludes to the sequence of actions Joseph Campbell described as the “hero’s journey,” or monomyth. At The 14th Factory, the visitor is the hero, moving from the everyday into the supernatural, through trials and battles, to emerge victorious and transcendent.
“The vision of The 14th Factory is to create a new, independent paradigm for socially-engaged art, a kind of guerilla action where art occupies and re-energizes underutilized or even derelict urban spaces and gifts them back to the community in the form of a transformative experience.” – The 14th Factory
The fourteen immersive large-scale collaborative works, takes viewers down the rabbit hole, through darkened hallways…
…huge video projection rooms…
…galleries of colorful paintings and even a lush green lawn made from a 100 tons of dirt and real grass.
One sequence of rooms went from a hypnotic morphing video installation…
…to an enormous sculpture representing a crashed meteor appearing as a “freeze-frame” explosion…
…to finally ending in a room that was an exact replica of a set piece from Stanley Kubrick’s Oscar-winning film “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
Recreating the replica wasn’t easy. Stanley Kubrick was known for destroying all his personal set design sketches and notes after wrapping his films. Fortunately, Kubrick’s original set designer, who just happened to be his nephew, was still alive and was able to complete the task.
One of the biggest surprises of the installation was coming across the huge half acre lush green lawn in the middle of the complex.
According to Birch, “the garden is meant to re-create the surface of the moon and provide a moment of rest.” Supposedly, they allowed guests to walk on the grass during the opening night reception which heavily damaged it. It was off limits during my visit.
Several smaller rooms branched off from the large grassy gallery space.
One of the installations includes a piece called the “The Crusher.”
Would you stand underneath them? I did.
The fully immersive experience continued up the ramp.
One of the larger installations projected images of 300 shirtless Chinese factory workers fighting on multiple screens.
The room was mesmerizing and the added slow motion effect made it appear as if the workers were embracing rather than being violent towards one another.
“The Inevitable” is a personal piece for Mr. Birch.
He liquidated everything he owned to be able to fund the completion of The 14th Factory project. His last remaining material possession was his vintage red Ferrari, so what did he do? He destroyed it for the sake of the project and nothing went to waste. He not only filmed the carnage and turned it into an incredible video installation…
…but also created some brilliant pieces of wall art and sculpture from the leftover scraps.
Crowns and the Disruptors
One of the final installations combines 4 floor-to-ceiling video screens, which for me triggered childhood memories of riding the “Haunted Mansion” elevators at Disneyland.
The final building within the complex contains a small cafe (which was closed) and gift shop.
You can also catch a glimpse of some of the WIP projects they’re currently working on.
GENERAL ADMISSION $15 advance, $18 at the door. Donate-What-You-Can Donate what you can at the door every Thursday and 3rd Sunday of the month. Locals in 90031 = Free Admission Residents and holders of driver’s licenses with the zip code 90031 are eligible for free entry. Ticket holders must bring along their driver’s license for entry.