Past Thoughts: The 14th Factory

Around this time last year (2017), Simon Birch’s The 14th Factory was all the rage in Los Angeles.

Located just east of Dodger Stadium on Avenue 19 in an abandoned industrial bakery, The 14th Factory was an amazing temporary large scale art exhibition that anyone who couldn’t score tickets to the Broad in time for their first trip to LA could go to and still find suitable locations to snap selfies for their tinder profiles which they in turn utilized to boost their follower counts on instagram.

This is too bad because it was utterly brilliant and worthy of so much more than social media exploitation.

Its popular appeal stemmed largely from its alright facsimile of the rebirth room from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, and on the multiple occasions I went, one could find a Disneyland-long line of hipsters and social media influencers(?) waiting to walk into the room and experience it, and nothing else at the rather massive exhibition of truly excellent art. I’ve never had such an easy time of photographing and filming art pieces in my life and that is unfortunate because Birch and his collaborators put on a great show.

The room itself was a decent facsimile, but took a little too much credit for accuracy, claiming that it was built identically to the original with help from one of the people responsible for the construction of the original set. That being said, it lacks a great amount of detail the original set included. I think this is worth noting, as in publicity, claims were made praising the authentic and accurate reconstruction. The original set is below. You can decide for yourself just how accurate you think it is.

I don’t doubt that the color scheme, while looking different, was merely white balanced to taste by Kubrick, a feature not made possible by the camera I was shooting video with at the time.

As a side note: The name of the art installation of which the rebirth room was but a piece, was ‘The Barmecide Feast.’

Moving on.

The primary theme of the show was Birch’s battle with cancer and the emotionall stages he went through while in treatment. For the most part, it is easy to draw the connections between the two, with the heavy handed use of the rebirth (ie beating cancer) metaphor in Barmecide Feast room.

Another far more heart wrenching piece at the exhibit was this media installation of a Ferrari Mondial being rolled (repeatedly) in a parking lot somewhere in Hong Kong. Birch discusses the fact he had become quite a successful working artist in Hong Kong and that he had purchased this Ferrari as a result. However, upon being diagnosed with cancer, Birch arrived at the typically-cynical-artist-conclusion, that all his earthly possessions had effectively become meaningless overnight (including this Ferrari). I fundamentally disagree with him here as Ferraris are not simply superficial, they are experiential and have heart and personality and carry within them the hearts and mindsets of those who design and build them, but at the same time, I also get that smashing a Rolex on several large projection screens would not have the same kind of visual impact as this. I guess I would have looked for perhaps a flood-damaged or otherwise salvaged Ferrari to do this with, not a vintage Mondial. Just my two cents.

Upon leaving this room, we were presented with pieces of the wreckage of the Mondial, cut in the same shapes as the large black foam that surrounded the Barmecide Feast (you can see this in the Gallery).

You can hear all of this discussed in an interview conducted with Simon Birch about the 14th Factory by John Horn back in April of 2017.

The larger open spaces in the 14th Factory included a variety of mixed media pieces, including additional large scale video projects, all chronicling Birch’s turmoil and the layout was exceptionally well done. Toward the end of the exhibit was a space that contained a series of crowns (I’ll update this with the artist and the piece later, I don’t have that info handy) which became internet famous in its own right when a guest lost their balance and sent one row of the crowns crashing down like dominos.

To be fair to the guest, this piece was asking for it as the pedestals were placed way too close together. Anyone with a Louis Vuitton bag of a certain size or larger was bound to knock one or more of these over walking down and between the aisles.

The 14th Factory has since shut down, and part of me is curious what has become of the space. There was talk of it reopening in another city at a later date, but I certainly hope it doesn’t. Not because I’m selfish, but because these things are meant to really only happen once and it’s difficult to recapture the spirit of a limited time offering if it happens other places. As an example, Disneyland recently brought back the Main Street Electrical Parade (AGAIN) after it was originally slated to go away forever in 1997. It didn’t last long unfortunately, despite some die-hards (like me) who always enjoy a trip down memory lane.

I did pick up a memento of my time there, a millennial hypebeast flat billed baseball cap that didn’t fit my head, which was a bummer because it had a beautiful logo for the space on it. Normally I collect coffee mugs, but for now, this will have to do.

Photos, as always, can be found in The Gallery.

Thanks for stopping by.