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Machine Project is an expensive hobby for LA artist Mark Allen. While most of the work
in his gallery is for sale, Allen says, selling pieces isn’t his ultimate goal. “It seems that
a lot of the psychic energy of being an artist is that you have certain things that you wish
to see in the world, and then you develop a practice to actually manifest those things.”
Machine Project, for Allen, provides a space to realize ephemeral ideas that might not
otherwise ever leave the realm of talk. Allen, who opened the unfinished gallery in Echo Park
in December 2003, curates and/or produces “projects that are maybe less practical” than
those in more traditional spaces. Recent visitors might have seen a giant, floor-level active
volcano by Holly Vesecky and what Allen calls the “half natural science, half bioengineering,
and half art” projects by Phil Ross on which Ross grew hundreds of oysters, and a plant
growing hydroponically in glass. Untitled War by Brody Condon, scheduled to take place
in mid-July, will feature 30 armor-clad knights fighting in the gallery; cameras mounted
on the ceiling will simultaneously broadcast footage of the battle at the Echo Park Film
Center next door. Allen likes to tell young artists to “figure out what kind of culture you
want to participate in, and if there isn’t a way to join that, to create or facilitate one.”
It is empowering to create your own culture and control the means of its production says
Allen. “You make the work, have a place where you show it, do your own publicity, have
your own audience,” says Allen. Juggernaut – a self-contained, self-sustaining plant capsule
that employs a single plant, nutrient-rich water, LED lights and a small fan circulating
filtered air in blown-glass enclosures – seems the perfect metaphor for the kind of
practice Allen is advocating, and he seems to agree: “One can view [Machine Project]
as a survival capsule for a single culture.” We should all take note.
– Sarah Graddy, photo Immo Luedemann


click to view a full size scan of the res article on Machine Project