Saturday, November 30, 2019



   "Ten Beliefs of Machine Project:

1. Art is a space in culture for thinking about ideas.

2. Art is not defined by materials or means of production but the context in which it appears, is discussed, and analyzed.

3. Art is a great excuse to do stuff you want to do.

4. Great ideas show up every day; don't be stingy.

5. Thinking happens with other people.

6. There is nothing wrong with creating beautiful things, but there is something depressing about making unique collectables for the wealthy.

7. Interesting human beings can sustain multiple contradictory belief systems without dying from cognitive dissonance.

8. Your friends are your first and best audience.

9. Small, grassroots, and intimate is better than large, corporate, and formal.

10. Successful artists are empathic and can imagine themselves as the audience of their own work."

excerpt from Machine Project THE PLATINUM COLLECTION



   "Over the last fifteen years I have produced hundreds of interactive artworks and performances. Some were success ful; many were terrible and embarrassing. Here are a few simple principles that have helped us make better, more satisfying work with the public:

1. Make it simple. Aim for the idea that you can explain quickly in one sentence. A weak idea doesn’t get better by making it more complicated. Besides, any action undertaken with the public will inevitably reveal unforetold and unexpected complexities. A good project has a clear concept while leaving room for surprises.

2. Make it funny and unexpected. A simple action with an absurdist angle is a winning formula. Try changing just one variable of a familiar structure: stage vacations for houseplants, opera by dogs, or a workshop for children on stealing cars. Other good techniques are to take a joke too far, to take a metaphor as a literal fact, or to treat a literal fact as a metaphor.

3. Iterate and grow your project from a simple starting place. Once you have a core action, you can elaborate on it with bells and whistles. Try the project multiple times with different audiences. New possibilities will emerge with each run-through and can be added to strengthen and enrich your project.

4. Don’t forget the watchers. Some people love to participate and get involved in actions, while others prefer to spectate from the sidelines. Your project should be compelling for both. Make situations that allow for both observing and doing.

5. Practice empathic design. If your project involves some form of restriction or forced activity for an audience, consider why someone would be motivated to participate. Remember that you might like your idea more because you thought it up. Can you imagine your neighbor or someone on the bus being willing to be part of your art piece? Ask why anyone else would want to do that.

6. Don’t make the interaction socially risky or embarrassing. Give the participant something to do that doesn’t require a lot of creativity or skill. Make a framework for a simple action that everyone can perform. No one wants to be judged in public! Consider a structure that has an option to be creative or expressive but that still works if people do the obvious thing. Remember that you’ve been thinking about your idea for a long time. What’s important to you may not be obvious to your audience.

7. Create a tight linkage between action and reaction. The action of a participant and the reactivity of the piece should be clear. If someone presses a button, something should happen immediately. The mechanism of an interactive or participatory project should be clear enough for a chimpanzee, orangutan, or dolphin to follow along.

8. If you have the opportunity, consider making a project for dolphins. That would be amazing."

excerpt from Machine Project THE PLATINUM COLLECTION

feedback loop


"Our projects tend to be iterative. We don’t start out with the perfect idea and then do it, instead we begin with an okay idea and, as it changes, learn from it. This is a central principle of Machine: we prefer to put on a project even if it isn’t the best one ever or the most perfectly planned one ever. We’d rather do it and learn from it and do it again than spend our time planning for fictional perfection."

excerpt from Machine Project THE PLATINUM COLLECTION



   "When describing or advertising a program, see if you can determine which pieces of information are most important for preparing your audience to enjoy the experience. If you’re doing an experimental music show with face-melting bass frequencies, you should inform your audience in advance. But the backup band (a family of rabbits wearing ear protection) could be kept secret as a pleasant surprise.

   Give enough information to entice those who will enjoy and repel those who will not. What are things the audience should know? Airborne food. Excess smells. Seizure-inducing strobe lights. Presence of fire. Lack of fire exits. Nudity? Disclaimers are useful for clearly communicating not only the relevant details of a program but also its tone. A well-written disclaimer is simultaneously a form of promotion and warning.

   When we learned that the Harmonium Orchestra would be performing at Machine, we ran to Wikipedia, which informed us that a harmonium is a free-standing musical keyboard instrument not dissimilar to a pipe organ. We suspect that this event will be your only chance this weekend to witness six harmoniumists free of charge in an Echo Park storefront measuring under six hundred square feet. That’s a healthy ratio of one harmonium every hundred square feet. Since our air conditioning is broken, it is highly likely that no matter where you sit at this event you will be within fainting distance of a harmonium.

   “This show will start exactly at 8 pm. No late entry! We’re serious. We’re locking the door at 8 pm. Do you remember when we did the Sexi Midi show and you came late and you couldn’t get in because the door was locked? Don’t let that happen to you again! Warning, this event does not involve nudity.”

excerpt from Machine Project THE PLATINUM COLLECTION

Friday, November 29, 2019

leading down


   "I love a good reveal. The characteristics of a good reveal are:

1. It’s a surprise. Perhaps there has been a hint, or some foreshadowing, but the audience shouldn’t know what is coming. Otherwise it wouldn’t be a reveal! It would be an expected.

2. It’s generous to the audience. It makes the event better or more fun. It charms the audience; it doesn’t trick them, punk them, or make them feel stupid.

3. It’s fast. Adding a forty-five-minute encore to an introduction to theoretical physics isn’t a good reveal. Three minutes of a juggling panda bear at an introduction to theoretical physics is a good reveal.

4. It shows a surprising angle on what came before it. It helps us understand what we’ve seen in a new way. It provides another perspective—a twist. It opens the meaning of the event up in new ways and can take what we think we know is happening to a new place.

   A reveal can lead to another reveal can lead to another reveal. An endless series of
reveals. The lecture that becomes a meal that becomes a legal deposition that becomes a dance performance that becomes an art installation that becomes a lecture that becomes your parents’ anniversary party. A good reveal is the definition of underpromising and overdelivering!"

excerpt from Machine Project THE PLATINUM COLLECTION

Alvarado Caverns


   "The Tang Museum fabricated and installed an exact replica of the theater as the centerpiece of The Platinum Collection. I don’t know if I actually believed they would do it when I suggested it for the exhibition, but as my former board chair Peter used to say, “You have to A.S.K. to G.E.T.” He was probably referring to fundraising, but I’ve had better luck with farfetched installation ideas."

excerpt from Machine Project THE PLATINUM COLLECTION

Joe Seely


   "I met Joe through playwright Asher Hartman, whose work has become a central obsession of mine. Machine has produced seven of his plays, including Purple Electric Play in the Machine theater, featuring a delirious assault of language, affect, and special effects, including a foot breaking through the ceiling, levitating boxes of Pampers, and a denouement in which all the actors were consumed by a massive tongue filling the entire space. Asher’s play Mr. Akita debuted at the Tang as part of the exhibition this book is about."

excerpt from Machine Project THE PLATINUM COLLECTION



   "I first fell in love with design at CalArts. The walls of the school were covered in deliciously complex, even illegible posters printed by hand in tiny editions by the graphic design students. Crowd favorites were stolen right off the walls while less successful ones remained behind. The most appealing posters often disappeared before the event they were promoting even happened. I wanted Machine to produce the kind of posters I’d want to steal.

   Machine developed at the same time the Internet became my main source of media and cultural information. Machine began almost at the same time as Wikipedia, and in early interviews I often explained we created our events to “do the Internet in person.” As networks and social media expanded, it has seemed more and more valuable to bring people together in an informal social space, an embodied environment based on ideas and shared experience.

   Machine’s poster collection is a record of those experiences, but it also offers a window into what graphic designers in Los Angeles were doing in the first years of the twenty-first century, as digital, web, and device design expanded and changed at a breakneck pace. How did these shifts in screen-based design influence (or not influence) what might happen in a poster? Looking at a poster from San Francisco in the sixties, or a Xeroxed punk rock flier from L.A. in the eighties, or an invitation to an art exhibit in New York City in the seventies can tell you a lot about culture at the time.

   Early Machine posters did what posters are supposed to do: advertise upcoming events. The first were made for two programs that Sara Roberts organized: You too can make difficult music and Everybody loves difficult music. Marci Boudreau and Vesna Petrovic of Picnic Design created a new variation each week, always featuring a different cactus, an appropriate choice for the dry, prickly, and austere music in the series.

   The promotional function didn’t seem effective, but it was fun to have some evidence of the events afterward. We’ve kept it going and now have a couple hundred different designs in our archive. Most have been made by graphic design students from CalArts with additional contributions from students at Otis College of Art and Design, Art Center, and Pomona College and special guest appearances from famous, infamous, and anonymous designers in Los Angeles and beyond.

   It seems the less guidance we provide to the designers the better the posters. We give them just enough to get started: a title, the time, the date, and maybe a sentence or two of description, none of which needs to appear on the final piece We don’t really have a conventional client/designer relationship, with pitches, an approval process, rounds of revisions, or even a firm deadline. I never give feedback, unless designers ask for it directly, and they never do. The only concrete restrictions we have are that the poster must be printed by hand (except when it isn’t) and the artists have to make more than one of them (except when they don’t).

   The posters strongly tend to get printed at the absolute last minute, usually arriving the afternoon of an event, or right before an event, or during an event, or even the day after the event. Most individual posters are printed by the designer, with Paul Morgan printing larger series for us.

   I like when poster designers convey the exact feel of an event and I like when they get confused and do something completely wrong. I like when designers obsessively research an artist’s project and I like when designers ignore the prompt and use the poster as an excuse to explore some crazy side alley in their brain or to scratch some aesthetic itch. Sometimes, looking at one of those posters, you can’t get much concrete information about what happened. You don’t know how long it was or who showed up; you might have no idea what the event was about. But other kinds of subjective information, or information about the culture, the time, are embedded in it. In place of a definitive record that pretends to stand for the whole from one point of view, we end up with a rich collection of fragments. The posters as a collection tell an alternative history of Machine Project, fragmentary and complex, a subjective archive of hundreds of different people imagining what an event might feel like."

excerpt from Machine Project THE PLATINUM COLLECTION

Mostly poets


   "Mostly Joshua Beckman, with whom I’ve been working on ideas about poetry readings for the last ten years.

   I’ve had the opportunity to work with a number of artists multiple times over a dozen or more years during the course of Machine Project’s programming. I’m not so interested in one-off projects with artists. Working over a long period of time allows us to collaborate in an easygoing way. There is flexibility. Projects can fail and it’s okay. This flexibility allows artists to take more chances and develop new work. I want Machine to be the studio where ideas germinate. Ideas can move among a community of artists. Instead of pursuing individual practices, they can overlap and use information from each other. I’m invested in their work and careers. I’m the kind of fan who buys the new album before I hear it."

excerpt from Machine Project THE PLATINUM COLLECTION

edit videos


   "Video documentation began soon after Machine started in 2003. We have produced about three hundred videos, all viewable at Additionally, the complete archive of all the unedited footage we’ve ever shot is available for researchers, scholars, time travelers, alien astrosociologists, xenobiologists, and anyone else interested in seeing the unedited footage of a specific artist’s work.

   Early events were recorded by an SD camera, primarily from a tripod. We shot approximately one hundred events in this fashion. While this footage may have some historical value, the single camera angle, low resolution, poor sound, and nonexistent editing tends to make these videos of limited interest. After about five years of shooting boring video of fascinating events, I began to question the ability of documentation to record the things that make an experience notable.

   Photography and video capture only fragments of a situation, and they might miss the most interesting parts. Every viewer brings a personal history to a performance, and what an artwork says depends a lot on who is listening: context creates meaning. The same event can be experienced totally differently by multiple people simultaneously. Observation itself through video or photography alters the texture of a performance before, during, and after; an intrusive video crew can disrupt the sense of community in an event, or the audible sound of a camera lens, every click pointing out you’re not the real audience for what you’re watching.

   I love performance documentation from the late sixties and early seventies. It’s so easy to watch it and imagine you are there, like looking through a window to see something happening in the past. But it bothers me how easily I forget about the performance’s context. Who is in that room? What was happening in the world and how was that historical moment inscribed on the actions? I distrust documentation that claims an objective or definitive view. Actually I’m opposed to definitive anything. The definitive impoverishes complexity, tries to shut out other perspectives.

   Once we accept the live event is in some sense unrepresentable, we’re freed to discover what pleasures and possibilities come from embracing subjectivity and incompleteness. All the documentation shows a specific event, a cultural moment, but also the choices and aesthetic and subjectivities of the people who make the documentation. What choices did that filmmaker make?

   I enjoy thinking about the relationship of documenter to documented, instead of pretending God shot a video while no one was watching."

excerpt from Machine Project THE PLATINUM COLLECTION

Monday, November 18, 2019

Claremont, California


   "I’m on the faculty of the art department at Pomona College, in Claremont, California. It was founded in Pomona (thus the name) in 1887 and moved next door to Claremont the year after. I have a studio there that sometimes doubles as a storage space. Pomona has been a big part of Machine’s success. It has provided me with stability and a continual stream of interns and employees, and many artists I’ve worked with at Machine have made guest appearances on campus and in my classes."

excerpt from Machine Project THE PLATINUM COLLECTION

mixed success


   "Here are some things that have gone wrong with our various projects:

1. One public sound piece was misinterpreted as an emergency alert.

2. A Los Angeles granting agency rejected our proposal because we were 'too innovative to scale.'

3. We thought locking kids into the trunks of cars was a good idea.

4. A New York residency was canceled because the owners sold the building.

5. We organized a fundraising event around fondue on the hottest day of the year.

6. A public art series was canceled  midway because of “questionable artistic quality.”

7. We tried to open a DIY drive-through frying restaurant.

8. A museum residency concluded early because they’d 'had enough.'

9. We heavily promoted an event where the performers ended up outnumbering the people that showed up.

10. We convinced a museum to produce a limited-edition print for our show. They sold three out of one hundred.

11. We opened a mobile performance that entailed driving around Los Angeles on the same day that a flaming tanker explosion closed down the freeway exchange mid-route.

12. Everyone left town for the weekend and the building flooded.

13. The apartment above the gallery caught fire while we were conducting a workshop on making robotic blimps (unrelated).

14. An NEA panelist said what we did 'wasn’t art.'"

excerpt from Machine Project THE PLATINUM COLLECTION



   "My enthusiasm for collaborative experimentation is at the heart of everything Machine Project does. The word experimental is used in lots of ways in relationship to art. Usually it signals a specific aesthetic, maybe a new or innovative style. It’s shorthand for non-mainstream work. In scientific practice, an experiment tests a principle or supposition, or tries to discover something unknown. By its very design, an experiment involves risk and uncertainty.

   An arts organization, then, can act as a research lab. Although genuinely new ideas in culture are often poorly received, every event has the potential to offer insight into an artist’s work or about the world at large. Consider the art you make as the trace or record of your thinking rather than something that you have to produce. One project will lead to other projects, and an unexpected lesson inevitably emerges. It’s a way of embedding practice in the continuum rather than extracting one moment to stand as the apex. Then you can keep being an artist for a very long time. Otherwise you make yourself into a factory, and then you might as well get a job.

   It’s also true, though, that sometimes things just go really, really wrong, and you can’t think your way out of feeling like a big fat failure. In this case, I’ve found it helpful to practice selective amnesia in the aftermath.

   Game face is super important for organizing anything. You must not look like you are unhappy about anything while it’s happening, especially don’t complain, because that demoralizes everybody. You have to understand that your subjective experience of something may be different than someone else’s anyway. People experience things in other ways.

   Gentle transparency about your opinions can be really good in the lead up to a project. If an artist I’m working with is going in a direction I’m not sure about, I will say something. “Look, if I was doing this I might not do it this way. If you are spraying the audience with pig blood and you don’t tell them, they might not like it. Maybe they wore nice clothes because they were excited for you that it was your opening.” But, in the end, they’re the artist and I’m supporting them. In the end, any aesthetic decision is going to be up to the artist once the discussing is over.

   My attitude is you have to be generous to the audience. That doesn’t mean that everything has to be fun and entertaining or not boring. Something can be generous to the audience and also be very challenging. It can be emotionally challenging. It can be politically challenging. It can be boring. It can be difficult. I’m down with all of that, but it has to be with the attitude that work is made in the spirit of supporting the audience’s best and highest experience of something. If an artist I work with has a generous attitude to an audience, I’ll support them in the production of a terrible piece, if that’s what they want to do."

excerpt from Machine Project THE PLATINUM COLLECTION

Saturday, November 16, 2019

This tendency


   "I never know in the moment why we are doing the things we do. Making a trapdoor in the ceiling without telling the landlord, building a floating library, or renting a helicopter just seemed like a good idea at the time. When you are creating stuff, you don’t always have the time or leisure to know why you’re doing it; in fact it’s probably better not to think about it or you might lose your nerve. Most artists work in this way, and Machine is better understood as an artist organism than a rational institution."

excerpt from Machine Project THE PLATINUM COLLECTION

Sea Nymph


   "I am into creating ecosystems for artists and their ideas to thrive in.
Everything inside the ecosystem affects everything else. Ecosystems aren’t neutral; they have their biases and weather systems. But a rich ecosystem has niches for different things and fosters diversity. One way to create a cultural ecosystem is to support projects that multiple artists can present work in and respond to. The Sea Nymph is a good example. It was an ambitious installation dreamed up by Josh, but we invited dozens of other people to develop programming in and around it: workshops on knot-tying, traditional sea songs and sea shanties, all kinds of poetic and literary events, and a pirate movie shot by children. And in general, bringing lots of different artists into contact with each other always feels generative, even if it’s more about adjacency than creating formal collaborations. I try to bring the Machine Project biome of aesthetics, signage, ways of working, and community of artists wherever we go. For The Platinum Collection, my goal was to bring enough Machine Project objects and artists, props and practices, to create a context for our actions and activities, so that, as any species new to a habitat, we would thrive, repopulate, and slowly transform the surroundings.

   There’s a model for art education where you go alone into a room (the studio) and try to come out a couple of years later with something nobody has seen before. I think that is the complete opposite of how interesting ideas happen. Compelling art comes from artist talking to artists and from people making things together. Even when working by ourselves we are in conversation with a community, a history, a legacy, a lineage."

excerpt from Machine Project THE PLATINUM COLLECTION

Josh Beckman


   "Different guy from the poet Joshua Beckman."

excerpt from Machine Project THE PLATINUM COLLECTION

Friday, November 15, 2019

less than kind


   "Our first cut in the floor was to install a viewing hole for a piece by Karen Lofgren, a glowing unicorn located in our basement. The second was a slot for visitors to slip poem requests to Joshua Beckman and Matthew Rohrer, who we had temporarily trapped in our basement with a vat of fondue."

excerpt from Machine Project THE PLATINUM COLLECTION



   "Museums and the white room galleries focus attention by removing distracting information. This move works—museums are great tools for helping people see. But they also risk neutralizing the context of the museum or removing information that might enrich the art experience. Power has the privilege of rendering context invisible or natural. I’m interested in restoring or highlighting that contextual information for the viewer. Art exists in a tug of war between its role as a commodity and its potential as a place for culture to think about ideas. The context we choose to exhibit it in pushes it toward one pole or another. Art fairs maximize the function of art as commodity by stripping away all contextual information but the brand: the names of the artist and the gallery. Art fairs facilitate work that fits most comfortably into global rich person culture. Cultural productions with complex, opaque, unknown, or contested authorship resist commodification more than those with clear, well known, and established authorship. Individually authored art works have more economic value because they are easier to extract from their context of origin."

excerpt from Machine Project THE PLATINUM COLLECTION



   "I love the picture window at Machine Project ’s storefront in Echo Park . All day long people walk by and look in to see what we are doing: juggling cabbages, painting puppets, teaching sewing, setting stuff on fire, cutting holes in the floor. And we can send them messages by putting signs and posters in the window, or waving, or running outside to talk to them. It lets the neighborhood keep tabs on us and provides the public something to discover when walking down the street."

excerpt from Machine Project THE PLATINUM COLLECTION

Thursday, November 14, 2019



   "Los Angeles is a place where artists at all levels of professional success teach, collaborate, facilitate and organize, and the most interesting alternative spaces in Los Angeles are artist-led. These enrich the environment, creating more opportunities for artists and in turn enabling more interesting art. Consider the importance of artists by what opportunities they create. What does the artist make possible for other artists, for audiences, for people who don’t know they are interested in art at all? A great artist opens up new ways of working. She gives permission to do something that wasn’t permitted before and illuminates possibilities that were previously invisible."

excerpt from Machine Project THE PLATINUM COLLECTION

wide range


   "Consider any field, from conceptual art to structural engineering, as a box of tools, as a way of looking at a set of problems. Then try this exercise: take a concept or methodology from one discipline and move it to another. What does a geologist have to say about a marble statue? What insights might a dancer bring to the sociology of crowds? Machine is guided by the belief that everything human beings do is interesting, and the relationships between the different things that people do are even more so."

excerpt from Machine Project THE PLATINUM COLLECTION



   "I realized you could connect broad audiences with experimental, challenging, or esoteric content through straight-forward strategies of accessibility. Among Machine’s core techniques for making new work accessible are hospitality, humor and comedy, surprise, transparency, informality, gratitude, and the use of narratives to communicate the premise of an event.

   Creating positive associations with the space led people to keep showing up, no matter what was happening. Emphasizing the audience’s positive experience also shows gratitude for their time and attention; the life force of an event consists of the focus of the audience and the energy of the performer. Without an audience nothing exciting can happen."

excerpt from Machine Project THE PLATINUM COLLECTION

Wednesday, November 13, 2019


   “Once I began using the storefront as a public space, I began to see that an organization could be a flexible container for all kinds of things. I saw that the event format can get people directly involved with new ideas and topics. Art is a great excuse for things you want to do. Take curiosity and make an event. Invite that writer you’re obsessed with to give a reading. Offer a class on something you want to learn. Once I understood this, I started finding all these unexpected things that could fit into the Machine model.

   From then on, every time I met anyone interesting, I would extend an invitation to do something at Machine: a talk, a lecture, or a performance. Learning that everything was interesting if you looked closely helped my work as a curator and helped audiences experience new ideas as well.”

excerpt from Machine Project THE PLATINUM COLLECTION



   “I think everyone should start an art space. People pay attention to you and it helps you make friends. It’s delightfully selfish, because you’re making a system to support and show the kind of art you want to see personally. And if you’re a lazy person who likes art, you should definitely start your own art space. Then everything comes to you. The best way to get started is by getting started, whether or not it’s exactly according to plan, and to learn from the experience as you go. Once you’ve begun, whether with an exhibition in your living room, a performance event in a park, or a fundraiser to get things off  the ground, the odds are in your favor that something else will come out of it. While the first step might be daunting, here are three considerations to relieve some of the first-time pressure:

1. Do something small: whatever you do, you can do it on a small scale. You can start an art space in your house or garage, and you can plan your first event for next week. In Los Angeles, there’s a long tradition of starting organizations in one’s house or apartment.

2. Do something with people: you don’t have to do it alone. Collaborating with others is a great way to start something without dramatically upending your life. You can share energy, ideas, financial resources, and use people’s different skills and interests.

3. Do something temporary: there’s a prevailing idea that institutions need to last forever, but the world of culture has its own ecology. Things are born, live, and then might die, get eaten, and grow into a tree. No organization must exist forever. It can and may enjoy longevity, but it doesn’t have to, and the daunting prospect of permanence shouldn’t keep you from getting something off the ground.”

excerpt from Machine Project THE PLATINUM COLLECTION


   “The night of Machine Project’s inaugural event (Saturday, November 15, 2003), the doors opened at 10:10 p.m. and closed promptly at 10:20. If you arrived at 10:20 and 10 seconds, the doorknob you reached for was already locked. A few seconds later, you would have heard a thundering guitar and spotted mysterious flashes of light through the cracks of the worn-down front door. If you stuck around a little longer, at exactly 10:30 p.m. the doors opened back up, the event was over, and you could wander in to experience the aftermath of the performance you just missed, consisting of several people enthusiastically talking about what they had just seen without you.

   If, however, you made it inside before the door closed, you were immersed in ten minutes of experimental animations by artist Kelly Sears, telling the story of a fantasy kingdom of ice, crystals, dragons, and digital wizards, set to a live heavy metal band. Called Sexi Midi. This performance was described to email list subscribers as a “brief event” featuring “prog rock video with live guitar and bass shred. Bud Light keg beer. Also kittens.”

excerpt from Machine Project THE PLATINUM COLLECTION

Monday, November 11, 2019


   "I’m a compulsive collaborator. I think it’s because I’m interested in a lot of things, and if you’re working with fifty people, many more things can happen. Everyone has a different way of working, a different way of communicating. I have friends who I have to plan six months in advance to see and friends who hate advance planning. Some people like phone calls, some like texts, some just want to be left alone. Collaboration is also like that. I often give prompts to artists as a curatorial approach. I’ve asked artists to perform for plants, with babies, in closets, while driving cars, and while submerged in swimming pools. A prompt is really a constraint, and there are always constraints at play when an artist makes a work of art with an organization. Maybe there isn’t enough money, or there is too much money, or too much space, or too little space, or it has to be child-friendly, or appealing to non-children. Or whatever. I try to avoid boring, invisible constraints like “don’t embarrass the institution” in favor of more visible, interesting constraints like “the performance must involve a herd of cows.” Some artists really like these challenges and interventions. Other artists just need money or space, which I try to find for them. That’s a kind of collaboration too. It’s fun to do things with other people. I don’t really like socializing; I’m not into hanging out, and I don’t care much for going out to dinner. But I love making things with people."

excerpt from Machine Project THE PLATINUM COLLECTION


   "Our emails provide the most complete history of Machine Project. When I started Machine, I told people through email about the events in the space, and since we described every event we ever did in an email, it’s also our most exhaustive archive. Eventually Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram offered additional ways to communicate, but email remains our primary method of talking with our audience. The emails go out on Tuesday, announcing what’s happening the upcoming weekend. They intersperse information on workshops, performances, exhibits, newly released videos, and poster sales with requests for volunteers and loans of equipment from shovels to lasers. Once or twice a year we send out a slightly desperate fundraising request. The voice of the emails is friendly, credulous, amused. Maybe a little scatterbrained. The emails transmit the sensibility and attitude of Machine out into the world on a weekly basis, and the style of the writing creates a context for our events. It may even be that the events we do at the space are driven by what would sound good in an email. We’ve certainly chosen particular projects because we thought the email would make people laugh. I aim to create an image for the reader of who is speaking to them, what kinds of people they might meet at Machine, and what kinds of experiences they might have.

   I wrote the emails in the beginning with help from Jason Brown. Over time a house style emerged, applied, modified, perfected, and mutated by Michele Yu, David Eng, Jessica Cowley, and Lucas Wrench, the operations managers between 2005 and the publication of this catalogue in 2016. Michele’s emails were blunt and funny and often involved pizza. David’s focused more on burritos. Jessica’s were upbeat and welcoming. Lucas tends towards a more baroque style, with bursts of cheerful nihilism and a weakness for references to troglodytes."

excerpt from Machine Project THE PLATINUM COLLECTION


   "A story or an idea can do the work that visual art does without even being seen by someone. This is one of my key beliefs about art: that it exists in human consciousness, and can take many shapes or forms. I created a piece with Emily Lacy, a concert for one dentist and one dental patient. We selected at random someone who would get a free dental cleaning while Emily would play relaxing and calming music. The piece was performed for just the dentist and the dental patient. You’re not reaching a giant audience when you do that, but you are creating a story. And if you think about art as something which changes our perception of the world, you don’t necessarily have to be there in person for that to happen. The mythology of a performance grows and resonates long after the action is over. 'A thought is a thing as real as a cannon ball.' — Joseph Joubert"

excerpt from Machine Project THE PLATINUM COLLECTION

Saturday, November 9, 2019


   "We are not trying to become any larger.  A metastasizing logic of the art world, capitalism, and life seems relentlessly invested in making things bigger, larger, more expensive, and more ambitious. Artists move from small galleries to large, organizational budgets show growth, sales numbers rise, ambitions swell, fundraisers raise more funds. What for? That a model’s validity is based on its capacity to scale up and eat the universe seems mindless. Every organism wants to live and spread out and reproduce, and yet the bigger you get, the less freedom you have to innovate and the more over head you have to maintain to stay alive. So the question for us isn’t how to get big, but what we can do that no one else can."

excerpt from Machine Project THE PLATINUM COLLECTION



   "I studied with Michael Asher at the  California Institute of the Arts (CalArts),  and although we had different aesthetics, I learned a lot from him. I loved how he would change one variable in a system to call attention to the invisible, like removing the wall between the gallery and office at the Claire Copley Gallery or creating a column of air in the Whitney Museum. Michael pointed out that the hallways and ceilings were as much part of the museum as the galleries, so that made me think the hallways and ceilings were a place to make work in, which became a central idea of our show at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2008. By changing one thing, you can achieve something as simple as giving an audience another angle to investigate a topic or as complex as reintroducing everything that has been pushed out to make an institution function—like how the invisible workings of architecture construct history, power, and context."

excerpt from Machine Project THE PLATINUM COLLECTION

Machine Project


   "When I first started I was doing a lot of work with technology, so I called the space Machine Project. Today I’m less interested in technology, but I still think it’s a good name. Now I say we’re a machine for making ideas; in come people, resources, context, and opportunities, and out go art, ideas, and philosophies about living in the world. Of course, if you stick around long enough, names stop meaning anything at all except what you are. Now Machine Project is simply the symbol in people’s brains for whatever it is we are."

excerpt from Machine Project THE PLATINUM COLLECTION

Cheers to never starting!

I realized that on the sidebar of this blog, that anyone can see how often I posted something, categorized by year, which I’ve never thought very much about. But now I do often feel self-conscious about if I'm as productive as I want to be, and thinking that the more I write, the more I must have been in a good place...

Up until this writing, for this year it says I’ve written only 5 articles which is about to be on par with 2017, 2016, 2015, and 2014.

In 2018, I only felt able to eek out two post and both were long essays about my appreciation for certain individuals.

There are so many notes I could have posted that I think other people may find interesting, but it just seems probably… T.M.I. (even compared to what I do put out on this blog.) And I think that because I see that some years I'm posting like 14, 16, 21 or 33 times, then surely it must have been a good year!

Right now as I look around me, there are piles of papers/notes that I’ve finally gotten around to labeling with a label maker, or I put it at eye level right next to where I type at my home computer so that I have a constant reminder, but now that I’m thinking about the quantity of posts, it’s stripping out all the goodness that these notes hold for me. And yeah sure, it’s the kind of data that I can look at semi-objectively and think about it simply as “information" and reflect on it, but I think that it also lays out a specific story that I tell myself, about my productivity on such and such a year... but don’t I want to feel less pressured to do the things that give me pleasure? This is the time I've decided to do 50 bad artworks after all... Maybe I can break this feeling that it gives me to compare myself with my perceived potential of myself... by pretending that this was a very impressive year (at least in terms of blog posts)

I also have these annoying daily reminders on my phone that show back to me that I wanted to write about the following things:

other to-dos that I told myself I’d like to write about includes...

writing about Bar-Fund and all the things I've wanted to spout out concerning art and money
writing about Landlord Colors at Cranbrook
writing about following Jennifer Moon around as much as I could to find out how one artist developed having non-art hobbies.

And also one of the topics I felt compelled to write about was going to be about how contemporary artists seem to be living in a time of 'therapy' and somehow I was going to tie that in with reflecting on/reviewing/critiquing Mark Allen’s “How To Make an Interactive Work of Art, For Beginners”

It maybe would have something to do with how it felt outdated as advice for young artists today… It's hard for me to imagine any young contemporary artist making a numbered list sincerely... maybe it seemed oversimplified and somehow didn't take in account the artist block that I feel is very real...

but since I can tell that my main points would have run on the negative side, or it would have projected some surface stuff that says more about me, that's not the story I want to own.

I can admit that what I feel is more akin to simply jealousy of someone who does explore what there is to explore, and why even appear as if I'm punching down (although I wouldn't have written it like that, but it could very well be read that way) when this space and other artist spaces in LA are closing, or have been closed, and it seems almost everyday that someone is discussing the void left in Machine Projects wake. (also I'm thinking of Haruko Tanaka, and other friendly artists that I can't believe are not going to just be around...)

Ok I'm sorry, I forgot where I was going with this. Oh yeah, this is a blog post about how I didn't get around to a blog post...

So something Meghan Gordon said to me while helping me with my art portfolio was that there wasn’t enough of MY voice in it. And that my work usually finds a simple conceit, yet it has a lot of depth... I'm also trying to get myself back into the joy of reading, and from the first pages of Adrienne Marie Brown's Emergent Strategies (shaping change, changing worlds) book, there's this bit about depth and improving our metrics for recognizing what has value:

"We would understand that the strength of our movement is in the strength of our relationships, which could only be measured by their depth. Scaling up would mean going deeper, being more vulnerable and more empathetic." P. 10

So I'm thinking about posting Mark Allen’s voice, his light-hearted writing, specifically the footnotes to the book that was published about Machine Project, because I really liked the candid details that really tell you what it meant to him, and what he really thinks (beyond just a list). One can sense the depth, the wear and tear of that floor, the mechanisms that whirred in that space, but also whirring in their heads, between the ideas of people, in the e-mails...

Although I’ve kind of met him, I honestly would have had no idea that he had this particular voice in him, that he was the creator of the famed Machine Project. To me he was just the partner to Emily Joyce, the guy who seemed like they must have a lot of free time because they seem to make a lot of free posters…

So this is just a long introduction to a lot of short posts that I’m about to put up on the blog, that I’m not the author of but they sound like something I'd say in a parallel universe, and it’ll blow all of my previous years out of the water in terms of “looking productive” if I can't subconsciously not reflect on it in a negative way. But really it’s in celebration of Mark Allen’s interest in accessibility, by… making his super interesting *footnotes more presence, taking the tiny red words and giving them the gravity that I think they have all on their own as inspirational snippets of projects facilitated, made and completed.

Glad I didn't actually try to write a lot more anxiety-ridden but 'original' content, this is wayyy more interesting. It's the stuff that's already in the world, that could have been just a tad more accessible.

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* And I can’t believe that you can still just search "specific sentences" in quotes and include type:pdf in the search bar and poof. The thing I was JUST ABOUT to re-type by hand exists right there in all of its glory ripe for the copy pasta: