Well-Oiled Machine: A Q&A with Machine Project’s Mark Allen


Machine Project held a workshop this weekend on 'Beet Papers and Beat Makers'

As previously posted on 24700, Machine Project—a loose collective of Los Angeles-based artists—has been incredibly active in the Los Angeles area this fall: from its curated coatroom concerts to its recent involvement with the Fallen Fruit Project and Santa Monica’s Glow Festival.

24700 recently conducted an email interview with Machine Project’s director, founder and mastermind, Mark Allen (Art MFA 99), to discuss the nonprofit and its future.

24700: How did the Machine Project come about and how long have you been directing?

MA: I started Machine Project in 2003, incorporated as a nonprofit in 2005 and have been happily directing it ever since. Jason Brown (Critical Studies, Integrated Media MFA 00) and Sara Roberts, a faculty member in the Composition & Experimental Sound Practices program at CalArts sit on the Machine Project board.

24700: The music that Machine Project curates tends to be site-specific. Is there a reason behind this?

MA: The Machine Project storefront in Echo Park is our home base, but in the last couple years we’ve had the opportunity to do a number of projects at other locations and institutions—most recently a year-long residency at the Hammer Museum. In all the projects I work on, I’m interested in how to respond to “site,” whether that site is a specific audience, community, location or institution. Music is a particularly rich way to work site-specifically since people respond to sounds differently depending on their location and expectations. In addition, every space has its own sonic, architectural and social characteristics which can reveal and articulate sounds in a bunch of neat ways.

24700: Can you tell us more about Machine Project’s role in arts education?

MA: One of my main motivations for creating Machine was to try and recreate the flow of ideas and creative work that happens so organically someplace like CalArts, and so the whole project is based on the informal educational experiences that schools facilitate. I’m also interested in how people acquire the skills and confidence to make things, whether that means computer programming, cheese making or an introduction to using a sewing machine.

24700: Can you tell us about a faculty member, class or peer at CalArts that influenced you in your work?

MA: There are too many influences to count. So many of my collaborators at Machine were people I met while I was a grad student, or alumni whom I’ve met since I graduated. If I was to pick just one experience though, it would have to be Post Studio Art with Michael Asher.

Are there any new projects coming up that we can expect from Machine Project?

MA: We’re working on a bunch of national shows, including a rotating residency of Machine collaborators at Spaces—a great nonprofit space in Cleveland. That show will feature performances and events using a set of bleachers made of five levels of thrift store couches designed by Nate Page (Art MFA 08).

At our storefront in LA, we have a series of classes: from welding to hat making to electronics to instrument building; a series of psychology experiments in the form of a experimental puppet show; meditation workshops on lucid dreaming; and a performance residency by musician and CalArts alumnus Ezra Buchla.

What’s next is always changing (it’s sometimes hard for me to keep up and I run the place), so I welcome people to subscribe to our email list, follow us on Twitter, or check out our future page.

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