Presenting visual and performance art in unexpected public spaces.

Art in Flux

By Zoe Weitzman

Let’s all suspend our imagination for a moment.

You’re the newest import to the Queens art scene. Your aesthetic arsenal consists of: one massive tub of plaster of Paris, a dusty pan watercolor set and a liberal arts education. Where do you turn?

If you display talent, verve and potential, try attending an open call for Flux Factory. Dedicated to cultivating a handful of recession-strapped newcomers, Flux Factory is a non-profit organization that functions as a sort of artistic cocoon. Neophytes accepted as “Fluxer” artists-in-residence are equipped with materials galore, access to in-house facilities (hello, woodshop, silk-screening studio and co-working office) and built-in gallery space. Long Island City’s very own “incubation and laboratory” for newbies, Flux Factory is run by artists for artists. Members are expected to partake in all aspects of “Fluxhood” – most importantly, lending a hand (and maybe a sculpture, painting or print) to some of the 50 events that Flux Factory holds annually.

Flux Factory has been churning out new artistic initiatives since the mid-90s. The organization currently inhabits an 8,000 square foot converted greeting card manufacturing plant – and before that, occupied an abandoned spice factory. Not entirely unlike its Warholian precedent, this “factory” has been churning out creative and innovative art objects with the speed and reliability of an assembly line. The sixteen or so artists-in-residence that Flux Factory houses at a given time create an impromptu network of different disciplines and backgrounds; with artistic cross-pollination, comes genuine conversation and growth. But beyond just maintaining an insular artists community, Flux Factory actively tries to engage the members of its Long Island City neighborhood with frequent screenings, panels and lectures.

The exhibition schedule for 2012 has taken a turn for the lethal. In March, the organization began staging Flux Death Matches. No, Flux Factory isn’t asking poorly reviewed artists to go head-to-head with particularly censorious critics (although, I’d totally watch that); the showdowns are all verbal.  These events – two have already come to a truculent fruition – aim to “take online debates into real space at the Flux gallery.” The plucky artists, critics, politicians and tech gurus invited to speak have all done their homework, and are stepping into the ring armed with research and digital support for their respective arguments.

Flux Death Match panelists wage verbal warfare over the finer points of the New Aesthetic. Photo courtesy of the Flux Factory Flickr page.

Flux Factory Executive Director Christina Vassallo says that relocating caustic debates from the cyber sphere to a face-to-face forum can open up true discussion.

“Covering topics such as how artists are interacting with the [Occupy Wall Street] movement, the New Aesthetic, and transportation alternatives,” she wrote, “these rapid-fire discussions challenge convictions on crucial topics.” If not-so-mortal combat is your scene, head over Long Island City on later this summer to watch more researchers, artists and historians duke it out over scorching hot topics.


Vacant lots – neighborhood centers in the making?

Say you prefer amiable community development to e-hostility – Flux Factory’s The Future of Your Neighborhood: Who Decides? program may be more up your alley. In a series of monthly workshops, “members of the public can actively engage with their neighborhood and become advocates for positive change.” Flux Factory is featuring a couple of community change heavy hitters, including representatives from Neighbors Allied for Good Growth and 596 Acres.  On Wednesday, June 20th from 7-9pm, stop by for a seminar on transforming vacant lots into social and environmental hubs. Regardless of your interests, be sure to keep an eye on the organization’s exhibition schedule – it’s truly in a state of flux (couldn’t resist).

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