Phase I of Factory Obscura set to stun
Just hours before Factory Obscura’s (FO) phase I opening of their latest endeavor, Mix-Tape, located at the iconic OKC art venue, the Womb, there was a flurry of activity about the place. Bands were setting up and doing sound checks. FO staff were scampering about anxiously and excitedly attending to last minute details. Wayne Coyne himself, the Flaming Lips lead man, established artist and driving force behind The Womb gallery, had parked haphazardly in front and was casually making trips back and forth from his car. Things were finally coming together for FO’s big opening of their first-ever permanent immersive experience. Giant aluminum drivable toy robot ready? Check. Super-sized functioning boombox/interactive art installation complete with video screens, synchronized LED lights and animatronic critters up and running? Check. Bands warmed up, gift shop fully stocked, and the freaky mylar and foil King’s Mouth open for business? Check, check and check. FO was now ready to once again make their history part of OKC’s history.
FO has been sharing their brand of experiential art with OKC for a few years now. The previous FO iterations such as BEYOND and SHIFT were temporary installations welcomed and enjoyed by thousands. With each installment, they have pushed themselves to greater lengths creatively and logistically. MIX-TAPE is their first foray into a permanent immersive experience.
Their phase I opening on March 21 of this year was their stake in the ground for this latest evolution of work. This includes an interactive boombox, a gift store, and Wayne Coyne’s critically acclaimed “King’s Mouth,” an aurally and visually immersive art installation.
The boombox occupies a large window in the front of the Womb. It is accessible from the street and beckons the passerby to become part of the artistic expression. When one mashes one of the large cassette player buttons on the front, it initiates a unique flurry of lights, music and video accompanied by various mechanically manipulated happenings just behind the large display window that sits in place of the cassette door.
Inside the gift shop, one can find FO swag, original pieces hand-crafted by their artists, merchandise from their creative cohorts Meow Wolf and even goodies from the Flaming Lips. Just past the checkout counter and to the left lies the legendary “King’s Mouth” which is the creative offering of Wayne Coyne. This piece first showed as part of his first exhibition in 2015 at Baltimore’s American Visionary Art Museum and quickly became their most visited attraction. This globular sculpture of an other-worldly head sprouts out of the ground and seemingly has infested the entire room, if not building. With his neon pink tongue unfurled as a gooey welcome mat, the King bids you to duck into the comfy abyss beyond his gold tooth and watch the show. Inside the noggin of the King, you can recline back on his fluffy pillow palate and look up into a cylinder type structure lined with hundreds of LED lights descending down from the top. Like choreographed synapses firing away, the ensuing light show dances in unison with the Flaming Lips soundtrack that resonates throughout the space. Once enveloped in the installation, it is quite easy to get lost in the experience, never wanting it to end.
Alongside the install buildout, is a series of original multimedia panels Coyne included that depict the origin story of “The King’s Mouth.” Using collage, sketchings and other random artistic bits, Coyne composed a story of sorts across these panels to shed some light on the cryptic nature of “The King’s Mouth.” By themselves, they could hold their own in the room but paired with the rest of the install, they help complete the experience.
FO is breaking through new creative frontiers here in OKC, but many outside of our community may wonder, “Why OKC?” To this Kelsey Karper, co-founder and Director of Logistical Creativity for Factory Obscura, responded, “OKC has been coming into its own for a while now, with strong investments from city leadership that have had ripple effects to average citizens and local business. From the beginning, there’s been a pioneering spirit that has defined us as dreamers, making something out of nothing, willing to take a risk to try something new. The community is now entering into a new era of dreaming bigger than ever before. That is reflected in the generous support we have experienced from the community and its leaders.”
Steve Mason, owner of the building housing The Womb/Factory Obscura, is one of those local dreamers/community leaders and is behind the project as well. “As the process unfolded and Factory Obscura laid out their plans for re-imagining The Womb and building on the creativity that made it such a landmark in the first place, I knew we just had to make happen,” said Mason.
It takes more than 40 local artists and volunteers to make FO happen. For each of them, it is a labor of love and the opportunity to put their mark on something so unique. Tammy Greenman, co-founder of FO and director of strategic creativity said of Mix-Tape, “The mix-tape was one of the most widely practiced American art forms. We were inspired by the way each one was handcrafted to express something very specific.”
According to Factory Obscura member artist Cassie Stover, “We wanted to take that same idea to create kind of a love letter to Oklahoma City and the world, to share something about who we are with all the people who take the time to experience our art.” Included in that love letter is support for our community and the local arts. The day after their phase I opening, they hosted two nights of Momentum, an exhibition organized by the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition that spotlights the cream of the crop of Oklahoma’s up-and-coming artists under the age of 30. This Saturday, March 30 they will be hosting a free screening and panel discussion of “Meow Wolf: Origin Story” from 2 to 5 p.m.
Now that phase I of Mix-Tape has opened with a bang, we anticipate the arrival of the next stage of their long-term goal to create a more than 50,000-square-foot immersion experience right in our city. That next step is the opening of the complete 6,000 square-foot immersive Mix-Tape experience on September 21, 2019. If successful, they could have an important part in the making of OKC into a destination for art seekers everywhere.
Factory Obscura is located at The Womb, 25 NW 9th Street Oklahoma City, OK. The current operating hours are Thursday-Saturday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. To keep up with the progress, RSVP for the upcoming screening or to discover more about FO, check out factoryobscura.fun.