A Case for the Pop Ups, Part II: Factory Obscura's "SHIFT"
Today I want to chat a little about interactive art and experiences on a local level. If you haven't yet, click here to read Part 1 for a couple reasons I am all for the interactive/immersive wave of art and also check out some pics from my visit to the Museum of Ice Cream!
Part 2 is alllllll about Oklahoma City collective Factory Obscura's immersive experience, "SHIFT." When I first found out about the experience, I was FLOORED. I checked the hashtag daily to see how others were experiencing it, I watched the video, and I couldn't wait until I was able to come home to experience it.
Factory Obscura's "SHIFT" experience was one of the first of its kind in OKC, and it was amazing and groundbreaking for a couple of reasons:
1. Shift was free. Yup. FREE. This is important because it allowed folks from all income levels to come and enjoy the experience. Towards the end of the exhibition run, there was constantly an hour to an hour and a half wait time. To make the project possible, Factory Obscura set up a hatch fund. The donations went towards paying their artists, materials, marketing, and permits for spaces, and for a new experience opening September 2018. I like this method much better. I say this because art is practically never free anymore. And that really sucks, because art should be more accessible to everyone, especially low income families. I like that those who couldn't pay, could experience it for free, and for those who were a little more well off, they could choose to donate. That system makes for happiness across the board, and allows more folks to enjoy the experience. That is what true community looks like.
2. There was many parts to the entire experience. There was a tunnel you could crawl through with beautiful patterns by artist Tiffany McKnight. A bathroom turned into the sea. Little "pods" you could sit in or under and hear the sounds of nature. A staircase that led you through clouds. And it was all made by hand. It was INCREDIBLE. I can't imagine how much work went into everything from the beginning to the end. You have to understand, the artists gathered together in May to conceptualize and by August they were ready to build. The experience went live to the public in November. The Factory Obscura team built the entire experience in 3 months. I was completely floored when I found out.
3. Shift has womxn of color on the team. Two that I can name off the top of my head are Denise Duong and Tiffany McKnight. This is incredibly important. Not only are both womxn defying the art norms in OKC, they are being paid. To be a womxn of color, an artist, and a paid one at that, is dream that I didn't think was possible when I was growing up in OKC. If I were 10 right now, they would be my idols, my heroes, and because they did it, I know I could also make it as an artist in OKC. That's big and I wished I had that growing up. Also, Denise and I are practically twins. We were both raised in OKC, we're Vietnamese, anddddd we went to art school in Chicago. See? Twins.
Art is not often thought of as important or needed. Like design, it is an afterthought. It's not always available in schools, it is not always free, it is hard to access in low income neighborhoods. Whether they're providing fun, hope, or different opportunities, Factory Obscura is on the verge of making something amazing for OKC. I can feel it. This work is important. I left Oklahoma City for art college in 2009, a decision I made because I couldn't see myself having a flourishing art career in OKC, especially as an immigrant womxn of color. I didn't see anyone like me in the field when I was growing up. I think that's starting to change, and I am seeing it first hand in what Factory Obscura is doing. Oklahoma is one of the most forgotten states, one of the lowest in education, one of the highest in poverty level. It's not an easy state to live in. So I applaud all my OKC friends, my family, the artists, and community members who are changing things. Who are trying.
Factory Obscura is leading an art revolution, led by different thinkers, led by young people of color, led by new voices OKC should have been listening to a long time ago. I don't believe I have enough words, but I am so proud of you OKC, and I cannot wait to see what Factory Obscura does next!!