The soundtrack: The jarring warbles and screams of lo-fi electronica and noise music. the scene:
A silvery, futuristic command-and-control center in the heart of Detroit, from which three multi-tasking, otherworldly brainiacs beam their strange sounds and visions into the minds of unsuspecting humans. Their master plan: To transform the very city itself, to re-imagine it as a crazy, creative paradise. If it were a 1950s sci-fi movie it would be a cult classic to rival anything by Ed Wood. But this is no movie. I assure you, my friend, the UFO Factory ... is quite real.
OK, maybe that's overselling it. For one thing, Dion Fischer, who co-founded the UFO Factory with fellow artist/musician Davin Brainard and His Name Is Alive frontman Warn Defever, swears there's no master plan. "Sounds a little too ominous," he says. "We're not super villains or politicians. I'd say it's more like a dream."
An ambitious dream. Via email, Dion writes:
Imagine if yoo will, NEW DETROIT, a quasi-utopian community where diverse yet like-minded artists from all over the world can work together, free from the ever expanding, not-so-invisible hand of the man, in magical harmony, engaging, inspiring and challenging each other. Who can paint the blackest painting? Who can sing the quietest song? Who can dance the fastest? Hey, was that a unicorn?
It probably was. Nothing can be ruled out from a plant that claims to manufacture everything from T-shirts to walls of sound to self-esteem to Frankensteins. In fact the key ingredient in all their products is absurdity. That's "absurd" in the best sense of the word, the sense used by the dadaist, surrealist, pop and fluxus artists who inspire the UFO Factory's stable of artists, including Jamie Easter, John Olson, the Taormina brothers and more. "Cultural Absurdism," Fischer calls it, suggesting a sort of ambient ridiculousness in the societal atmosphere that's zapped into their work to give it life. In short, the UFO Factory is all about serious fun.
Example: When asked how he, Brainard and Defever came to found the UFO Factory, Fischer launches into a story about a 12-foot-tall android and a noise band rehearsal gone wrong. It explains nothing, and tells you everything you need to know about the nature of the project.
It becomes painfully obvious that Robot Rick isn't going to fit in War's garage and won't be able to rehearse for the show. I won't bore yoo with the details, lets just say, feelings were hurt and egos were bruised. From that point on we had an unspoken agreement: if we ever found a 13 foot high x 1200 square foot work space with silver brick/moon rock walls, perfectly tuned acoustics, and laundry facilities, then and only then we would start the UFO FACTORY.
Synergy and synesthesia grease the gears of the UFO Factory. The space is open to all forms of art, and its founders make no real distinction between them. The creators involved are friends and operate on similar wavelengths, and as they collide and interact, cross-disciplinary chain reactions occur. A line from a film script becomes a song title becomes a fake band name becomes a real band name becomes an art exhibit, etc., until the boundaries between music, painting, graphics, film and performance become silly and dissolve. "What's the difference," says Fischer, "between writing/recording a song and/or painting a picture? I would argue, none, zero, zippo, zilch, they are exactly the same."
And he wasn't kidding about the blackest painting thing. The space's current exhibit, Black & Black, features paintings, photos and sculpture that would make Darth Vader's tailor wet himself. They're all completely black. Is it meant to provoke viewers to re-examine their feelings about a color that symbolizes evil, death and mourning? Is it a memory of the dark safety of the womb? A vision of the existential void at the heart of modern man?
Nah. "Here at UFO FACTORY we are not interested in asking these questions," says the press release. "We put this show together because black stuff is cool."
So you see, people of Earth, you have nothing to fear. In fact, says Fischer, "we don't really build ufo's .... OR DO WE????"
Cue the Theremin!
UFO Facory is at 1345 Division St., Ste. 101, Detroit; 248-632-3670. Gallery hours are 6-10 p.m. every Saturday.
Sean Bieri is Metro Times design director. Send comments to [email protected]