A beast roast with a stampede of ghost bisons. A live museum soundtrack. Wayfinding with the Giant Hand. A three-way lecture blowout with musical accompaniment. Live-action role-playing meets self-actualization. The School of Paleolithic Skills. It’s hard to settle on just two words to describe encounters with the work of Machine Project, but “enjoyably confusing” is a pretty good pairing. This nonprofit confederacy of artists makes its home in an unassuming storefront in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, but the group also produces shows at locations ranging from beaches to museums to parking lots. Recently, over a one-year period at L.A.’s Hammer Museum, they produced some 80 events, including an overnight Dream-In, micro-concerts in a coatroom-turned-theater, needlepoint group-therapy sessions, and a “cultural retreat” for houseplants—a string of insightful happenings that touched on various aspects of ways that visitors experience arts institutions.
Whether investigating art, technology, natural history, science, music, literature, food, or any other topic within a wide span of interests, Machine Project approaches everything they do with a curiosity and enthusiasm that’s infectious. Last January three collaborators, Emily Lacy, Chris Kallmyer, and Joshua Beckman, visited the Walker to meet with potential local partners and prepare for this summer’s residency. On the coldest weekend of the year, donning borrowed down and wool, the trio hosted readings and concerts in an igloo built to accommodate two performers plus an audience of two to four. They also tested out the parking garage, several stairwells, and other spaces as potential performances sites, even going so far as to wedge themselves in-between the huge glass window panels in the Hennepin Lounge.
Six months later, Lacy, Kallmyer, and a crew of 10 other artists present Summer Jubilee at Open Field: two weeks of Machine Project experiments and oddities. Part of the fun of this group is expecting the unexpected—serendipity and spontaneity, it would seem, are a couple of their chief operating principles. That said, at the time of this writing, the Summer Jubilee is slated to include Tragedy on the Sea Nymph, a special Open Field performance of an opera performed by dogs, for dogs, with live (human) operatic accompaniment; kimchi and sauerkraut workshops; and children getting lessons in the time-honored practice of car break-ins. Also, don’t be surprised if you find yourself in a freight elevator serenaded by Lacy’s otherworldly vocals, or encounter activities rumored to involve bagpipes, watermelons, blindfolds, brass bands, solar-powered robotics, lie detectors, and psychic perception—or any combination thereof.