Inside the Knockdown Center, Your Favorite New Venue in an Old Glass Factory

Saturday night we had the extreme pleasure of attending an event in what is, without a doubt, NYC's most exciting new venue for art, culture, and beyond. It's called the Knockdown Center, and it's housed in a former glass factory on a three acre site in Maspeth, Queens (about a mile from the Jefferson L train). Owned by a private individual who lives onsite in a drool-worthy, barnlike structure attached to the main building (the property has been in his family for years), the space was officially re-inaugurated this summer as an arts center with the mission "to inspire and host the most inventive, courageous, and powerful creative projects it possibly can." Artist Michael Merck, a friend of the owner, was an instrumental figure in this metamorphosis, and is working with a team of programmers (Kate Watson, Tyler Myers, Micaela CarolanCamilla Ha) who produce and curate original events and consider proposals ("You'll be surprised what we're game for").

The event this weekend was a BYOB (ring Your Own Beamer) project, a concept originally started by Rafaël Rozendaal with the intention of prompting editions around the world. BYOB's motto: "The idea is simple: Find a place, invite many artists, ask them to bring their projectors." And what a place they found. Arriving at the Knockdown Center is like walking into a post-industrial fairytale. From the street, a scruffy young man in a chair instructed us to enter through metal gates and "follow the lights" into a gargantuan gravel yard, which is currently populated with an artist-designed mini golf course (Saturday was the end of mini-golf season), as well as picnic tables, basketball courts and a vintage car. Gazing upon the smokestack-topped brick palace, with its steel steps and bbq patios and minimal chandeliers, is awe-inspiring. The scale boggles the minds of New Yorkers accustomed to more claustrophobic spaces.

Inside, one area was filled with projection pieces, while another area hosted experimental live music of varying styles. The space is mostly raw, and in half of the building the window panes are currently absent, bringing a chilly breeze through the space. A red neon "Maspeth" sign from a neighboring factory glowed through the back windows, above an active freight-train track. All of the art and music was top-notch. Several of the videos felt like photographs splendidly come to life, such as a series of black and white portraits, while others were more abstract. One appeared to be a stream of urine until at the end, the liquid unexpectedly changed color. One was a a detail of a fishbowl with a time-stamp from 2014. In another, a live video feed of a mini plant in front of a mini-sheet was projected onto a big sheet with a big plant in front of it. Someone brought a vintage scrolling opaque projector featuring a drawing of a crowd of characters which a knob moved left-to-right. One group introduced a performative element, lying in a cuddle pile on a picnic blanket between the projector and the screen. The cuddle pile dissipated, leaving a lone woman contemplatively eating a mango next to an orchid, as a crowd watched. The visual artists included: Sam Ashford, Ivana Basic, Beauty Today, Lily Benson, Dora Budor+Maya Cule, Victoria Campbell, Micaela Carolan, April Childers, Tomashi Jackson, Deborah Johnson, Anna Liberman, Rebecca Leopold, Amanda Long, Hannah Manfredi, Andrew Ross, Wadih Sader, Saki Sato, Joao Salema + Sofy Yuditskaya ,Taylor Shields, Anthony Simon, and Nikita Vishnevskiy.

The music was just as intriguing. Skip La Plante brought a vintage avant-garde string instrument designed by Harry Partch. Pat Noecker used a handmade bass/harp/kalimban in his solo project Raft. Jeanann Dara played swirling violin-based sounds, her scarf blowing in the wind. Other musical acts included Insect Deli, Trabajo, and Lydsod.

Now that you surely want to go here, follow the Knockdown Center on Facebook for info on future events, including a massive Halloween rave with a killer lineup planned for October 27th. And check out photos from Saturday, below.

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