Light Industry: Building a New Kind of Cinema in Industry City

The Gowanus Expressway hums with evening traffic 20 feet overhead. An eerie silence settles on an empty dock opening out to New York Bay. And somehow, in an industrial park in Brooklyn, some see this as an intimate moment with others. Residing in an empty building on 33rd Street in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, Light Industry […]

poster for

"Public Opinion Labratory" Performance

at Light Industry
in the DUMBO, other Brooklyn area
This event has ended - (2008-08-12)

In Features by Rob Sgobbo 2008-08-11 print

Photo © Rob Sgobbo

The Gowanus Expressway hums with evening traffic 20 feet overhead. An eerie silence settles on an empty dock opening out to New York Bay. And somehow, in an industrial park in Brooklyn, some see this as an intimate moment with others.

Residing in an empty building on 33rd Street in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, Light Industry has already begun to redefine the cinematic experience since its opening in March 2008. Seeking to “explore the social moments” an audience shares while watching film, Light Industry offers an alternative to the traditional galleries and theaters which have come to dominate the New York film scene.

Originally conceived by Thomas Beard and Ed Halter, the Light Industry stays true to its minimalist surroundings. In an empty white-washed room, save for some film equipment tucked away in the space’s far back corner and folding chairs for audience seating, the color of red water pipes crossing its ceiling is the venue’s only visual punctuation. The bare space is integral to what “art” is as Light Industry. According to co-founders Beard and Halter, the no frills atmosphere is meant to be a place where physical structure brews the social interaction necessary for cinematic appreciation: the dialogue between audience members, performers and performances.

“Anyone can come in within the parameters of this space,” says Halter. “Cinema is not just about film, but it’s about performance; and how the audience shares seeing that performance… We’re primarily concerned with the social moments that occur within the audience during cinema. Here, we’re trying to rethink cinematic spaces… It’s something we don’t find at a gallery or a movie theater.” Beard adds, “Just like the space, cinema is about experience. We’ll have everything from traditional film to an academic giving a lecture. We define cinema in terms of the experience the audience has, not as much as its medium.”

In defiance of traditional art and film spaces where silent atmosphere lends itself to only individual, passive appreciation, the Light Industry is a social place, one where exchange of ideas, thoughts and perspectives is characteristic of the venue’s weekly showings. Coming into Light Industry, it’s easy to see how the appreciation of cinema takes a less lofty, but more meaningful form. Audience members ought to expect an educational journey–and not necessarily through the performance at hand, but just as likely through the perspective of the person sitting next to them. With a strong following of weekly adherents of friends, family and film aficionados, Light Industry is already establishing itself in the experimental arts community. “Every time we have a show, we are experiencing something together, and being exposed to a different form of cinema,” says Beard. “We all come out to Industry City together to have a good time.”

''Spectacular Spectacle'' crowd. Photo © Rob Sgobbo

Beard and Halter aim to bring in curators and performers not typically found in film festivals or galleries around the city, exposing audience members to different themes, mediums, cinematic performances and discussions. “Every event is expanding the conceptual boundaries of video. It creates a space that puts together surprising, idiosyncratic, and distinct works to be appreciated,” says Beard. Since its launch last spring, Light Industry has hosted programs by curators and artists like Eddo Stern, Jake Perlin, Small Change, Jennifer Reeves, Peggy Ahwesh, K8 Hardy, Mark Essen and Cory Arcangel among many others.

On a recent visit to video artists Ben Coonley and Michael Smith’s “Spectacle Spectacular,” the emphasis on performance and audience experience is again central. In this first time collaboration, Coonley and ''Spectacular Spectacle'' still. Courtesy of Light Industry.Smith’s personal styles and perspectives are divergent enough to provide the audience with a mash-up of nine 15-minute shorts centered loosely on seeing anew the role of ordinary objects and architecture. Taking its name from Harrison Marks’ film of an office executive who discovers his perception is transformed after finding an enormous wishbone in his turkey sandwich, “Spectacle Spectacular” samples the gamut of film from Peter Gidal’s panning and zooming of still life in Focus to an amateur childrens’ production by Kidstock of a fantasy adventure story. While the video shorts are the meat of the performance, the centerpiece of the evening is a reel of film taken from a tripod camcorder atop Light Industry’s factory building. Overlooking New York Bay, zooming and panning 360 degrees over the harbor and the shady silhouette of the Statue of Liberty, the video connects the audience to the greater environment of Industry City. By turning this former industrial wasteland into a video art installation, Light Industry is not only a performance venue, but the centerpiece of a production within its own right.

The audience drinks beer and laughs throughout the evening as the curators jokingly break down the meaning behind a camera scanning the space of the Light Industry, and provide a pseudo-intellectual commentary upon the inherent meaning of peeling paint found on the former factory’s windows. The presence of performance in the show’s introduction sets the tone for audience interaction, where during and after the show, audience members discuss and laugh about the films’ swirl of hysterical characters, disturbing themes, and zany concepts. “It has definitely been fun doing this show,” says Coonley. “We’re here to have fun and enjoy this different space. Light Industry as a venue lends itself out to interpretation and I think that’s the whole point. There are some themes you can see with our work and this show, but like the venue, you can’t go crazy over it. The main point is to be here together and have a good time.”

Light Industry

Rob Sgobbo

Rob Sgobbo. Rob grew up in Princeton, New Jersey where he would often ditch school to attend gallery openings in Chelsea at the ripe old age of 16. After attending Haverford College, where he received his BA in Politics, he moved to the East Village. Committing himself to two years with Teach For America, Rob divides his time traveling to the South Bronx and freelance writing. Some of his interests include traveling to dangerous places in Eastern Europe, photographing ugly dogs in Tompkins Square Park and playing with his new frozen margarita machine. » See other writings


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