Li-Ming Hu is an interdisciplinary artist who employs a carnivalesque sensibility, to explore the relationships between cultural production and the construction of subjectivities.
Flux Factory Breathes Life Into Mini City
by Farida Hariyanawala
Peering inside each window of “November House” to see a dream sequence played out frame by frame is one of the many sites in the Flux Factory.
It’s fall in the city of Opolis. Natasha is taking a leisurely walk in the J.B. Liminal Park. She’s the same cold blooded assassin who publicly shot the president in the interior of a theater. A few blocks away, Leslie, the paranoid loner, lurks in the dark shadows of his office, while not far away, Mr Macomber wakes up with a hole in his chest.
Like most vibrant cities, myriad scenes are being played out simultaneously in Opolis, which, though imaginary, has come to life in a comic art installation at the Flux Factory in Long Island City.
The third in the series of the factory’s annual Comic Fluxture exhibits, Opolis was created by 14 participating artists serving as the “chief architects” of the city. They also imagined and created the characters who inhabit this city, and wove around them tales of devious machinations, mystery, drama and romance – all in comic art form.
Comic illustrator Jason Little, who is curating the show along with Jean Barberis and Flux Factory President Morgan Meis, said they brainstormed on a formal theme to give structure to a series of images. “Though each of the blocks is different in terms of ideas and presentation, the overall picture is still inclusive. The only real linkage is that there are a few common characters around a lot of blocks,” he said.
Before stepping into this cardboard city’s zone, visitors can pick up a souvenir map and guide, which helps navigate the streets, with names like Languid Lane, Fascination Street, Terminal Avenue and Aggravation Alley.
As you walk around peeking into the lives of the city’s residents, and eavesdropping on their conversations, Opolis comes alive. You grow to love its quirky characters with their bizarre stories that unfold in the 14 blocks.
“Opolis has an air of sadness around it,” said Daupo, an illustrator and comic artist, who undertook building the tallest structure in Opolis. The end result was the Opolis Terminal Tower, the city’s only skyscraper. It is covered with comic strips that tell the story of an evil character in a multinational corporation in the building.
“The city has a lot of interesting variety – you have urban, modern buildings as well as conventional ones, but there seems to be a lot of death and tragedy unfolding in them,” he said.
Manhattan based Nicole Tucker, a landscape architect and artist, sees Opolis as a city of “indiscriminate seasonality,” so her contribution was a public park depicting all seasons simultaneously, one on each of four tiers. Reality blends here with the imaginary, as the fictional characters can be seen walking through three of the four seasons.
“What I like about Opolis is that everything is so different. It is so reminiscent of a real city where you have so much diversity all rubbing against each other,” she said.
For Brooklyn based Bishakh Som, this exhibit was the perfect opportunity to blend his two professions – architecture and comic illustrations. On the city’s border stands his three story conventional town house. Inside, the young protagonist Natasha is subjected to domestic trauma.
The story unfolds that years later, Natasha will assassinate the president in a theater – her ultimate revenge on authority figures. “Everyone aspires to be part of a family, but I wanted to show the flip side of it,” Som said.
Other interesting landmarks worth visiting in the city include the Historical and Futurological Society by artists Leah Beeferman and Michelle Higa, the public library by Beth Brandon, and Andrea Dezso’s November House, representing a dream sequence.
Yet the charm of Opolis lies not in its cardboard buildings, but in the many stories hidden in its underbelly, which should best be explored at leisure.
Opolis: A Comic Fluxture is on view at the Flux Factory, 38 38 43rd St., Long Island City, through Aug. 5. Hours are 4 7 p.m. Saturdays, noon 5 p.m. Sundays, or by appointment at (718) 707 3362. www.fluxfactory.org.