Machine Project is a Los Angeles based non-profit arts organization, a storefront exhibition space, and purveyor of DIY workshops in the spirit of the Maker Faire.

LACMA is the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the largest encyclopedic museum west of Chicago, and a patchwork complex of seven buildings ranging in style from 30′s streamline moderne to Jetsons 60′s to bad 80′s to Wright-ian organic to bland contemporary. (Hold that thought.)

Machine Project at LACMA was a one-day event where MP took over the LACMA campus, inserting Machine esthetic into a museum setting to the tune of 55 artist projects.

MP’s artistic logic was straightforward: counterpoint the classic museum attributes of stasis, high art, and quiet contemplation with ephemerality, low craft, and sonic assault.

LACMA’s institutional logic for hosting such an event proved cagier and ultimately more satisfying artistically: in a word, demographics. Anyone familiar with current art museum programming knows of the various special programs designed to lure anybody under 30 into the galleries. Compared with such events, MP at LACMA was a veritable Burning Man of youth programming.

And the primary lure was all too familiar: the dominant global art form of the past half century, aka music. To MP’s credit there was not a DJ in sight; instead we got tablas, glass harmonicas, feedback loops, ambient drone remixes, elevator marching bands, barbershop hum quartets, mid-century modern folk song, speed metal guitar solos, and build-your-own synthesizers. In sum, everything necessary to retool the museum’s traditionally contemplative space into the kind of high-stimulus environment necessary to captivate a generation of electronically-enhanced short attention spans.

What made so much of it work so well (recall held thought) is the structural irregularity of the LACMA campus: the very same irregularity that the LACMA trustees once dreamed of razing. But bad architecture can make for good ecosystems, and the LACMA campus offered dozens of niches for MP interventions that in their siting showed signs of acute intelligence operating behind the din.

The speed metal guitarist was planted on the second-floor patio of the Art Of The Americas building, enabling his blissfully context-free sonic projections to blat through various museum courtyards like thunder through the canyons of the High Sierra.

Similarly, the elevator marching band could be heard continuously as its elevator car floated up and down the atrium lobby of the Ahmanson building, changing only in volume as the door opened and closed on various floors, revealing the heretofore unknown acoustics of elevator cars and shafts.

As the day wound to a close, natural processes contributed the strongest project of the bunch, wafting the entire LACMA campus with the delicate scent not of popcorn but burning chaparral, conceptually fulfilling the prophecies of troublemakers from generations past.