In less than a week I will move to London, happy to live again in a large city with all its possibilities. How much I missed late cinema, a non-trivial choice between exhibits, a good club to dance in, and a diversity on the street that goes beyond student, faculty, and tourist! To spice up my little goodbye from Oxford, I visited an exhibit at the Modern Art Oxford on Morris and Warhol which was quite thought provoking. While I expected to be surprised by the exhibit, I certainly did not entertain the idea that this exhibit would alter my perspective on my future work at London: Walking through the galleries, I realized that I will work within the most eminent legacy of Morris and Warhol, that is to say, I will become a member of “The Factory” — a space set up to produce work in a creative environment of collaboration and exploration. By now, “The Factory” is neither Warhol’s East 47th Street nor Morris’ Oxford Street (albeit close) but an idea embodied by many office spaces, such as the big IT company I am going to work for.
When I decided some days ago to write about my arrival at London, the impressions on the city, its people, and my new work, I lacked a suitable perspective on the subject matter — until I ran into this exhibit: “Freshly from The Factory” feels just right. Next time I write about The Factory, I will be its novice, trading insights for a declining independence. So writing about my current views on The Factory seems to be a proper pursuit, such that I may amuse myself later in realizing how wrong I had been back then, that is: now.
As a place fostering creativity, each instance of The Factory needs its aesthetics. In my instance, it is an aesthetics of efficiency: When I visited The Factory for the first time, I could recognize the slickness and smoothness of The Factory’s sold works in its corridors. Everything was clean, simple, and reduced to a level of most efficient operation, like a story where every unnecessary word has been carefully eradicated. There are some repetitions nevertheless, but those are consciously chosen as an aid for the reader to get along — even without paying the attention the piece would deserve. Walking through the place I realized that every detail bears some meaning, every small thing is backed by an intention legitimizing its presence. Even the playfulness is intended, and maybe one could say, it is a place of good intentions: The Factory always was a place of high aspirations, with good intentions quite intentionally included — at least according to popular myths. I shall see how that translates into current factorialities!
The Factory people have their idiosyncrasies, as to be expected from such a place. But all seem to be friendly, open, quick, smart, dedicated, and proud of their doing. Becoming one of them, I will become the same, just different enough to make a difference, since a difference I should make. After all, this is not a factory but The Factory. It goes without saying that The Factory is an established and well-known place (I wonder whether Warhol would have ever entered a well-known place that is not outright famous). At the same time, being part of the establishment now, the place fights for an attitude of soft rebellion, ready to spit out the next big thing. While the initial excitement of the first days is gone, these days are among the most influential times of The Factory, since it feeds on data and data is becoming available everywhere. Just as Morris and Warhol dreamed of reaching all and everybody with their art, the services of The Factory are present in everybody’s life.
That The Factory is set in London comes in handy. Not that I liked London from the very beginning; but it has proved to have quality, like a stray dog searching for shelter on an unavoidably rainy day. Suddenly there, such a dog waits until you are too tired to chase it away; then it stays. Always hungry and seemingly dirty even after a fresh wash, it does not feel very dangerous, but calling it trustworthy would be a mistake. Next to the kitchen trash arranged for stray dog dinners resides the insane richness of those who have come to England for the enmities of an European country with good access to a number of tax havens. Sure, that is the usual story of big city life with its contrasts; the specifically English variation provides its elaborate class society to the mix. I do not mean the national Buckingham soap but the way people judge each other according to their supposed class, from underclass to upper class. The Factory contrasts itself as a meritocracy; we will see how that goes.
London felt initially intangible, since its streets seem to be in flux without much coordination. Amidst these slithery grounds sits the river with its sizable load of dirt water filled with filthy ships surrounded by dilapidated houses. Whenever I stand on a bridge overlooking the river banks I wonder how run down such a rich place can look like. If The Factory has an aesthetics of efficiency with a dash of dilated pop art, London has been conceived as Jackson Pollock painting minus Jackson Pollock’s genius: London is a bunch of random drops, behaving like an orchestra without conductor, or more fittingly, like a bunch of random musicians with clogged ears. London’s beauty does not reside in the grand or subtle but surprises with quick, little, bold insights.