The MeetFactory inspires art and music
Driving up Nádražní in the industrial Smíchov district, it’s hard to miss MeetFactory, an industrial building flanked by two enormous fiberglass red cars, hung on either side by two equally enormous nails.
The car sculptures, of course, are the work of Prague artist David Černý, and MeetFactory is his contemporary arts center and studio. Founded in Holešovice in 2001, but forced to move to Smichov after the destructive floods of 2002, the non-for-profit institution serves as a home away from home for writers, theatre directors, visual artists, and other international creatives.
Černý says MeetFactory is inspired by PS1, an art institution at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art where he completed a one-year residency in 1994.
“I was thinking about trying to find a space for a similar institution, and this happened,” Černý explained, lounging at a bar table in the Factory. “I wanted to make a multicultural supermarket.”
That it is. The mammoth building is complete with a theatre, concert venue, three galleries, and 16 art studios, along with an artists-in-residence program which hosts more than 30 international artists of every medium each year. It’s run by an administrative board, which is made up of Černý, musician David Koller, and Czech filmmaker Alice Nellis.
Originally erected as a warehouse for a glasswork factory in the 1920s, the building itself is a work of art. Inside, industrial-looking walls and wrought-iron fixtures are highlighted by the glow of bright red neon lights, which match the bar and cafe’s fire-engine red wooden chairs and tables. Walking through its concrete halls, the maze-like building appears to have endless nooks and passageways—secretly hidden among them, Černý’s own studio.
And MeetFactory wouldn’t be complete without a mark of classic Černý sarcasm: a lifelike sculpture of a slab of raw meat greets guests at the bar downstairs.
Michal Brenner, the space’s music program manager and longest-serving employee, remembers nearly a decade ago when MeetFactory was merely an idea, and the building an abandoned space.
“It was really squatted, we had to build the venue from scratch,” Brenner recalls, describing the building’s emptiness at the start of the project. “There really was nothing here.”
Brenner left his old gig as an independent promoter to officially join MeetFactory in 2010, and he claims it’s the “best job” he’s ever had. Though Prague’s art scene has in recent years expanded to include a number of theatre, music and art venues, he thinks MeetFactory is unique in its ability to join multiple forms of art in one space.
It’s all part of Černý’s original goal: to connect Prague to the international art world and foster relationships between artists and the community. MeetFactory even puts on regular “Open Studio” days, where visitors can roam the building’s 16 studios and talk to the artists-in-residence.
On any given day, “Open Studio” events may cover anything from a presentation of contemporary Mexican video-art to an interactive workshop led by a resident artist. Currently, there are seven artists-in-residence at the Factory, hailing from hometowns as near and far as Austria, the United States, and France.
Keeping with its emphasis on connecting creatives, each of the Factory’s components makes it a priority to expose up-and-coming artists in addition to the more well-known. Though Brenner only hires bands he actually listens to himself, he adds that the Factory doesn’t “really do big Czech bands.”
“They should be a new name, because that’s part of the focus of the venue—to bring artists that haven’t played in the Czech Republic before,” he explains.
In the past, this has included acts like the U.S.-based Animal Collective, Ratatat, and Caribou, as well as the birthday party of ‘80s German industrial band Einstürzende Neubauten and, more locally, the launching of MIDI LIDI’s third studio album and a sold-out WWW concert.
Though Brenner says the theatre sector has perhaps the least international audience, as most of the plays are performed in Czech, the space has hosted a number of global successes, like Hungarian theatre group Lakmusz Csopor. It’s also a hotspot for slam poetry, literary readings, and film screening parties.
Brenner adds that while MeetFactory’s original vision remains strong, he and the other members of the institution are continuously changing to keep up with trends in the art world and new generations of creative thinkers.
“We are constantly challenged to bring relevant content,” he says. “I wouldn’t want to grow old with our audience.”
MeetFactory is many things—a place to watch theatre, visit an artist, discover a new band, or soak in an art installation. But to many of those involved with MeetFactory, the towering building wedged between a railroad and a motorway looks a lot like home.
“We have all these four things together, and we try to work together, not just lock ourselves in our respective halls,” Brenner says about the Factory. “It’s still a small team, so of course we all know each other and we work together.”
To find out what’s going on this month at the MeetFactory, visit them online at www.meetfactory.cz