Los Angeles, CA
Grant Cycle:
Type of Grant:
Interdisiplinary, Social Practice

Automata was formed out of a desire to create a home for experimental puppetry in Los Angeles. The impetus to start the organization was twofold: to support the work of the Artistic Co-Directors Janie Geiser and Susan Simpson and to nurture, support and present the work of artists in sympathetic fields. Puppetry artists struggled to find a home to present small-scale experimental work — we wished to create that home. We hoped to build a community of puppetry artists, animators, and innovators in visual and object performance who could share work, support and inspire each other.

Our beginnings (2004 to 2007) were nomadic. We partnered with other Los Angeles nonprofit arts spaces, most notably the Museum of Jurassic Technology and The Velaslavasay Panorama. These partnerships were instrumental in forming a community and core audience. During this period, we presented several puppet theater works in serial format, as well as film screenings of experimental and historical works.

From 2007- 2009, Automata operated the Manual Archives, a micro-theater in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles, presenting puppetry and object-based performance centering around the history and mythology of LA. This included 2 recurring shows that explored the history of queer civil rights activism in the immediate neighborhood.

From 2009-2012 we programmed at partner spaces, presenting puppetry, experimental performance, music and film screenings.

Automata moved into its current home, a storefront space in Chinatown in 2012. Here we have been able to present numerous artists across disciplines and cultures. We have hosted street-facing installations and performances in our Automata Windows series and housed The Peephole Cinema: a miniature venue for single viewer animated films. Automata invites artists to create free interactive events as part of Chinatown’s Moon Festival, Summer Nights, Perform Chinatown, and Chinese New Year celebrations. These free events connect us with neighborhood residents, local visitors, and tourists in exciting ways.

Over the past decade, besides being a critical site for the presentation of new work, we have greatly increased support for artists’ process, including incubation, research, and development. We realize that Automata’s space itself is a huge resource. As Los Angeles further gentrifies, it is increasingly challenging for artists to find appropriate space to develop new work. Automata devotes critical resources—uninterrupted time in our flexible accessible space—to artists engaged in the process of developing new performance work. We have done this through our Automata Residency Project.

Automata’s open call for residency proposals has brought many new artists into our view and has diversified the work developed and presented at Automata aesthetically, culturally, and geographically to more fully mirror the community of experimental performance artists in LA. Contemporary performance makers often emerge at Automata; midcareer and established artists investigate new forms and ideas. Work developed at Automata often later premieres at REDCAT, the ICA LA, and other larger venues.

The continual tending of our community has created a warm and accessible place for artists working though new ideas, without any institutional pressure to make a financially successful product. Because Automata is the anchor point for a wide-ranging community of experimental performance-makers and artists, an ongoing relationship is continually forged, allowing for deeper feedback, from a wide range of often-marginalized voices. As part of a multigenerational community, encompassing varied socio-economic perspectives, artists are able to push their work beyond their own bubble and collaborate or receive feedback from various perspectives.