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PhilaMOCA: Eric Bresler and The Unlimited Art Space.

July 16, 2015

PhilaMOCAEric04Text by Justin Dowdall. Images by Michael Bucher.

For those who have not been to PhilaMOCA, you may have at least stumbled down Spring Garden Street one night and noticed the fantastic mural and homage to David Lynch’s Eraserhead painted on an exterior wall.

This flexible art/performance space at 531 N. 12th St. is carved out of a former mausoleum showroom and unique to the Philly arts and culture scene.

In an age of house and converted factory shows, PhilaMOCA is sort of a hybrid of the two. That is, PhilaMOCA is a place where art, music and film coalesce under what PhilaMOCA curator Eric Bresler calls “organizational madness.”

Bresler, a former South Philly punk rocker and lover of the arts, also uses terms like “living room” and “welcoming” in conjunction with “professional” to express the ethos of the space, where the Mad Decent Block Party originated and Diplo and his crew threw countless parties over the years (fun fact: he still owns the building).

It is obvious that Bresler wants patrons to feel welcome and even a part of PhilaMOCA. The door is often open at 3 p.m. on a Wednesday for people to come hang out as a parade of volunteers and community members come and go. These artists and friends seem to be the life-blood of the space. Funded completely by the revenue generated by shows and kept going with the passion of its interns and volunteers, the space plays into a Felliniesque atmosphere.

Bresler’s DIY and art-focused roots are a welcome part of the greater Philly music scene. Still, one may soon realize that he has moved past a singular idea of what makes a great show or piece of art. He is quick to note that they schedule events five nights per week and that each event will often bring a completely different audience.

This is all made more tactile by the relatively small, intimate space. Filled with posters of past shows and creative works, including a limited edition baby Eraserhead doll, the space is professionally developed, yet remains open and chaotic. Lineage is easily acknowledged for this post No Wave, DADA revival art inspired experiment.

Artists such as No Age, Lydia Lunch, Parquet Courts, The Pizza Underground (Macaulay Culkin’s pizza-themed Velvet Underground cover band), Hop Along, Modern Baseball and Steven Severin from Siouxsie and the Banshees have all played the space.

“My favorite ever was post-punk legends The Monochrome Set,” says Bresler of his most cherished performance in the space. “It was their first U.S. tour in over 30 years,”

PhilaMOCAEric05PhilaMOCA is also a place for outsider art but you are just as likely to see a great hip-hop show one night and an LGBT film festival the next. Limits are not a part of Bresler’s vocabulary. This is not one place. It is an almost blank canvas that he allows the performers and artists to paint.

This is indeed a collaborative environment. For example, many of the shows that come to the space are booked by R5 productions.

“The space is great,” says Andy Nelson, an R5 promoter who is also the bassist for Paint It Black. “We continue to remain a part of what’s going on there. It’s great that there is a place for all-age shows. I think that the space fills a need.”

PhilaMOCA has even adopted a local youth as an integral part of their space. “Lil” Sean Coleman is PhilaMOCA’s 12-year-old neighbor, who can sometimes be seen riding into the space on his skateboard and just hanging out. He has even recently screened his own film.

The greater music and arts scene has been equally responsive.

“We get a lot of names that just come to see events but we don’t usually mention them, like Kurt Vile, Talib Kweli,” Bresler says.

Nevertheless, this is just an extension of the sense of community surrounding the space. This idea of a diversity of acts, small space, true fans and everything in-between highlights why the space works.

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