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Review 2, 9-12: Hurry! Hurry!
Zirkus Artists and New Space Will Shock and Amaze!
Waiting for Every Last Drop at 38 nine
(Must be over 18 to read this Flash Review)
By Faith Pilger
Copyright 2002 Faith Pilger
NEW YORK -- It is not
often that I am just as excited to review a performance space as
the show that will be appearing therein. This was exactly the case
this past Saturday, as I headed out to 38 nine, according to
its web site "a labyrinth of rooms for creating and presenting
art, film, theater, music and performance" in Long Island City,
Queens. The production, the Know Nothing Family Zirkus/Zideshow's
"Divine Tortures of the Divine Machine," had traveled all the way
from New Orleans for, I believe, its first ever New York City appearance;
it was only the third production to arrive at 38 nine, which opened
its doors this summer.
To say that this was
an exciting evening of entertainment would be a vast understatement.
It was, in fact, an epic journey, a virtual wet dream for anyone
nostalgic for the bygone era of Andy Warhol's Factory and looking
for the real potential of NYC. (Typically for 2002, the potential
of NYC lies in the quiet outer boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens.)
38 nine and the Zirkus itself experienced "technical difficulties"
throughout the evening, but I think this was to be expected from
such ambitious presenters, still making their way through the teething
period. Was the audience as understanding? It seems to me that the
visiting company could not have had a kinder, more accommodating,
more encouraging group of party-goers (Let's hear it for the kids!)
to play with. They were game for anything and stayed until the wee
hours of the a.m., enjoying the wide range of entertainment fare,
including film, live performance, visual art, food and cocktails.
I will begin at the
beginning. As we discovered the space, almost nondescript from the
outside, it was recognizable only by an illuminated powerbox displaying
a flyer for the Know Nothing Family Zirkus/Zideshow. We proceeded
literally into a maze, painted on all walls of the stairway in black
and white Keith Haring-esque brushstrokes, a product of the artist
who calls himself "Maze" and also shows work in the first gallery,
as we pay to enter into the belly of the beast.
38 nine was once a factory
that specialized in the production of paint rollers, so it is only
fitting that the raw nature of the factory, complete with leftover
conveyor belts and pieces of machinery, is complemented by galleries
full of bright paintings and rooms for lounging that are SOHO sheik.
The entirety of the space includes five partial floors, three galleries,
three bars, a cabaret room, a lounge, a screening room and the mainspace,
with it's obscenely high ceilings and seating at tables and chairs
on the main level as well as around the circular balcony.
In the smaller gallery
on the second floor, I met "Maze",
scribbling away at a notepad while cracking open peanuts at a Japanese-style
table with a group of friends. Among them was Costain, the artist
showing his work in this particular gallery. He was a tall, unassuming
fellow who seemed to welcome me into the gallery as if it were his
own bedroom. His paintings were impressive -- large, colorful montages
which seemed influenced by graffiti art and Jackson Pollock, but
had a unique way of layering images and abstraction. One sculpture
required participation to be fully realized -- you could pour your
beer into the gaping mouth of a clay creature and hold a cup beneath
his penis as he proceeded to pee. The funny part was in the fact
that the peeing process was fairly slow and left you awkwardly waiting
for the last few drops to fall.
Past this gallery and
through a lounge (decked with a fuzzy furniture in erotically suggestive
shapes such as stiletto heels and lips) we finally entered the main
space, on floor 2 1/2. The preshow act was satirist Greg Nagan,
reading from "The Confessions of St Augustine (the Vatican's Cut)"
which, unfortunately (or not?) I could not hear due in part to the
technical difficulties, which had already begun. I'm not sure if
this was supposed to be the "intimate magic" mentioned in the e-vite,
or if an additional act was canceled. In any case, the preshow finally
began at 11:45. Videos on a large hanging screen and pumping music
throughout the multitude of rooms was meant to entertain before
the Zirkus, which had been delayed from it's original 10 p.m. showtime,
but the volume was much too high for the intimate size of the crowd
and ended up being slightly annoying.
At midnight, the main
show began. I had already been at the space for so long that I was
debating whether to get a bite to eat from the upstairs bar (serving
vegan burritos, rice bowls and brownies -- what a combination!).
I opted for another beer instead. This was a wise decision, as it
was helpful to be well lubricated when I was pulled up onto the
stage to aid in the straightjacket act not long after the Zideshow
The Know Nothing Family
Zirkus/Zideshow likes to call its show "The greatest evening you
will ever spend in Hell," and I couldn't help but think that, due
to the technical problems they seemed to be plagued with, this was
in fact an evening in hell for the performers. However, it was only
mildly disappointing for the audience, including myself, who typically
did not notice the sound problems until they were pointed out to
us by the performers. That said, the show, particularly the second
half, was very entertaining and had moments that were genuinely
shocking, miraculous and quite original.
This was a classic 10-in-1
Circus/sideshow act, which was explained to us by our host, the
charming and animated Dr. Eric von Know Nothing, a.k.a. The Enigexclamation.
The latter title was marked upon his face with an "!?" and also
tattooed onto his back. So, we paid one price for 10 acts, starring
the kooky Know Nothing Family: Dr. Eric and his sister, Starfish,
as well as Micki Luv (The Runaway Rockstar) and Flag Blashpoint
(The Mad Monk.) These acts included fire manipulation by the sensual
Micki Luv, who moved with an unusually quiet grace while fire eating
and twirling flaming batons (apparently the only female American
to use batons burning at both ends!!). Luv's truly awesome talent,
however, was her ability to manipulate and multiply electrical currents.
She caused sparks to fly, lit a 120 watt light bulb (in between
her legs) and even blew the entire sound system (Good riddance!).
I have to admit that I am a tough audience to impress -- I am a
skeptic and expect only true miracles, really shocking feats, or
awesome beauty. I was truly satisfied on all accounts by Ms. Luv.
Our kooky MC, Dr. Eric,
was equally striking. A talented and experienced barker, Dr. Eric
escaped from a straightjacket (Hey, I strapped him in there real
tight, baby!), introduced his talented and adorable trained canine,
and bantered with his usually silent but charming sister/sidekick,
Starfish. His main act came late in the show when he laid down freshly
broken glass on top of which he walked, lounged and finally laid
his face, as a 200-something pound man stood on top of his head.
Now, that is an act you don't see on the streets of NYC!
If you are not 18 years
or older, PLEASE do not read past this point! Or, as Dr. Eric suggested
during the show -- don't tell your PARENTS about what you read past
this point! Flag Blashpoint, whose violent entrance in a motorcycle
helmet was a fitting start to the show, mostly provided the back-seat
entertainment. A composer, musician (and the performer with the
best name!), he provided a soundtrack for the evening on keyboard
and drums. However, the final act of the show was performed by the
very same Mad Monk, half-man (he has one small breast), pinhead,
and mother fakir. He played upon a 7-foot bed of nails, walking
on it and laying down on it, even as a watermelon was sliced open
by a sword while it rested on his belly -- and all of this while
completely naked! As if that were not enough, Mad Monk curled himself
up into a yogic position, still laying upon the bed of nails, and
(I found this weirdly sexy) he sucked his own penis. This was a
miracle unto itself and a real expression of the boundless territories
to be explored by the sideshow medium.
Typically, a sideshow
promises but does not necessarily deliver true miracles. This one
does. The performers/sideshow freaks were all truly talented and
loveable. The show itself covers the gamut. And, even under less
than ideal circumstances, the Know Nothing Zirkus prevailed! I feel
the urge to mention also, though it was not the main focus of my
interest, that short films were on view in the screening room a
few times over the course of the evening, while in the main "skylight"
gallery there was a group show which included various and diverse
artists. The one who really peaked my interest was Bill Miller,
who used remnants of discarded linoleum flooring to create three
dimensional surfaces on which he painted layered landscapes and
portraits. These were strikingly original and appealingly tactile.
38 nine was created
by four partners, one of whom is Stuart Levy, who is losing (or
has lost) his lease in Williamsburg of a loft space he had transformed
into a theater. It appears that the goal is to present art and performance,
as well as providing a fertile environment for the creation of new
work. I spoke to another partner who suggested that the venue will
expand and also include dance. It has already offered aerial dance.
Coming up next: The Costume Balls on Friday and Saturday, October
25 and 26. I should mention that the 38 nine web site (included
at the top of this review) is quite minimal, a brand new site with
just the basics, but definitely worth browsing to join the mailing
list for future events. Much more extensive is the web
site for the Zirkus, which is well worth checking out,
and which includes upcoming tour dates.
Faith Pilger is a graduate of the Juilliard School and a past winner
of the Princess Grace Award for Modern Dance. She curates, hosts
and performs in the Vim Variety Show at Surf Reality on the first
Friday of each month (this Fall: September 6, October 4, November
1, and December 6th). She appeared this summer in New Orleans with
PerksDanceMusicTheatre and premiered her own work at the Edinburgh
Festival Fringe 2002, Scotland. Visit her web site by clicking
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