Indian Summer

Brooklyn
08.30.06

Left: Performance artist Julie Atlas Muz. Right: DJ Spooky. (All photos: David Velasco)


“No one’s wearing a bathing suit in this weather,” groaned Julie Atlas Muz, the miraculously upbeat MC of last Saturday night’s benefit for Sens Production at Williamsburg’s McCarren Park Pool. Gray skies and a broken L train may have foiled the kickoff swimwear competition, but the evening ahead still promised musical performances by Worange Drexler and DJ Spooky, along with sneak previews of Agora II, a site-specific “choreographic game for one thousand bodies” orchestrated by Sens Production director and 2004 Whitney Biennial participant Noémie Lafrance.

Prior to his set, I found Spooky conversing about plans (or lack thereof) for Burning Man and Moby’s “crazy psycho groupies.” Is the electronic-music scene as small as the art world? When I got him alone, he discussed his latest projects: After penning Rhythm Science, releasing a new album, teaching a course at the European Graduate School, and giving concerts in Central Park and the Tate Turbine Hall, he still has two nights booked at the Apollo in October and another book (Sound Unbound) due out early next year. Oh, and he’s taking his remix of D. W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation on tour with a live score in 2007. Spooky is an object lesson in overachievement, a one-man culture-recycling plant. He then pulled out his Treo to demonstrate his theories on “material memory” via his summer “cell-phone diary.”

Left: A preview of Agora II. Right: Sens Production's Noémie Lafrance.


The pool’s massive, empty shell hosted plenty of carnivalesque distractions. I was daunted by the “world’s largest game of Twister,” and it was too chilly for the slip ‘n’ slide (so much for global warming), but I did take advantage of the Madagascar Institute’s Ring My Bell, a lewd Double Dare–like physical challenge involving a helmet, a water hose, and mannequin legs mechanically rigged to rise in response to aquatic “stimulation.” I asked Institute member Violette Olympia about the group’s inspiration for the game. “Oh, we were just dicking around in our studio,” she deadpanned.

The previews of Agora II—think Stomp outdoors, with colorful acrobats and a gaggle of talented children dancing with chairs—were entertaining enough, and though the founding concept of a Greek marketplace feels thin, Lafrance’s ambition and commitment to neighborhood revitalization is commendable. Filling a space this huge, there’s not much leeway for editing, and having seen the original piece last September, the changes don’t seem significant, with much of the excitement still driven by the pool’s spectacular ambience.

Left: Artists Ryan McNamara and Paul Mpagi Sepuya. Right: Author and artist Mike Albo with Cherry Dazzle.


Spooky’s set was the event’s highlight, evidence that the iPod’s shuffle function hasn’t completely usurped the role of the DJ. Day slipped casually into dusk, unfolding a scene reminiscent of both Busby Berkeley and Sesame Street, as small children in white rode scooters around crowds of hula-hooping performers. I snuck out during the early moments of an outdoor screening of graffiti-culture classic Style Wars to seek adventure elsewhere.

There was no shortage of swimwear (or bike shorts, pajamas, fishnets, thongs . . .) at the “Red Party,” the latest in a sporadic series of color-themed, artsy, queerish soirees in Greenpoint. Red decor clashed and coagulated with red regalia; it was the world as seen through rose-colored lenses, or a tour of an unregulated slaughterhouse—I couldn’t decide which. “With all this red, I feel like I’m in Cries and Whispers,” offered one cultured guest. “I was planning on coming naked except for a kabbalah bracelet,” remarked Dazzle Dancer Cherry Dazzle, “but I hurt my back and punked out.”

Left: Artist Travis Boyer with Dan Kellum. Right: Klaus von Nichtssagend gallery director Sam Wilson.


The crowd, a crossbreed of Dancer from the Dance and Desperate Living, heaved, drank, and exposed themselves while Justin Timberlake brought the “SexyBack” from a pint-size stereo. In conversation with artist Paul Mpagi Sepuya, I pointed out that August’s Vogue has already declared (with a fourteen-page Demarchelier-Turlington spread) that “red is the new black”; he retorted: “Should we all go Cherokee?”

The night was getting old, and I still hadn’t tasted any of the mysterious red jungle juice fueling the party’s lascivious spirit. On my way toward the makeshift bar, I ran into performance artist and The Underminer coauthor Mike Albo. In the kitchen’s bright light, his toga appeared scandalously salmon. “Are you red on the inside?” I asked. “No,” he replied, confirming my suspicions. “I’m pink.”

Left: Curator Earl Dax with artist Josh Thorson. Right: Dancer Layard Thompson.


Left: The Madagascar Institute's Jon Jay, Lindsay McCosh, Mike Ross, Ben Sparks, Nicole Whelan, and Violette Olympia with Ring My Bell. Right: Agora II dancer Malcolm.