Hash the Planet

Left: #HDBOYZ. Right: The scene at MoMA PS1. (Photos: Jacqueline Iannacone/elkstudios.com)


The temperament of our generation can be summed up by the hashmark. If the ’90s were full of “quotation marks” indicating irony, a decisive sarcasm and a distance from the opinion of norms, our current climate is dominated by pithy punch lines that summarize the solipsist’s always already uploaded narrative. The hashtag is the redemption of Internet statements—written to be read by everyone you know, obviously. Until they are recycled via a chaotic circuit of retweets, reposts, and reblogs, eventually rendered as vapid as that ubiquitous Facebook prompt: “What’s on your mind?”

Traveling to MoMA PS1 in Queens always makes me itch. It’s not that long of a subway ride, is it? Closer to Williamsburg than mother MoMA itself, my train ended at the gates of pseudo-ironic innovation and an event that promised gaggles of iPunks decked out in their clubbing getups, Mallrats meets Tank Girl. Even though I’ve been hundreds of times, I completely bungled the directions. I decided to follow the cute, blue-haired hacker, who surely must know the way to DIS Magazine’s PopRally closing party for the Ryan Trecartin show. The queue for wristbands spilled out the door, and I was quickly rescued by curator Simon Castets and artist Item Idem, who seemed to be beating a path similar to my own. (They promised that I’d find them again later on the Lower East Side.) While situating ourselves amid the throngs, we discussed the muscle-inflated female bodybuilders in the lobby, who posed against a blank scrim with a post-gender model sheathed in a “wink-wink” step-and-repeat Zentai bodysuit. “Is that ‘in’ drag, or ‘out of’ drag?” I pondered. Or, more to the point, “Is this ironic, or sincere?” #thatisthequestion.

Left: Curator Simon Castets and artist Item Idem. Right: Artists Lizzie Fitch and Ryan Trecartin with MoMA PS1 director Klaus Biesenbach. (Photos: Miriam Katz)

We decided to tour the exhibition, with its themed rooms—corporate conference tables, airplane exit rows, and even spliced party boats all served as seating “situations” in front of which Trecartin’s sped-up, voiced-over, vibrating videos were splayed. We tried to determine which cut-rate retailer had provided the readymade install—Ikea, or maybe Staples, someone suggested: “It’s a new kind of gaming room, plugged in and tuned out.” The glazed and confused effect carried over to the party outside, where I ran into Debo Eilers, Lisa Jo, et al. We tried to talk, but were foiled by the thumping sound system and the manic set by AraabMuzik. The crowd frenzy reached its apex when the evening’s headliner, #HDBOYZ, bolted onto the stage. “They’ve been practicing all month,” confessed curator and Warm Up guru Eliza Ryan.

Five white-clad, choreographed, tween-obssessed skinny men really couldn’t be that into boy bands, or could they? The ’N Sync–crazed memes lip-synched songs replete with Auto-Tuned lyrics—“Ur boyfriend looks Photoshopped” or “What’s ur password?”—while bombastic hi-def retro graphics spun on a projection, stage rear. The performance climaxed with an utterly ironic confetti drop–fireworks combo—that must be a first—and Trecartin, Lizzie Fitch, and Melissa Burns of the similarly contrived electroclash-era girl group W.I.T. were joined by MoMA PS1 director Klaus Biesenbach and glow stick–wielding nu-ravers on the dance floor, all freakin’ in one last ribald, upbeat energy burst. Then security pushed everyone out.

Left: Post-show fireworks. (Photo: Jacqueline Iannacone/elkstudios.com) Right: Curators Cecilia Alemani and Massimiliano Gioni. (Photo: Miriam Katz)

One transfer and two subway rides later, and we were back in downtown Manhattan, where Asia Song Society proprietor Terence Koh had promised a show—either eight minutes or eighty-eight minutes before midnight, depending on which invitation you read. We arrived at 45 Canal on the early end, only to find a lone Paper party photographer. Fortunately, the building’s door was open, and we ventured up the stairs and into the eerily empty white house. Someone had moved out in a hurry, leaving behind only cold fluorescent lighting, torn contractor bags, empty clothing hangers, and a very caved-in roof. We’d gone from the virtual to the visceral in one short evening. We moved on to Clandestino bar to pass the time until 11:52 PM (thanks for the tip, Michael Bilsborough!) and to contemplate our situation. Were the performances we had just seen/were about to see cynical or earnest? Do these categories even hold traction anymore? Is the surfeit recapitulation of consumer culture “in real” critical, innovative, or just simulacrum?

We didn’t make much headway. Soon a crowd of downtown darlings (Waris, Liv Tyler, Theo Wenner) had gathered outside ASS. Everyone oohed and elbowed when a girl in a diaphanous white maxi dress pulled up the security gate to reveal a view of the performance inside. Behind the window, Koh lay, ethereally, beneath a single incandescent bulb amid a vast pile of powder, cloaked in all white, with an abnormal, um, bump on his chest.

“I like Terence’s tits!” shouted one randy spectator.

“Like, shutup! This is important,” urged another.

A few minutes later, the show came to an abrupt end when an NYPD van arrived flashing its lights. Exiting the car, the lady police officer took out her flashlight to inspect the art-crime scene.

“Oh. OK,” Officer Towle said as she peered into the storefront. “I don’t like that,” she critiqued, and went inside. “That’s it, show’s over,” her compatriot shouted. “Nothing to see.” #nothingtoodoo

Left: Terence Koh performs. Right: The NYPD. (Photos: David Velasco)

Left: Writer Nikki Columbus (left) and dealer Elizabeth Dee (center). Right: WOW TV’s Damiana Garcia. (Photos: Miriam Katz)

Left: Artists Derrick Adams and Clifford Owens with MoMA PS1 curator Christopher Lew. (Photo: Miriam Katz) Right: AraabMuzik. (Photo: Jacqueline Iannacone/elkstudios.com)

Left: Lauren Devine (left). Right: Musician Gavin Russom and MoMA PS1 curator Eliza Ryan. (Photos: Miriam Katz)

Left: Writer Johnny Misheff with artist Xavier Cha. Right: Artist Jaki Doyka. (Photos: Miriam Katz)