Did you know "banzai" is the battle cry used by Japanese kamikaze pilots during World War II? I had a vague memory of that fact, so it was fitting when I made the connection that here I was on Memorial Day weekend, uttering the battle cry as I ventured out to the Red Lotus Room in Crown Heights to the third annual party called Banzai!!!!.
It was billed as an art-and-performance blitz and with that military connotation, it seemed like a more cultural way to spend the holiday than stuffing myself silly at a barbecue. I walked into the huge warehouse space and, hearing the show was in progress, scampered to the back to find the hosts of the night, Muffinhead and Eric Schmalenberger, decked out in red-and-white stripes and polka dots as though they were ringmasters at the circus.
Before I knew it, Penny Arcade, dressed in a low-cut silver sequined dress, came out onto the stage and stood atop a stool, where she proceeded to harangue us about New York City and some common misconceptions about artists. "It’s not the artist selling out. It’s the media and the industry buying in," she said to uproarious applause. Then Soigné Deluxe came out on stage dressed in a white, hooded cape and four arms doing a dance. Last up was a surprise performer, Lady Miss Kier, former lead singer of Deee-lite who was billed as a DJ, but who grabbed the mic and belted out a number to the delight of the audience.
Then the evening transitioned to the paintings, photographs and multi-media art festooning the walls in the brightly lit outer room. "Hey, love that gun in your head," I told a blonde woman standing by a sculpted pair of snazzy red sneakers. Turns out it wasn’t loaded, but was the creation of an artists team called Wonderpuss Octopus. "It’s a headband," said Jessica Galluci, a curator at A.D. Projects.
Apparently, Schmalenberger was formerly a curator at Deitch Projects and it showed—the art was a fun mixture of formats, and some of it was alive. Like Darrell Thorne, who stood on a platform dressed in tropical colors as either a bird or a fish. Then there was the diabolical installation of Jeff Silverman, Poison Eve and Zazoo Satori decked out in black, scary Goth machinery, conducting some sort of scientific experiment. I had a gut feeling they were not actually making a bomb, even though it looked like they were.
"Come and see my paintings!" begged artist Lindsay Lowe, whose pieces were almost as brightly colored as her red-andblack zebra-striped fake fur jacket. It was a hot summer’s night and we were all sweating, but we didn’t care at all because we were doing battle against stultification. Banzai indeed!