Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Denver's playing host to "The legendary New York City video cinema and dining experience" (as described on its website) known as MonkeyTown4.  I was charged by the trip coordinator, Dan, to find cultural experiences for Hannah.  We're just between touring shows at the DCPA, there aren't any good concerts in town this week, she isn't into skiing or outdoor stuff (Win!); but MonkeyTown4, despite not being a "typical Coloradan experience," sounded weird enough to provide some sort of culture.

The tickets are limited to 32 per show.  My attempt at rounding up a group to go Tuesday night was a circus of failure as after a flurry of emails and coordinating, everyone managed to get a ticket for that night except me and Hannah.

I just bought us tickets for Sunday's show instead.

We drove through the snow which, thankfully, was far less of a storm than predicted.  It was just enough for Hannah to marvel constantly at the fact that everyone was out and about driving and shopping and such in it ("Back home everything would be shut!  Positively shut!"), but not nearly enough for me to panic as the driver of the night.  We passed the building three times before finding this hardly-visible logo on a set of doors:

It's easier to see from the inside

Despite the snow and freezing wind, they didn't open up until 15 minutes prior to showtime.  Everyone huddled about outside until the host of the evening pulled up, dashed inside, turned on the heaters, and came back out to greet everyone with a glass of champagne.  I declined, but in just moments he came back out with a glass of strawberry hibiscus iced tea for me instead.

At 6:00, he greeted the group and ran over a few particulars including
1) Pointing out their front-page article in the Denver Post
2) Saying that photo are welcome, as is conversation at "appropriate levels"
3) Introducing the live "lecture" that would also be a part of the program, and
4) Explaining that because we're in Colorado, they could partner with a local bakery to offer edibles tonight.  He cautioned us that when they sampled the edibles earlier, they discovered that they were especially potent this time.  He suggested that "If you are not used to partaking in such things, maybe you should only have half of one to start.  Or maybe a quarter.  You know, enough to give you a good intellectual buzz."

Said edibles

I did not partake.  I did, however, embrace the photography allowance, and once we were allowed into the performance space, I was one of the first to explore the cube.

The entryway as seen from the exhibit

MonkeyTown consists of a large cube made of "floating" movie screens.  Several short "art films" (i.e. no discernible plots but some urinating and sexual play with USB plugs) are shown on the screen as the audience is served a multi-course dinner inside the cube.

I liked the first film, "Central Park Quilts" by Theo Angell.  The artist filmed Central Park through several seasons, then compiled the footage in a modge-podge of images, some inverted, with one season per screen.

Winter on the left, Fall on the right

You can see the table settings under the screen here

As the Central Park film came to an end, our host encouraged us to duck under the screen and take a seat at the table. After checking with each of us for allergies or dietary restrictions, he served us each the first course:

Crudo, fermented vegetables, citrus, dill 
And so it went - five courses, each with a wine pairing (which Hannah declared went from "pretty good" to "really good"), and 15 films.

"Unique Boutique" by Shana Moulton, which featured dancing bodiless clothes and a woman who
flew into a Native American pot and danced next to a rock

Green garlic soup, chicken gelee, spring onion, almond
served during a particularly dark movie

Housemade cottage cheese, spring roots, lemon balm, black pepper
Dim panoramic shot of one of the "geometric" films - Peter Burr's "Green | Red"

About this time Will Rahilly came out to perform "The Fertile Swipe."  It seemed to be a tongue-in-cheek PowerPoint about the connections between food and art that devolved into him trying to assist a woman's floating head find her missing baby.  After he ran around the area outside the cube with a "live" feed, he returned to her to suggest that she just make another one.  So she gave birth, somehow using a static-filled TV, a strange pair of oiled hands, and cut-outs of a fast-forward icon to do so.  Then a strand of pearls was pulled from her mouth.  Then hanging bags of liquid appeared and sprung leaks, which the performer played with while standing on the seat between two audience members.  Then he served each of us cookies, spun around, tumbled out of the cube, and died.

He lay there for about four minutes.
The cookies were good.

The lecture completed, back to "normal" programming:

"Cool" by Jeremy Couillard

Lamb, crushed fava, whey

"OM Rider" by Takeshi Murata.  It says something about the night that this was not the weirdest film.
It was the creepiest, and several minutes were spent watching this guy breathe.
When he wasn't breathing, we were watching a hipster wolf play a keyboard.

Preserved meyer lemon, yogurt, maple
(This was yummy)
With a final farewell from our host and his humble admission that the last film ("The Waxwing Slain Pt. 1") was his own, we gathered out coats and returned to the snowstorm.  Hannah declared the experience "the weirdest thing" she's ever done.  I don't think I can say that, but it definitely ranks pretty far up there.  And as with all such weird experiences, I'm glad I did it.

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