Only three weeks in advance of one of the world’s largest contemporary art fairs, Bushwick-based nightlife and fashion icons Ms. Fitz and Angelina Dreem concocted a plan to disrupt the VIP-focused sales week with an authentic Bushwick Gone Basel, a Bushwick-inspired gathering. After getting in touch with a friend in Miami, the curatorial duo locked down a dingy bar just north of the main strip of art fairs, which included headliners such as Art Basel, Untitled and Scope. On Sunday, December 9, Cucu’s Nest came alive for a series of avant-garde performances, DJ sets, a video art screening, and a relaxed party atmosphere completely distinct from the exclusive, celebrity-glazed events that marked this year’s Basel week.
“It’s important that we have a voice down here because people reference the work that is coming out of Bushwick,” said co-curator Ms. Fitz. The artist and designer moved from a small town in Australia and landed in Bushwick five years ago. With her head-turning costumes and ubiquitous presence in the underground scene, Ms. Fitz was recently crowned New York’s biggest nightlife personality at the 8th annual PAPER Magazine nightlife awards. Her collaborator, Angelina Dreem, is a net artist and producer, and a founding member of Bushwick’s Body Actualized Center. Dreem insisted that “Bushwick Gone Basel isn’t even about Bushwick-based artists, as it is more about the people that commit to a life of doing what the love, choosing to dance and dress with style, and believe in their art as a way of life.” This point of view exemplifies the idea that “Bushwick is a lifestyle” rather than just a place, a now widespread attitude amongst Bushwick-based creatives.
The event felt like the Spectrum in the summertime had landed on a slightly dead end of Collins Ave. The crowd was marked by the distinctly ghetto-chic, tattooed costume craze that the Bushwick underground has become known for. Highlights included a performance by FlucT, a seemingly possessed duo who attacked each other and the floor to a soundtrack that boomed “culture is not your friend.” Originally from Baltimore but now based in Bushwick, FlucT brought a raw energy and drew a visceral reaction, with their sheer nude costumes and poltergeist-like acrobatics shaking up an audience that had been dancing just moments before.
Bushwick’s resident sex doctor, Zoo Lion, presented a captivating short dance at the start of the evening. Wearing horrendously gaudy makeup, Lion stripped out of her colorful robe to reveal a lumpy, oversized abdomen and rear end. After dancing provocatively for a few minutes, sarcastic voices boomed from the sound system congratulating the performer on her baby. Panicked, Lion ripped piece after piece of what seemed to be raw chicken from inside her costume, and returned to her sensual dance moves once again.
Gender bending and the abject were common themes among works presented in various medias at Bushwick gone Basel. The Hole’s Jaimie Warren stole the night with a sequence that began with a video created in conjunction with a photo shoot she had done for Bullett magazine, titled “A Blob’s Bike Ride (For Pee Wee).” Warren started out bellowing as Little Richard in full costume, but after a convincing dance quickly shed her blue tux for a white bodysuit, complete with male genitalia she had constructed out of fabric. Screaming hateful slurs in between mumbled apologies and rubbing her face and costume with dirt, Warren transformed herself into her own version of GG Allin, and brought humor and charm to a somewhat disturbing work. The candy cane colors of her picnic-themed video against the ravaged appearance of her final costume, scenes separated by only minutes, brought together Warren’s artistic inspirations from two ends of a spectrum dramatically.
It was a pleasure to see Gage of the Boone and Juliana Huxtable perform in Miami. Both are fixtures in the NYC underground art and music scene, and they seemed more relaxed without their usual party-organizing and venue-promoting responsibilities. Malcolm Stuart, a designer who recently moved to LA after a ten year stint in New York, enlivened the atmosphere with his colorful ensemble and expertly orchestrated, impromptu hula-hoop performances.
In general the performances moved seamlessly from rap to video projection to dance and beyond, and the event attracted a mixed crowd of the Bushwick Basel exodus and a few completely baffled locals. The event gave Bushwick-based artists and their widespread community a chance to present highly experimental work in an unpretentious context, capping off a week that saw record numbers of Bushwick artists represented at Basel’s many art fairs and events.
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