“THIS IS THE FINAL HUMAN RACE RIOT AT THE END OF TIME” declares B.J. Dini, the alchemist behind projects such as League of Burnt Children and America: A Prophecy, amongst a myriad of others. This past Saturday the performer, poet and nightlife sweetheart broke ground with one of his most audacious projects yet, THEE END of The Human Race Riot, which took place at Ridgewood DIY venue La Grotta last Saturday night. The event brought together over twenty local creatives as participants; many active in the occult scene that has been sweeping the neighborhood. Featuring everything from blood rituals to custom sound and projection art, Race Riot was representative of Dini’s aesthetic, bringing together artists of all types in the spirit of facing contemporary social problems head on.
With his soul-wrenching, poetic rantings, stream-of-consciousness style videos, and occultist performance gatherings, Dini is one of the most head turning artists currently working in the New York underground scene. The San Francisco transplant lets nothing escape his sardonic critique, from mass media’s fabricated “it girls” to contradictions within the international political sphere. As of late, Dini has focused on American racial tension as a primary topic, citing recent flare ups such as the killing of Trayvon Martin as signs of the building “riot.” In keeping with his critique of the massive irony involved in such cases, Dini often costumes himself in shocking white, wearing the color head to toe and even painting his skin. It is in this state that you can often find him performing.
I first met Dini through my work with the Lower East Side’s Vector Gallery, a collaborative project and non-denominational worship space run by artist and musician JJ Brine. Dini also often performs within New York’s few queer friendly DIY spaces, including Bushwick’s The Spectrum, and has worked with organizers such as Matt Peterson to create a welcoming collaborative environment out of the loft that is La Grotta. His poetic texts flow out of him organically, page after page, and he finds little use for punctuation. Yet, his unbridled passion for pointing out broken social frameworks and celebrating self actualization come across immediately. A quote from one of the main pages on his idiosyncratic website best captures his style:
“We might contemplate a form of metadrama meant to capture a taste of this performance,
which gives rise to a wholly new art, a totally non-violent way of fighting
WAR WITHOUT MURDER”
This fragment of Dini’s never ending rantings seems to apply perfectly to Race Riot. The topics he addresses are inflammatory and violent, but deeply relevant to the changing American social landscape. While the performances Dini stages are nothing short of in your face, the ritualistic and collaborative environment that typically results represents a non-violent, creative struggle in the face of these issues.
“The all seeing mechanical eyeball of Lucifer has found it necessary to condense our whole experience into nothing more than a struggle between black and white, forgetting all the shades in between,” Dini announced at the start of the Race Riot. This simplistic phrasing, which seems at first to defeat the purpose of the event, in fact embodies the ironically basic framing contemporary politicians and the media apply to extremely complicated racial issues. Later on, Fred Jennings (co-owner of Bushwick’s Catland Books) and writer Ron Montgomery Harris performed a blood binding ritual, symbolically unifying black and white. Their calm and firm approach to this visceral act brought an air of seriousness to the event, balancing the art-party atmosphere and social critique.
Race Riot represents a new wave in the North Brooklyn art scene, which has finally found a pleasant stride in creative output after a tumultuous period during which many older venues closed down. It also demonstrates the vigor of a growing collective of artists and occultists at La Grotta, which has steadily grown into an active space, while maintaining its off-the-grid status. It is by no means the last event of its kind, so look out for B.J. Dini’s next project: you may be drawn into an experience you never expected.
The RACE RIOT film will be available soon. To learn more about B.J. Dini and this project, you can find the Scriptures at his website.