Darragh Dandurand

Writer & Photographer

At approximately 7 p.m. on Saturday evening joyful, live piano music carried its way from a side street near the Wilson L subway stop. While neighborhood residents sat out on their stoops and in lawn chairs on the sidewalk in an effort to soak up the final rays of the day, traveling musician Adam Lozoya happily played a big white and gold upright piano with candelabras protruding from the front. He sat perched behind the keys while making melodies outside of Unruly Collective’s big brick building on Cooper Street. The music kept guests entertained as they waited patiently on the steps to enter the space and witness “www III,” a curated show by multimedia artist Ventiko

Flamboyantly dressed hosts paraded around the curious patrons and began to usher them inside past Ventiko and Dexter, her pet peacock who was appointed to serve as the Master of Ceremonies for the night.

The interior of the three-story gallery space was decorated with tangled electronic cables, Polaroids, stacked television sets and flickering computer monitors. A table overflowing with food and drink from generous local sponsors was placed towards the back.

“Hungry,” an eerie film by Kelsey S. Brewer staring Ventiko versus a solid, chocolate bust of a man, played on repeat and was projected over the heads of the guests on one wall. Dexter found a convenient spot to pose nearby, proud of his mother’s performance. 

Violinst Andrei Matorin took the floor first. Clad handsomely in a blazer and slacks, he stood out in comparison to many of his fellow unconventionally adorned performing artists.

Towering over the seated crowd Andrei used looped electronic beats to play an inspired string set. His heavy and complex sounds reverberated around the room.

A short while later Mitchell Murdock undressed sans a shiny, black blindfold and stood proudly in the buff for a round of interactive film trivia. The faces of several guests looked shocked and amused, surprised by the sudden nudity but reminded quickly of the time and place in this Bushwick hideaway. The performer asked for titles of films to be written in color pen anywhere on their body and simultaneously prompted a discussion of the work.

Throughout the show Youtube’s main page was projected onto Mitchell’s body with thumbnails of various clips and videos scattered across his torso and legs. John Oliver’s face made an appearance on Mitchell’s upper thigh.

Hastily all were asked to ascend the hallway staircase and pack tightly into a darkened hotbox of a room at the front of the house. Ventiko made a short, but sweet proclamation of her love and all visitors were asked to voluntarily partake in a kávé shot.

The stage was lovingly and elaborately decorated with colorful drapes, statues of Mother Mary, more computers and electronics, and surrounded on three sides by wooden benches. A plastic tarp was laid out on the floor and a thorny crown was placed subtly on the back of a chair as if Jesus excused himself, but was coming right back.

Cloaked in all black with a glittery, emotionless mask to top it off, Geraldo Mercado began to shake violently from a corner recliner in which he sat. Beeps and buzzes became louder from a cassette player nearby. A tension filled the room as he stood up, theatrically swung a polished knife and stumbled for a pair of crutches. The petite man ripped the fabric from his body and moved dramatically about the room as if possessed by an animal. Geraldo searched for kindness in the dark until he turned to collect the knife and produced a cutting board and an onion along with it.

The hour-long performance which later included paint-guzzling, paint-vomiting, and questions about life and love and pain and broken bodies, came to a head with a touching and intimate candle ceremony. Geraldo laid out on the red and blue-stained plastic tarp and asked that each spectator tell him a secret, light a candle, and let it melt away on his hairy back.

The hosts reemerged and guided everyone down into the basement and out into the backyard. Twinkling garden lights lit up Anton Vitkovskiy’s murals and a thundering, percussive duet by Alfredo Guenzani and Ramiro Scalzi filled the still night air. With the steady and inventive tone of a teacher, Ventiko silenced the party and insisted strangers connect with each other in pairs and stare into one another’s eyes in silence for three minutes. Once the timer had gone off, laughter and murmurs and the clink of beer bottles blended together in a happy song.

Additional performances and artistic contributions were held in tandem and featured a webcam-bound Luke Mannarino doing a three-hour live-stream directly into one of Unruly Collective’s bedrooms, Maria Aparo taking up residency for a show in the bathroom, and mixologist David Victor Rose behind the bar. All installation work courtesy of Ventiko’s creative mind.