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The Lost Lectures: Last Friday Night with Blood Orange, Amanda Lepore & More

Text by Erin Wicks & Maria Gotay

Text by Erin Wicks & Maria Gotay. All photos by Maria Gotay for Bushwick Daily.

Not too turned on by the thought of attending a lecture on your Friday night?  Julian Kosicki-Slawinski is setting out to change your mind through The Lost Lectures, his underground lecture series where first rate thinkers and artist share the secrets behind their genius. Last Friday saw The Lost Lectures bringing it’s intellectually-infused charm to New York for the very first time at none other than the Knockdown Center, our favorite warehouse-y jack-of-all-trades on the outskirts of Bushwick. It featured live music and talks from musician Blood Orange, dance crew Flex Is King, and "the most expensive body in the world"-- famous trans model Amanda Lepore.

Kosicki-Slawinski’s brainchild event was founded with an Albert Einstein quote in mind: “I have no special talent.  I am only passionately curious.”  He played host for the evening, darting to the stage to introduce the lecture series by listing its covenants: 1. Leave your comfort zone, 2. Recognize the importance of storytelling, 3. Mix it up (whether it be speakers, locations, or approach), and 4. Socialize it by using the lectures to generate conversation.  Likeminded curious and adventurous folks crowded for warmth in the massive old glass factory, eager to expand their horizons.

An early star among the six lectures was a slideshow from photographer Barbara Nitke who shot stills and behind-the-scenes photos of porn films in the 1970s.  Both constructed erotics and surprisingly unguarded, intimate moments flashed across the screen as Nitke spoke.  All were suggestive, bold, and revealing in their own ways. The most striking image was an erotic-yet-unsettling image of a man grasping a woman’s buttocks while he gives her head; she stands above him in a white corset and garters clutching the wall in pleasure. Her breasts are obscured in the shot but a framed photograph of breasts on the wall beside the couple provides a strange reversal of the image and is equal gratification.  These images could speak for themselves but accompanied by Barbara’s wry and open anecdotes and one-liners—“This is from something that’s really close to my heart… Deep Inside Little Oral Annie”—the photos brought the audience into a world that now exists only on videocassette.

The first half of the lectures, however, was stolen by the urban street dance group Flex and documentary filmmakers Deidre Schoo and Michael Beach Nichols who recorded them in their independent film Flex Is Kings.  The East New York dance group gave the audience a basic schooling in the major flexing moves.  Vibes, Sticks, and Classics demonstrated bone breaking (contorting their arms and legs at awkward, almost sickening, angles), posing (an aggressive, full-body vibration, as if caught in a strobe light), and punchlining (disjointed and intensely animated mimes).  After breaking it down the dancers brought flexing back together with the entire crew performing at once.  They simultaneously were competing and yet flowing off each others’ movements to create a larger story, manipulating their bodies so that one moment their bodies morphed like Claymation figures, the next jerked like robotic contortionists. It was a new artform to most of the audience, a fresh form of modern dance grown directly from the streets.

The second half of the lecture series opened with guest act Amanda Lepore, a transgender icon who told her story in an affected monotone from her first boyfriend whose father helped her get a sex change at 19 to her current celebrity status and famedom.  Boasting “the most expensive body on earth,” Lepore cast a striking figure of near impossible proportions more in keeping with Jessica Rabbit—whom she personified in one photo displayed on the screen above—than most of the women in the audience.  Many of these graphic and often playful shots were taken by David LaChapelle, the legendary photographer and mentor to Lepore.  LaChapelle once told Lepore that Michael Jackson had called himself the King of Pop until it caught on and advised her to do the same.  Lepore christened herself “the Number One Transexual in the World” and it stuck, perhaps helped by the fact that she owned her transgrandered status, even at a time when transsexuals felt pressure to hide their pasts.

Composer, singer and songwriter Blood Orange/Dev Hynes closed the evening by sharing with the audience his synesthesia and its impact on his music.  The result was a performance of eerie and shifting beats while orbs of colors shifted and changed on the screen behind Hynes, occasionally interrupted by his resonant, dreamy vocals. The purported connection between his art and his anxiety was somewhat lost in the mix, but nonetheless it was a rare treat to see the talented musician perform in such a unique and intimate setting with the full visual play of his work readily apparent.

The Lost Lectures has already claimed a hearty following in London and Berlin, and we hope it will become a mainstay of the underground New York scene as well.  Follow The Lost Lecture on Facebook and Twitter to get the scoop on the next secret location and you too could pass a Friday night enchanted by lectures a magical stretch from your high school days. Thanks to Hyperallergic for the tip!

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