This past Thursday, The Sky Room at The New Museum staged Ed Fornieles’ high-concept comedy of errors New York New York Happy Happy, a semi-fictional benefit and art gala put on by performance art biennial Performa 13 in conjunction with Rhizome, an online art database working alongside The New Museum on a wide range of multimedia art projects. Fornieles (the art world’s high-fashion Richard Ashcroft) moved effortlessly through the crowd in knee-high black leather boots and a crisp white suit swashed head to toe with cascading purple Yves Klein paint gashes, echoing one of the night’s most prevalent themes: the body as a living canvas.
In the days leading up to the event, Fornieles personally reached out to an impressive selection of guests and asked them to inhabit certain roles for the evening, including downtown art world caricatures such as “E-Cig”, “Art Talk”, and “Selfie” and perhaps most tellingly, ours: “Sociopath,” or more specifically, “a Patrick Bateman type.”
As the evening progressed, it appeared as if most partygoers were awarded this last and juiciest option (which depleted this particular “heightened persona” of its outlier status), until a young woman introduced herself as a Master’s student in creative writing at Columbia and also a huge Nickelback fan. Her ridiculous overzealous allegiance to this stain on the music landscape was tested aggressively for truth, but ultimately she stood firm (behind the fourth wall) in her admiration for the Canadian rockers, which, real or fake, deserves to be commended in a crowded and suspect room somewhere just past cool.
Hari Nef, a young New York based performance artist and overall aesthete, was the first of the night’s many special guests. Dressed like the Childlike Empress from The Neverending Story and radiating a similar melancholy beauty, Nef took to the podium to deliver a heartfelt speech while the audience graciously held hands. Throughout the evening, Nef conducted interviews and confessions with the night’s most interesting attendees, such as Genevieve Belleveau, Queen Bee of the Brooklyn contemporary art scene, sporting her trademark flaming orange tonsure.
Some of the performance pieces were haphazardly stumbled upon. After the prosecco ran out, watching the varied reactions of different guests upon drinking wine served in strange, pre-packaged plastic faux glasses with peel-off tin foil covers was an absolute delight, until tried for oneself. It was like something a fifth grade alcoholic would drink. The bartenders, happily, seemed to be in on the joke.
Later in the evening, two male and female performance artists were ceremoniously hauled out on stretchers, partially nude and covered in thinly sliced ham and what looked like spicy bologna. Guests approached furtively at first, snacking on the extra salty cornichons serving as the garnish. Things escalated quickly, however, and the gala descended upon the offerings with playful and ravenous abandon.
Shortly after this impromptu snack, four female models were brought out, each wearing a Miley-inspired plastic fleshed toned two-piece. Noteworthy is the fact that Miley’s “street vomit” style was in fact originally inspired by several of the night’s guests, like YouTube acid prankster Labanna Babylon and other disciples of rapping art party matron Contessa Stuto. This particular dance segment functioned as a self-congratulatory celebration of underground Brooklyn and downtown New York’s surrogate nature in global pop culture and media. Or maybe it didn’t. Either way, they danced softly and proudly, but were decidedly way too New York to twerk it. The standout amongst the four looked a little like Emily Ratajkowski, but displayed thick, sensuous, and slavishly hypnotic black armpit hair. The models were seamlessly replaced by male strippers who were attacked surprisingly less ferociously than the meat vessels only an hour earlier.
A 24-pack’s worth of abs were being caressed as select ticket holding VIPs were ushered into limousines waiting outside to take the lucky cool kids on a Manhattan joyride. Heightened personae were at their most heightened inside its cramped interior. Passengers smoked cigarettes and tore into a treasure trove of wine—while back in the Sky Room, a pillow fight led to a faux orgy, until all metaphysical layers were peeled, all art bases are covered, and all hope was lost.