Costume Drama

New York
11.01.11

Left: David Byrne and T editor Sally Singer. Right: Artist Ben Coonley. (Photos: Osvaldo Ponton)


I NEVER REALIZED that when Halloween falls on a Monday, New York celebrates half a Hanukkah’s worth of it, but as the sun went down Friday night I saw last-minute shoppers lining up outside of Ricky’s and costumed overachievers parading on the West Side. On the occasion of its second annual benefit, the online journal Triple Canopy was dressing up as a book—copies of Invalid Format, a dead-tree anthology of texts from the first four issues, were distributed as schwag. 155 Freeman, site of the new editorial office, was still enduring city inspections and too small besides, so the event was held at Picture Ray Studios in Chelsea, owned and operated by William Wegman. The cool dogs were kenneled elsewhere, but the photographer’s green screen set remained. It was the focal point for a clutch of performances organized by Triple Canopy board members Cory Arcangel and Gabrielle Giattino. Eight artists—including Mike Smith, Tom Thayer, Andrea Merkx, and Conrad Ventur—staged short, fun pieces on the green as their image, with video background keyed in, was projected on the big screen: a YouTube playlist filmed before a live studio audience.

It’s probably a good thing that there was no seasonal flair to the entertainment. “I’m going to be a dad for Halloween,” said Ben Coonley. His daughter had been due on the day of the benefit, but she had not yet appeared. To preface his performance, he (facetiously) apologized that her tardiness had spoiled his plans to broadcast live birth footage. His actual act was a talking jockstrap. Jacob Ciocci likewise wore a green bodysuit, but he kept his underwear on the inside and emoted with his head instead: a headbanging semblance of extreme teen angst. Shana Moulton reprised the role of Cynthia from her Whispering Pines, wearing a frumpy housedress that she lifted at the coda, transforming herself into a green stalk on the stage and a swirl of petals on-screen. “That was as dressed up as I’m going to get,” she said after. I didn’t get around to asking Dynasty Handbag about her Halloween plans, but like with Moulton, I find it difficult to imagine her in any costume other than the one she always appears in.

Left: The scene at Santos Party House. (Photo: Dustin Bowlin and Glynnis McDaris) Right: Artists Cory Arcangel and Andrea Merkx at the Triple Canopy benefit. (Photo: Osvaldo Ponton)


Holiday spirit was stronger downtown at Santos Party House, where Spencer Sweeney and friends threw a Halloween party for Performa. It was attended, albeit briefly, by Adam Lindemann, Amalia Dayan, Beatrix Ruf, Eva Presenhuber, and Claire Bishop. “This is not the Santos I remember,” a friend remarked. The ceiling was covered by an Urs Fischer installation: “celebrity potato chips,” crinkled head shots in color. “They were die-cut in Europe somewhere,” said Johnny Misheff, one of the promoters. I arrived too late for performances by Frank Haines and Yemenwed, but caught the results of the Dennis Oppenheim Memorial Costume Contest, so named at the initiative of Performa director RoseLee Goldberg, who knew how much the late artist loved Halloween. Anna Lundh, a Swedish artist living in Brooklyn, was named runner-up. She wore a square-shouldered suit after David Byrne in his Talking Heads days. (The one he had on at the Triple Canopy benefit was far more conventional.) First prize—an Oppenheim monograph and four tickets to a Performa voguing show—went to Bridget Donahue, associate director of Gavin Brown’s Enterprise and codirector of Cleopatra’s gallery in Greenpoint. Her white face, polka-dotted blouse, and jacket emblazoned with bubble text channeled Roy Lichtenstein.

One of the DJs was photographer and curator Tim Barber, who looked ghastly pale under the lights of the booth. “What’s your costume?” I asked. “I’m not wearing one,” he answered. A pretend Playboy Bunny danced with the real Gavin Brown. Robin, with Batman nowhere in sight, canoodled with a sexy cat. Skeleton puppets bobbed behind a gauzy curtain. There was a curator in lederhosen. A few people seemed to be having drug freakouts in the bathroom, but it turned out they were reprising Xavier Cha’s Body Drama, on view last summer at the Whitney. Meanwhile, the music took a sharp turn, from “Monster Mash” and like tunes to hard beats under hollow chords. “You can’t have Halloween without trance”: These words, spoken earlier by artist Anicka Yi, haunted me. The bar dimmed to near-total darkness. The fog machine hissed. I fled, terrified.

Brian Droitcour

Left: Artist Frank Haines performing Francis Heinzfeller at Santos Party House. (Photo: Sissel Kardel) Right: Artist and curator Hanne Mugaas with New Museum curator Lauren Cornell and Light Industry's Ed Halter and Thomas Beard. (Photo: Osvaldo Ponton)