We all crave more. For New Yorkers, urbanites and dwellers of excess—this is true.
Welcome to Monkey Town a visceral, experiential montage of fine dining and video art. You dine within an ethereal box built of four larger-then-life projection screens. The third iteration of this dining and video art experience is being hosted at Eyebeam, the arts and technology center located in New York City’s Chelsea arts district.
The kaleidoscopic color and images on the outside of the screens immediately grab ones attention. Entering the “box” provides it’s own gymnastic snap of a physical challenge: You must duck—and for some crawl. This is smart. For what is to come will provide the same surprise, playing numerous games with the senses.
Montgomery Knott, video artist and creative mind behind Monkey Town, hoped to build an experience that emphasizes video art, “with the food in the supporting role.” Knott explains, “This is essentially an art installation that the viewers inhabit while eating unadorned, super tasty cuisine.” Guest chefs from a range of New York City restaurants including Roberta’s, La Superior, Nha Toi and Grammercy Tavern, lend their culinary talents to Knott’s vision.
The intimacy and design of the space is critical for Knott. In an interview with MOLD, Knott shares that:
The cube itself is a powerful design object and the scale of it is important as well. The cube is the antithesis of the proscenium theater. Instead of looking at the back of somebody’s head and the screen, in the cube, you’re watching the videos/films as well as the people watching them—and that creates and echo chamber of reactions—good, bad, otherwise.
You find yourself inside a new world, intimate with new strangers. In one moment, the screens project a collage of Central Park, each wall is alive with a different season. The visuals are arresting. As a welcome address, Knott thanks you for coming, he urges you to spread the word and he knows you will enjoy the experience; this is obvious by the love in his words.
What is to follow is an experience that I had no idea I needed.
Chef Fred Hua of Nha Toi served up four courses along with three wine/beer pairings. The timing of the food in relationship to the video shorts felt seamless, but not contrived. The duck egg almond cream over duck breast on wild rice and chili truffle oil, tasted of intention. And the the Rose pairing seduced.
You would assume the video would distract from food, it is the opposite—they make perfect partners.
As a color and pattern enthusiast, I was taken with Kathy Rose’s, “Rite of Spring.” There was a performance art moment and film by Jeremy Couillard, a commentary of ridding the world of bad community.
Knott’s film, “The Waxing Slain” ends the experience, but it will never leave you.
Monkey Town will soon be traveling to cities around the country and around the world, involving regional film/video artists and local chefs in each city. In New York City, the project runs through August 11th, 2013.
Images Courtesy of Favoreat Design