I was once told, that when the beer is voluntarily jumping out of your glass, your pants are flapping around your legs beacause of an insanely low bass, and it takes more than a few minutes to notice that your neighbour has been trying to say something to you, you’re most likely listening to dubstep.
A most deafening experience, Skream + Benga were the first among the support-acts on a festival held on Governor’s Island in the New York’s Harbor Bay. Justus, Erik van Bruggen and I chose to board a ferry filled with Brooklynites and Manhattaners bound for the island. Once there, the blend of dubstepmusic comprising of elements of rallying MC-hiphop, grimey hooligan-techno and the harder form of electro-rock reflected the ethnical diversity of the visitors: black, white, hip-hopper, rocker or hipster, Jew, Arab or Gentile. As a matter of fact, Justus and I, sporting cowboyhats and caught up in a form of crunking-linedance, were completely accepted among the vibrating crowd.
As an even more convincing proof of the power of music to cross boundaries and break taboos, the South African group Die Antwoord was the unexpected sensation of the evening. Hugely popular with the crowd, although rapping for a good part in Afrikaans, which is completely unintelligible to most of the visitors. Probably just as well. One could question that the hotpanted-girls would still be swaying if they’d know the meaning of “Jis Jis, ek soek een fancy poes, niks soos een bietjie kontnaai?” On second thought, I guess they would. Remarkable too was that the trashy all-white formation, with shaven hair and sporting tattoo’s, rapping in the language that gave birth to the word Apartheid, got a large mixed audience dancing to songs like ‘Wat Kyk Jy?’ and ‘Wat Maak Die Jol Vol’. Even more amazingly, many attempted to sing along, which produced a new language of it’s own.
After a somewhat erratical performance by M.I.A., we made our way back to Manhattan. There, in the other hidden cocktailbar Employees Only, found there is far more to be mixed in New York. We barged in in the middle of a striptease to The Darkness’ ‘I Believe In A Thing Called Love’. Being in a Speak-Easy, we very much did all we could to spread around our message of the imminent changing of Times Square into Art Square. The inebriated crowd wasn’t all surprised, and several signed up immediately; others were quite sure the project wasn’t ambitious enough and we should endeavour to do Piccadilly Circus and Takashimaya Square at the same time.
Seeing that the maximum of damage had been done, we left Employees Only for a abandoned Brooklyn warehouse, to a crossover-party that went by the name “Thunder Gumbo VII: ‘Nuclear Hoedown’ (the lost episode)” and had most coincidentally the story was about a Hollywood film crew shooting a movie in a Mojave desert ghost town. Only a few miles away, scientists are testing nuclear explosives. A blast of radiation surges into the film, fusing ancient Mayan magic with Hollywood cowboy conceit. Their film set now exists forever in a world untouched by time. Movie stars, bronco-busters, powerful Indians, and nuclear scientists spend an eternity drinking, smoking, and dancing up a dust storm. Also, they invented dubstep.
Our cowboyhats and freshly practised dubstepskills came in handy, as did our story, which in the light of our surroundings sounded completely feasible. A day like this proved to us that changing Times Square into Art Square is perfectly logical thing to do. At least, in a city like New York.
Alexander Bakkes, NY
Friendly people in New York seem to be easy to come by, and we were cordially invited to the movieviewing of the debut of Corinne van der Borch, a New York-based Dutch filmmaker. On the rooftop terrace in the middle of Spanish Harlem, we were surrounded by an astounding view of Manhattan and in the best of American traditions, a barbecue was lit.
Corinne was planning to show the movie ‘Girl with the Black Balloons’.
An unexpected spell of very serious thunderstorm and heavy rainfall posed a threat to the welfare of the chef and the food, but with perseverance, the willingness to brave the danger of being struck by a lightningbolt, and by vigourously waving a King Kong-cardboard the fire was saved. When the skies cleared, a great sunset was enjoyed along with the burgers and sausages, and the viewing could proceed.
Justus grabbed the opportunity to share our plans about changing all advertisements on Times Square into art. With the Manhattan skyline as a backdrop, the Corinne’s viewing then started.
The movie is about the completely obscure and never exhibited artist Bettina, sometimes seen wondering the streets of NY sporting several black balloons. She is said to be the most beautiful woman to have ever lived in the legendary Chelsea Hotel in New York City, according to residents, yet has hidden herself away in her studio for over 40 years. She sleeps on a lawn-chair and surrounds herself with boxes stacked from floor to ceiling, filled with works of her art that have never seen the light of day. These boxes hide a stunning body of work - but it’s come at a huge cost. Her life as a reclusive guardian over her creativity and artwork inspires us to think about the world that we have each chosen for ourselves, how we are captive of it or freed by it.
Corinne actually became a friend of Bettina, and that’s how she managed to make the movie. We left Spanish Harlem that evening with Corinne as our new ambassador in New York, and the resolve to look up Bettina in the Chelsea Hotel. Her fist exhibition might just be of a very special kind indeed.
To be continued.
Alexander Bakkes, NY