Creative Time provided performances and pillowcases in the name of public art. Photos by Andrew Nunes, except where noted.
Some fundraisers feel like taxidermy trophy walls—full of furs and former predators. Others have nachos. In the case of Creative Time's 24-hour Art Sleepover and Fall Ball, well, I still leave feeling like a stiff. But as the sun climbs up the walls of the 69th Regiment Armory opposite Neuehouse where I've spent the last ten hours, my stomach is full and notebook overflowing. Applied relational aesthetics, in the form of an immersive, art-centric slumber party, can do a captive audience good.
When I'm offered the chance to attend the events held by the same folks who produced Kara Walker's 75-foot candy Sphinx, I am wary that the soiree, promoted by names like Dustin Yellin, Tom Sachs, the Bruce High Quality Foundation, and Glasser, among others, won't just be impermeable, but inescapable, too. Upon further consideration though, there seemed no greater proving ground for perhaps New York's best export: weird times. An all-too-obvious successor to the Factory-founded festivals and hospital-themed happenings of generations past, it sounded like the party brainchild of James Murphy and Nicolas Bourriaud. Upon finding inner peace at the slumber party's 6:30 AM meditation yoga, I decide it's been unlike any sleepover I've attended: uncanny and better explained via experience. Kind of like a work of art.
On Friday night, Tom Sachs serves me rice and red beans with avocado and salami—Louis Armstrong's recipe—from a Space Program: Mars food cart, while Dustin Yellin's bare butt becomes both the party's unofficial mascot and welcoming committee. There are onesies, nightgowns, négligées; half the guests are slumber party-prepped, the other half confused but curious. Vanity Projects has a manicure station with nail art by Will Cotton and Rob Pruitt, and Jen Denike, Damien Echols, and Giorgio Zanardi divine guests' tarot drawings. There's Trouble, Twister, and pornographic jigsaw puzzles, a video art compilation curated by Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe, self-described "Karaoke Insanity" with Raul de Nieves and friends, a confetti crafting table and a bar for molecular mixology. A group of maybe 20 sit in a square playing spin the bottle with a salad bucket. Downstairs partygoers sprawl across an array of cots for "sleeping and dreaming," each with its own Creative Time pillow and bedsheet.
"Hey, aren't you…" I ask a burly dude in a tactical turtleneck and black beret. Nope. He does, however, push the door open into the blocked-off room behind him—writer David Colman's experience-based exhibition, known only as Zip—and prevents my photographer from entering with me. I am given a paper script and asked to record a statement of consent on video while a female commando tells somebody to put their clothes back on. I catch a glimpse of my fellow examinee—fully nude—as she slides her socks back up her calves. I am ordered to remove my gloves, shoes, my shirt is pulled over my head and jumpsuit zipped down around my ankles. Before I can mind my own modesty I am naked, given a once-over, and told seconds later to put my clothes back on, just like that. As I leave I spy my photographer reading his consent statement. We link up outside, both palpably more comfortable at the party. Most of my inhibitions are gone, sloughed off like an invisible skin. Dustin Yellin's told he can't go in until he puts his clothes back on first.
At 1:48 AM things have started getting quiet. Sasha Frere-Jones plays Destiny's Child and LCD dance hits. Glasser sings lullabyes at the sleeping station, now in full effect. I note "Egon Schiele's hospital ward," and then put my notebook back because what the hell's wrong with me? Nothing, actually, in the words of my black-clad examiner—and I've got a longer night ahead.
Few enjoy the flash of frailty that comes with turning nightclub lights on; fewer still the sizzle of vinyls spinning with the sound off, but for the artists and actuaries, buyers, creators, and believers, the 2014 Creative Time Fall Ball hearkened back to another New York—perhaps imagined—where your bank statement's worth less than your willingness to don your birthday suit. When I moved here, I was told that this kind of excess only came mediated—like Murakami's Chinatown—but as I nodded off on the L train, post-meditation blissed-out, the power of public art, Creative Time's endgame, emerged: the uninhibition of the world itself, like a waxing, waking dream.