What could be scarier than the current political landscape? Aside from the legions of people who’ll undoubtedly impersonate Hillary, Donald, or Bernie for Halloween, which is terrifying, a lot of people think the state of our union is the stuff of nightmares. This fall, Creative Time and artist Pedro Reyes are tapping into public dread and staging a twist on the traditional haunted house: a political house of horrors called Doomocracy, filled not with monsters and zombies, but with faulty mortgages, GMO’s, and Donald J. Trump.
Reyes is an artist known for proposing tangible, creative solutions to the world’s problems. For Imagine (2012) and Disarm (2013), he built musical instruments out of decommissioned weapons seized by the Mexican army from drug cartels. The Grasswhopper (2013) proposed a radical, sustainable alternative to beef: burger patties made out of grasshoppers. Doomocracy is less optimistic. Creative Time artistic director Nato Thompson tells The Creators Project, “I think this project is very punk rock, insomuch as it’s not hopeful, or this ray of light. He’s very much saying, ‘abandon hope.’”
Doomocracy adheres to the traditional haunted house format, in that groups of visitors will wander the darkened hallways of the Brooklyn Army Terminal and encounter spooky stuff. But Thompson says the setup, in which people wander through a series of themed rooms, makes for surprisingly effective performance art. Vignettes range from mundane to blood-curdling, from surreal instances of bureaucratic greed to the horrifying realities of gun violence.
The project is partly a sendup of American political anxieties, meant to provoke thought, not elicit screams. But Thompson cautions against assuming Doomocracy isn’t disturbing. “Maybe our definition of horror needs a sense of scale. Because you could call a guy with a chainsaw scary, but a guy with a chainsaw can’t kill as many people as a bomber jet flying over a country, you know what I mean?” Thompson says. “We talk about the pharmaceutical industry, but like, you wouldn’t have a nightmare about oxycontin addiction. But that is a nightmare.”
Reyes’ dystopian take on current events doesn’t offer solutions either. “The scariest part of the project is that once you leave, you realize that the world we live in is the real haunted house,” Thompson says. “There’s a feeling that the sand is slipping through the hourglass and solutions aren’t showing up at the speed we need them to. Early on, Pedro said if you ask people around the world, one thing they’ll agree on is that governments are profoundly corrupt.” Reyes is using his art as political catharsis, by tapping into the discomfort most Americans feel.
Creative Time is funding Doomocracy on Kickstarter, the first time the organization has crowdsourced a production budget in its decades-long history of producing complex public art. “We’re very eager to bring edgy, uncomfortable ideas into the public space for free. It’s not pure entertainment, but it’s also not homework. The world could use a lot more of that, and people are hungry for it,” Thompson says. With sufficient “campaign contributions,” Creative Time and Reyes promise to “Make America Scream Again.”
Doomocracy opens on October 7, with performances every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday between 6 PM and midnight. It is free and open to the public, but tickets are limited and must be reserved in advance. Visit Doomocracy’s Kickstarter page to secure guaranteed tickets by contributing at the “Make America Scream Again” level or above.