It’s May of 2003 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The hipster kingdom as it is known today is a small yet dedicated artist community among streets of empty warehouses that serve as relics of abandoned industries. The few restaurants in the area haven’t purchased their rustic authenticity yet. In fact, such a concept hardly exists. As for the “scene?” Serious artists only -- the kind that are quickly moving out of the neighborhood thanks to its climbing rent prices.
Video artist Montgomery Knott has just rented a loft at 222 Leonard S., seeking a place where video artists like himself could show off their work and abate their dire need for a meal with some god damn flavor. Knott opens a kind of salon -- an immersive film and food experience he calls Monkey Town.
Monkey Town was one of the first underground restaurants in New York, where artists and friends gathered within an unprecedented cinema-in-the-round to dine on meals prepared by chefs moonlighting from jobs at well-respected Manhattan restaurants. Over the course of its 19 month existence in this first iteration, it played host to 99 performances showcasing works from Miranda July, Mika Rottenberg, Black Dice, and even a naked woman getting tattooed in the bathroom one evening.
After this initial success, Knott sought to transform Monkey Town into a commercial endeavor and rented a space at 58 N. 3rd St. After all, if you’re having a good time, why not make some money out of it? At least that's how the thinking went. It was never a quest to get rich but after five years of working 100+ hour weeks to deliver 30 days a month of fresh video and music content, while thwarting the meddlings of one dick landlord, Knott decided to close Monkey Town and moved on.
Images from Monkey Town @ 58 N. 3rd St
The beloved venue became an institution in the Williamsburg art scene and even long after its doors closed, its name was often invoked in discussions of iconic experimental audiovisual experiences. Now, three years late, Knott is teaming up with Eyebeam Art & Technology Center to bring Monkey Town back on the eve of it’s 10th anniversary.
“Anyone attending past versions of Monkey Town will be pleasantly surprised to find themselves in a fully enclosed 19 foot cube. This version is a seamless cube where the audience ducks under the screens (there's a four foot clearance) to enter the seating area. And all the screens are rear-projected, which creates a gigantic floating jewel box of moving images," says Knott.
A sketch and model showing the newest iteration of Monkey Town's immersive cinema set-up.
Beginning June 13th, under the curatorial guidance of Knott, 21 artists, 4 chefs, and 2.15 hours of original film and video will delight, confuse, educate, and entertain 32 guests per seating in this totally immersive narrative of visuals and food. The event comprises an unparalleled cinema-in-the-round with 4 massive projection screens and 8.1 surround sound forming a seamless floating cube. Featuring top video artists Jack + Leigh Ruby, Tara Sinn, Trisha Baga, Kathy Rose, Will Rahilly, Brian Close, Will Stroeck, Jeremy Couillard, Bunny Rogers and Filip Olszewski and of course Montgomery Knott, among others and top NY chefs Josh Cross (ex-Gramercy Tavern), Max Sussman (ex-Roberta’s), Nacxi Gaxiola and Fred Hua.
Yes, Monkey Town is part-immersive video and film installation, part culinary experience, part communal gathering but in total, what Monkey Town is, is a personal narrative developed by the visitor. Whether you’re a video geek, a tech nerd, or a foodie is irrelevant to the ability to form your own story about full sensory immersion in this intimate setting.
Visit http://www.monkeytown3.com/ for complete Menus and Pricing. Seatings are nightly at 7:00 and 9:15 PM from June 13 until August 11.