Brooklyn Based Art Event Space Rubulad Is Looking For New Home

Rubulad, the creative hive that’s hosted 17 years of epic art parties in Brooklyn, is looking for a new home.  To get there, the gang has embarked on a good old-fashioned Internet barn raising via Kickstarter.  They’re doling out custom piñatas and souvenir panties, along with offering to stage a “pop-up 15-minute Rubulad” in some donors’ homes. (Just don’t let ‘em get you evicted!)

Last year in July, we covered the initial eviction scare as city officials ordered Rubulad’s denizens to vacate the lower level of their building in Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy neighborhood. Sari Rubinstein and Chris Thomas, who run the Rubulad event and community space, explained in a recent email to Laughing Squid that they tried to salvage the situation but are now moving on:

“After a year of architect and contractor visits in an attempt to do the work required to have the Vacate Order lifted from the ground floor, and ultimately getting a $40,000 estimate to install the various remedies to qualify for getting the Order lifted, we followed our lawyer’s advice and surrendered the ground floor.

“During this time we burned through all our savings by paying simultaneous rents (home space + event rental spaces).  We are now fundraising for a new home base. The new home will be Rubulad’s third.

“We’re looking in Brooklyn for a large (6,000+ square ft.) space with an outdoor component, for basically the same model of having resident artists as well as community-based events.”

Suits for Wall Street, Providing the Protesters With Subversive Threads

What did Martin Luther King, Emma Goldman, Frederick Douglass, Malcolm X, Aung San Suu Kyi and Harvey Milk all have in common?

Fabulous suits.

Occupy Wall Street may be joining the ranks of nattily dressed dissent. A band of Brooklynites, calling themselves the Proper Business Attire Working Group, is soliciting donations of suits (a.k.a. “tactical camouflage”) and money to buy suits. They plan to hit Zuccotti Park next Saturday with “a crack team of wardrobers…progressive tailors, radical barbers, and tactical image consultants.”

“Suits are camouflage in the warrens of Wall Street. And there are other advantages. Need a bathroom? Try wearing a suit. It’s easy. Want to walk past a police barricade? Put on a suit,” explains their website.

In other words: Now they mean business.

(This won’t be the first time protesters stage a strategic mini-makeover: The New York Observer, my alma mater, told the story of one organizer who “shaved his punkish haircut…after reading a New York Times story that portrayed the protest as a motley crew of anarchists, hippies and delinquents.”)

Stuck With Hackett Premiers on The Science Channel

If you’ve ever hung out with our friend Chris Hackett — arch-provocateur of the Madagascar Institute, the Brooklyn art combine behind the Jet Ponies and many other delightful and dangerous projects — you’ve probably got some really cool scars.

Now, thanks to the magic of teevee, you can spend time with Hackett AND keep your limbs intact. “Stuck With Hackett” premieres tonight at 10 p.m. on the Science Channel. The show follows our favorite anti-hero as he gets dumped in the desert and re-engineers junkyard flotsam into an air conditioner. Hackett “melts bullets, explodes a solar chimney, and assembles a propane-powered flamethrower in an effort to beat the heat,” according to the show’s website.

We’d expect nothing less. This, after all, is the man who co-built a very noisy blender using a pulse-jet engine and a garbage can…and then used it to make big batches of sweet, delicious fruit smoothies.

Chris Hackett

A dangerously curious engineer, Hackett takes on an engineering/survival adventure each week as he’s stranded far from modern luxuries with just the basics of food, water and shelter. He doesn’t eat bugs for survival, and he doesn’t dig a hole in which to sleep. Rather Hackett shows true gumption and tenacity as he thrives in each and every adventure. Stuck in an abandoned gas station? No problem! Hackett can build a beacon out of the car radio. Need to stay cool in a small shelter in the desert? Don’t worry, by using existing vents, a found battery, and some old parts Hackett builds a makeshift A/C unit. He transmutes base material into mechanical gold because this is what he does – it’s what he’s compelled to do. Nobody wants to be voted off this island!

For the latest updates on the show, check out the Stuck With Hackett Facebook page.

photo via Science Channel

After Eviction Scare, Brooklyn Based Rubulad Seeks New Event Space

Imagine this: city officials give you just one hour to relocate an irreplaceable two-floor archive/temple/playpen of Brooklyn’s underground art scene. Your mission?  Dismantle a technicolor thicket of sculptures, paintings and props hanging from the ceiling and growing from the walls. Or lose it all.

Now imagine: after hundreds of people race over to help you haul everything away to homes and storage lockers, the whole emergency turns out to be, quite possibly, a false alarm.

That was the situation last week at Rubulad Home Base, the building in Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy neighborhood where iconic, semi-regular art parties have been chugging along for years. The parties began in 1994 in a 5,000-square-foot Williamsburg basement. Since then, Rubulad has become a refuge for the kind of entertainment — homespun, rough-hewn, delightfully weird — that’s absent from New York’s commercial nightlife.

Sari Rubinstein, who runs Rubulad with co-conspirator Chris Thomas, emailed this statement to Laughing Squid:

“On the morning of Tuesday, July 20th, NYC fire marshals entered Rubulad and announced we were being ‘evicted.’ We were informed that representatives of the Department of Buildings were on their way to padlock the space and that we had an hour to remove our essential belongings.

“There appears to be some element of harassment at work here as, at the close of business on the third day of this ongoing fiasco, the DOB has not arrived to padlock the premises and indeed we have spoken with them on the phone and they have assured us they have no intention of doing so.

“However, the fire department has issued an ‘Order to Vacate’ disallowing us from entering the ground floor of our space. The DOB represents that they can and will undo the Order, but again nothing further has happened and as of now the Order stands…

“If anyone has any ideas for alternative spaces in which we might hold our next event(s), do please pass them along (chris at spill dot net). We like large space, multiple rooms, with some outdoor area if possible.”

Meanwhile, the denizens of Rubulad Home Base are digging out from the mess.

“I’m just reeling because I still have to take care of my everyday life and I’m like ‘Where’s my pants? Where’s my shoes?’” said Julie Covello, aka DJ Shakey, one of seven artists living at Rubulad.

“The notice to vacate was in error, but that doesn’t mean that everything’s fine, and it definitely doesn’t mean that were going to start throwing parties in the space again,” she added. “Everything’s up in the air.”

- Brooklyn City Paper coverage of the eviction scare.

- Archival Nonsense NYC interview with Rubulad’s Sari Rubinstein + Chris Thomas.

photos by Picture Daniel in the Lion’s Den

Figment Recap: All Aboard the Electric Bubble Bus

Disorient: worm attack

“We got the president of Governors Island to ride the Electric Bubble Bus!” cheered David Koren.

He sounded upbeat. And why wouldn’t he be? Last night marked the end of the fourth-annual Figment Festival in New York City. When Koren, 39, and fellow Burning Man veterans started the commerce-free interactive art party back in 2007, it lasted one day and drew 2,800 people. This year, the three-day celebration lured 23,665 revelers out to Governors Island, a former military base in New York Harbor.

Living pavilion

Visitors danced to DJs spinning under giant, wormlike-inflatable sculptures from Disorient, an arts collective that hosts an annual camp at Burning Man.  They hula hooped and had their pictures taken while dressed as the Mona Lisa.  They wandered among dozens of colossal art installations, which ranged from the graceful Living Pavilion, a swaybacked tunnel with grass growing upside-down inside, to Bagel Buns, a hill of bagels with television sets playing “Buns of Steel” videos on a constant loop.

glitter blizzard

Sandbox wars broke out in the glitter pit, where kids threw handfuls of silver dust at each other until it coated their limbs and hair and parents, too. “It looks like dandruff!” one grownup exclaimed. (“It looks like you just blew a unicorn,” another suggested.)

Aqua Attack II

The weekend’s sleeper hit was Aqua Attack!, a game show presented by The Action Arts League. Staged in two opposing kiddie pools, the competition pitted superheroes against supervillains for a soaking wet, stuffed-animal-slingin’ melee.

And, yes, Leslie Koch, the city official who oversees Governors Island, took a spin on Figment’s first-ever art car: a roving sound system swaddled in fluorescent fabric, crowned with a disco ball and a cut-out city skyline.  (Rumor has it that the Electric Bubble Bus was also lawyer-proof; a sign on the grille read “NO RIDING WITHOUT WAIVER.”)

The Electric Bubble Bus

Hundreds of volunteers pitched in to make the festival work on a $60,000 budget, which came from grants and donations and also covered a second Figment event this summer in Boston.

So what do after your non-commercial event is a raging success, a free-spirited extravaganza in one America’s most expensive and commodified cities?

Said Koren: “I’m NOT going to Disneyland.”

Photo Gallery: Figment 2010

For more information about the Figment festival and how to volunteer: http://figmentproject.org

photos by Jessica Bruder

The Ocean of Blood on Newtown Creek

How do you get five “boatercycles” – aka motorcycle-powered pontoon boats – to the Ganges River?

You start off with a party on Newtown Creek, the channel of toxic broth that cleaves Brooklyn from Queens.

Embarking

On Sunday, some 60 guests plunked down $10 apiece to attend a floating fundraiser for The Swimming Cities of the Oceans of Blood, an art project that involves building a flotilla of boatercycles in Brooklyn, shipping them to India and navigating them down the country’s holiest river.

“I love boats and I love India and I like to hang out with my friends and build things with them,” said Orien McNeill, a 30-year-old Manhattan native who is one of the project’s organizers. “We’re creating adventure tourism art.”

Ship's Capt. Haile Selassie

The theme of the fundraiser? West Indian Day Parade. Orien dressed up like Hailie Selassie and sported a chest full of medals, including one he fashioned from a hacked up cookie-cutter.  Partygoers waited at the northern end of Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where they clambered over a seawall and climbed down the ladder into a waiting speedboat.  Using a two-by-four tied to the outboard motor, Orien steered the craft down the creek and under a railroad bridge, which was so close to water that the crew, in their feathered headdresses, had to duck to clear it.

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On the other side of the bridge, two small barges and one prototype boatercycle were tethered to a rickety pier.  Revelers dressed like birds of paradise in neon face paint, sequins and feathers danced and cheered as a mooring line was tossed out over the iridescent, oily tide.  The boat pulled up to dock alongside the floating party. Passengers disembarked and were soon drinking umbrella’d cocktails.

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The scene looked like “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” enacted on an aquatic landfill. (Note: This is not hyperbole. Newtown Creek is an estuary of “dead water” that holds an estimated 30 million gallons of spilled oil. The result is visible in places as a sludgy layer of so-called “black mayonnaise” on the shoreline.  I could make a joke here  about putting the “superfun” back in “superfund,” but…)

Only two people fell in.

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The name “Oceans of Blood” is a reference to the life-giving Hindu goddess Kali. The project is the latest incarnation of Swimming Cities, a series of voyages aboard homemade art rafts that began with the Miss Rockaway Armada on the Mississippi River in 2006.  Other Swimming Cities performances have involved cruising down the Hudson River and crashing the Venice Biennale.

When complete, the five boatercyles will be able to travel independently or connect to form a performance plaform shaped like a five-pointed star. The Ocean of Blood crew hopes to have them done in time to show at next month’s Figment festival.

Diagram of 5 interlocking boatercycles

Diagram from WeAreSwimmingCities.org

For volunteer opportunities and other ways to support the project, visit the crew’s website.  Ocean of Blood-related events appear on their Facebook page.

Photo Gallery: The Ocean of Blood on Newtown Creek

photos by Jessica Bruder