the art of the after-party

tony reck survives the meatpackers union

THE DAPPER MAN ON THE DOOR WANTS TO KNOW THE IDENTITY OF MY FAVOURITE FASCIST. AS A CONDITION OF ENTRY INTO THE MEATPACKERS UNION SPECTACULAR, I SAY “MICKEY MOUSE.” HE HANDS ME MY ANSWER PRINTED ON A CARD, BUT THE WORD MOUSE HAS BEEN BASTARDISED AS “MAUSD…” IT SETS THE TONE FOR A PUNISHING NIGHT WITHIN THE SUBTERRANEAN GLASSHOUSE HOTEL. FOR, CONSISTENT WITH AN ABILITY TO SEE THROUGH WALLS, THIS SHOW WILL REQUIRE THAT WE STARE INTO THE SOUL OF ART. SOMETIMES, WE WON’T LIKE WHAT WE SEE; SOMETIMES, WE WON’T SEE ANYTHING AT ALL.

The show’s starting time slips by; I’m about to leave, when I run into a friend. Our conversation centres around art and artists, before it is gunned down by the staccato rhythms of the Space Cadets. Meanwhile, several women of various sizes, from squat to Amazonian, strut their stuff in corsets and fishnet stockings. At the bar, an anemic Circus Strongman with a bullet hole in his forehead snaps a matchstick, then returns to conversing with a friend.

At the 1996 Adelaide Festival, La Fura dels Baus set their S&M bloodbath MTM at a Rave, deceiving a complacent audience before a visceral, yet hollow assault upon the senses. At the Meatpackers 2007 the idea of Party as Art mutates into a disconcerting afterparty. Nerdrockers, Aleks and the Ramps, belt out celtic grunge and band members feign smashing their instruments in a self-conscious declaration that there is nothing left to believe in; in particular, there is nothing left to believe in Art. I’m semi-inebriated when a woman dressed like the Tooth Fairy wants to calligraph my face with a black textacolour. I decline, but ask her what she’s into, and she answers my questions with quotes from Hollywood movies. Declaring “I’ll be back, Terminator, 1984”, she dematerialises Schwarzenegger style. Finally, talking to a female punter, I introduce myself as Tony. She says, “Ahh yes, Tony Soprano”. I laugh, but the she studies my face and then says, “Hmmm, Yes…Tony Soprano”. This time, it’s kind of disturbing.

At 3.00am it becomes apparent that the Meatpackers are really onto something. What I can’t ascertain is whether it’s the boozy afterparty or the ‘Do it Yourself’ Punk ethic that pervades this performance. From the man who escapes his dinner jacket while balanced upon a bottle of Sake, to a male stripper with bonbons attached to his body that explode in fugue with recitals from a Jackie Collins’ novel, the Meatpackers Union might just be a provocation toward Live Art in the next decade. I suspect there were drugs and dickheads aplenty, but like the quality of performance, this cannot be verified. Whatever, I had a bastard of a time.

Meatpackers Union, performers Space Cadets, Aleks & the Ramps, Barons of Tang, Mitch, Sky, Conor & Sam, Wazzadeeno Wharton, The Opposable Thumbs, Good Kissing Carrion Burlesque; Glasshouse Hotel, Melbourne July 29

RealTime issue #80 Aug-Sept 2007 pg. 41

© Tony Reck; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 August 2007