CUT&PASTE LIVE ART JAM: THE SUPPER CLUB * NEW YORK CITY

I’m not going to lie to you. I’m not going to start off by pretending that I know a lot about art. I’m not going to lie to you because I respect you too much. You would figure it out after a few lines, anyway. I will say what the Supreme Court of the United States of America said about pornography when trying to determine what exactly constituted pornography: “I know it when I see it,” and amend the statement for the purpose of this piece: “I know it when I see it being created directly in front of me over the course of a four-hour dance party in Midtown Manhattan on February 4th.”

CUT&PASTE was originally a live digital-design tournament. Last November eight young graphic artists competed in a bracketed competition a la March Madness, but more like Iron Chef, for a spankin’ new Apple iBook and serious street cred. With the help of some sick DJ work, they wowed the crowd with four rounds of Photoshop wizardry projected on the walls of M1-5 in Tribeca. After the winner was crowned (one very talented Anisa Suthayalai) and given her iBook, the event broke down into a typical New York City dance party.

Despite the success of the tournament, the CUT&PASTE crew wanted to explore other ways of pushing boundaries within the paradigm of art as performance. They thought and thought. And thought and thought. And thought. They had already come up with one bitchin’ idea, and, let me tell you, coming up with ideas is hard. Coming up with one is pretty damn good. So they did what anyone in their position would do: they used the idea again. This time they threw a party for all the people who liked CUT&PASTE. And, for good measure, they invited some of their favorite DJs. And if you’re going to have DJs, they thought, why not invite some rising-star artists to come and do their thing on stage, in front of a frothing, party crowd? And if you’re going to have live art on stage, why not see if someone wants to show off their skills with needle and ink at the same time? A tattoo artist joined the mix. They dubbed round two, “CUT&PASTE Live Art Jam.”

The night of the event, I caught up with Tristan Eaton (one of that night’s performers) outside smoking a cigarette. I asked him about his strategy for the night. He conveniently told me what he planned to do and explained in detail the so-far unmentioned format of art to be performed on stage.

“Since the three of us [Tristan, Travis Millard and Patrick Rocha] will be attacking two 6’x9’ canvases mounted side by side with about $1,000 worth of art supplies, I’d say that our strategy will be to work fast and try to run with the music and the crowd.” He added, “We think it’s going to flow from left to right, but we don’t know for sure yet.”

You may know Tristan from Thunderdog Studios, or maybe from Kid Robot, but Travis Millard knows Tristan from when they both worked on illustrations for New York Press. They’ve been friends ever since, occasionally working together. Here’s where it gets complicated. Tristan does not really know Patrick, but Patrick and Travis have been friends for a long time—through Patrick’s younger brother, name unknown. Soon after being introduced, Patrick’s dad, a premier Kansas City courtroom sketch artist (I’m not making this up, I swear), invited Patrick and Travis into a courtroom to do some sketches. The first and only case they worked on was, in Travis’ words, “that one where the woman cut the baby out of the other woman’s stomach and then killed her.” (Again, I swear that I’m not making this up.)

The Supper Club on W 47th Street was, I can assure you, nothing like the baby-cut-out-of-stomach case. At the very least, it was louder and more intoxicated. I noticed two scary things upon entering: there were two massive, and dauntingly blank canvases on the stage, and the tattoo artist was nowhere to be found. I later discovered that the club manager nixed the tattoo demonstration, reason unknown. After sweating through my tie, I realized that pummeling the hulking bouncer would not result in a satisfactory explanation. Inquiring minds may take it up with the Supper Club, address above.

Alcohol was making the bad news easier to take. What was also helping was the work going on in the DJ booth and on stage. DJs Rich Medina and Spinna kept it going all night. They were the fuel of the party engine. And the party engine pushed the art car. Travis, Tristan and Patrick were whaling, and the crowd was digging it.

Despite my limitations as an art critic, I will do my best to describe the finished work: Pacman’s baby squid family mingles with ethereal pirate heads preserved in invisible bags of patchouli scented ether. Angry clouds rain on graffiti left in the wake of invertebrate skeletons and mutated fists. Everything, all the elements and the entire world, ends with a dodecahedron-breasted octapaterpillar.

Go to the website, www.cutandpastecontest.com, check out the party pics, and let me know if you see an octapaterpiller, too.