Desi Santiago Creates Casino Diabolique

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Desi Santiago has been a creative force since his club kid nights and probably before. His collaboration with the W Hotel (541 Lexington Avenue) figures to be one for the ages. Casino Diabolique will preview with a soiree tonight for the VIP and RSVP set. Michael Magnan will DJ.

The public is invited to view it from Thursday, November 15 to November 17 from 8-10 p.m. Casino Diabolique is described as “a pop up casino and cocktail experience.” Desi is a creative genius and given the funding and the license to thrill there should be something wickedly wonderful to experience. To check out availability and book the experience, click here. 

Tell me how you got hired for this gig and what it was like collaborating with a corporate entity like a huge hotel chain.

I was approached by W New York. They were offering me a space to create anything I wanted. I’d been having this idea of an art experience in the guise of a casino for some time since my fortune-telling building during Art Basel last year, and it seemed like the right place to try it out.

Is Casino Diabolique satisfied as a pop up or should such endeavors have expanded roles? Should places look and behave like this all the time? Is that possible? Have you seen permanent designs that come close to this?

I consider this an experiment in some ways – the initial sowing of a seed. There are so many variables involved in this piece and I’m looking forward to learning from it. I’ve created static sculpture, designed event experiences, been involved in fashion and music, and with this piece, it’s not just the object or product that can be identified as the art but the interaction and activation of the public within the work that makes it whole. I think there’s space for an experience like this to exist, sure. The only thing I could imagine within this vein would be Sleep No More as it’s an immersive environment. What sets Casino Diabolique apart is layers of chance wrapped over more chance.

What will we see when we enter Casino Diabolique?

You’ll see red and smell ceremony.

You had a run in the so-called club-kid movement, which has a notorious side, which often dilutes the creative side of that long ago, scene. Tell me about your place and growth through that, and the influence of the creative people you interact with.

I was part of that crew in the early ‘90s running with Michael Alig and James St. James when I was 17. I had created my alter ego Desi Monster, a shape-shifting persona, and hosted parties and traveled around the country with Project Xmagazine, which Peter Gatien published. Looking back, I had a unique experience where I was given complete license and support in my creativity. It set the tone for the rest of my life and started me on my road leading to where I am today. I’ve maintained relationships with many of the club kids like Walt Paper, Sushi, Jenitalia, Pebbles, and Christopher Comp, and our paths continue to weave in and out of each other. We shared a powerful experience together. Today, as then, I get to work, play and be inspired by the most amazing creative people in contemporary culture and have great support in my most ridiculous ideas. I’m allowed to dream and materialize my thoughts. I’m a lucky man.

Many creative types try to shock and awe, or at least show something new. Is this time we occupy progressive artistically, or are we in the doldrums of art and design?

I feel it’s progressive. Digital culture has access to our memories and there are times when we’re seeing everything regurgitated and remixed ad nauseum as the past is being mined, but that’s the nature of where we are right now as we figure what the hell is next.

How do you define yourself and where will this take you?

I navigate my life intuitively and exist in a constant creative state. I’m a hungry soul always looking to be inspired, to inspire and grow. Collaboration helps me expand my vocabulary and the resultant projects and objects are souvenirs of my trip. This is all I need and I think moving forward this can only lead my to more pleasure.