Banzai: Muffinhead and Eric Schmalenberger at Red Lotus Room

There is soooo much to do these days and only seven days and nights in a week. For starters, there are still tickets available for an event that cannot be missed. The event in question: Eric Schmalenberger and Muffinhead Present Banzai!!!!! an Art & Performance Melange, next Saturday, November 16th from 9 p.m. until 3 a.m. Oh my god, November 16th already! Where has the time gone?

Banzai!!!!! will take place at the Red Lotus Room, a rather marvelous space at 893 Bergen Street in beloved Brooklyn. Scott Ewalt will DJ and the list of performers include Amanda Lepore, Dee Dee Luxe, Johanna Constantine, The Rachel Klein Dance Ensemble, Soigné Deluxe and Shane Shane. Visual artists include Greg Accopian, Dan Baker, Tracy Von Becker-Legge, Michael Blase, Kirsten Bode, Ryan Brennan, Wren Britton, Ryan Burke, Adrian Buckmaster, Soigné Deluxe, Anaïs Delsol, Dolly Dharma, Scott Ewalt, Ms. Fitz, Erik Foss, Heather Garland, Veritée Hill, Sam Hill, Antoinette Johnson, Matt Jones, Stacey Mark, Joshua David McKinney, Ted Mineo, Brian Montuori, Sarah Alice Moran, Muffinhead, Kembra Pfahler, Jeffrey Ralston, Kenny Scharf, Max Steiner, Andrew Strasser, Gerry Visco, Cindy Waters, Wonderpuss Octopus, Jaimie Warren and Sergio Zuniga. If Eric Schmalenberger says come I dial Metro Car service snap!

There will be a late show by Teen Pussy and the world premiere of a swirling, psychedelic video called “CAKE SHOW” by Adam Dugas and Casey Spooner. I mean whew. This is an incredible night planned by incredibly talented people—if you don’t know what I’m talking about how did you get this far in this post? Risks will be taken, norms exposed, and most importantly boredom will be banished. Although it may be true for some, most of these creative types you see out at night aren’t just dressed up with no place fabulous to go. They are performers, brands, and essentially living art. They spend the time between cocktails and parties thinking of new ways to push the envelope. This event at Red Lotus will shock and awe you. Your hands will hurt from applause.

One of the organizers/presenters is Muffinhead. I have never met him but I’ve heard so much—all wonderful. He burst onto the scene in the mid-2000’s and his talent and charm made an impression on the fashion and nightlife crowd. He was at all of the important parties and his name, actually his brand, became a staple on important invites. I caught up with Muffinhead and asked him all about it.

So, let’s talk about the event. It says you and Eric Schmalenberger “present”—what does “present” mean?
We wrap it up in a box, slap a ribbon on it and pull the pin! Present meaning we’re the guys who give birth to the art monster. We’re the ones who start it off with sticky notes, some wacky maximalist ideas and a good solid sense of mischief all the way to the end. The end as in even when we’re trudging home through the snow with paintings and bags of hammers.

The talent involved is wonderful. What will the public see and hear at Banzai?
Thank you so much! At first glance Banzai can come off like a madcap crazy-pants art party, and it is, but overall we worked hard to curate a selection of artists who present work that is both imaginative and visually spectacular. The idea is to bring in both emerging and veteran artists and let them tear up the scenery. We never have a theme; the theme is Banzai, which is basically just a schizophrenic art octopus. This time we have Amanda Lepore headlining the performances along with Johanna Constantine who we’ve been trying to get for years now. We’re also very happy to be showing some pieces from veteran artists like Kenny Scharf and Kembra Pfahler side by side with fantastic emerging talent like photographer Ryan Burke and gothic designer Wren Britton.

Years ago this would have to take place in Manhattan, but now it feels natural in Brooklyn at the fabulous Red Lotus. What is the difference in “feel” between Manhattan and Brooklyn?
The difference is huge. I don’t know if it’s even possible at this point for anything even slightly underground to happen in Manhattan. Nowadays there’s this gloss about the city that can’t be avoided while Brooklyn is still gritty as fuck, but also a bit cozy and familiar which makes it ideal for what Banzai is. It’s not about big money and bottle service. At its core it’s about the inspiration of the artists we involve.

You came to New York in the mid-2000’s well aware of the club kid movement of the 80’s and 90’s. There was a great deal of boredom for a minute after that scene self-destructed; what do you think is different in this creative era? Have we gone beyond that scene to a new plateau or is what we see at Banzai and in the current party circuit for the fashion/artistic set just a redux of that moment?
Well yes and no. Personally, when I came to New York I was fairly ignorant of what the “club kid” movement had been. When I was in L.A. I had no idea who Leigh Bowery was—I thought I had invented the whole thing. You can imagine my surprise when I found out that there was a similar movement that had already come and gone.

What we have now is a natural creative evolution. “Walking art” or whatever you want to call it, underground fashion, DIY fashion, to me it’s still in the infant stages as a medium. There are endless variations on what one can do with their own personal style in public. I think we’ve turned up the volume a bit and thrown some modern technology into the mix. We have artists like Nick Cave pulling off amazing thoroughly enchanting work in museums, but I feel that the job won’t be complete until it reaches the mainstream. The point of all this is to alter the concept of individual style and to open it up in a way that allows the public to enjoy the freedom of their own vision outside of going to a nightclub or celebrating Halloween.

I think society has taken great strides socially. What do you see when you look at the world? Is there a renaissance going on or we still very backward?
Oh yeah, there’s always a battle to be fought. Whether it’s for acceptance or understanding, or just to explain oneself as an artist to the outside world. I think that’s ok though, it’s important to not be asleep at the wheel. That being said, I think we’ve come a long way.

Where will your art take you?
Japan! I see myself in Japan for some reason. I would love to take part in more design work, whether for others or myself. At first this was all about grabbing attention in many ways, but the longer I make art the more I simply want to make things that can be enjoyed by the public. I have an aesthetic to tend to but I can do that anywhere from Africa to outer space…both preferably!

Steve

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