Yesterday I went to Monkey Town 6, the immersive experimental-film-slash-four-course-meal experience currently running at 2416 E. 6th Street.
If you haven’t bought tickets yet, you should before it sells out. (The event runs until February 7.)
I had no idea what I was in for at Monkey Town 6, but it exceeded any expectation I had. Imagine walking into a dim warehouse, a brightly-lit video cube hovers in the distance, sound thundering within. On the cube plays a mosaic of Central Park; below it, church pews and tables line the square. You mingle with other guests, vinho verde in hand, as you take in your surroundings. Upon sitting, plates by Hillside Farmacy and Eden East chef Sonya Cote make their way to your table as a rotation of experimental films from talent throughout the world plays above. Halfway through the evening, local opera singer Liz Cass sings to a silent French art film.
Monkey Town is as New York art world as you can get. In fact, recent guests of the Austin show made sure to tell creator Montgomery Knott that “we’ve seen a lot of art and performances [in our native New York City], and this was the greatest art experience we’ve ever attended.”
Knott, a former Austinite, began Monkey Town after he moved to New York City in 2003. “Part of the impetus [of starting Monkey Town] was missing Austin food when I moved to New York, and I wanted to stage something more adventurous than the dominant looking-to-Paris regime of New York’s food culture,” Knott said. “I was also just beginning to make my own videos and films around then, and I saw a four-screen piece by Christian Marclay called “Video Quartet” at Paula Cooper. His piece cut up old jazz films and made a new visual and audio soundtrack from the clips. It was lateral, four images horizontal. I just imagined a box and the technology was coming together at the time to make it possible.”
Monkey Town has since played in Barcelona, Denver and now Austin, with plans to bring one to the West Coast next year. Wherever Knott sets up shop, he makes sure to bring in at least 50% local talent. Austin’s Monkey Town features work and performances from notable locals such as Wiley Wiggins, Justin Sherburn and TJ Wade. As for how he selects the videos, he curates pieces from galleries, museums and his video artist friends. He tries to keep the selection diverse; he warned us before the evening began that “some of these videos you’ll love, and some of them you’ll hate.”
Truthfully, I didn’t hate a single video. Yes, there were some I liked more than others, but the entire experience was mesmerizing. Phones were kept in purses, not at the request of Knott, but because everyone was captivated. Though the dinner ran over two hours, time was lost upon us guests.
Dinners are Tuesday through Sunday with two seatings: 6PM and 8:30PM. Tuesday tickets are $45 per person; Wednesday through Sunday are $65 per person. Lemme tell you, it’s worth the price. If you love art, food or just plain ol’ interesting life experiences, Monkey Town 6 is a must.