At the former Balcones Recycling Depot (2416 E. 6th St.), curious Austinites are taking part in a unique sensory experience that combines video, performance and food. Monkey Town began 12 years ago in Brooklyn. Since its time in New York, the installation has traveled to Denver and Europe, and now the immersive art piece finds a temporary home in Austin.
What Is Monkey Town?
Monkey Town founder Montgomery Knott was inspired by FOOD, a short film about a 1972 restaurant in the SoHo neighborhood of New York City that became a gathering place for artists, community members and burgeoning ideas. Combining this concept with Christian Marclay’s installation piece, “Quartet,” where four video projections played in sync to create new perceptions, Knott formed the concept of Monkey Town.
His goal was to build “a blank canvas for myself and other artists to create within; an intimate space animated by creative works, with food as additional conceptual lure.”
Monkey Town combines local, regional and international artists through visuals, sound and performance to captivate audience members’ senses. The two-hour video that plays on the four surrounding screens features 16 artists and filmmakers from Texas, Europe and the United States. This art film has been curated specifically for Monkey Town 6 in Austin.
In each city, a local chef is chosen to connect taste to the experience. Austinite Sonya Coté fills Monkey Town’s menu with her fresh farm-to-table cuisine. After her three-year stay as East Side Show Room’s opening chef, Coté went on to become owner and chef of Hillside Farmacy and Eden East.
True to the needs of many Austinites, vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options are available to Monkey Town guests, as long as they email ahead.
Monkey Town Performers
In order to choose local performers, Knott discussed the possibilities with members of the Museum of Human Achievement, The Contemporary Austin and other knowledgeable artists in Austin. The resulting lineup is impressive and crosses many different styles, from soundscapes to dance to lecture.
Local composer and musician Justin Sherburn has a two-week residency at Monkey Town 6. His resume includes recording and performing with Okkervil River, being resident composer of Trouble Puppet Theater Company, and playing alongside greats like Willie Nelson and Roky Erickson.
The first week of Sherburn’s residency featured a live score to an edit of Yakona, a SXSW Film Festival winner about the San Marcos River that was shot mostly underwater. Sherburn noted that this theme combined well with the “other-worldliness” of Monkey Town’s mesmeric setting.
Sherburn will be performing a live score to a 1968 Frech film, “Le Révélateur” for his second week at Monkey Town (Jan. 12-17). This piece will be presented by a trio of cello, pedal steel guitar and piano. As Sherburn told me, this work “Drifts from dark ambient to more traditional chamber music, although nothing is traditional about this instrumentation. At rehearsal yesterday, we came up with a new genre for this piece: Existential Interstellar Franco Texan Ambient.”
Like Knott, Sherburn sees the creation of a specific atmosphere as vital to the audience’s engagement with the work. The culmination of the surrounding screens, satisfying meal, intriguing music and intimacy of the audience in an expansive warehouse makes this a distinctive and entrancing happening.
How to Visit Monkey Town
Monkey Town 6 runs Tuesday through Sunday, twice each evening, through Feb. 6. Pricing ranges from $48-68. Tickets should be purchased in advance and quickly. Check out the website for more information and to receive a short answer on how Knott chose the name “Monkey Town.”
Monkey Town will soon travel to another city in the western United States. Hopefully, the show or another of Knott’s visions will visit Austin again soon.
@MadameKLM wants to know:
Will you be attending Monkey Town 6?
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