death by audio

neighborhood: williamsburg | space type: music venue | active since: 2007 | links: website, myspace

I’ve been to Death By Audio a few dozen times, but somehow I always forget how cool it is. My friends’ doom metal band Bloody Panda played a brain-meltingly loud show there a few years ago, and I saw my other friends’ band Dead Dog there last summer. Todd P books there a lot. The shows are always raw and raucous, which of course befits one of the early Williamsburg DIY venues.

all photos by Maximus Comissar

When I went a few weeks ago, the show was as crazy as I expected. First was Bubbly Mommy Gun, a weird psych rock outfit, who had their saxophonist hiding behind the wall and playing through a tiny window. Next was Mugu Guymen, a duo with the guitarist kneeling over dozens of pedals and the drummer just going crazy, playing faster than anyone I’ve ever seen. Last was Makoto Kawabata (from Acid Mothers Temple) with Pikachu (from Afrirampo), who flailed around and leapt up onto her drum kit and grabbed a microphone from out of the ceiling to scream into. Amazing, amazing show.

Bubbly Mommy Gun

Q&A with Edan, Death By Audio’s booker

brooklyn spaces: Give me a quick history of the space and your involvement.
Edan: Death by Audio was a pedal company before it was a show space. Oliver Ackermann from A Place to Bury Strangers moved in in 2005. At first they rented out the front part as a photo studio, but after a while that didn’t pay the rent, so they started throwing shows. I worked the door at some of the earlier shows. I was booking shows around town, but I just kind of started bringing everything here. Then one of the bookers didn’t want to do it anymore, and I took over.


brooklyn spaces: Is there a particular kind of music that’s generally the focus?
Edan: It’s whatever I want to listen to. I wouldn’t have a show here if I didn’t want to see the band. But I feel like I have a pretty broad musical spectrum. It tends to go toward noisier music, heavier rock, heavier metal, and weird harsh noise stuff. But there’s all kinds of pop here too. If it sounds awesome, and if I think it’s going to be cool live, we put it on.

Bubbly Mommy Gun

brooklyn spaces: What are some favorite shows you’ve booked or seen?
Edan: Last summer we had Ty Segall, Charlie and the Moonhearts, and a bunch of other awesome bands. That show was amazing. The best part of that was Ty and Michael had a project together before that, and they did a duet at the end as an encore. That was really cool, it was something I never thought I’d see. And all kinds of band reunions, or people saying they saw videos on YouTube of bands playing here and were like, “Oh man, I want to play there.” Universal Order of Armageddon said that, Party of Helicopters said that. Paint It Black, we did a show for them, that shit sold out in an hour. I never even sell advance tickets for shows, and that one was gone in a day, which was crazy.

Makoto Kawabata

brooklyn spaces: Do you have a struggle or a triumph you want to share?
Edan: I have all kinds of trials! The more it’s a personal thing, the more effort you put into it, the harder it is when you lose to things like money. That’s not what it’s about, but you know, sometimes bookers come in and put holds on dates and tell me I’m going to get some band and I’m like, “That’s fucking awesome, they’ll be great.” And then a month later the booker’s like, “Oh, we were never actually going to bring the show there, we were just holding it in case we couldn’t find a bigger space.” That kind of stuff is soul-crushing. Or there’s always some show that I’m missing a band on, and I end up sitting in front of a computer for hours, emailing tons of bands and getting so many nos. It takes a long fucking time. Then I go to work at like seven, run sound all night, get off at three in the morning, have to clean the place twice. But it doesn’t matter, because I get to see all the shows, you know? I’m always excited about anything that’s here.

Mugu Guymen

brooklyn spaces: What are your thoughts about being in South Williamsburg these days?
Edan: Some of the first underground DIY shows I saw were around here. There’s a place that’s just now newly a condo where I watched Lightning Bolt play in a dirt pit, and Liars, and Panthers, it was a really sick show. Glass House Gallery was one block away, I saw tons of shows there, I saw Dirty Projectors play to like three people there. I grew up on that, in my adult life, my Brooklyn life. I’ve watched Williamsburg go from totally weird-ass back streets to something more normal, although people still walk down here thinking it’s the edge of the world. I used to have people leave after their shift and get mugged for the $20 they’d made, but it’s not fucking like that now. It’s totally safe, totally normal. Death By Audio and Glasslands and 285 Kent and Glass House and Main Drag Music and so many other spots, we’ve helped change what’s safe and unsafe.

brooklyn spaces: What are your goals for the future of the space?
Edan: Just to continue, to maintain the quality, and to keep appreciating it. I don’t want to get bored of doing this.


Like this? Read about more music spaces: Silent Barn, 285 KentShea Stadium, Bushwick Music Studios, Newsonic, Dead Herring

concrete utopia

neighborhood: williamsburg | space type: gallery | active: 2010–2011 | links: website, facebook

I love apartment galleries. I’m always struck by the neat intimacy of leaning on someone’s bed or sitting at their kitchen table while looking at art.

Experimental apartment gallery Concrete Utopia ran for a year, showcasing a diverse array of art in different media. The show “Spork Used as Knife” featured video art, photography, and installations. “I’m Not a Good Enough Feminist” was an ambitious undertaking that included twenty-four artists and a companion book of interviews, historical and contemporary texts, artistic pieces, and images.

all photos by Maximus Comissar

Q&A with Melanie, Concrete Utopia’s founder, director, and chief curator

brooklyn spaces: How did you pick the name?
Melanie: I was doing a curatorial fellowship in Philadelphia last year, and it came from one of these curatorial statements I was looking at when I was learning about different kinds of spaces around the world. It’s from a man named Ernst Bloch, the director of the MAK Center in Vienna, which is devoted to contemporary making and is a also museum, so it’s both art and design. They’re really devoted to not just showing things that are past, but making possibilities for new things to be made for museums, which is something I’m really interested in, giving people I love a reason to make things. I was seeing so much stagnation of so many people whose work I thought was amazing, and I wanted to encourage them to start making things again. So “concrete utopia” as I reformalize it is a perpetual state of being actualized, or deciding that utopia is where we are right now, it’s not something to be made in the future. It’s about being a certain age when you’re like, “Wait a second, I get to take life by the balls! How do I want to do that?”

brooklyn spaces: How many shows have you had?
Melanie: We had “MANIFEST-O” in October, and then we had a night of performance in November, “Food Party,” featuring a storyteller and the proverbial campfire, which was really sweet. And then we did “An-Architecture,” which was a collaboration with Recession Art, a young organization that does shows at the Invisible Dog. It was a two-person show with Caroline England and Ian Trask.

brooklyn spaces: How long does it take you to put a show together?
Melanie: It depends on the scope of the project. “An-Architecture” took three months. The storytelling show, since it was just a one-night event, was really a month or two. This show I put together in a month, although I should have given it more time. We’ve been working on “I’m Not a Good Enough Feminist” for a really long time now; we were planning on putting it up in January, and then March, and then at our first staff meeting—I am lucky enough to have some amazing, amazing, amazing women who decided to help me out—we realized we still needed more time for it. In the end that one is going to take almost six months to put together.

brooklyn spaces: Do the pieces stay up when the gallery isn’t open?
Melanie: Yeah, each show stays up pretty much until the next one. I’m really lucky because it’s kind of like I’m renting art for free.

brooklyn spaces: Why did you pick this neighborhood?
Melanie: When I moved back to New York, I said, “I’m not going to live in Williamsburg, I’m not going to live in Williamsburg, I’m not going to live in Williamsburg.” And then my best friend moved to Williamsburg, my brother moved to Williamsburg, my two other best friends moved to Williamsburg, and suddenly it was where everyone I knew was living. So it was a personal decision to move here, rather than a gallery decision, but it’s turned out to be a really good place to be.

brooklyn spaces: Do people in the building or in the neighborhood know there’s a gallery here? Is there any interaction?
Melanie: It’s a funny thing, and I think it’s a funny thing that’s inherent to any neighborhood that’s in the midst of this kind of gentrification: this building is half twenty-something hipsters and half Hispanic families. We have a nice relationship with the families, we all smile and say hi, but as much as I want to share what I’m doing, I’m nervous about pushing it into their lives. It’s a gallery, but it’s also often a party, you know? So that’s a difficult relationship that I’m learning how to navigate. We did finally start flyering in the neighborhood for this show, and the neighbors next door came to the walk-through we had last week. So that’s promising.


Like this? Read about more art galleries: Invisible Dog, Ugly Art RoomCentral Booking, 950 Hart, Wondering Around Wandering, See.Me

newsonic loft

neighborhood: williamsburg | space type: music & parties | active: 2000–2011 | links: website

all photos by Maximus Comissar

Newsonic was terrific. It was way way out at the edge of South Williamsburg, virtually unmarked, and a complete shock when you walk in. Just an absolutely vibrant space, full of découpaged furniture and great art and twinkling lights and  linked televisions playing crazy video montages and a bookshelf made from a hollowed-out Coke machine. It had a lovely chill vibe and good music and just incredibly nice people.

Over the years, it was inhabited by about twenty different people, primarily musicians and artists, and they just quietly threw amazing shows and parties for over a decade. With hardly any web presence, they were totally underground, spreading the word through NonsenseNYC and a handful of party lists. Check out  my interview below with Brian and Seth Misterka, who was there from the beginning.

brooklyn spaces: Tell me a bit about the history of the space.
Seth: We found it in the back of the Village Voice classifieds, and it was just an empty warehouse. It was really a blank canvas; the landlord gave us totally free reign to create whatever we wanted to. My original partners were a fellow named Massa, who was working for Francis Ford Coppola as an assistant, and my friend Jeremy, who worked for MTV and played in bands, and I was working at Miramax and playing in bands. We were all musicians, and we were all involved in either film or television, so we built the space out to be a music venue from the start. It’s the perfect environment for music, because our neighbor on one side is an auto mechanic, the other is a grocery store, and below us is an office, so we can play music basically any time without bothering anybody. There could be a raging party in here with a hundred people or more, and from the street it’s as if nothing’s happening at all. So it’s like this little secluded artist colony in the middle of the industrial part of Chasidic Williamsburg, this really mystical neighborhood.

brooklyn spaces: Were you putting on shows from the very beginning?
Seth: From the very beginning. The space had a built-in stage from its days as a factory, so we framed it out and started throwing shows, and they immediately were so much fun and so successful that we just kept doing it.
Brian: In the three years I’ve been here, I’ve never been to a party where there hasn’t been just a completely good vibe all around. Everybody loves it here; it’s impossible not to enjoy the space. It brings out the best in people, it really does.
Seth: It’s kind of an out-of-the-way destination, it’s a place that you have to hear about it and then make a point of coming to, and so because it’s not the kind of space that you’d just be passing by, it gives it a kind of a special nature.

brooklyn spaces: So why are you guys moving out?
Seth: The landlord just wants to shuffle things around. It really reflects the broader change in the northern part of Williamsburg, with its expansion of real estate and population; that’s also happening down here. This building is going to be turned into offices. You know, money talks and the artists walk.

brooklyn spaces: But you’ve definitely nurtured a lot of artists through here.
Seth: Absolutely, yeah. There’s been so many different phases of the place, and everybody has brought a different vibe. We’ve found so many great, creative people over the years, and they’ve all contributed different things to the space, which has allowed it to take on the character it has. In addition to the parties, I’ve also had a recording studio here, and I’ve recorded all sorts of bands. My band is Dynasty Electric, and we’ve also recorded a lot of big indie bands from the 2000s, like BattlesParts & LaborShy Child, and El Guapo, as well as a lot of jazz records.
Brian: Seth also recorded two records with Brian Chase from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and they’re planning on recording a third with a jazz duo they have, Brian Chase and Seth Misterka Duo.

brooklyn spaces: How would you describe the kinds of shows you put on?
Seth: Usually it’s a laboratory kind of show, with four or five bands and DJs. It’s a good platform for people to play, a good opportunity to play in a more relaxed environment and for a bigger crowd than would just be hanging out at the clubs.
Brian: Seth makes very eclectic picks. You’ll have a dance band, then you’ll have an indie band, then you’ll have a raga band, and then you’ll have these old guys who play for, like, what band was it?
Seth: One time the drummer from Saturday Night Live, his band came down.
Brian: And they had so many instruments! It was insane. There’s always a different atmosphere, a different thing, and it’s all connected into one night.
Seth: The thing with Newsonic—which is also the name of my record label—the idea has always been about the spectrum of sound, new sound, whatever it is, regardless of genre. Because I’ve been a working musician and have that access and connections to so many great musicians, the parties have become this secret party for musicians. Great musicians just want to come here and play, not for the money or whatever, but for the experience, just to be part of this energy that’s happening down here. We’ve always kept it on the lowdown because it was kind of amazing that we were able to throw parties for ten years without any trouble from the neighborhood or anything, and we didn’t want to jinx our run. But now that it’s ending, we just want to celebrate and show off the space while we have it, and to document it. We knew something cool was happening here, so we want to capture it like a time capsule and share it.


Like this? Read about more underground party spaces: Rubulad, Red Lotus Room, The Lab (Electric Warehouse)Bushwick Project for the Arts, 12-turn-13Gemini & Scorpio loft

city reliquary

neighborhood: williamsburg | space type: micro-museum | active since: 2002 | links: website, facebook, twitter, tumblr

I’ve loved City Reliquary for years. It’s right on Metropolitan Ave., and I pass by it at least once a month, always delighted to find a new bizarre and beautiful display in the front window, whether it’s an array of Pez dispensers, ceramic unicorns, pizza magnets, or postcards from the Queens World’s Fair. In fact, City Reliquary started out around the corner from its current location as just a window, the street-facing window of founder Dave Herman’s apartment, which he filled with his own collection of Statue of Liberty figurines and other New York ephemera.

all photos in this post by Maximus Comissar

Now, like Proteus Gowanus, City Reliquary is a non-profit community-based micro-museum. The Reliquary is slightly broader in scope, with a permanent collection of NYC artifacts, including a selection of Subway tokens, a picture gallery of the Brooklyn Dodgers, and the original 2nd Avenue Deli sign, among much, much more. Even the bathroom houses its own micro-micro-gallery of old-timey tincture and lotion bottles. Though the museum is certainly tiny, you’ll want to spend a while poring through the staggering amount of amazing stuff crammed into it. They also have terrific events and fundraisers, including the monthly THird THursday party, Show and Tell open mics, an annual block-long street party called Bicycle Fetish Day, and more.

Q&A with Bill, City Reliquary’s president

brooklyn spaces: Tell me about some of the exhibits you’ve had.
Bill: We just took down one that was all photographs of streetlights. It was one guy’s personal collection, and he told the histories of each one, when they disappeared, stuff like that. We found him through a guy named Kevin Walsh who runs a great website called Forgotten New York.

brooklyn spaces: What’s the current exhibit about?
Bill: It’s a guy who’s eating a slice of pizza from every pizzeria in Manhattan, and he takes a picture of every slice and the restaurant where he got it.

brooklyn spaces: How often does the exhibit change?
Bill: It depends how long it takes us to get the next one together. We tried to do a new every month, but it was just too much.

brooklyn spaces: And are they always New York–centric?
Bill: Yes. The only thing that isn’t New York–centric is the window up front, Community Collections. That showcases collections by different New Yorkers.

brooklyn spaces: Why Brooklyn? Why Williamsburg?
Bill: Just circumstance. We didn’t pick the neighborhood; Dave lived here, this space opened up, we moved in.

brooklyn spaces: What’s the relationship with the community?
Bill: Everyone’s been really great. Saltie and Roebling Tea Room have donated food for benefits, Momofuku donates cookies, sometimes we hold events at the Knitting Factory.

brooklyn spaces: Anything else you want to tell the world about the museum?
Bill: Our hours are noon to six, Thursday through Sunday. Come to the events, they’re great fun. We always have Brooklyn beer at them.


Like this? Read about more micro-museums: Proteus Gowanus, Micro Museum

factory studios

neighborhood: williamsburg | space type: commercial | active since: 2009 | links: website, facebook, twitter

This one is a little different than the spaces I tend to cover. But my goal has always been to showcase the diversity and creativity of our fantastic borough, and Factory Studios is a great example of people doing something completely surprising and awesome with their space. It’s a full-service soundstage with a diverse and often high-profile clientele; they do photo shoots for magazines like Vanity Fair and Paper, music videos for everyone from Gogol Bordello to Redman, and commercials for companies like Disney and Jet Blue. Factory collaborates with the production company Gravity Sleeps, and the recording company Three Egg Studios. All this in an unassuming warehouse in the middle of Chasidic South Williamsburg! Ah, Brooklyn, you never cease to amaze me.

Q&A with Carrie from Factory & Sam from Gravity Sleeps

brooklyn spaces: Was it a ton of work to get this space set up?
Carrie: It took six months. It was pretty DIY; the walls are built with these things called SIPS panels, which weigh 400 pounds each and are extremely insulated. We had to move them around with a forklift and dollies, and the dollies kept breaking because the panels were so heavy.

brooklyn spaces: Tell me a little bit about what goes on in here.
Carrie: We do lots of music videos, commercials, photo shoots, the occasional party. We get everything from Vogue and Spin to Spike Jonze. We’ve had a lot of really cool bands, like LCD Soundsystem, The Strokes, Sleigh Bells, Phantogram, and The Hundred in the Hands. We also have a lot of rap and hip-hop, like Ludacris, The Dream, Lil’ Kim.
Sam: We have smaller groups, too. We recently shot a video for these young up-and-coming hip-hop artists from the Bronx, who came to the Factory because the artists that they look up to had shot here. When we showed them around, they saw the same couch Ludacris had used in his video, and they were like, “Oh we’ve got to have that in our video!”

brooklyn spaces: Did you have an idea when you set out of the kinds of clients you were hoping to cater to?
Carrie: No. There’s a need for spaces that are soundproof, so that was our number one thing. And although we have some big-name clients, we also cater to people who don’t have a lot of money. We did a lot of things for free to get things going, and we’re always helping people out. Brooklyn is a good scene for art, so we’re not stingy.

brooklyn spaces: How has the relationship been with the neighborhood and the community?
Carrie: Well, one time we had a hip-hop video, and they wanted to shoot the guy with his Lamborgini and Ducatti out front. Our neighbors were pissed. Little kids were on the balconies, screaming in Yiddish and throwing things at them. I try not to do things like that, though. I try to be courteous.

brooklyn spaces: Why did you decide to do this in Brooklyn?
Sam: We wanted to cater to the Brooklyn artist scene, and I just really like Brooklyn. If I had all the money in the world, I’d still live in Brooklyn. As for Factory, I think that it being located here has been important for the way that artists perceive the space. It looks inviting, it doesn’t look like an establishment studio, but it still is just as professional and high quality.

brooklyn spaces: Do you have a favorite memory or fun project?
Carrie: For me, definitely Spike Jonze directing LCD Soundsystem, that was amazing.
Sam: The video is for the song “Drunk Girls.” It shoots the whole space. It starts off on the side but then it breaks the fourth wall, it’s all one shot, and so the character is the Factory.

LCD Soundsystem – Drunk Girls by EMI_Music


Like this? Read more about other film industry spaces: Acme Studio, Bond Street Studio, 6 Charles Place, Film Biz Recycling

spectacle theater

neighborhood: williamsburg | space type: movie theater | active since: 2010 | links: website, facebook

photo from Spectacle's blog

Spectacle is a tiny new nonprofit art theatre run by a collective of filmmakers, artists, editors, and performers. Their goal is to create new experiences through movies, and to rescue amazing film art from the wastelands of time. Their programming is eclectic and extremely unique, and their ethos is DIY everything; they make their own custom film posters, design their own fliers and calendars, put together their own film trailers, and set their own schedules and series. And they’re always looking for new contributors to help out: email to get involved!

I went over the weekend to see Baron Munchausen—nope, not the Terry Gilliam one. This one is actually called Baron Prásil, and is an animated masterpiece by forgotten Czech filmmaker Karel Zeman.

Eric from Secret Project Robot's poster for Hiroshi Teshigahara's Man without a Map.

This is part of a Zeman retrospective that Spectacle has in the works. In March they’ll be showing On the Comet, and in April, Deadly Invention. Akiva, a member of the Spectacle collective, told me that he considers Zeman to be “the most unsung and brilliant animator from the pre-computer era.”

Spectacle showcases “lost” movies that are not available on Netflix or DVD, like pre–Production Code films from Hollywood—including The Story of Temple Drake, starring Miriam Hopkins, and City Streets, written by Dashiell Hammett and starring Gary Cooper and Sylvia Sydney; midnight cult films (Tales of Ordinary Madness, The Sinful Dwarf); and a wide variety of international fare, like Kin Dza Dza, a bizarre steampunk fable shot in the deserts of Russia, and The Ruined Map, surrealist noir from Japan.

from Spectacle's blog

Spectacle also works with musicians to write new scores to old silent films, and they’re experimenting with “remixing” films—Tron was remixed and scored by DUBKNOWDUB; the entire Mad Max series will be spliced and condensed into forty minutes, and scored live.

Yet another series is the “Ethnographic Vid WWWorld”—live, themed events showcasing different areas of the world. They’ve done one on the Himalayas, which included a documentary about the lavish rituals of Magar healers, narrated by William Burroughs. Next up is the WWWorld of Mardi Gras, which will have footage of Carnaval throughout the years, along with live feeds from New Orleans today. After that is the WWWorld of Arabia: Revolt in the Desert, with five hours of footage from the recent riots and live accompaniment by an Arabic orchestra. (The proceeds from this last one will go to human rights organizations.)

from Spectacle's blog

Akiva says that Spectacle is interested in “turning collectors into curators.” In an age where we’re all sitting around showing each other YouTube clips on the kitchen table, Spectacle strives to create a forum to “explore the way that this brave new world of the Internet can allow you to make, say, a documentary about Indonesia without leaving the comfort of your own computer.”



Like this? Read about more theatres: UnionDocsBushwick StarrClockworks Puppet StudioSouth Oxford SpaceCave of Archaic Remnants

time’s up

neighborhood: williamsburg | space type: community space, skillshare | active since: 1987 | links: website, wikipedia, facebook, twitter

Time’s Up is an all-volunteer, nonprofit environmental advocacy group. They do about 200 themed group bike rides a year, dozens of campaigns, and close to 300 workshops annually. They have been hugely instrumental in increasing bike-riding all over New York City (including helping to start the pedicab industry), and have done great work with community gardens, greenways, reclaiming public space, animal advocacy, deforestation, fracking, and more. They’ve been written about everywhere, from the New York Times to the Indypendent, from the Brooklyn Paper to the L Magazine.

all photos by Maximus Comissar

I took my sister with me to this interview, and, embarrassingly, we didn’t bike. (In our defense, it was snowing like crazy.) But everyone was kind andwelcoming anyway, and we took a tour of the incredible space, and also got to talk to Bill, Time’s Up’s founder, and Steve, a longtime volunteer.

These days, Time’s Up is most known for its focus on biking. According to Steve, “Time’s Up is an environmental group, and biking is very environmentally sound. The mission of the group is to increase cycling to help the environment.” Among a slew of other campaigns, they participate in the mass bike movement Critical Mass, work for auto-free streets and parks, create and maintain ghost bike memorials, offer legal aid for arrested cyclists, and recently began a “Love Your Lane” campaign, designed to make cyclists feel rewarded for bicycling, rather than persecuted or harassed. Their latest action has been to build pedal-powered generators for the ongoing #OccupyWallStreet movement.

To donate to this or any of their amazing work, click the “donate” button on any page of their site. But first, check out my Q&A with Bill, Time’s Up’s founder!

Read More about time’s up


photo by Jonathan Slaff from twi.ny

neighborhood: williamsburg | space type: performance / art space | active since: 1996 | links: websitetumblr

CAVE, led by video artist/curator Shige Moriya and theater-dance director/dancer Ximena Garnica, is a tiny experimental and alternative art space, one of the longest-running in Williamsburg. Their stated goal is to “maintain an environment that attracts, provokes and supports exchange, generative confrontation and collaboration among emerging and established artists and audiences from diverse cultures and artistic backgrounds.” To this end they hold workshops, performances, commissions, and exhibits, both solo and collaboratory, along with annual festivals and artist-in-residency programs.

In the nineties and early aughts, the space had a broader scope, including visual arts of all kinds, music, dance, and other types of performance. In the last decade, CAVE has refined its focus, and now primarily presents and nurtures innovative varieties of dance and performance art, and has become one of the New York hubs for butoh, a Japanese conceptual dance movement.

photo by Claudia La Rocco from New York Times

Many of the performances and events in the biennial New York Butoh Festival are held here, and CAVE  jointly established New York Butoh-Kan, an ongoing intensive training program that brings butoh masters from Japan to give classes and seminars in Brooklyn.

CAVE also offers short- and long-term artist-in-residence programs, and hourly rentals of its dance studio.

photo from

Q&A with Bryan, a former CAVE artist-in-residence

brooklyn spaces: Why is it called CAVE, and what is the history of the space from your perspective?
Bryan: Shige Moriya started the space back in 1996 with a few friends. He is the only originator who still lives there. Shortly thereafter he met Ximena, and their loving relationship has conceived of, sponsored, spawned, incubated, and nurtured innumerable beautiful works. I think it was called CAVE just because the space is rather cave-like on the inside. Living there, I liked to fancy it like how I imagined the inside of the Batcave works, you know: over here is where we work out antidotes to poisons, over there is the machine that keeps profiles of the world’s most dangerous people, this is the bulletproofing cloakroom, etc. I should really encourage them to install a firepole.

brooklyn spaces: What drew you to CAVE, and how long did you live there?
Bryan: I saw a performance there many years ago and was mesmerized. Yuko Kaseki took my breath away, and the images of her movements became scorched onto my brain forever. Much later, I was working a boring office job and had spare time outside of my musical endeavors, and was just feeling under-spun, so I answered a Craigslist add for a job with CAVE. It was for a very lowly sounding position, a stamp-licker or something, which was what made me think I could handle it. But after I interviewed with Ximena and Shige, they made me the Workshop Director for the 2007 New York Butoh Festival. This meant that I was responsible for the registration and attendance of over a hundred dancers from around the world, as well as accounting for thousands of dollars of participants’ money and generally making sure the workshops went smoothly. It was daunting, but Ximena and Shige giving more confidence to me than I would have given to myself really helped me to grow. I wound up living at CAVE two separate times, for about eight months each time, between my two trips to Indonesia.

photo from CAVE's Facebook

brooklyn spaces: How did CAVE help you with your art?
Bryan: CAVE helped me with my art inside and out and everywhere in between. Aesthetically, learning about butoh, studying with masters from Japan, interviewing them for my radio program, watching it manifest, soundtracking choreographies… All of these things deepened my aesthetics and helped expand how I understand living and breathing. Meeting people was the other most remarkable impact of living and working through CAVE. One worker there, Claire Duplaniere, told me about a scholarship in Indonesia, and now I am living here on my third scholarship. Another artist-in-residence, Yana Km, found out about one of the same scholarships through me, and now she’s living here too. So things like this have really been life-changing. And it is cyclical. I had the privilege of working with Yuko Kaseki, the first butoh dancer I ever saw perform and still one of my very favorites, on a video I filmed with my band, Bloody Panda. I helped organize a music festival with CAVE two years ago, and artists who met that day are still making recordings together in different contexts. It’s thrilling to think about the potential that such a collective provides.

brooklyn spaces: What were the best and worst things about living there?
Bryan: Living there really makes you become hyper-conscious of how you conduct yourself. You’re a worker and a friend, helping to create art while helping the functioning of this non-profit collective. Personalities can clash. It taught me a lot about how to keep everyone’s best intentions in mind and to always try to show mine, especially after making mistakes.

brooklyn spaces: How does the community respond to CAVE?
Bryan: In an amazing way. CAVE’s loyal audience is responsible for the fact that just about every performance there sells out. I remember once when I was running the box office, I had to console people who hadn’t made reservations to a sold-out performance. “It’s a nice sunset over there on the East River, though, yeah?” Maybe they wanted to punch me, but instead they smiled.


Like this? Read about other performance spaces: Chez Bushwick, South Oxford SpaceBushwick Starr, The Muse, Cave of Archaic Remnants