Friday February 19, 2010
WHAT: Bingo-Ski, a site-specific "art-sport" installation based on the traditional game of Bingo.
WHEN: May 2009 to February 2010, in six different installments.
WHERE: The old-fashion party room of the Ukrainian East Village Restaurant, which frequently serves as a social setting for the local Eastern European community for birthdays, wedding receptions, family reunions, etc.
by Linda Simpson
Over the past several years I've unexpectedly become a popular drag-queen Bingo promoter and hostess, calling numbers and giving away prizes at various NYC cabarets and bars. In an effort to expand my career (and my income), I decided to add yet another night to my resumé by renting the gloriously old-fashioned party room of the Ukrainian East Village Restaurant. Of course the night's name needed an Eastern European flair—Bingo-Ski!
My intent was simply to produce a fun and distinctive game night. But a week before Bingo-Ski's debut, I discovered I had by chance plugged into an art movement when The New York Times profiled the growing popularity of "art-sports"—newfangled versions of kickball and other games that were described as "an outgrowth of the contemporary art-world trend toward participatory art." Although Bingo-Ski focused on non-athletic competition—sedentary Bingo games—my concept of blending recreation with the absurd was precisely the same. (I fancy myself a drag-queen artisté.)
Bingo-Ski gaily distinguished itself from other art-sports by embracing a decidely queer and campy sensibility. At Bingo-Ski's helm was a zany cast of drag queens and other colorful performers, including me as the night's hostess. The audience—a sexually diverse and enthusiastic bunch—vied for prizes that were pure kitsch, including fuzzy toy animals, dancing dolls and Hannah Montana throw blankets. (The other Bingo nights that I cohost weekly with performer Murray Hill offer a similar format—They too can be classified as art-sport.)
According to the Times, art-sports highlight "personal interaction and community involvement." In Bingo-Ski's case, each and every player functioned as a supporting actor in an improvisational theater piece that abounded with triumphant victories. In addition to the games, a community of performers provided entertainment, including some who paid ode to the room's cultural roots by incorporating off-the-wall Baltic and Soviet themes into their acts. Bingo's folksy traditions were glorified with "Good Neighbor" games as well as an organist providing a non-stop soundtrack. At the same time, the game's dowdy reputation was sexed up with skin-baring shows and a few X-rated prizes.
Bingo-Ski's fascinating mash-up—freaks running a postmodern game show in an ethnic restaurant—proved to be a fun-filled and delightfully successful experiment in creative collaboration and social play. Each night, the ritual of Bingo was infused with loopy humor and liveliness as winners bounded to the stage to collect their goofy winnings. Applause, cheers, laughter and joyous cries of "Bingo-Ski!" mixed with a wonderful sense of camaraderie and unbridled creative spirit. A fabulous new art-sport was born!
Props and Decor: Steven Hammel
Organist: Paul Leschen
DJs: Horski, Dany Johnson, Michael Magnan and Erin Markey
Performers: Babalicious, Matthew Camp, The Dazzle Dancers, Machine Dazzle, Claire de Loon, Dirty Martini, Duch, Flloyd, Laryssa Husiak, Lauren Howe, Grasina Kira Nerusskaya, The Peoplution Dancers (Lance Cruce, Steven Hammel, Brandon Olson and Chris Tanner), Shaquanda Coca Mulatta, Sultana and Violet Temper
Special Thanks to Adam Baran, Anne Hong, Anthony, Antonius, Chelsea, Colin, Curtsy, Angela DiCarlo, Diego, Sylvia London, Tim McNerney, Ves Pitts, Tabboo!, Thain Torres, Michael Wakefield, and the staff and management of the Ukrainian East Village Restaurant
All photos above from Bingo-Ski's final night by Ves Pitts (From top: Linda Simpson and Claire de Loon; Machine Dazzle; Dirty Martini; Lauren Howe; Sultana; stage antics)
More photos at Linda Simpson's Facebook Page
See also Next Magazine's coverage of Bingo-Ski's final night
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