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PS122 Spring Gala - Tuesday, 5/13/2014 7:33 PM

From the moment of entry to the final act, Performance Space 122 Spring Gala 2014 felt like vivid Lynchian reverie – in other words, seduction of the senses. Set deep in the Paramount Hotel’s surreal cellar venue, Diamond Horseshoe; PS122 presented a spectacular variety show hosted by Justin Vivian Bond and REM’s Michael Stipe, raising a total of $190,000 – making last night their best year to date.

Upon our first step, we were drawn in by chanteuse Leah Siegel. Her entrancing voice synced to pulsating balloons lining the spiral staircase, playing like a Pied Piper leading us down into the cellar. Once down the rabbit hole and through the curtains, it was like stepping into Oz: a fantastical, gilded, neo-cabaret room with just a touch of steampunk for effect. No, we were not in Manhattan anymore.

New age accapellists, KHORIKOS, began the show with a sudden drop of the lights. Then, emanating from the darkness, an ethereal voice; followed by spotlights elucidating the several floating heads outlining the circled stage, all harmonizing in Gregorian chant, and transporting us back to a time ages ago.

Sultry singer Okwui Okpokwasili sang a captivating solo number. Echoing back to the femme fetals of film noire, Okpokwasili entranced the audience with her raspy voice, slowly swaying like a serpent seductress until we were all under her spell. And then like that, she drew back into the firmaments.

It wasn’t a night of only art and auction though. PS122 took time to honor fellow champions of the arts: FB Heron Foundation President, Clara Miller, along with revered, subversive artists Holly Hughes, Tim Miller and John Fleck. A moment of silence was also taken for the recently passed Derek Lloyd, whom for 15 years, raised the bar of possibilities at PS122. His mark will never be forgotten.

New York City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer took to the stage early, promising his continued fight for funding New York City’s art community. “I fight for the arts because New York City is nothing without it,” averred Van Bramer.

MCed by a beskirted CK Swett, PS122’s fundraiser portion was equally as wild as the show. Along with the direct pledges, the live auction raised over $60K! But the highlight bidding war was for Paige Powell’s Jean Michel Basquiat Nude.

Bidding looked to end shy of $4000 until host Justin Vivian Bond commandeered the stage, sweetening the offer to a Chex-Mix mixer chez her while Skyping with Ms. Powell. A booming, microphoned voice then deafened room, “$4800!” Michael Stipe decided then to stoke the fire, diffidently rising it to $5000.

A rapid-fire bidding battle ensued between the laconic Stipe and the microphoned chandelier bidder, with the latter finally bowing out to Stipe’s $8100, making for one heck of a Chex-Mixer. FYI Mr. Stipe, I accept invitations via twitter @Matthew_Leeb…

Other performances included Nath Ann Carrera and Amber Martin’s Witch Camp, which features satirical bits, avant guard folk music, and the flashing of Martin’s nude butt. Duncan Sheik and the Tony Nominated Lena Hall added some commercial numbers to pace out the creative ones.

Balancing Artist Olaf Treibel wowed with his unbelievable strength, balance… and taught body. Comedian Ira Glass charmed us with funny tale of teenage girl naivety, simultaneously twisting a perfect balloon poodle which fetched $500 in auction. Talk about a good dog.

Anna Bass and Monica Bill Barnes closed the night with wildly animated (but tight) interpretive dance set to James Brown’s ‘Get On Up’, that did, in fact, get everyone on up with their playful antagonizing and undeniable charisma. Any chance you get to watch these girls, don’t pass up!

Other notables attending in support were Parker Posey, Marcus Samuelsson & Maya Samuelsson, Alba Clemente and DJ Doppelgangers AndrewAndrew.

Founded in 1980 by Charles Dennis, Tim Miller, Charles Moulton and Peter Rose, Performance Space 122 has offered young artists over three decades of funding, space and support to help them grow as performance artists. Over this period, PS122 has grown into one of the leading international performance art communities. CK Swett said it best, “PS122 is the tip of the spear, and that spear is sharp!”