I had an address for an “imperial warehouse” in Sunset Park from an email that encouraged the wearing of “dynastic attire,” but I wasn’t exactly sure where I was going as I walked down Fourth Avenue on Saturday night. I had RSVPed earlier in the day for the Stranded III: The Forbidden City party and, after riding home on the train from watching the OU game, I threw together what I hoped was an appropriate enough ensemble that ended up a little more European time traveler in the East than Chinese Dynasty, but I think it worked. The hand fan ended up being essential in the crowded warehouse. On the train back from Manhattan, I’d already seen several revelers, including a well-dressed gentleman with a red umbrella and fold-out fan. Once at the party, I would see a man with a Christmas tree light-lined space helmet, a person in a shark costume, a woman in a bustle dress with a feather fan, and all manner of well-costumed people, from elegant formal wear to those who seem to have just found cardboard boxes along the way.
I quickly found out from friendly people in the ticket line that the Stranded parties happen yearly at the same time as Burning Man, for those who are unable to leave New York for the insane outdoor art festival. I’ve never been able to do so, so I’m not sure how this compared to Burning Man, but I’m guessing it definitely has the same celebratory mood. The first Stranded party was in 2008, although the organizers Winkel & Balktick have organized 12 events over the past five years. The Forbidden City, like their other events, was as much an art show as a party. Installations and performances filled the 47,000 square feet of the empty waterfront warehouse, with acrobats at the entrance, music by a lineup of DJs, and art around every corner. It was very dark in the warehouse, and was one of those wonderful experiences that cameras just can’t capture, so I apologize for the low quality of my photographs.
I met up with friends Sean, Beth, Linn, and Jared so as not to get lost alone in the Forbidden City. There was a lot of exploring to do, such as a tent where videos of charging stegosauruses were projected on the ceiling, a black room full of beams of light and fog, blacklight ping-pong, and a freak show where people put pins through their skin. There was also a delightful game room where you played with fake money from the Bank of Hell. I won millions of it at a trivia game due to the questions where famous movie quotes were complicated with a thesaurus. Alas, I lost it all at poker. I think you were supposed to set it on fire afterward anyway.
I saw some familiar art at the party, including the above light flower garden, which was also at the Figment Festival on Governor’s Island, and the worm costume people who were a part of Art in Odd Places. I even ran into someone I’d met at the Dumbo Arts Festival. Oh god, have I become part of a scene?
This time the flower garden had musicians playing electric drums and violin, and you had to sit close and listen with headphones to hear the music. I suppose another “highlight” of the night was actually seeing a guy whose skull had been trepanned. I have never in my life seen someone who has purposefully had a hole cut in their head. If you are unfamiliar with trepanning, please let me enlighten you. Anyway, that added to the surreal vibe of the whole night. When I got back at 5 am (the party went until sunrise, but I didn’t have that kind of energy) I would have thought it was a dream if not for the wristband on my hand, Forbidden City passport in my purse, and note of money from the Hell Bank in my wallet.