Ball of Artists Crashes Greystone Mansion With Nude Party Ball and Clowns Breaking Plates

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Mon, Jan 30, 2012 at 3:20 PM
click to enlarge Dancer Alexa Weir enchants in a serpentine fashion, while choreographers Jed Caesar and Flora Wiegmann look on - CAROL CHEH
  • Carol Cheh
  • Dancer Alexa Weir enchants in a serpentine fashion, while choreographers Jed Caesar and Flora Wiegmann look on

On Saturday night, LAXART and the Getty threw a lavish Ball of Artists, billed as the "culminating event" of the Pacific Standard Time Performance and Public Art Festival (which, in case you haven't noticed, has been going gangbusters for the past two weeks).

Although the press release positioned the event as a serious collection of artistic "interventions" and performances, it came off more as a gigantic appreciation party for L.A. artists, their friends and supporters. And when the Getty throws a party like this, believe me, you feel appreciated.

The event was black tie, invitation-only, and took place at no less than the iconic Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills, a haunted estate with a checkered past and a long list of location shooting credits. Hordes of extremely well-dressed people started showing up around 5, for a party that lasted until 10. Although I was there for most of that expanse of time, I left with the strange feeling that I'd only been there for about 10 minutes.

click to enlarge Welcome to the Ball of Artists - CAROL CHEH
  • Carol Cheh
  • Welcome to the Ball of Artists

Perhaps it was the copious amounts of mind-bending free booze, which flowed from well-stocked bars that appeared at every corner. Perhaps it was the 20-odd performances, film screenings, and art installations that were happening simultaneously, tucked into various nooks and crannies of the old mansion, sending everyone on an art-themed version of the game Clue. Or perhaps it was just the sheer giddiness of hanging out with your (very drunk) friends and peers at this stunning, historic estate, which is normally inaccessible to the public -- the fantasy equivalent of having a house party while your parents are away on vacation.

click to enlarge An orchestra performs cricket noises - STEFANIE KEENAN
  • Stefanie Keenan
  • An orchestra performs cricket noises

I managed to live-tweet much of this event as I scuttled from bar to bar and room to room. There aren't many events I've said this about, but the Ball of Artists may actually have been better live-tweeted rather than fully reviewed in the traditional narrative form that I'm in right now. I don't think I was able to give anything much real thought or consideration, immersed as I was in a haze of frenetic, inebriated festivity. Momentary pleasures and glimpses were everything.

click to enlarge Scott Benzel's band does its best to ignore the audience - CAROL CHEH
  • Carol Cheh
  • Scott Benzel's band does its best to ignore the audience

In one room, Mungo Thomson organized a small orchestra of classical musicians to perform Crickets, a charming series of short musical interludes based on field recordings.

In another room, Scott Benzel had a band of contemporary musicians face a panel of mirrors, their backs to the audience, while playing a catchy, punkish set of tunes. A friend described their backwards, mirrored pose as "fuck you / nevermind." Meanwhile, back at the front entrance plaza, Jedediah Caesar and Flora Wiegmann spotlighted a breathtaking serpentine dance performance by Alexa Weir.

click to enlarge Party Ball - STEFANIE KEENAN
  • Stefanie Keenan
  • Party Ball

Out on the terrace, I was tickled to see Party Ball, a roving project by some old colleagues of mine from Long Beach State, in full effect. Inside of a giant ball made out of wood, garbage bags, and glitter, a group of friends, led by artist Eamonn Fox, drank themselves into oblivion, making lively conversation with passers-by as they slowly stripped their clothes off, stuffing pieces of it into the ball's armature as they went. The Party Ball is literally a "ball of artists," and its presence was like a concentrated ball of energy in the midst of dissipated chaos. Party Ball traditionally ends with full nudity, and so it did on this night as well, underneath clear moonlight and on top of 100-year-old stone floors.

click to enlarge The crowd, with Greystone Mansion behind them - STEFANIE KEENAN
  • Stefanie Keenan
  • The crowd, with Greystone Mansion behind them

Although we did pretty well catching various performances, we missed a lot of stuff too, most significantly the entire billiard room/bowling alley experience, which many raved about. Apparently there were photo ops with a zebra mannequin, and a wild dance party in the same bowling alley that was used in the final scenes of There Will Be Blood.

Also, at some point, clowns broke dishes.

click to enlarge Clowns about to break plates - STEFANIE KEENAN
  • Stefanie Keenan
  • Clowns about to break plates

Carol Cheh blogs about LA's performance art scene at Another Righteous Transfer! Follow her on Twitter at @righteoustrans and for more arts news follow @LAWeeklyArts.

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