You might be surprised at how multifaceted and multidimensional life becomes when you eat a pizza.
It’s about stuffing your face almost as much as it is about taking away your general overall existential hunger that hangs open like a gaping empty mouth. Pizza is more than food. It’s the cornerstone on which modern popular culture is built. The pizza effect takes something from one culture, transforms it by immersion in another, and brings it back home again — forever changing the cultural and culinary landscape of both. Italian restaurants are the go-to destinations that satisfy everyone and offend no one — the great food equalizers. “Pizza and chill,” is the original Netflix evening.
Pizza is a continuum. The other, less-heralded and yet no less seminal essence of pizza consciousness is its communal aspect. The sharing of an extra-large pizza amongst friends and family seems like such a hokey, timeworn kind of image; how seared has become the collective American mind over the years from countless television ads for Numero Uno and Shakey’s and Pizza Hut and… You get the idea.
Only recently — in the past couple of decades, maybe — has pizza been presented as an experience that is solitary and (when frozen) pathetic in its loneliness. A large pizza, a box of wine and thou. Wait, I mean me. Myself. And I. A ménage-a-trois? No. A ménage-a-un.
Enter the collaborative, immersive art-based experience of Think Tank and members of Meow Wolf’s Nothing Cheezy — the immersive pizza installation that says, “Fuck all that.” You get pizza. You get art. You get games. You get kitsch. You get nostalgia. You definitely get selfies. And then you get more pizza.
It all happens in a very small space that has been transmogrified into something from the outer limits — as if aliens had been listening in on our radio and television transmissions and come to the conclusion that pizza was the dominant culture on planet Earth. As if.
From the moment you enter the gallery, you’re given a plethora of opportunities to include yourself in the proceedings. You immortalize yourself in endless self-portraits — you’ll need to, because while the pizza will be gone in 24 hours, your cheesy memories last forever.
They take your order and you go through the maze of ambitious art installations which are gravity-defying and frequently mind-bending. The local indie pizza makers change every week. One week could be Delicious Pizza. Another week could be pizza from Prime. You just never know what you’ll get. By the time you get to the end, your pizza is ready. It’s a fairly efficient and streamlined system, even if it seems at times as though Technicolor itself has gone to acid-laced hell, melted into endless colors and concepts, and been reborn as a drop of pepperoni grease you’ll never get out of your clothes or your mind.
An initiative of the artist Future Fantasy Delight (a member of New Mexico art collective Meow Wolf, soon expanding their reach into their upcoming Los Angeles gallery) and Pizzaboyzzz, this pop-up has everything. Mazes. Balloons. Figurines. That thing where you think you’re having a flashback, but you’re just in a hallway made of fake fur. The list of artists is wide-ranging and heroic in its complexity: Abars, Baker’s Son, Anta52, Balloonski, Isa Beniston (Gentle Thrills), Berk Visual, Cheap Slasher Films, Deladeso, Nina Palomba, TOFU, Butch Von Dreaux, and Utopia US.
And there are some installations that you have to seek out and find your way into. They don’t just happen passively. You have to want the art as badly as you want your slice. At the end — when you walk through Balloonski’s majestic cloud hall made of white balloons pierced by deific hands offering you one last slice — you sit with the other people who have just shared the same experience as you’ve had, and eat your pizza, together.
The kind of shared experience that comes along with this stunning, hilarious, delicious once-in-a-lifetime happening is profound and yet — despite its unfolding profundity — seems like the most natural thing in the world. And, much like that other favorite, ideally shared but sometimes solitary experience — sex — Nothing Cheezy is pretty good, even when it’s kind of bad.
Nothing Cheezy at Think Tank Gallery, 516 E. 4th St., downtown, through August; thinktank.gallery/nothingcheezy.