Last Friday night at ISSUE Project Room, in the Old American Can Factory near the Gowanus Canal, everyone was a musician.
Mark Stewart wowed the audience with instruments of his own making: a didgeridoo made out of plumbing piping, different sized rubber balls with wire stuck in them and simple rubber hoses. All these instruments, Stewart said, were once objects, and were designed to blur the line between artist and non-artist, musician and non-musician. Everyone took turns with Stewart’s handiwork.
For six years, ISSUE Project Room has hosted hundreds of eclectic evenings like this. The loft-like, intimate space attracts poets like Amiri Baraka, actors and playwrights like Eric Bogosian, multimedia artists like Joshua White, and especially experimental musicians. Everyone from Alan Licht to Pauline Oliveros to Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers has performed there, and cultural heavyweights like Steve Buscemi and Paul Auster sit on the artists’ panel that helps guide IPR’s growth and vision.
This month, to celebrate six years of avant-garde culture, and to prepare for a big move to ISSUE’s new space at 110 Livingston Street in Downtown Brooklyn, all stops have been pulled, and the April calendar features many of today’s working, experimental artists: Hal Willner on April 21 with Sean Lennon, Yuka Honda and Chloe Webb; Rick Moody and Amy Denio on April 23, Moby on April 24; and Evan Lurie on April 30, among others.
Willner is an acclaimed producer who has worked with Federico Fellini, Debbie Harry, Tom Waits, Nick Cave and Lucinda Williams, among others. Rick Moody, well known as a novelist (The Ice Storm and The Diviners) is also a singer-songwriter and will be performing with Amy Denio, a multi-instrumentalist and international musician. Moby (above) is performing his first-ever live, electronic/ambient set, re-working older songs and new. He’ll also play tracks from his new album and screen his new video, directed by David Lynch, at the pre-performance listening party. Lurie is one of the original members of the Lounge Lizards, with his brother John, and a composer of film scores.
ISSUE is not just for music, or art, or theater; it’s for anything experimental.
“I think that’s what makes ISSUE different,” said founder and Artistic Director* Suzanne Fiol (above). “I love everything and I want everything represented.”
ISSUE took root in the East Village, where Fiol was a working artist. When she (like many) was priced out of downtown Manhattan, she moved to Brooklyn and opened ISSUE Project Room at the Silo in Gowanus, a former oil silo next to the Carroll Street Bridge. Pushed out again by rising rents, which The Yard could afford, [Ed. note: Now we hear it too was given the boot] ISSUE moved to its current space within the Old American Can Factory, featuring high wood-beamed ceilings and warm acoustics.
Soon, ISSUE will move again. Last year, IPR announced that Two Trees Management Company awarded it a rent-free, 20-year lease at 110 Livingston, a landmark theater designed in 1925 by McKim, Mead & White. They now need to raise more than 2 million to further renovate the space, and build the foundation needed to guarantee that Brooklyn will be home to experimental art for decades to come.
“It’s important to me that artists get paid,” said Fiol. “I want to use the money to make sure art is being made.”
Fiol hopes to move in next March. In the meantime, head to ISSUE this month and check out a performance.
ISSUE Project Room, 232 3rd Street, 3rd Fl., between 4th and 3rd Avenues, Gowanus, 718-330-0313
*Note: When we published this, we incorrectly stated that Suzanne Fiol was the founder and Executive Director. She’s the founder and Artistic Director. Marc Zegans is the Executive Director.
BB Link: This Friday, BAM brings back the sold-out smash “St. Matthew Passion,” a modern, unconventional reworking of Bach’s most acclaimed Passion. We’ve got 4 pairs of free tickets to the first readers who can name one other opera Director Jonathan Miller has reinvented. Email us with the answer.