Not only did New York get its first taste of the Hump! Film Festival, but on Friday it was introduced to The Lost Lectures. If you haven’t been to installments of the series in London and Berlin, it’s a show-and-tell conducted by a handful of irreverent types at an address that’s only announced to ticketholders a day or two in advance.
Lured by the promise of public speaking that doesn’t bore the crap out of you, throngs of well-dressed people headed down a bombed-out stretch of Flatbush Avenue into Maspeth, Queens, realizing probably five or six automotive shops in that there was no way they weren’t all heading to the same place. A dapper bouncer stood at the gate of The Knockdown Center, as if to assure everyone this wasn’t a slasher film set in a massive factory/industrial estate.
After the friendly host from Hyperallergic got the ball rolling, Marc Abrahams (a scientist and founder of whacky science mag Annals of Improbable Research) presented an opera he devised about the Blonsky device, which has the reassuring patent tagline of “apparatus for facilitating the birth of a child by centrifugal force.”
Next, Barbara Nitke took us through the world of hardcore pornography that she inhabited as a set photographer in the 1970s. Weirdly beautiful stills of unguarded actresses, camera crews, and improbable sex acts flashed on the screen behind her. “This is from a movie that’s dear to my heart,” she said of one photo in particular. “Deep Inside Little Oral Annie.”
Adding a much-needed component of contortionism was Flex, a group of street dancers from East New York who transcended probably every hardship you can imagine to create a delightfully weird, inventive and difficult dance genre known as “flexing.” The style (subject of the film Flex Is Kings) is equal parts bone-crushing, gravity-defying, and heavy on the isolation movements. They were doing hat tricks before any of today’s b-boys ever told a crowded train to get ready for showtime.
Dazzling us with what has come to be known as The Most Expensive Body On Earth, secret guest Amanda Lepore took the stage after intermission in what can only be described as a book report reading of her vaudeville autobiography, followed by a bizarre, off-tune karaoke number. She wasn’t the world’s best public speaker, but that’s okay because she is one of the most celebrated transsexuals of our time.
Next, Choire Sicha (editor of The Awl and the self-declared Least Expensive Body on Earth) asked of his audience: why is the internet getting stupider? To begin with, he countered, things have been pretty stupid for some time. It turns out that celebrity gossip and clickbait have roots dating back to at least as far as the days of the early printing press, but that doesn’t mean some Mr. Burns type isn’t making a whole lot of this stuff –> $$$ every time you share an Upworthy link on your lunch break. What he said next will astound you.
Finally, the evening’s main event took the stage to bring a near-approximation of his synesthesia to life. The dreamy, other-worldly quality of his music makes more sense when you consider that Dev Hynes (of Blood Orange) can hear colors, see music and the whole gambit, in addition to suffering from anxiety. So he created an audio-visual experience to help the rest of us understand what that’s like. At one point a shooting light took off in the distance behind the building — perhaps a firecracker, because it was definitely too sudden to be an airplane — but it wouldn’t be altogether surprising if it was actually just a bunch of aliens getting jacked up on his frequencies.