Cultured Magazine

Spring 2014

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82 CULTURED QUEEN OF THE NIGHT Artist Jennifer Rubell revives the debaucherous spirit of old New York nightlife. BY JANELLE ZARA PORTRAIT BY NIKOLAS KOENIG t "Queen of the Night," the Diamond Horse- shoe's sexually-charged, acrobatic dinner theater production conceived by the creators of "Sleep No More," you can choose lobster, beef, pork or vegetarian—all standard banquet fare. But then your meal quickly veers wildly off-course as a procession of waiters carry golden cages full of those bright scarlet crustaceans or dripping, whole-roasted suckling pigs to your table, and your server begins whispering sweet, vulgar nothings into your ear and demands that you feed the stranger next to you. "I like to go around with a knife and chop the ears off the pigs," says Jennifer Rubell, the New York-based artist who played a large role in making this hedonistic spectacle possible. The venue as a whole is defined by excess—the opulence oozing from its gold-and-glass walls made it the ideal Fashion Week space for Cynthia Rowley and Miu Miu—which arguably befitted Rubell as the perfect candidate to design the menu. In step with the inter- active, provocative nature of the production (the plot centers around a debutante losing her virginity), she formulated the meal to function as a performance piece of carnal desires. So far, the experience has attracted tastemakers like Hamish Bowles, Linda Fargo, Sir Ian McKellen, Coco Rocha and Mario Batali. "The fundamental essence of my thinking for this project was to create this moment of release," says Rubell, who notes that New Yorkers are constantly subjected to the restraints of the daily grind. "It's like Versailles—there's so much social code embedded in every world in New York City. It's a particularly restrained place." In response, the New York native creates art of relational aesthetics (spanning food, sculpture and installation) and aims to provide a "permissive zone for transgression." Her starting point in conceptualizing this particular dinner, she explains, was the very final act: guests are asked to clear their tables by hurling their metal plates into roving collection bins. This overt, deeply satisfying defiance of proper manners—in tandem with intimate engage- ments with total strangers and the pleasures of hunting down one's dinner and seeing meat in its original presentation (as an animal)—provide a respite from society's constraints. "It's an opportunity for people to exist outside of their normal behaviors or emotions," says Rubell. "I see what I did as giving people freedom to engage." Jennifer Rubell's latest performance art project is a sexed-up dinner theater show at New York's Diamond Horseshoe. A

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