There once was a palace in Bushwick, Brooklyn. In the year 2012, it had come to be the intersection of creativity and enjoyment among Brooklyn gentrifiers.
Many people happen upon this place at the enthusiastic recommendation of friends, expecting a house party but not knowing exactly what to expect. The three-story Victorian style building has at least sixteen rooms, seven bathrooms, and a finished basement. In the neighborhood of Bushwick, it is anomalous and impressive. The basement and third floor are both fully functional performance spaces. The maximum capacity of the household is approximately 600, and the average turnout for events is 300 to 400. Halloween 2012 had the highest turnout to date. If you arrived at the place on this night, you would have seen no less than 50 people in tightly packed rows of four, waiting to enter a large white and pale-yellow house in a line that extended down two sets of steps and past an iron gate painted white that surrounds the premises. A tall man in a black suit who appears to be in his late 40s controls the crowd entering with a headset. He has an air of authority and legitimacy. Upon interviewing him, I found outthat he is an ex-police officer from Long Island. He is now hired security for events at the mansion. When asked if there were ever any incidents, he said that there weren’t before the question was finished. “Everybody’s pretty laid back.” Jimmy said. [The chill vibe may have been compromised somewhat since then because there have been reports of graffiti throughout the mansion that prompted some harsh words from those in charge and a gathering hosted to repaint the mansion.]
From the outside, these are the only indications that something other than an affluent elderly couple occupies the home.
Upon entering, the eyes are presented a rather grand staircase, being traversed by artsy-trendies in their late teens and early twenties. They smoke, drink, and contribute to an almost contagious joviality.There are chic mansion staff collecting covers for the party (generally $10 to $20) and distributing wristbands. When your ears are engaged by the loud trap beats, the partygoer in you gets the sense that this will be a respectable party.
Everyone’s first instinct is to go upstairs. Elaborate tapestries of different textures hang in a cluster above each staircase. The second floor opens to a corridor of interconnected rooms. The eye is now drawn to intense abstract art installations that include sculpture, light, and in one room, the use of a smoke machine.
On the third floor, the lights are a bit dim. Two palace guests are positioned against a white wall in white t-shirts, their underwear, and shoes. A stream of light projects colorful slides that relate to fashion and culture in some abstract way on to them as they pose. Occasionally they smoke. They are part of a “digital fashion show” organized by the Brooklyn based media company SIsterJAM. A number of local artists designed the slides displayed.This particular installation attracts a large crowd that blocks this entrance to the wide-set room. Oliver Vonderahe, a SisterJAM representative, said that he would like to incorporate animations into the installation to produce something more like human marionette puppets than human paper-dolls.
"We are not an agency. Everything is done with a handshake and we like to collaborate." He added. He also expressed an interest in letting the art form organically through collaboration and not trying to dictate what happens next.
As you may have deduced, the numerous creative processes at work are what make the mansion a palace. DJs spin some incredibly live sets, and musicians perform their hearts out. You realize that you have not yet been to the basement, so you begin a pilgrimage, possibly noting a wide variety of attractive, stylish, and edgy-looking people. The basement has the highest concentration of people in the house. It is dark. Cameras flash. There is a powerful thudding bass. A rapper dead in the center of an ocean of people exclaims “Brooklyn!!”, and everyone responds uproariously and unintelligibly. The rapper is Mykki Blanco, a cross-dressing artist who, at the time this article is being written, has been featured in GQ magazine. The nature of performances range from hardcore trap music to highly synthesized electronic, (sometimes even both at once) but they are always high-energy.
Brooklyn Frocks will be monitoring the creative projects to come at the mansion and of course the fashion to be seen there.
Through organizing events, and projects with local artists, Chris Goldstein came to be called the Guru of the Mansion. In addition to curating, the mansion is also where Chris rests his head. When asked how it all started, Chris, owner of Brooklyn based creative agency JellyNYC (named promoter of the year 2010 by Paper Magazine) said “I was living in Detroit when I got a call about needing help throwing parties at a mansion in Brooklyn. I thought it’d be the perfect reason to return to New York. We charge for the parties and pay the landlords. I live here and there are some Mexicans that live on the third floor.” The guru is too cool for school with hair passing shoulder length and a robust beard. “The first event was totally weird. The place was pretty bare and a bunch of people came. It’s only gotten better since then. It’s more of a community set-up with all the different performers.” He spoke about the Halloween event. “Even though the Halloween party was great, we were working with some outside promoters who weren’t really looking after our best interests. There was a different crowd here, and we got treated like a venue.
We do want it to be a venue, but it’s a house first. It’s about getting the right 300 people here.”
It is rumored that the mansion will be demolished within six months. The guru promptly diffused this. “We don’t even know what’s going to happen month-to-month.” It appears that the mansion has become a business and the Guru is the CEO. “It’s turning into that. We have a good core staff of five or six people that work all the events and know what the deal is. Brooklyn Frocks will be monitoring the creative projects to come at the mansion and of course the fashion to be seen there.