TVD Live: Prince Rama’s Fame Factory at Artisphere, 9/21

PHOTOS: KRISTIN HORGEN | Last Saturday, Prince Rama, sisters Taraka and Nimai Larson from Brooklyn, took over the Black Box Theater at Artisphere for their all-day installation, a one-off, present-day rendition of Andy Warhol’s Fame Factory.

The space which Prince Rama had to work with was much larger than The Dunes in Columbia Heights, where I last saw them three months ago. They were in the theater all day setting up a “reflective utopian meta-environment where the construction of celebrity can be explored” before performing in the evening. With Andy Warhol’s Silver Clouds in full swing upstairs, it was the perfect coupling.

Rosslyn is a weird place in that it’s a suburb with buildings bigger than the city of which it’s a suburb. Before entering the equally weird Artisphere building, I walked around and took in a part of town that I rarely ever go to.

The tall reflective buildings coupled with the dark ominous sky overcast the area, as a downpour that would last the entirety of the day was about to begin. The heavy sentiments would remain, and the mood felt right for the day ahead.

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Upon entering the Black Box Theater, I didn’t know what to expect. Not only were Prince Rama and the show’s presenter Sasha Lord working together to tape down silver Mylar all over the stage and curtaining the walls with it, but there were also people of all ages working together.

One child that had just entered the theater with her mother asked, “What am I supposed to do?” to which the mother replied, “Figure it out, it’s creative time.”

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There were reflective streamers that shot splashes of rainbows, tons of silver glitter, and silver cosmetics like nail polish and face paint. There were Mylar “fame demon” structures, which consisted of cut-out faces of Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber that were missing their eyes to provide a closer look into celebrity.

The kids were having a blast by essentially building a kick-ass fort. Some participants chose to make their own Mylar uniforms with headbands, shoulder pads, and wrist cuffs.

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In between silverizing children and helping to create Mylar warriors, I talked with Taraka a little bit about Andy Warhol. We briefly discussed our admiration for his book, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again). Taraka mentioned the idea of creating a space for others to work in, like an idea factory, throwing it out there and letting people create, and running with it.

I related this to Warhol who always liked working with amateurs more than professionals, because professionals, while producing amazing work, do the same things over and over again, whereas with amateurs you don’t know what to expect, and the art will be different every time. She agreed and paraphrased Warhol, who said, “The best love is not-to-think-about-it love. And the best art is not-to-think-about-it art.”

I totally agreed and started to think that Prince Rama have actively been taking on the role of producers more and more, just like Warhol. Even when they aren’t producing others, it’s almost as if they are producing themselves, as on their most recent album, Top 10 Hits of the End of the World, where they put on the guise of ten different bands, a truly ambitious concept.

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I taped down a streamer or two, and went to check out the theater from the window on the second floor. Being greeted by another representation of the twerk queen herself and Biebs, there was a laptop with a webcam running between them. The camera was pointed at a hallway, and the video being picked up was projected on a big screen behind the stage inside of the theater. This way, everyone could have his or her 15 minutes of fame.

After going through all of the standard happen-upon-a-webcam shenanigans (i.e., silly faces, gross faces, and pretending to walk down stairs and go down an elevator) and essentially becoming a star, I decided it was time to check out Warhol’s Silver Clouds.

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When I think of going to an art exhibit, I usually clear the day of any other activities and mentally prepare myself to absorb as much as I can from the art. I try to dedicate the whole day and really take everything in. The great thing about Warhol’s Silver Clouds is that it’s basically the equivalent of looking at one painting in terms of time. You can stare at it all day if you want, or you can just sort of walk by it. There aren’t a million descriptions written on the walls, or time periods to venture through. And you can touch the art or even punch it if you want. The clouds, constructed out of Mylar, air, and helium, are floating and resting around the room. Two fans perpetuate their movement, but also in this instance, there were a bunch of people in the room playing with the clouds. There were little kids who weren’t annoying me at all (a pretty impressive feat), maybe because they didn’t have iPads glued to their hands and this was a chance for some classic fun.

In one instance I just stared at the clouds in their tranquil haphazardness and was not only reflected but also reflective. In another instance, I dove under a huge pile of clouds and exploded from underneath to send them flying adrift in different directions.

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The night began with a screening of Prince Rama’s film Never Forever. The film is a music video of epic proportions. Taraka and Nimai take you on a journey through a choreographed world of high-production computer and glitter art dance halls. There were toga-wearing Greek gods, dance parties, undead zombie orgies, crazy long stabby nails, buckets of glitter, and cheerleader motorcyclists. It sort of sounds like a new club Stefon would have suggested checking out on Saturday Night Live, but it truly is an amazing film fit perfectly to their music.

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Afterward, it was time for the main attraction, Prince Rama’s performance. Atop their Mylar island, the girls launched us on a crash course for the end of the world. Nimai Larson dance-plays a dynamic stand-up drum set that she uses to employ an almost disco trash bag of crashes, bells, and rattles. She has one of the greatest smiles, which is on display nearly the whole set. Watching Taraka play her microKORG keyboard, I picked up on some of the smaller details, like turning the release knob to flex her synths out, which made all the difference in their sound. There were all kinds of audience members, from people dressed in space-age Mylar uniforms to girls with hairy pits stomping the Mylar with their cowboy boots.

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By the end of their set, and the end of the world for that matter, Prince Rama were out in the audience rolling around on the ground, presumably dying a fiery death, before destroying the utopian meta-environment that we had put together all day.

The Mylar was ripped from the ground first by Nimai as she got up and stood on a platform in the middle of the room. The audience followed suit, and the Black Box Theater turned into a flying silver dance party explosion. I went ahead and adorned a Mylar cape and proceeded to get down. Finishing the evening out, Miley Cyrus was played by the DJ, and probably for the first time ever, her music felt appropriate. The Black Box Theater may have to be renamed the Black Box Glitter Theater ’cause I can’t imagine the glitter ever being completely washed away…

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