A trip inside Vector Gallery, New York’s “posthuman” pop art cult
Photography by Celso White
JJ Brine has the looks of a late-’90s boy band member, with a mop of bleached blonde hair and pale-colored eyes. It’s a nice juxtaposition, considering the guy makes art for Satan. His Vector Gallery, recently featured in the Huffington Post, “seceded” from the nation, and aligns itself only with Syria and Haiti. Other than being a show-space for what’s been dubbed “posthuman art,” Vector is now the site of weekly Mass, a gathering of Brine’s Mansoneque followers (Charles or Marilyn, they’re all there). Accolades abound, with his gallery even drawing comparisons to Warhol’s Factory, though celebrities have yet to solidify his cultural worth by showing up to his shows. Nonetheless, with all those rumors swirling around my head, I traipsed out to the circus one night.
I spent my Saturday night in a small room in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, plastered with visual references to Satan, dead babies, and blood. A man covered in white paint chanted vociferously about hexadecimals, rings of fire, and a bunch of other shit I didn’t understand. It was evident from the onset that Celso and I were the only interlopers; the rest of the folks there had come to this place dressed in avant garde get-ups, replete with upside down crucifixes and black lipstick. Now is probably a good time to mention that I don’t know shit about art and I’m an atheist. But still, I was drawn into it all.
Between the cherubic boy painting strange symbols on his nearly naked body and the baby doll dangling from the ceiling with a rope around her neck, I originally felt out of place. I then remembered that this was New York, and that this probably really is art, and that I might just not be hip to whatever it is I was witnessing. Despite my being an ignoramus, my experience was actually a calming, reassuring one. Here sat a group of presumably artistic and creative folks, attending the same event in the same tiny room, to appreciate the creations of others.
Granted, I had imbibed an offensive amount of alcohol at the bar across the street, but I really felt present in this world so far removed from my usual Saturday night haunts. I found myself responding vocally to the first “priest” when he asked for audience participation, and I enjoyed knowing that there were Catholics all over the world who would’ve been very offended by my behavior. This environment, one which encourages visitors to do exactly the opposite of what the outside world demands, leaves no room to feel left out, judged, or misunderstood. I actually found myself feeling more welcomed here, at this Satanic religious service, than I tend to feel on say, the subway.
If you’re looking for insightful digression on the meaning of the art, you’re out of luck. While I like the idea that one can do whatever the fuck she wants and do it in the name of art, the line between meaningful creation and attention-seeking bullshit is blurred at best. Either way, Vector Gallery makes for a fabulous night of people-watching, and I found $60 on the ground outside, so Satan can’t be all that bad.
In case you’re feeling adventurous, Vector Gallery is located at 40 Clinton Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. According to them, it’s always open.
FEBRUARY 19, 2014 BY AMANDA GAYLE