Plato’s Porno Cave: The Trial (Little Berlin): Surrealist party, imagery orgy

Plato's Porno Cave: The Trial, Little Berlin, Marshall James Kavanaugh and Augustus DepenbrockGood news!

If you missed PLATO’S PORNO CAVE: THE TRIAL on Friday, you can check out the festivities at THE RETRIAL Friday, June 27th.

Last year, the Plato’s Porno Cave opening night party merged installation, theater, and boozy social. Six or seven installations were ranged around Little Berlin gallery and manned by “gods” in elaborate costumes who gambled, cheated, haggled, conversed, and argued with audience members. I was abused by the great twinbeards, drank poison dished out by the disease god, won a god-drawn cart ride, and, eventually, helped stoned the TV god to death.

“This year,” co-curator Marshall James Kavanaugh told me, “it’s not going to be that big.”

Perhaps not as big, but equally as memorable.

A little background: Little Berlin is an arts collective in a moderately unsavory precinct of Kensington, a five or ten minute walk from the York-Dauphin subway stop. Every month, different members of the collective curate the space, and for the second year in a row, Marshall and Augustus Depenbrock are running Plato’s Porno Cave, presenting 8+ surrealist art events and installations with an art party to kick it off.

Porn,” Marshall told me last year, in an interview for theartblog, “in this case, being a fantastical idealized version of relations between human beings.”

At the front door of the opening night party on Friday, a smiling woman sold me a brick.

“$10 buys you one of these,” she held up the largest, “$5 buys you one of these,” she held up a smaller one, “and less than $5, a song, a poem, or whatever, buys you one of these,” she palmed a little concrete nugget.

To each brick was taped a raffle ticket.

Armed with my $5 brick, I entered the gallery space, which is dominated this year by one major installation: ten-foot-tall pyramid erected out of lumber with a cartoony red-and-white facade. A massive scale straddles it, perfectly balanced, with a wheelbarrow on either end.

Atop the pyramid perched Marshall’s co-curator Augustus Depenbrock, dressed as a massive eye. One by one, people came forward and voted for order chaos, placing their brick in the correct barrow.

To Plato's Porno Cave: The Trial, Little Berlin, Marshall James Kavanaugh and Augustus Depenbrockthe left of the pyramid was a little shanty you could enter and perform a primal scream. A glass window on either side faced in on a small chamber with an apple and, if you hit the right decibel with your scream, the apple would explode. The mechanism for blowing up the apple failed pretty quickly (it worked a few times before the forces of chaos seeped into the mechanism), but that didn’t stop the crowd going in and screaming periodically while the Eye played master of ceremonies from his pyramid throne.

A few events were planned throughout the night, including an insane surrealist dinner with inedible foods and maniacal laughter around a naked mannequin. A unicorn played the trumpet and shouted for chaos while a Mad Hatter-inspired character tossed playing cards and bits of “food” in a frying pan.

“Dessert,” which was “served” later in the evening featured a wood chipper into which Marshall and his crew, laughing manically, began feeding all thirty volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Paper snow choked Little Berlin. The audience—I should say party-goers now, as the event climbed to ever-rising states of hilarity—ran around chucking fistfuls of knowledge shreds each other. “Chaos!” cried some. Glue was smeared on the wall, and paper was thrown at it. “Order!” cried others.

The wood chipper stopped working somewhere around the letter S. The forces of chaos, once again, slipped into the machinery.

“Chaos!” cried some. “Order!” cried others.

In the end it was a surprisingly close vote, but Chaos won after a minor scuffle at the voting booths.

Three raffle winners were drawn from the chaos wheelbarrow, and they were led to the center of the room where a live tree—“Oscar”—stood. The three winners were given clippers and saws, and with a sickening kind of glee they annihilated Oscar.

Later, I asked Katie, a raffle winner who had helped with the sawing of the tree, how she felt about chaos:

“They gave me a saw,” she responded, “and said I had to take down this tree. And I think the most disturbing thing to me was just how into it I got, and decided, well this tree’s got to go. Well. And. I used to run a community garden, and I used to teach embassy, trying to get people to plant more trees.”

“I didn’t want to vote,” said Marshall later. “I wanted to see what the crowd wanted.”

I asked him if he was going to miss Oscar.

Plato's Porno Cave: The Trial, Little Berlin, Marshall James Kavanaugh and Augustus Depenbrock“Yeah. More so, I’m going to miss the fairgrounds,” said Marshall, meaning the outdoor sculptural garden which is one of Little Berlin’s three performance spaces. “The fairgrounds are being sold to a developer, and are no longer going to be owned by our landlord, which we’ve been leasing them from for a dollar a year.” Ironically, the fairgrounds are where Oscar would have been planted had order won the vote.

“This is the hierarchy of our civilization right now, chaos or order, nature or democracy. Or government, or capitalism,” Marshall added.

There are at least seven more Plato’s Porno Cave events running throughout the next month, from movie nights, performances and concerts to dance parties and workshops. Full schedule of the insanity here. [Little Berlin, 2430 Coral St.] June 6-July 12, 2014; littleberlin.org.

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About the author

Julius Ferraro

Julius Ferraro is a journalist, playwright, performer, and project manager in Philadelphia. He is co-founder of Curate This and editor-in-chief of thINKingDANCE. His recent plays include Parrot Talk, Micromania, and The Death and Painful Dismemberment of Paul W. Auster.