The scari­est haunted house this elec­tion year? ‘Doomoc­racy’

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - OBITUARIES - By Ula Ilnytzky

NEW YORK >> Artist Pe­dro Reyes thinks Amer­i­can pol­i­tics are pretty darn ter­ri­fy­ing, es­pe­cially this elec­tion year, and he wants to scare the wits out of you with his “Doomoc­racy” ex­hi­bi­tion.

Al­ter­nately called “The Haunted House of Po­lit­i­cal Hor­rors,” the satir­i­cal, per­for­mance-based in­stal­la­tion that opened Fri­day has vis­i­tors nav­i­gate a se­ries of rooms that deal with scary things like gun vi­o­lence, cli­mate change and painkillers ad­dic­tion.

“When I think of Franken­stein, I think of ge­netic engi­neer­ing and the food in­dus­try,” said the artist, whose pri­mary home is in Mex­ico City. “When I think of vam­pires, I think of banks and the fi­nan­cial sec­tor, or if you think of zom­bies, you can think of how peo­ple are ad­dicted to pre­scrip­tion drugs.”

Spread over three floors of the sprawl­ing Brook­lyn Army Ter­mi­nal, it’s timed for both Hal­loween and the gen­eral elec­tions — “a per­fect recipe to do some­thing with a haunted house with the most scary things you can find to­day, which is pol­i­tics,” he said.

“Mon­sters are fan­tasy, but the scary things we’re deal­ing with for this project are real.” As Reyes be­gan con­sid­er­ing how “th­ese metaphors of scary things” could be staged, he ap­pro­pri­ated the haunted house for­mat — walk­ing through a maze of hor­rors — for an “in­tense the­atri­cal ex­pe­ri­ence” in which groups of 12 peo­ple walk from room to room en­coun­ter­ing short skits per­formed by ac­tors and au­di­ence mem­bers cast in roles.

The ex­pe­ri­ence starts in front of a mon­u­men­tal ef­figy Reyes cre­ated of the Statue of Lib­erty as a Tro­jan Horse, rep­re­sent­ing “this idea of how war has been nor­mal­ized ... in the name of free­dom.” Vis­i­tors are then whisked in a mini­van to an­other build­ing to be­gin a tour of 14 dark­ened rooms.

One room is a com­men­tary on the di­a­betes epi­demic and the food in­dus­try. It sim­u­lates a fu­neral par­lor dom­i­nated by a cof­fin in the shape of a pink-frosted Twinkie while a man plays junk-food jin­gles on an elec­tric or­gan. The un­der­taker ex­plains to prospec­tive cus­tomers — the au­di­ence — the new trend in fash­ion­ing coffins in the shape of peo­ple’s fa­vorite sug­ary foods.

In an­other room, the set­ting is a cor­po­rate board­room where a bailout un­folds; the au­di­ence votes on whether to get a big bonus or save the com­pany.

The project pro­vides a “space for cathar­sis for all the things that you fear ev­ery day,” Reyes said.

Katie Hol­lan­der, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of Cre­ative Time, which is pre­sent­ing the project, ex­plained how it came about.

“As the po­lit­i­cal cli­mate con­tin­ues to heat up and be­came in some ways more and more ab­surd we felt it was a project that needed to be re­al­ized,” she said. “Peo­ple are re­ally strug­gling to un­der­stand the com­plex­i­ties and ab­sur­di­ties of this par­tic­u­lar elec­tion and feel that our can­di­dates and elected of­fi­cials aren’t nec­es­sar­ily tack­ling the big is­sues of our time.”

In a fake polling place, au­di­ence mem­bers fill out ref­er­en­dum bal­lots. In the next room, they’re in for a bit of a shock (which won’t be dis­closed here). In fact, dur­ing a press pre­view, some rooms were off-lim­its in the in­ter­est of cre­at­ing an aura of mys­tery. When asked if any skits in­volved ac­tors in the role of Hil­lary Clin­ton and Don­ald Trump, Reyes would say only that vis­i­tors were in for a sur­prise at the end.

“Doomoc­racy” runs on Fri­days, Satur­days and Sun­days from 6 p.m. to mid­night through Nov. 6. Ad­vance ticket pur­chase is nec­es­sary for the two-hour ex­pe­ri­ence.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

In this Thurs­day photo, Pe­dro Reyes poses for a pic­ture in a sec­tion of his in­stal­la­tion called “Doomoc­racy” in New York.

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