For members of the social set who consider themselves Boom Boom Room regulars, the art of Marco Brambilla will seem eerily familiar. Darting from the Top of the Standard to the streets of the Meatpacking District involves a ride in the hotel’s elevators, and regardless of how many cocktails you’ve downed, you will at least passingly notice Brambilla’s odd and disturbing video art playing as you descend. It’s a scene of heaven and hell with vivid details that suggest Bruegel the Elder, but enough in-your-face gusto for someone who works with Kanye West or directs futuristic action movies with Sylvester Stallone. Brambilla has done both.
But last night a new video from the artist was on the elevator screens. Even in a short ride up three floors, there was enough to take in: clenched teeth, machines oozing smoke, and a good helping of speed, combustion, explosion, and mayhem.
It’s called “RPM,” and the Standard served as the venue for a screening and dinner last night in the High Line Room. The work came about through a commission from Ferrari, which invited Brambilla to the Grand Prix at Monza to film a race from a Formula One driver’s perspective.
“The video is inspired by a quote from [Formula One champion] Ayrton Senna, where he talks about becoming one with the race car and becoming one with the track,” Brambilla told ARTINFO, drinking champagne on the terrace as Marina Abramovic walked by. “It’s an abstract, psychological version of what a race car driver may be thinking when he’s on the edge of mortality.”
Guests shifted to neutral and slowly made their way to the dinner area, where 3-D glasses were available at each place setting, alongside wineglasses and shot glasses, for the Patron.
A fork pinged a champagne flute and Andre Balazs, the Standard’s owner, stood up. In his toast, he explained how Brambilla came to be the man responsible for entertaining the riders in the hotel’s elevators.
“We were going to have gold bricks in the elevator for, you know, the gold standard,” he said to the tables. “It was going to be very banal.”
“Have you seen St. Barths?” a man shouted.
“I met Marco because he thought I might have some audiotapes of Andy’s,” said Bob Collacello, a writer and long-time man about town who, in fact, has no such Warhol tapes. “The heaven and hell piece, I had the pleasure of seeing it at Old St. Pat’s Cathedral during a vespers ceremony. You should do this in every church, you could save the faith!”
The speeches ended and after the steaks hit the tables, Brambilla dimmed the lights. “RPM,” in full, was quite bombastic: a wonderful miasma of video loops that play over and over, with little variation, as the soundtrack of race cars at a Grand Prix is set to full blast. It’s disorienting, sure, but Brambilla’s purpose is clear: the viewer is simultaneously in the Ferrari’s driver’s seat, stuffed into its engine, and perched on top of its roof. A blur of the crowd washes over the screen, then the gears beneath the hood emerge engulfed in sparks, then a steering wheel appears. All in a matter of seconds.
After dessert, it was clear the propulsion of the video was contagious. This dinner would not be the night’s last stop. So everyone downed shots of Patron and raced back out to street.
Click on the slide show to see images from the screening of Marco Brambilla's "RPM."