Monkey Town 5

In the opening video, In Ictu Oculi, a flock of vultures ravages a feast carefully set on a picnic table in a barren landscape. With this, Greta Alfara provided a dramatic start to the show and set the tone for what was to be an extraordinary and highly thrilling night. In Monkey Town 5 gastronomy meets video art for an immersive dining experience unlike anything you’ve encountered before. It is neither a restaurant nor a cinema, but something in between. Conceived and conducted by Montgomery Knott, Monkey Town has been running in New York for over a decade and is currently visiting Barcelona, its first stop on a three-year tour of Europe.

This intense feast for the senses takes place within a floating cube made of four large screens where viewers sit and watch the art that surrounds them while indulging in a rich five-course meal. The show consists of a programme of 12 video works and one performance piece which changes each week. Some humorous, some disturbing, and some just baffling, the videos are a taster of the broad spectrum of the current video art scene.

My personal favourites were the pieces by Shana Moulton and Agnes Bolt (and lets not forget Alfara’s vultures). In Unique Boutique Moulton explores the application of new age spirituality and alternative therapy on the anxieties of the modern age in a whimsical and colourful video. In Bolt’s, The Internet is Porn, ordinary electronic interactions, such as inserting a USB stick into your computer, are sexualised through simple editing techniques; the result is a brilliantly humorous and clever piece which comments on our perverse connection with technology. Also worth noting was Knott’s own piece Countess Calypso, which was both beautiful and tragic.

On the whole there were many great videos, but also many question marks. It is the nature of video art to be obscure and elusive, but perhaps the programme would benefit from a unifying theme which would make the videos more accessible. The great variety of the selection means that there is no point of reference to interpret them from and it is often difficult to understand what’s going on. On the other hand, the beauty of the programme is that there is something for everyone’s taste.

The evening was full of surprises, most notably in the performance piece by Carlos Maria Romero. What started off as a cool choreography and light show, turned into an aggressive game of power and seduction with the audience. In his unsettling performance the artist challenged norms of society and sexuality, invading the viewers’ personal space and crossing boundaries of intimacy.

The food was abundant, delicious, and accompanied by a steady flow of good wine and cava. The highly original menu, designed and created by chef Sergi de Meià, was inspired by traditional Catalan food and was made with all organic ingredients, including a wide variety of herbs, spices, and even flowers. The courses were delicately presented and full of unusual flavours, the fragrant molten chocolate desert was sublime, a perfect way to end the night.

The high standard of art and food as well as the flawless audio and visual quality made for a very memorable night. Though at times overwhelming and even unpleasant, it is absolutelyworth a few moments of discomfort. Monkey Town 5 is a unique experience, don’t miss it! It’s in town for only a few more weeks, so book your tickets now.