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Inside “House Party,” a Party in a Suburban House in a Gallery in Brooklyn

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On Friday venerable Williamsburg gallery Pierogi unveiled the most ambitious project undertaken to date at its North 14th Street project space, “House Party,” an exhaustively detailed and fully functional suburban home — complete with working plumbing, air conditioning, and cable — built by artist Andrew Ohanesian inside The Boiler, a former industrial boiler.

Passing through the house’s sliding glass doors from the industrial chic gallery into a perfectly generic living room provoked a powerful sense of spatial dislocation, but that was beside the point; or, rather, it was in service of the social experience for which Ohanesian created the piece. The exhibition, after all, is titled “House Party,” not “Suburban House,” and the collective nostalgia trip taken by the few hundred people who participated in Friday’s consequences-free rager is integral to any understanding of Ohanesian’s project.

All the details, from the fully stocked fridge (complete with vodka in the freezer) and china-filled cabinets to the vacuum cleaner in the hallway closet and the issues of Playboy hidden under the bedroom mattress, conjured an idealized adolescent scenario drawn equally from lived experience, personal fantasy, and pop culture representations of house parties — one colleague, struggling for something to compare the raucous opening to, settled on the 1998 Seth Green- and Jennifer Love Hewitt-starring teen rom-com “Can’t Hardly Wait.” That might explain the DJ who spun pop and rap classics on the dining room table, the only feature inside the house that stretched the limits of verisimilitude. A mix CD would have been more period-appropriate. His selection, however, was right on the money with its mix of mid-90s to early-aughts party anthems.

Ohanesian’s goal, per the exhibition press release, was to transform the gallery into a new social setting, thereby “unlocking behavioral patterns and social cues usually reserved for a venue outside of the art gallery, such as an actual house party.” Sure enough, around 9pm — just two hours into an opening that was scheduled for 7-10pm but was still going strong when I left at 11:30pm — an emboldened guest at the art keg party pulled out a felt-tip marker and tagged the dining room ceiling, breaking the symbolic seal of gallery event decorum and setting off a series of interventions that saw the house thoroughly trashed, the contents of its cupboards eaten, smashed, or stolen, and its walls and their generic thrift store-caliber artworks — including a token Monet exhibition poster in the living room — tagged, drawn on, or otherwise appropriated. This was not the type of house party, in other words, that its beleaguered hosts will be able to clean up after before mom and dad get home, but it was nonetheless a resounding (and incredibly fun) success.

The aftermath of Andrew Ohanesian’s “House Party” remains on view at The Boiler through November 18.

— Benjamin Sutton

(Photos: top two courtesy the artist and Pierogi, bottom three by the author.)

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