For most of Buffalo’s midsized arts organizations, the black-tie fundraiser is a thing of the past.
In its place, groups like Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, Buffalo Arts Studio and Squeaky Wheel have produced and perfected a new and much more entertaining spectacle: the unhinged, all-night art party. These dizzying, increasingly popular affairs dispense with the old formal notions – no champagne, no caviar, no problem – and instead try to amplify the anything-can-happen spirit of an artsy house party to mammoth proportions.
One of the most popular of these is “Peepshow,” the bizarre biennial bacchanal organized by Squeaky Wheel, the plucky and ever-evolving media arts center dedicated to providing all the community with free or low-cost access to cameras, computers and other technology along with instruction on how to use it.
Squeaky Wheel’s latest party, “Peepshow: Hot Mess,” gets started at 6 p.m. Saturday in the Dnipro Ukrainian Cultural Center on Genesee Street, which also hosted its last incarnation in 2011.
For Jax Deluca, the young artist, musician and curator who took over as executive director of Squeaky Wheel last June after the departure of former director Dorothea Braemer, Peepshow has become an indispensable driver of Squeaky Wheel’s community-minded mission.
“The whole theory is, the more money we raise during this fun and exciting and adventurous night the more we’re able to keep the price of all our services and workshops at an incredibly low to no cost to people in the community,” Deluca said. “It kind of takes away that barrier for people to participate in our programs.”
In a technological landscape that seems to change by the day, Squeaky Wheel’s video, computer and arts workshops and programs are always evolving to keep pace. As the spread of technology accelerates, camera-phones make their way into the pockets of more and more citizens and digital literacy becomes increasingly important, Deluca hopes to grow Squeaky Wheel’s influence to fit the skyrocketing need.
“Access to technologies and these tools to make films, websites, animations, it’s so pervasive now,” Deluca said. “Everybody’s confronted with technology whether they like it or not, so we’re teaching them how to be a part of it, to use it and in a way that’s connecting ideas and connecting people.”
Enter Squeaky Wheel’s “Hot Mess,” a thoroughly unpredictable and often tongue-in-cheek compendium of art projects and installations almost too eclectic to describe.
Among the installations on view in the Dnipro Center will be an enormous, functioning volcano – a bit like a science fair project blown far out of proportion – constructed by Rachel Stover and J. Garrett Vorreuter. There will be a “Trash Pit” full of plastic balls, crocheted food remnants and rats made out of felt, in which tipsy revelers will be invited to cavort. There will be a table and chair inexplicably suspended from the ceiling of a room while a video of an underwater house plays on the wall, part of an installation by artist Michael Bosworth.
Four bands will perform throughout the evening: Koolie High, Mallwalkers, Cinnamon Aluminum and Obskyrua. And the event will also feature performances by Debora and Jason Bernagozzi, Patrick Cain and Amanda Nicole Schmidt, as well as several local dance troupes.
Among a few other interactive curiosities, ranging from the purely madcap to the obliquely serious, are: a project by photographer Nancy Parisi, who will paste photos of visitors onto hot sauce bottles; an installation in which visitors can choose homemade costumes for Nelson Bradley and Jody Hanson’s “Modern Barbie” projection; and Jeff Maciejewski’s “Last Century’s Hot Mess,” a reconstruction of an old-fashioned automobile shrouded in fog-machine smog “that would make Beijing look hospitable.”
And as wacky as all that may sound, it’s all in the service of a practical goal:
“We’re going to be doing strategic planning soon and revamping our mission, because it isn’t just about artists anymore, it’s about teaching everyone that they can be part of this movement,” Deluca said. “We’re working toward making technology less intimidating for people.”
What: Peepshow: Hot Mess
When: Preparty at 6 p.m. Saturday; general admission at 8
Where: Dnipro Ukrainian Cultural Center, 562 Genesee St.
Tickets: $50 for preparty; $15 to $20 for general admission
Info: 884-7172 or www.squeaky.org.