If you can't walk into a nightclub or gallery these days without wondering where to cast your eyes, when to prick up your ears or in which direction to turn your head, don't blame Levi McConnell. He didn't invent the concept of sensory overload as entertainment; he merely helped to popularize it.
Last February, disc-spinner McConnell and his comrades at WPRK-FM (91.5) threw Insta-Grow on the emerging trend by sponsoring the first "Zalut!" night at the Kit Kat Club. A confluence of visual art, video and experimental music, the well-publicized gathering attracted almost 500 spectators.
"I think it definitely had an impact," McConnell says. "It showed that Orlando would come out and represent for an event like this."
The 2001 model, which he'll unveil at Kit Kat next Thursday, Feb. 1, is "everything we wanted to do last year and didn't get to do," McConnell explains. (Some people are never satisfied.) Headlined by emerging hip-hop phenom Beef Wellington, the evening also offers sounds by local and national DJs, including Levi himself and New York City turntablist Painstaker, who appeared last year as Rubadub. Ex-members of Numb Right Thumb and Obliterati will coalesce under the name The Ray Yeller Zero. The entire spectacle will kick off the 24-hour streaming of WPRK's broadcasts to Nibblebox.
Many of the evening's musical performances will boast video accompaniment; hip-hop jock System D128 in particular augments his mixes with self-generated visuals. Continuous video installations will be the moving component of a "bigger and better" art show whose stationary portion focuses on local adepts. The figural forms of Jecie Bradbury and the digital, robotic shapes of Aerolex highlight an assemblage curated by Bill Gallagher, this time toiling under the alter ego Willy Gee. ("I have no idea why he's 'going underground' for this event," McConnell laughs.) Fashion shows and on-site hairstyling complete the eclectic itinerary.
The following night at the Gallery at Avalon Island, however, Zalut! becomes an art-based concern, as a reception inaugurates a monthlong exhibit of works by national contributors. The representation of the late avant-gardist Candy Jernigan is a first for Orlando, but also noteworthy is the participation of Mear One and David Choe, California artists with backgrounds in graffiti. (They'll be on hand to sign books and meet the public, as will New York photographer Todd Boebel.)
Graffiti, hairstyles, hip-hop ... it's all fair game for McConnell, whose life and work are marked by diversity. In addition to his DJ duties, he's a filmmaker whose short subjects were shown during the 1998 and 2000 editions of the Brouhaha Film & Video Showcase at Maitland's Enzian Theater. He's an iconoclast in another respect as well: Of all the Orlando artistes and show-biz types I've spoken to recently, he's practically the only one who hasn't announced plans to relocate to L.A.
He's moving to Manhattan instead.
In April, McConnell will pack up his faders and lenses and give the Big Apple a run for its multimedia money. He'll be back from time to time, though, to oversee events like the one he's plotting for next year -- an undertaking envisaged as occupying "the entire Wall Street Plaza area." Having been around the block twice, he has nothing left to do but own it.
When the Zalut! exhibit's run ends Feb. 27, the upstairs gallery at Avalon Island will be clear for the arrival of Trilemma Productions, which will stage a production of Roger Rueff's "Hospitality Suite" there beginning March 15. Its less-than-perfect working relationship with the Orlando Science Center now at an end, Trilemma has landed in the lap of Avalon owner Ford Kiene, who's working to make the space suitable for performances. (Rectifying the lack of dressing rooms is a major priority.)
Kiene isn't stopping there: He's also dropping hints about a "state-of-the-art" theater facility he and his people are planning for downtown Orlando sometime in the future. Does he know where it'll be located? Yep. Do I? Not yet.
A more immediate development on the downtown performance front is the impending opening of the Exchange Theatre, a 90-seat space in the Church Street Exchange. Its creative mistress is Jeanie Linders, the founder/manager of the ArtsMall gallery in the old Winter Park Mall. Again an Orlando resident after sojourns to Arkansas and North Carolina, Linders is taking advantage of the Exchange's up-in-the-air economics by renting the space on a month-by-month basis. But her residency, she clarifies, is guaranteed for the March-through-May run of "Menopause: The Musical," a self-written, "funnier than hell" cabaret show that uses song parodies to send up the fabled change of life.
"There's nothing in bad taste about it at all," Linders says, moments after mentioning a "short vibrator medley."
Linders'gain is the Orlando International Fringe Festival's loss: Her Exchange occupancy means that a venue must be scratched from the Fringe's wish list. "I was hoping to be able to work with them and market with them," she says. "We could be a real good support for each other."
Members to remember
While Linders pours on the sauciness, art guru Victor Perez is pulling out the stops to make this year's edition of his annual "Nude Nite" gala something to behold. Scheduled for Feb. 22 through 24 in the makeshift gallery above NYPD Pizza, Nude Nite 2001 will feature figural studies by 70 artists, plus black-light performances, body presses, webcam video on nudenite, live painting of nude models and an actual naked DJ. (If that's the new yardstick for credibility, Levi McConnell is leaving town just in time.)
The show's original early-February date was pushed back when a planned road trip to New Orleans fell through. According to Perez, the Big Easy's Contemporary Art Center reneged on its agreement to host a touring version of the event ("We got worked, basically") by throwing up sudden obstacles like a $4-per-person "corking fee" for wine service. "Nude Nite" will make it to New Orleans sometime in August, Perez foresees. But for now, the balls are in our court.
And I'm off to confession.