Some walked a mile through Bushwick’s industrial underbelly before crossing the Brooklyn-Queens border into Maspeth. Others exited outer borough taxis whose drivers looked hopelessly lost. Both groups converged at a gated three acre gravel lot tended by impeccably suited security guards. Their common destination: A 50,000 square foot factory made famous for building door frames in the 1950s. Within the hour nearly 1000 of them would fill this colossus of brick, steel and timber frame architecture. They hadn’t come for an emergency union meeting or an illegal warehouse rave. They had come to hear a lecture series.
Last Friday, April 25th The Lost Lectures made its New York City debut. The Lost Lectures is a London based series that hosts secret events featuring speakers and entertainers working in the arts and sciences. Think TED Talks with the élan of blogazine Hyperallergic, the evenings NYC sponsor. Previous Lost Lecture’s locations have found themselves in a lighthouse and an empty swimming pool. Friday’s event at the Knockdown Center, would see a diverse group of panelists and video artists coalesce around the theme of transition.
The first lecturer was Mark Abrahams, founder of the Ig Nobel Prize, a parody of its prestigious namesake that awards the most unusual or trivial innovators. Abrahams described a former Ig Noble winner who designed a machine that uses centrifugal force to facilitate child birth. Choire Sicha, founder of Gawker and The Awl, followed and posed the question, “Is the internet getting stupider?” He challenged the audience to think about whose interest they serve when they mindlessly share online content on social media.
New York-based photographer Barbara Nitke told the story behind American Ecstasy, a photo memoir documenting her work as a still photographer in the porn industry. She spoke candidly about finding herself in a hidden world that most people only experience as consumers. Calling attention to the double standard of a society which demands sex work, but shames sex workers, she showed stills “…from a movie that is dear to my heart. Deep Inside Oral Annie.”
The first performers of the evening were introduced by filmmaker Deidre Schoo. Her documentary, Flex Is Kings premiered last year at Tribeca Film Festival. Five dancers from the film demonstrated a style of street dancing known as “flexing”. The keynote speaker of the night was club fixture and transgender icon Amanda Lepore. After sharing the story of how she became “the most expensive body in the world” she sang “I Wanna Be Loved By You”. Dev Hynes of Blood Orange wrapped things up performing a musical and visual piece based on his experience with anxiety and synesthesia.
If Gotham learned anything from last Friday’s Lost Lectures debut, it’s that it is always worth finding yourself lost at a secret warehouse lecture in New York City.