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Cultural Capital

The Intima Trades Raves for Performance Art in Ridgewood

Opening night at the new Queens performance art space featured "62 Years" with sexologist Hattie Weiner and Intima's "mother" Joni.

Hattie Wiener performs in “62 Years” at The Intima. (Hell Gate)

Since 2022, the dance music collective Intima has been throwing rave-y parties with glitchy and gothic techno music that promotes trans performers. This month, the group has gone a step further, opening their own space in Ridgewood, "The Intima," which is down the street from metal and hardcore bar TV-Eye. The idea of the space is to showcase performance art and, the founders have stressed, it's not a club.

Joni, a performance artist and DJ who told me she is Intima's "mother," said that the space will mainly be "for performance, though we’ll also have exhibitions, poetry nights and sound based works as well."

The idea behind the space was to have people come into close contact with performance art. 

"My vision was creating a space that allows artists to create new works that are actually challenging and raw, and be able to share them intimately."

On October 6, Joni's own performance piece, "62 Years," was the first piece performed at The Intima, which right now is a dusty cave of metal, brick and wood. On arrival, a staffer took donations and checked tickets, and told guests that during the performance, they could walk around, but to avoid the center of the room. In the center was what looked like a fold-out futon with a big white sheet draped over it, where the elderly sexologist Hattie Wiener sat, in a white negligé, with a white poof of hair on her head, and wearing sparkling, crystalline teardrop earrings, and silvery periwinkle eyeshadow and lipstick.

She wasn't trying hard to make eye contact, but every so often she would. When she saw me, I avoided her gaze, as did most of the Zoomer-heavy crowd. She looked around at them mingling with a distant smile. As the audience waited for the performance to start, Wiener shifted into various positions of repose. At some point an attendant retrieved a Celsius energy from a nearby shelf. Eventually, the outsider performance artist Crackhead Barney arrived, wearing a yellow and black mini skirt like Alicia Silverstone in "Clueless". Traipsing past the attendant, while calling "I'm with Joni," she was the only audience member to greet Wiener with a "hi! You look amazing." (She did it so enthusiastically I wondered if she was part of the piece). A speaker manned by friendly and fresh-faced sound engineers emitted ambient industrial creaks.

Eventually, Wiener's eyes darted to the top of a nearby rickety wooden staircase. Joni was strutting down it, wearing a thin, white garment that covered her torso. When she got to the bottom, she knelt before the older woman, and unhooked her bra to reveal her breasts. Wiener did the same. 

Hattie Wiener and Joni perform in "62 Years" at The Intima. (Hell Gate)

The performance that followed included Joni playing rudimentary chords and arpeggios on an out of tune upright piano by reaching into its exposed strings and plucking them with her fingers, which looked painful. The older woman watched with varying expressions—giggles, a flash of rage, despair, fear. Eventually, Joni began chasing Wiener with the piano, smashing keys discordantly while the audience lunged out of the way. She'd push it and push it in circles towards Wiener, who seemed unable to push it back. The older woman's face would change, but Joni remained expressionless, completely engrossed in her own actions. Later, after crawling over to the piano, Joni tipped it over, and then proceeded to bury Wiener in salt like a brisket, climbing on top of the speaker and handing strands of fabric to volunteers in the audience who formed a circle around her so that she looked like an all-white maypole.

After the performance concluded, Joni thanked Wiener, and Wiener addressed the crowd directly for the first time that night. "I despise aging," she told us, professing her love for the young generation that surrounded her. "I fell in love with you all, and your youth, and your sex, your expression." She shouted out her Onlyfans page.

"Intima is primarily a space dedicated to performance without the surrounding noise of business and all that shit that’s not directly related to the art," Joni told me later. "We’re inviting people into a world saturated with intimate interactions, and we hope to bring people’s innermost selves out. I think the space also reflects that. It's industrial and raw, and we’re keeping it that way. It's a space for art that doesn’t seek clinical sterility."

Of "62 Years," Joni told me that the piece is named for the age difference between herself and Wiener. "I first collaborated with Hattie on a performance piece a year and a half ago, and she became a really close friend of mine," she said. "I see myself in her freedom." 

Joni and Wiener are set to perform what Joni calls part II of "62 Years" at the space next Friday, October 27. Crackhead Barney will perform Crackhead Barney's Horror Show the night after.

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