RIOT, a Radical Queer Pride Fantasy
A conversation with Dream Dommu and Paul Leopold of The Culture Whore about new currents in Brooklyn’s queer community and nightlife.
For many queers, Pride weekend is when you huddle together with your closest friends and complain about what a corporate pink-washing this spectacle has become. The irony of that what started with a riot in 1969 has led to a multinational sponsor-fest in 2014 has not been lost on everyone. Brooklyn artist and event producers Paul Leopold, Dream Dommu, and David Sokolowski decided to do something different this Pride week. Tonight, they are hosting an alternative Pride party called RIOT, a Radical Queer Pride Fantasy at the Ivy House in Brooklyn. We met up at “bARTsch” to talk about tonight's party, the Brooklyn queer scene, and their creative careers.
Yesterday, a few hundred New Yorkers gathered at the Hotel Chelsea Storefront Gallery in Manhattan for Susanne Bartsch’s one-night group exhibition “bARTsch INSPIRATION.” A nightlife legend since the 1980s who played a big role in shaping the culture and ushered many local artists to success, Bartsch has never been afraid to try something new.
The exhibition, which traversed boundaries of gender, bodies, spectatorship, pain and pleasure, the beautiful and the mundane, aspired to be inclusive and transformative beyond some trite assertion of “normalcy.” Unlike the Pride parade, which has been overtaken by corporate sponsors, this was an off-the-grid Pride week event where the audience was part of the exhibition — and played their part with reverence. While I was there I had a chance to chat with Paul and Dream, co-directors of The Culture Whore — the art collective responsible for RIOT and “living magazine” of queer culture and nightlife.
They were high school classmates in West Palm Beach, FL — “God’s waiting room – it’s surrounded by old people,” Dream explains. “We reconnected [in NYC] over the fact that we were hanging out with a lot of straight people,“ Paul continues, “and we didn’t have a lot of gay friends. We went on a mission to find the queer community together.”
They found it, and soon also David Sokolowski, who was brought on as one of the co-producers for RIOT. David is a DJ and event producer who hosts Hot Fruit at Metropolitan Bar every Monday, and was recently recognized as “Promoter of the Year” at the Brooklyn Nightlife Awards.
PAUL “David DJs all of our parties and performs at a lot of them, and he’s one of our best friends. For this particular event, we wanted to bring him in as a co-producer—to make it bigger, and to combine forces.”
The three of them are some of the most active voices in bringing visibility to Brooklyn’s vibrant queer community. I wanted to know how they got started.
DREAM “The Culture Whore started out as a blog. But because of the things we were doing and the things we were interested in, it transitioned into a way of ‘physicalizing’ the community we were a part of. Being part of our community can seem daunting; it can be hard to find an access point. That is what we exist to change. So The Culture Whore has evolved into an art collective and a ‘living magazine’ —it exists in the real world and everything that exists on the internet is a way for people to get involved in what we’re doing in the real world.”