The circus of old has returned, courtesy of The Bagavagabond Bohemian Circus, which is in residence for five monthly soirees at Venice’s epOxybOx gallery.
According to Bagavagabond spokesperson Eli Thomas: “The Bagavagabonds are an art gang collective made up of actors, musicians, artists, writers, comedians, filmmakers, rappers, and most importantly, friends. We were tired of dealing with the strains and confines of artistic expression in LA, so we organized and decided to do it for ourselves. Each event hovers around the ‘circus’ theme, but takes its own identity through the performances, art, antics, sounds and visuals that are offered.”
At the July 13 show, the epOxybOx parking lot was crowded with party animals enjoying free drinks and a band called 1921A. At first hearing, they sounded rather atonal but eventually proved themselves to be eclectic and tuneful if still rather strange.
Several artists had set up shop, showing their paintings and creating new ones on the spot. Artist Bill McEvoy added to a work in progress. “I knew it was going to be a circus theme,” explained McAvoy, “so I’m painting my concept of a clown.” It looked like a pink dragon with its mouth open until McAvoy added the clown hat.
Every so often, the audience would be directed to “turn to their left” to see the Freak Show Deluxe. In the first installment, emcee Tommy Gunn demonstrated his invulnerability by lying on a pile of broken glass and having an audience volunteer step on his head to drive his face further into the glass. This reporter was among those who examined the glass beforehand and can verify that it was for real. But Tommy Gunn rose to his feet to reveal not a scratch on his visage.
There was also a fellow in a top hat and frock coat who drew a very long paper banner out of his mouth after drinking a potion that “clears the intestines of parasites,” a young lady who stuck a balloon up her nose and drew it out of her mouth, and “Ghoulia,” who was tied into a straitjacket by audience members, with the addition of a chain and two padlocks around her body. Within a couple of minutes, she had wriggled her way out of the encumbrance.
Ghoulia told me that she learned her skills at the Coney Island Circus Sideshow School in New York, which was started so that young circus wannabees can learn the vanishing sideshow arts that were once passed from veteran carnies to younger performers. Later, Ghoulia was on stage again, this time hammering nails into her nose.
The evening continued with drinks, hot dogs, potato salad, chatting and alternating sets by 1921A and performances by the Freak Show and the BV Players (who also did wacky stunts like balancing bottles on their noses). Inside the gallery, some people studied the continuing exhibit of art from recycled materials and watched movies on TV monitors. There was also The Stilt Circus, people who danced on stilts while holding flaming torches, and a woman who walked on the blade of a machete.
But despite the “crowd appeal” of the daredevil performers, most people seemed to be relaxing, and some were even seriously looking at the art displays.
The Bagavagabond Bohemian Circus is holding three more events at epOxybOx, all benefits for For The Arts, on August 10, September 14 and October 12, by which time the Bagavagabonds will be just perfect for Halloween.