It’s 5:30 on a Friday night, and my boyfriend and I’ve just checked into The Standard, Downtown LA for an event that’s supposed to last an entire 24 hours. “27 hours, actually,” the Standard event manager corrects me. “The reception starts at 8:00 tonight and the last experience ends tomorrow at 11:00pm.” My brain reflexively does the math: that’s, like, only the equivalent of watching Titanic 9 times in a row. This thought soothes me; I can do this. All I know about 24hr Free 4 All, the event I’m covering, I’ve gleaned from the Facebook event page. “Nine unique artists’ installations rotating over a 24-hour period with new experiences every 3 hours,” the page promises. Knowing nothing more, we make our way up to the room that is to be our home for the next 9 Titanics.
We make our way to the foyer for the reception. As the DJ [KashHoney] begins her Drake-filled set in the center of the room, I introduce myself to the wonderful woman running the installation, Lisa Solberg, whose hair is adorned in ribbon twisted to resemble bunny ears. She quickly and excitedly fills me in on 24HR PSYCHIC, the gallery she runs in the Arts District, and the specifics for the event: for 3-hour blocks of time, different artists will be occupying Room 1111 with the aim of transforming the familiar hotel room setting into a completely unexpected environment. That succinct rundown out of the way, I’m swiftly presented with an exotic cocktail containing, amongst many other fine ingredients, prickly pear. Who can say no to prickly pear? The night is headed in the right direction. [Editor's note: Penelope Gil featured her experimental video The Artist is the Medium.]
“I AM ZOLTAR,” the man announces while holding the door ajar, his eyes traced with black eyeliner. Promising to reveal our true spirit animal in addition to general astrological guidance, he draws us into the room. After a series of questions (“What are you thinking about right now? Rihanna, right?”) and provocations (“I want you think something negative about me.”) he decides that my boyfriend and I are a crocodile and a bat, respectively. Somehow feels right. As a parting gift, he issues us each a folded piece of paper, taped shut. “These,” he proclaims with the authority of a man who knows something I don’t, “are your emergency horoscopes. Open only in case of emergency.” We open them as soon as we leave room.
A trio of extremely flexible dancers dressed like Fanmail-era TLC at an Anything But Clothes party has taken up residence in the center of the foyer, mesmerizing the crowd with their routine and overall flawlessness. Is there such a thing as a reverse twerk? I don’t know how else to describe what I’m watching. When the performance ends, I make my way over to one of the girls, who introduces herself as Aeon. She’s a former cook turned stripper who loves to dance and describes her aesthetic as “creepy crawly.” I think I’m in love with Aeon?
The party is in full swing as special guest Tommy Genesis begins her performance. Dressed in a crop top emblazoned with the word “HEROIN” and an incongruous pleated schoolgirl-style skirt, Genesis immediately commands the room’s attention. The adorable appearance deliberately belies her aggressive rapping (sample song title: “Execute”), and she excitedly hops back and forth across the chaise lounges while the crowd mouths along. Damn, girl.
A violinist joins in and the room starts to feel like the physical embodiment of a Belleruth Naparstek guided meditation audiotape. All of sudden, I’m standing on the most beautiful beach on the lushest tropical island surrounded by people who love me most. This extremely cozy fantasy lasts for the duration of the performance, about half an hour. On the way out of the room, Our Woman Of The Quartz Bowls offers the crowd cups of (non-hallucinogenic) mushroom-based tea. I accept the tea. 8.333 (approx.) Titanics left. [Editor's note: This installation featured Kassia Meador, Shanee Pink, and Paz Lenchantin.]
I’m outside Room 1111 with 6 other people, waiting my turn to enter the latest installation. Every 5 minutes or so, an expressionless woman dressed in all white opens the door and ushers the next person, dryly intoning “He will see you now,” each time. The blinking light of the 24HR PSYCHIC sign serves the dual purpose of setting the mood and keeping me from falling asleep at I sit. A party of three women joins the wait just before it’s my turn to enter the room. Is one of them Aeon? Am I going crazy? No—it is Aeon, and she introduces me to her mom and sister. 6 hours into my crush on Aeon and I’m already meeting her family. Things move quickly after midnight at The Standard.
I bid farewell as I am told to enter 1111, seating myself at a small table across from a tall, bearded man, also dressed in all white. “I’m going to make a prediction about you through a process called logotherapy. Do you mind if I record this?” the man whispers, his voice obviously hoarse from almost two hours of issuing predictions. After I consent, he asks me to look at a series of geometric shapes and tell him what I see. With each answer, he marks a sheet of paper with a pen. After a few shapes, he writes down a prediction on the paper and hands it to his female assistant, which she gives me as I exit. “No cargo shorts on Tuesday,” the prediction warns. Simple, elegant, and impossible to argue with. [Editor's note: This installation featured Jon Hartman of Wunder Werkz.]
Lisa Solberg is back in the lobby, and offers a cup of coffee to wake me up for the next experience, which she promises I’ll love. To my surprise, the coffee, like the tea from 2.167 Titanics ago, is also mushroom-based. It’s kind of like a caffeinated mushroom soup with milk in it, but in a good way? I’m tired. Words fail. Next thing I know, I’m back in the hallway outside 1111 with 4 girls.
We are asked to blindfold ourselves, and are then escorted into the hotel room one by one. The strong scent of eucalyptus oil tips me off that I am either in a simulation of my dermatologist’s office or a spa. I am praying for the latter. A woman calmly lays me on the floor, instructing me to keep my arms outstretched and my legs both bent and open. A series of extremely relaxing sensory exercises involving tuning forks (!), stretches, trust falls, and even a dip in the bathtub ensue. When we’re finally asked to remove our blindfolds, I’m so comfortable I can barely bring myself to move. [Editor's note: This installation featured Vivian Ngyuen of Evoke Yoga.]
Back in the foyer, I’m issued a paper emblazoned with the next artist's mission statement: “Come in through our door and experience the altered state of deprivation of what seems to be NORMAL.” My boyfriend’s been asleep for the past 8 hours, so I can’t rely on him for strength. With nothing but 3 hours of sleep and a cup of mushroom coffee to keep me going, I innocently open the door to Room 1111.
There’s a bloody knife on the bathroom floor. Oh God. Blood stains all over the tile. My nightmares have come true. A scary clown is about to touch me. Except it’s not a scary clown, but a shirtless man in a butchers bib holding another bloody knife. And a dead girl in the bathtub. I start giggling to calm my nerves when the apparently no-longer-dead girl abruptly splashes to life in the tub.
“DO YOU WANT TO EAT…WABBIT?” she inquires manically. “Go… gogogo eat the wabbit!” I’m at a loss as the shirtless butcher ushers me into the bedroom, where another man is manning some kind of grill. “Would you like to eat some rabbit?” he asks as he holds out a platter of suspiciously wet-looking meat skewers. I hesitantly grab one and put the meat into my mouth. Wet and chewy. Not like meat I’ve ever had before. The cook watches my face as I chew, finally explaining, “It’s not actually rabbit. It’s mushroom! This is a vegan statement.” The last remnants of the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Rabbit mushroom slide down my throat and I exhale a sigh of relief. No clowns, no rabbits, just vegans and mushrooms. I stumble out of the room wondering what I’ve just witnessed. [Editor's note: This installation featured Sarkis Vartanian of Daily Dose.]
Blindfolded Again!: The Musical! I wrap yet another strip of cloth around my eyes. I’ve thankfully managed to convince my boyfriend to join me in this experience, and we’re told to hold hands as we haltingly walk into the bathroom of 1111.
Per another soft-voiced woman’s instruction, we dip our feet into the bath as she offers us chocolates and tickles our cheeks with a feather. Eventually, she pulls me from the tub and leads me to the bed where I lie down. After a few minutes of complete silence, music slowly starts to bleed in from a speaker system somewhere in the room. At first, it’s just wind chimes and other earthy instruments, but then it transforms into something more melodic, complete with an impressive violin and cello. When the woman begins to sing, I realize that this installation actually is Blindfolded Again!: The Musical! When the song, which lasts for 10 minutes, comes to an end, I remove my blindfold to discover that the woman, who tells us her name is Haana, was actually playing all of the instruments the whole time. I fight the urge to clap, not wanting to kill the mood.
I’m in the last stretch of my tenure at The Standard. My boyfriend’s abandoned me for a haircut appointment across town, so I’m alone as I ascend to the 11th floor for the second to last time.
Room 1111 has been transformed into an artist’s working space; irreverent portraits of Bart Simpson, Mickey Mouse, and pretty much any ’90s icon you can imagine hang from the walls and cover every surface. The artist himself, Kristofferson San Pablo, introduces himself from behind a curtain separating the bed room from the bathroom. He invites me into his makeshift studio, i.e., the bathroom, where he shows me a binder full of exquisitely detailed color pencil drawings of people taking nude selfies. The devil on my shoulder yells, “COMMISSION ONE!” while the angel sings sweetly about the importance of modesty. I leave the room empty handed.
I’m seated at the bar inside 24/7 Restaurant attached to the hotel sipping a beer and contemplating the last 8 Titanics of my life. Each installation of 24Hr Free 4 All has been a riot in its own way, and I’m sad for the experience to come to an end. My beer finished, I join a group for my final foray into Room 1111 for an installation promisingly titled COCODISCO.
A piece of glitter sparkles sensually at me from the cotton swab I’ve just used to clean my ear. 24HR PSYCHIC may be with me for the rest of my life.