TIO Denver: Monkey Town 4, Dinner Theatre 2.0

Here’s a good one for Jeopardy or the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle: What is the name of the person who invented video art?


Art historians universally credit Korean-born Nam June Paik, who was married to another video artist, Shigeko Kubota, in the heyday of drugs, sex, and rock ‘n roll, the 1960s. And the couple’s unruly progeny are now strutting their stuff all over the world – including at a unique event now taking place in Denver.

Monkey Town 4, outside of floating cube, inside ExDO

Monkey Town 4, outside of floating cube, inside ExDO

Monkey Town is the first ever experimental immersive film and food experience. And a night to remember.

Dinner theatre with a twist? Cultural watershed? Yes to both? Decide for yourself when you attend this mashup of cinema – 18 extraordinary artists and filmmakers are featured – music, and fabulous eats – adventurous menus from The Populist, City O’ City Watercourse Foods and Noble Swine – now in a limited engagement (through June 1) in Denver’s RiNo Art District, 3545 Larimer Street.

Monkey Town, interior of cube

If you are of a certain age and an immigrant to the Internet, Monkey Town offers a peek through the looking glass at what amounts to a revolution in animation, visual arts, and motion graphics. It is a whole other aesthetic (but thankfully not another “ism”) whose special effects are second nature to a generation born into digital technology.

From Monkey Town, Will Rahilly, “The Fertile Swipe"

From Monkey Town, Will Rahilly, “The Fertile Swipe”

The happening at ExDo captures some of the leading voices of this brave new world, who seduce through some alchemy grounded in art history, but propelled by hyperactive imaginations and technical virtuosity. Often the narrative thread in the work disappears and images become increasingly wild and frenetic. Some are disturbing; some, laugh-out-loud funny. Think Picasso on acid painting with a mouse.

If you have a pulse, you cannot be indifferent to Monkey Town. With an open mind, you will be educated. You should be also amazed and amused.

Chris Coleman, "METRO: Re/De-Construction"

Chris Coleman, “METRO: Re/De-Construction”

We certainly were.

Monkey Town in the rear view mirror:

Monkey Town 4, Milton Melvin Croissant II, “Death After Life"

Monkey Town 4, Milton Melvin Croissant II, “Death After Life”

Monkey Town is the brainchild of video artist Montgomery Knott.

“Monkey Town,” he explains,”started on an airplane with a delirious sketch on a cocktail napkin and a desire to create an experience that would bring together my love of film and video with adventures in food – and to share all that my friends. Over the years, the idea blossomed into something way beyond my original vision. Now it’s great to bring the experience to Denver, where I grew up.”

Montgomery Knott, courtesy of Getty Images

Montgomery Knott, courtesy of Getty Images

The original Monkey Town ran from May, 2003 – December, 2004. The performance space was located in a private loft in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The emphasis was then as now on the video art of dozens of emerging artists still flying under the radar. There was also live music. And the set up was the same as today: four large screens surrounding the guests and food. There were 99 performances in all over 19 months.

The second Monkey Town, which ran from October 2005 – January 2010, was also located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Open nightly for four years and four months, a front dining room and bar were added, while the back dining room continued the original layout — four screens; communal seating; surround sound; and a capacity of 50. A full menu was available every night. The back space showcased video art, short and feature-length films and documentaries;  live music, dance, and other performance art.

In the summer of 2013, Monkey Town 3 was reborn at the Eyebeam in the heart of Manhattan’s gallery district. Over 60 days, 3000 people attended a video program comprised of 23 filmmakers and performers.

With the success of the third incarnation, the path was set for Monkey Town 4 in Denver.


The Denver event reconstructs the original and still unprecedented cinema-in-the-round format: a seamless floating cube of four massive projection screens, with 4.1 surround sound. The fourth edition features a single curated film and video program that replays every night for 90 days, including almost all multi-channel works curated by Montgomery, with assistance from MCA Denver, the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, and Denver’s most innovative gallery owner, Ivar Zeile of PLUS.

Ivar Zeile of PLUS  Gallery & Denver Digerati

Ivar Zeile of PLUS Gallery & Denver Digerati

Before Monkey Town, Ivar created the breakthrough public art project, Denver Digerati, which cycles motion-based art content in downtown Denver. He also represents some of the best artists in the show: Chris Coleman, whose “METRO:Re/De-construction” was commissioned for Monkey Town 4; Alex McCloud, who created “Fallen Land”; Laleh Mehran,“The Xerces Society”; and Milton Melvin Croissant III, “Dealth After Life,” all highlights of an evening featuring the ambitious projects of emerging art world luminaries.

Monkey Town offers two shows per night, 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., Tuesdays  – Sundays during its run, again through June 1.

Capacity: Up to 32 kindred souls.

Find more information and purchase tickets: $50 – $80, Tuesday – Sundays, here .

A preview of what’s in store:

MT4 Trailer | Denver from Montgomery Knott on Vimeo.


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