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Mercer Union's New Year's Eve Party Review

Happy New Year everybody.

I, like many, have been hungover today, because I went to the Mercer Union "Dirtier New Year's Eve Party" last night, the poster for which featured two humping bunnies outside a car wash. Which was apt.

Last year Mercer Union went out a limb and held this party at Studio 99 as a fundraiser. They called it the "Dirty New Year's Eve Party" then. I say 'out on a limb' because they weren't really sure how successful it would be, and they were going to invest a lot into it. Well, it turned out really well and the gallery made a killing, although there was nothing dirty about it. This year seemed much more successful. At 6am last year, the light's went up and the place was pretty sparse, with the usual crowd of people such as myself who stay up until there's nothing left to do (i.e my friends). This year, 6am came and there was still a crowd dancing.

Now let's get back to the humping bunnies, because I want to tell this story. First, if you haven't seen the poster, it's two folk in bunny suits simulating a rear entry, or, as it could be called, "a backward hug". It's certainly more cutesy than erotic, but I guess that's because of the fur. It's very apt because it's a bit of an inside joke. It refers to how much dry humping has been happening at art parties this past year, all because of Instant Coffee.

Like I said in my year in review, the Instant Coffee make-out parties began in November 03 in collaboration with Darren O'Donnell, a local playwright who's interested in sociality, and the different ways strangers can interact. He's been following a line of research over the past few years that basically involves getting strangers to meet one another and talk and whatever ... and it's always some example of friendliness that emerges. So anyway, the make-out parties was another example of the folk going out on a limb ... as a member of Instant Coffee at the time, I can say that we weren't really sure if it was going to work, or if it was going to make everything awkward. What ended up happening was that couples were more than willing to get it on in Emily Hogg's 'make out fort'.

Emily is an architect, and as I understand it, she began re-doing the couch forts that we're probably all built as kids with blankets and cushions while she was still studying architecture. So Emily's fort wasn't considered gimmicky as much as we saw it as an art/architecture project. The thing with Instant Coffee is that you become a collective member through collaborating with them, so over the past year, Darren and Emily became members.

At the same time, Instant Coffee formed a relationship with Hive magazine, because Hive's publisher really liked them/us and wanted to promote what I.C. was doing. So at magazine launches, I.C. was involved in helping to throw the party. Jinhan Ko, one of the collective's founding members, had a old camping trailer that was known as "the Urban Disco Trailer" and over the past several years, went through various manifestations of what I think we can safely call pimping. I.C. pimped that ride over and over again. But since Jin moved to Vancouver last the summer, I hear the trailer's in storage somewhere. So basically, the trailer became a make-out venue last spring, and by June they had installed the 'bass bed' which I think had sub-woofers built into the frame, but by that time I was no longer working with I.C. so I'm spotty on specifics. As I said in my year in review, I have fond memories of slow kisses at 4 in the morning at the Hive launch, which all happened in the trailer. My favorite kiss that night came when I walked into the trailer looking for my friend, and I was suddenly pulled into a very sweet make-out session. In the morning's early hours, the trailer became a socially liminal space where being there meant you were only there for one reason.

Well, with the trailer out of the picture, and with Instant Coffee's relationship with Mercer Union (which I know I haven't clarified, but basically the whole art scene here and anywhere is incestuous, and I'll tell that story some other time) it made sense that I.C. would have a presence at Mercer Union's party. With the trailer out of the picture, the bass bed was re-invented and installed against a wall of the dance floor, and, as Mercer's co-director Dave Dyment wrote in a last minute reminder/promotion email yesterday, "The Instant Coffee Make Out Bass Bed is a 12 foot by 12 foot bed with sub-woofers built into the frame, connected to the soundsystem. It's gonna be incredible." Standing on the platform next to the bed, you could really feel the sub-woofers, but the effect didn't really carry over on the bed, as the mattress cushioned the effect. Nevertheless, this was designated make-out space.

Early on, to get the action started, there was lazy-susan in the middle of the mattress with a bottle on it, and I ended up having to kiss Darren. Because I'm straight this was my most awkward kiss of the whole night. But, this night is memorable for me because I sat down around 5 and started chatting with this girl next to me, and I asked, "We're sitting on the bass bed, does that mean I should kiss you?" And she said, "Yes," and so I began to make out with the pretty brunette for a good while. That was totally the highlight of my night.

I can't say how much I love the fact that just by being in a certain spot means that everything is straightforward with no guessing game and risk of misinterpretation. It also becomes this way for couples to stray in a totally legitimate way. Playing spin the bottle, I kissed a girl who was engaged.

Like the first make-out party, in which lots of couples took the opportunity for public displays of affection, which did include lots of dryhumping, the make-out spaces become a venue for couples to make out, kiss other people, and for strangers to meet and kiss.

So, unlike last year, in which the moniker "dirty new year's eve party" was simply rhetorical, this year it was aptly called 'dirtier' and the humping bunnies made lots of sense. I left shortly after 6, but it probably went on for another hour. So far I've had an memorable 2005, and if they do it again next year, that's what I'll mark on my calendar.


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