Photo: Michael Loria
Photo: Michael Loria

Venus Is Venus Is Venus at Dupont Underground

For the uninitiated, Dupont Underground wasn’t hard to find. On September 16, I headed to Dupont Circle and look for the well-dressed crowd by the stairwell, then followed the music downstairs. The venue, an abandoned subterranean streetcar station, was cavernous. But for Fathom Concept‘s Experiment #4: Venus Is Venus Is Venus, the entire space was not needed.

At the foot of the stairs sat a sculpture of a pig from Floyd Roberts. The swine was made from what looked like recovered copper wires and plates. Further along, I saw several video installations, including one of cutouts of Venus floating as if animated by Monty Python’s Terry Gilliam. 

At the far end was the DJ’s setup. The night featured five different musicians, though it was NYC-based DJ Ella Darr’s music whom I followed down the stairs. Just before the DJ table was a performance installation from Maps Glover. Both decadent and primitive, and decidedly enigmatic, Glover’s overalls and bowl cut wig evoked images of a doll, and he looked as if he was trying to break out of his own installation. His partner could have been encouraging him or holding him back from leaving their sandbox out of which stuck a golden horse head, depending on when you glanced up.

“On the one hand, we saw very talented up-and-coming artists that had limited to no opportunities to showcase their works,” says Fathom Concept’s co-founder Kareem Malek. “And on the other hand, we were tired of the unidimensional nightlife options in DC – by unidimensional, I mean segregated and repetitive.”

Malek says this was the impetus for founding Fathom, a platform for creative projects in the city that got its start last November. The theme of Venus Is Venus Is Venus, says Malek, comes from Gertrude Stein’s “rose is a rose is a rose is a rose,” which most people take to mean that things are what they are. But in the instance of Venus, it could be taken to mean several things, whether a deity, desire or interstellar objects.

For one of the most captivating works featured, Venus was none of the above. Venus looked caught in a doily. Olivia Tripp Morrow’s video installation, Crochet, showed a nude female figure covered by a doily. The figure was writhing, as if in pain or struggling to get out. The figure was filmed on top of large mirror, so, taken together, the figure and its reflection looked like an animated vagina. 

Malek says The Experiment Series was inspired by art exhibitions he and his partners had been to in places like Rio and London. It’s a night designed to be unlike others in DC, an experiment for all involved. In fact, it didn’t feel like a night in the nation’s capital at all, but I also felt firmly here, almost as if this was how it should and could be with a little more breath.

Experiment #4 is expected to be the last experiment of the year, but check out www.fathomdc.com for upcoming events and more about the artists.

Dupont Underground: 19 Dupont Circle, NW, DC; www.dupontunderground.org

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Michael Loria

Michael Loria is a writer who focuses on art and music. For On Tap, his work includes a cover story on the Principal Conductor and Music Director of the National Symphony Orchestra, Gianandrea Noseda, for the December 2017 print edition, and features like his interviews with Carla Bruni and with Thievery Corporation. Collectively, he's penned more than 40 clips for the magazine.