Exploring the city, I attended an event during fashion week called 29 Rooms. Billed as an art exhibit, 29 Rooms showcased 29 artists, each with a small room to create an instillation in. At least that is the impression I got from my source. I was mislead.
The line outside of the “abandoned warehouse” curved around the block, creating the perfect visual of exclusivity. We moved quickly, though, and models in paint-splattered jumpsuits hardly glanced at me or my ticket as I headed through the doors and past the free Kind Bar table. The entire event was defined by long, slow lines, though I hadn’t realized that yet when I parted the hanging wall of plastic flowers that housed a perfume advertisement “installation.” The paint-splattered models weren’t effective bouncers, so I was allowed to cut that line without protest. Inside, 20-year-olds in the inevitable wide brimmed hat posed adorably in front of humongous fake peonies. I was to find this in each of the 29 rooms: an Instagram paradise of picture-perfect backdrops. Without a hat or a companion, I was ill-prepared.
I soon became tired of the farce. It was clear that 29 Rooms was all about getting cute “influencers”-types to post free endorsements for 29 different products on their social media accounts. Casper, Juicy Couture, and Dunkin’ Donuts are among the advertisers. Planned Parenthood and the Women’s March were some of the activist partners that were featured. It was more than comical to me that these kids were willing to 1) pay to create free corporate advertising and to 2) wait for the privilege to do so. In fact, it was depressing. I left after half an hour, overwhelmed by the grime of having been used
I walked past blocks of littered Refinary 29 Haägen Dazs sample cups before I felt free of the cloying grasp of the event. On the Williamsberg waterfront, where a few Brown nannies tended to their white wards, I noticed a cookie crumbling on top of a broken traffic light. A smear of ketchup decorated a nearby lamppost. I wrote in my journal,
“Nothing in that refinery 29 exhibit was as beautiful or impressive as the foam popping effervescence in the greenish brown water. An oblong shadow of a ferry boat and the sun-rays sucked sucked underneath.”
I’m all for social media. But I hate to see people giving themselves away to corporate advertising. Some good things really are free: Don’t let yourself be tricked into being one of them!