The trees and sculptures melted together and seeped up out of the ground, reaching out over the top of the crowd like stalagmites and stalactites. The night sky acted like a black ceiling, trapping us in a wonderland of colors and sound. The wide-canopied trees and darkness (coupled with the passing of trailing colors painted on the bodies of party goers) made the garden of the Tiberino museum feel like a bioluminescent cave in some unpronounceable exotic locale. The plant covered wicker fence that made up the well-lit entrance lent to the feeling of passing into another world. I was beset by beautiful women who set to work painting mascara cat whiskers on my face before setting me free to travel up the river of madness.
It felt like passing into another dimension. It was some alternate reality where the ripples of time would drop you into an unfamiliar landscape as you waited for the wake to pick you back up and out of the swell. Ten seconds before I had been standing on a dark corner in West Philly, the only visual stimulation being the dim yellow light from a nearby Chinese restaurant. In the next moment I was standing amongst wood, metal, paint, and plants that formed and melded together over broken and uneven Belgian blocks and cobblestone bricks cut up by roots and time. The earth was revolting against the city and my footing felt unsure with each step. Those around me passed without noticing while I took small steps to avoid tripping. I was out of place. I was uncomfortable. I felt like a schoolboy who wandered into a place he knew he wasn’t supposed to be.
Those feelings began to evaporate with my first beer, which I chased with a vodka and lemonade. It was impossible to see from one end of the garden to the other. Despite it being a small space the statues and trees created a maze of steps and flower-lined walkways to navigate. I couldn’t tell if I was walking in circles, squares, or some kind of trapezoid. Had I seen this spot before? Had I seen that person? I was marking my journey by identifying the body paint that everyone was covered in from head to toe, like some sort of Cherokee dog soldiers slathered in the UV activated blood of aliens from an early 20th century science fiction novel. I was at a dance party on Mars as Edgar Burroughs would have written it.
The DJs towered atop the crowd in a vine-covered tree fort like great leaders before their armies. They did not use words, but rather beats per minute, to whip the painted crowd into a frenzy. Their war was against normalcy. Their fight was noble, their intentions bold. Clothing was optional and the low rumbling mumble of a didgeridoo from behind some bush permeated my subconscious. I felt my mind slipping, I felt the world opening up. The garden was becoming larger and I felt smaller. I was no longer human. I was a mouse that has come out to play while the fat cats were asleep somewhere in city hall. I lit a cigarette and the end burned with a green and bluish hue because of the black lights that hung out above us all. I continued on, fighting the dancing crowd like a boat trying to motor upriver. Orange, blue, red, green, and yellow was all I could make out, along with the occasional random face close enough for me to discern the human features. It was like looking over the side of my boat and seeing the reflection of a million supernovas from the sky above while dead faces stared up from the bottom. The colors and the people felt physically separated but were combined by the mirror-like water as I peered over the edge.
I was pulled into the madness. Sanity was for the blind. I looked down at a table of glowing paints that some serendipitous hand of fate pushed me towards. When I looked up there was a bewhiskered face staring at me with a twisted expression of contempt and cautious observation. I glanced around and saw a sea of glowing skulls, cats, and walking cave paintings staring at me. I was the minority. I was the weird.
I looked back ahead of me and took a step towards the table. The whiskered face that studied me earlier with disdain turned up into a smile full of blue teeth. I reached down and rubbed my fingers into the paint. Starting at the top of my cheeks I pushed the tips of my digits against my skin and ran them down my face and onto my neck. My bewilderment turned into a somber acceptance and a rush of happiness. I marched off down a walkway towards the dance floor that seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness.
The bottom line:
The glow garden was everything we wanted it to be. An incredible night of lights, music and feel good vibes. Special thanks to www.bodypaint.me for putting together one hell of an event along with the Tiberino Museum for letting all of this happen.