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Fire, noise and human branding with Non Grata in Houston

December 6, 2018

This is an account of what happened shortly after 9 p.m. on Wednesday, at the Main Street bar Notsuoh, during the half-hour performance of the Estonia-based performance art group Non Grata.

The man who goes by Anonymous Boh stands in the center of Notsuoh, whose white decapitated manakin, strewn books, chess set and odd light fixtures stand in contrast to the nearby nightclubs that profit off of the more conventional entertainment proclivities of the oil and gas industry. He holds a bullhorn and announces, “four minutes until show.” He stands at the stage floor, where sheets of white paper have been taped to the floor, the same kind one would use to make cleanup easier, say, after an orgy. A woman wearing a legless black leotard, and whose body is covered in black-grey paint or liquid latex, enters a glass case on top of the bar counter, posing for us like a trophy at a high school gymnasium. She vapes.

The sound of distortion blares. It sounds like drone metal, or simply a piece of equipment, gone wrong. When the show begins Boh starts to speak his manifesto, though it’s impossible to make out all the words. A tall, lithe shirtless man stands in the back of the stage, bearing the demented rabbit mask from the film “Donnie Darko.” He plays the saxophone. A woman with antlers brings out a Bible-sized book with the title “Beautiful Chaos” and pours blood over it. There is a ritualistic bowl on the other side of the performance area. I can’t see it clearly, but it looks like they’re mixing Cheetohs with milk and spray cheese and soy sauce (or something), creating an orange-brown, puke-looking mixture.

A man unwraps Dum Dums suckers and places one in each of our mouths. I got watermelon. Two shirtless men emerge and trap themselves inside a “Django Unchained”-style contraption that reaches from neck to neck — like a metal collar meant for two. They take the bowl of Cheetohs and begin to fight over it, running around and pulling furiously against each other. They growl and trip and knock over one viewer, who scrambles to his feet and retreats to the back of the crowd. Meanwhile, a few audience members have been put onstage and their heads are covered with white sheets. One of them dances.

This is just the start. For a full account of the evening, including the finale of human branding go to HoustonChronic.com.

wchen@chron.com

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