In the last few years Brooklyn has been defined by its underground venues as much as its music. As defunct spaces of recent lore like Mighty Robot and West Nile fade into the recesses of memory, the Body Actualized Center has opened, a space that is not only a reflection of the electronic New Age music renaissance but also serves as a platform for more health-oriented lifestyle practices with cosmic-themed Yoga classes run during the daytime hours. Touting an ethos of healthy hedonism, Body Actualized Center in the course of the last year has become one of the premier venues for electronic underground music in New York. BAC Co-Founder Brian Sweeny graciously took the time to explain the philosophy and music behind this rapidly developing space.
GrandLife: Tell us about the history of the Body Actualized Center and what your vision for the space was initially?
Brian Sweeny: Around summer 2010, Jan Woo, Etienne Duguay, and I began throwing epically curated electronic music events under the name Vibes Management at DIY spaces like Market Hotel and Shea Stadium. Chillwave and witch house were just emerging, but we opted for a more cosmic, analogue synth-oriented aesthetic, hosting artists like Teengirl Fantasy, Laurel Halo, Harald Grosskopf (Ashra), all the Emeralds side projects, Driphouse and Darrius (both projects of Control owner Daren Ho), Blondes, and Forma, to name a few. Instead of throwback iPod jams in between sets we would have professional DJs like Steve Summers, Jan (Woo), Veronica Vasicka (Minimal Wave), Sal P (Liquid Liquid), and others to keep the energy up throughout the night.
Around the same time, another brand had emerged, a more daytime oriented, healthfully minded answer to Vibes Management, called Body Actualized. Under this brand, Cosmic Yoga sessions were hosted, pairing yoga classes with live ambient performances by notable electronic musicians. These events mostly took place on the 6,000 sq. ft. rooftop of Market Hotel.
In October of 2011, we found our cosmic home at 143 Troutman Street, a former iron foundry with a roll-up gate, skylights, a backyard, tiled walls, and rooftop access. Initially the idea was to open the “vibiest” venue of all time that would double as our daytime music jam space. We quickly realized that it would be a financial nightmare, not that fun, and kind of lonely to produce enough music shows to pay rent, so we invited the Body Actualized crew of yoga teachers, artists, musicians, and builders to increase the vibe. The place is still a baby though, with all of our insane ideas yet to be realized!
GL: How does healthy lifestyle and nightlife connect in NYC in your experience?
BS: Nightlife and parties are a critical part of New York culture. Because we’re so busy, it’s often the only chance to see friends and talk about goals and important ideas outside of work. Body Actualized is a space for these connections to take place that promotes a conscious lifestyle and openness to new ways of thinking. It’s not a bar or a warehouse, but a place for people to get into being themselves and connecting with other people who are too. The term we stand behind is “healthy hedonism.” Do whatever and only what you truly want to do – go crazy!
GL: Can you speak on the music direction of the space and some of your favorite performances so far?
BS: Music is the most accessible and socially acceptable avenue we have available to having what some might call a spiritual experience. The musical direction at Body Actualized Center is heavily centered in the realm of “hypnagogic” music, hypnagogic being a term for the realms between wakefulness and sleep. As far as accepted genre titles, the curation has consisted mostly of ambient (or “new age” music) and dance music. Both have the potential meditative effect of allowing one to lose oneself. There has also been a good amount of pop and psych mixed in…only the best stuff!
Some of my favorite and dreamiest performances so far have been the ones by those we have dubbed “Vibes Masters.” Iasos (one of the two founders of the new age genre), Franco Falsini (leading member of the legendary Italian progressive rock band “Sensation’s Fix”), Alice Cohen (former member of the 80’s dance band The Vels), Laraaji (electronic zither player and former collaborator of Brian Eno). We have also hosted many amazing modern musicians/bands I have enjoyed, such as Splash (our house band), Lingerie, Steve Hauschildt (of Emeralds)…too many to list. We have a new musician every Sunday for Cosmic Yoga.
GL: The space includes a recently added storefront as well. What do you sell there and do you see it expanding?
BS: We think of it as kind of a future, new-age specialty shop with products that speak directly to our vibe. Right now we have many different types of crystals, incense, locally made jewelry and candles, and IAMU raw chocolate made by one of our founders. Soon we’ll have select books, vibey drinks like locally made kombucha and a kava kava drink, apothecary supplies, records, tapes, and Body Actualized clothing!
GL: What reactions have you gotten from the community?
BS: Body Actualized – being a multidimensional, lifestyle synthesis space – draws on a few different communities: the DIY music scene, the electronic music scene, the yoga and new age community. The reactions have been overwhelmingly positive. People feel as if they have entered a dream world where everything is just the way it should be: freaky and friendly…as if you were hanging out at some new-age artist’s mansion in the woods (we even have a fire pit). All pretention and aloofness is lost without compromising curatorial quality.
GL: What are some upcoming events developments that people can look forward to in the next year of BAC?
BS: We have been going really hard with booking lately. Next weekend, on 3/1 we are hosting a really awesome and freaky band Pharoahs, who just came out on the Not Not Fun sub-label, 100% Silk and Lovefingers‘ label E.S.P. Institute. We have a show featuring Jahiliyya Fields and Steve Summers (both on L.I.E.S.) on 3/23 and this awesome NNF band from Australia called Holy Balm. As far as future events, we are thinking of having themed months, for instance May will be Psycho-Botany Fest where we invite people who are experimenting with hooking plants up to synthesizers, much like in the book and film “Secret Life of Plants.”
We’re trying to keep it interesting!
The Body Actualized Center
143 Troutman St
Brooklyn, NY 11206