“He became known as the man of a thousand lies,” said magician Derek DelGaudio at the Kitchen last night, explaining that Marco Polo’s compatriots back home found his tales of the East to be unbelievable. This was all prelude to a magic act, or performance piece, listed in the program as “A Walk Through China.”
“We wanted to offer people that sort of journey and we realized that we couldn’t afford to take everyone to China, so we did the next best thing,” Mr. DelGaudio continued, his partner, the artist Glenn Kaino standing at his side. “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome China Chow.”
It was the climax of an half-hour performance dedicated to tromp l’oeil by Mr. DelGaudio and Mr. Kaino, who together call themselves A.Bandit and did things like bobble a basketball between their hands under a strobe light, calling it “Jeff Koons’s famous floating basketball trick.”
Ms. Chow was all business. In a dark glittery outfit, the actress, model and Work of Art host strode out of the audience’s front row and placed an arm on each of their shoulders. All three sang the opening beats of Europe’s “The Final Countdown,” replacing the ’80s synthesizer with the word “do” (e.g. “do do do, do do do do”).
A record scratched over the speakers and the song began in earnest. (“We’re taking it back,” Mr. DelGaudio explained after the performance, referencing the fact that the song is soundtrack to a bumbling magician’s illusions on Arrested Development.) Mr. Kaino pulled a sheet off an object at the back of the stage, one of those infamous mini-coffins built for the express purpose of separating a woman’s upper and lower portions. It was on a little table with wheels.
The trick is called “sawing a woman in half,” but there’s actually no saw, just two large metal dividers used to separate the halves. Over the booming Europe, you could still hear Ms. Chow shriek briefly as the divider was inserted into the lower portion. Mr. DelGaudio had some trouble with the upper divider, though, so Mr. Kaino pulled Ms. Chow’s head, and her presumably legless torso, higher in the box. The second divider slid into its possession. Many audience members were held rapt by the proceedings. As it had not throughout the rest of the performance, the expression on the face of of Ms. Chow’s godfather David Byrne did not change.
Mr. DelGaudio and Mr. Kaino pulled Ms. Chow to opposite ends of the stage to hearty applause. Mr. Kaino then pulled a sheet off another object onstage, a booth containing DJ Rhettmatic, who had apparently been there the entire time.
“Ladies and gentlemen, please stand up,” DJ Rhettmatic said into his microphone. “We ask you to walk through China, and while you’re at it, grab a beer.” There were beers in red coolers at the back of the stage. “Everybody up there come on down. Don’t be afraid. Grab a beer, too.”
Everyone obliged and DJ Rhettmatic spun something upbeat. A brief party was held between Ms. Chow’s halves. After a while she was reassembled, and she emerged from the coffin in a completely new, rainbow-colored outfit. When we caught up with her she said she was getting better at the trick, especially the changing in a coffin part. They first performed it earlier this year at the opening for Laxart’s Annex gallery in Hollywood. The two magicians had proposed the piece, complete with the title A Walk Through China, after they’d all met at the Magic Castle. She agreed to do it, sight unseen.
“Then I saw the box,” she told Gallerist, glancing over at it onstage. “And I started sweating. I said to myself, ‘Oh my God, who else do I know who’s named China?’”