Established in 2004, Secret Project Robot is a 501c3 not for profit artist run art space with a gallery which hosts art installations, music, performance art, gatherings, happenings, craft nights, parties, dj's and much more. In 2017, the founders and co-conspirators created a new bar and hangout within Secret Project Robot to help fund the space and employee artists... thus deemed Cuckoo...
Secret Project Robot aims to integrate and overlap all the arts into a fluid, artful, casual, friendly environment, to create a perpetual happening and a kind of house party that is run by the people participating, hopefully creating a communal art and work family.
Secret Project Robot desires to be a fully self sustaining artist run art space. Using sales from the Bar we are aiming to create a new way to run and finance an art space and art.
Secret Project Robot’s initial inception began in the late 1990’s as the underground music art and party space Mighty Robot. Mighty Robot hosted some of Brooklyn’s most seminal first shows and helped shape the now mythical Williamsburg music, art and culture scene. It was a small, 1,000 square foot, second floor loft on Wythe Avenue that was run by Erik Zajaceskowski, John Fitzgerald aka “Fitz,” Artur Arbit and Etain Fitzpatrick. Together this group to be known as "The Twisted Ones" and "Mighty Robot A/V Squad", threw infamous parties in their own space and in junkyards and early Williamsburg music venues like the Polish National, now coined “The Warsaw,” Rocky’s and many another strange place.
The Mighty Robot era was a profoundly influential period for the future of Secret Project Robot. During this phase there was a heavy focus on insane abstract visuals using found projectors and film, poster making and postering as a way of both connecting and promoting and a heavy hand in pushing the fun-dustrial, art and electro music scenes developing at that time.
Mighty Robot hosted some of the first New York City shows of the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, the Liars, TV on the Radio, Oneida, Comets on Fire, Ex Models, Lightning Bolt, Force Field, High on Fire, Acid Mother Temple, Black Dice, Avatar & Panda Bear, Troubleman and so many more. It was a space that focused on combining intense noise, visuals and the exuberance of youth to make a legendary scene.
In 2004 Erik Zajaceskowski and friend, Karl LaRocca, rented a new bigger space on Kent Avenue to be called Monster Island. Monster Island was a 15,000 square foot three story building that housed Kayrock Screenprinting, Live With Animals, Oneida’s O-Cropolis, Todd P’s space, later to be known as “The Monster Island” basement and the new Mighty Robot space, freshly coined Secret Project Robot.
In this new incarnation Erik Z. teamed up with Rachel Nelson to create an even further experience into the art and music subculture and subconscious. As Secret Project Robot, there was a greater emphasis on art installations to be used as experiential spaces to host parties and to develop the notion of the art of the party.
In many ways, it was during this era that Secret Project Robot felt that it had a responsibility to be more than just a party space, it came to understand itself as an art experiment that had a duty to show alternative and be an antidote to the proscribed notion of “the gallery” and “the institution,” that nevertheless would take art seriously and see its progression as a necessary mirror to be held up against the ever powerful forces of the industry’s status quo.
Secret Project Robot pushed artistic boundaries, creating giant group installations and pioneering concepts like drawing brunch, the black light installation show, immersive collaborative projects, poster shows and creating art towns all-the-while throwing large parties and making new friends and a bigger art community. During its tenure on Kent Avenue Secret Project Robot hosted art shows with Maya Hayuk, Lauren Luloff, Seripop, Sto & Cinders Gallery, Shelter and Ivory Serra, Chris Uphues, Raul De Nieves, Swoon, Black Label, UFO and Little Cakes just to name a few.
This era also saw an expansion into art and dance parties hosting some of the first inception’s of Jonathon Toubin’s Soul Clap and Todd Pendu’s witch-house events and later Milksop, an amazing queer dance party.
There were also hundreds of bands that performed and legendary parties, like the day it was 106 degrees outside with no fans or a/c inside where Black Dice, Wolf Eyes and Growing melted the crowd into shared hallucinations of intense sound and transcendental heat. There was the annual Monster Island Block party where bands would play outside on the street mixed with building-wide shows and exhibitions where the annual turn-out was nearly 6,000 people.
It was also an era where Secret Project Robot reached out to like minded spaces and shared gallery swaps with Good Children from New Orleans and West Germany from Berlin, it also traveled and did visuals at All Tomorrow’s Parties, Le Guess Who Festival, Basil Miami and several other European Festivals and parties.
After seven years on Kent Avenue and with the feeling of imminent change in Williamsburg, Secret Project Robot followed the youth and art and music scene and found a new home in Bushwick. This was to be known as the living arts phase.
During the five years it spent on Melrose street in Bushwick, Secret Project Robot honed in on the notion of what it means to be an art space in the midst of an ever-changing socio-economic dynamic in the city and a youth brought up on the internet not seeking the same New York City experiences as the original audience; however, in the end the evolution to stay relevant and transform into a thriving art hangout was not a large jump from the art experiment phase.
Melrose Street was in many ways a more relaxed version of Secret Project Robot. It hosted giant events in its 5,000 square foot yard, but at the same time there was an intimacy and maturity about these events, a purpose driving them.
"The Living Arts" was a notion, probably tied to the yard as a private compound and bubble. In this bubble the artists could recreate the world according to their liking, people could be free, comfortable and able to reimagine a further more perfect realm. It was from this notion that events like Bushwig were started. Bushwig was originally conceived as an alternative drag and queer performance day in which a kind of dirty gritty performance art would stand out against a milieu of sequins and cover songs. Secret Project Robot pushed the boundaries of appropriate behavior and appropriate performance and helped in the creation of a now legendary festival and queer staple.
On Melrose street, Secret Project Robot also explored what it is that makes people want to stay, to hang out, and to be involved. The artists created different rooms and magic seating areas in A-frame outdoor temples, tv’s and abstract movies were knitted throughout the space, tiki bars were installed and the curators made an effort to bring art from way up high into daily life.
It was with this idea in mind that old friends like Brad Truax and John Colpitts aka “Kid Millions” brought Secret Project Robot shows with bands like Spiritualized, it was why it made sense that Laurie Anderson performed and why events like Butt Magazine’s parties all came. On Melrose, Secret Project Robot was bringing art back into reality, into a tangible reason to move to New York City despite its high rents, it’s flaws and flirtation with mediocracy and chain stores, why it remains that New York City is a place like no other. Melrose Street was a discovery of art, of friends, of realizing why you keep going when it would be easier to not.
With history, Secret Project Robot connected eras and generations into a seamless vision of the importance of art as a scene and an experience. Secret Project Robot connected the dots between the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, to the Eartheater’s and Bunny Michael’s of this world. It brought FlucT into group installations, art and jazz into the realm of the techno infatuated youth, it hosted Tortura, a Latin queer party and made DJ’s out of music connoisseurs… In essence Secret Project Robot has and continues to force people, often kicking and screaming to make art, to be better, to join in, to not drop out.
Rachel Nelson is an artist, curator, political economist and business owner who resides in Bushwick, Brooklyn. She co-founded Secret Project Robot, an artist run art space, with her husband, Erik Zajaceskowski, in 2004. In 2013 they built, designed and opened HappyFun Hideaway a bar that thrives by creating a true work family with strong support of the artist community. In 2015 they started Flowers For all Occasions, a cafe/gallery/bar that is about having a public space for discourse and art while providing jobs to artists. For her "free” time, Rachel went to graduate schools studying international political economy and wrote her thesis on the relationship between the rise of regulatory capture within tax systems and the rise of oligarchs. She is interested in the ways in which human relationships can mitigate the effects of unbridled capitalism on a community. She is currently working on the latest iteration of Secret Project Robot, which is collaboration between artists and friends to create a sustainable art space. She also likes to paint really big flower paintings, neon plaid and food on found pieces of cardboard…
Erik Zajaceskowski is an artist, curator and intellectual whose interests collide with works in almost all mediums of art, not just a designer, a/v experimenter, musician or sculptor, Erik instead is first inspired by an idea and then makes art that fulfills this idea. His work is shaped by a notion of immersion, where the artist and visitor kaleidoscope into a pandemonium of both tactile and psychological experience often maximalist and psychedelic in their aesthetic nature. Erik has collaborated with many artists over the years most often with Raul De Nieves, Chris Uphues, Rachel Nelson and the band Black Dice. He is also the brainchild and founder of Mighty Robot (1998-2004), an artist run party space in Brooklyn, Secret Project Robot art experiment, Happyfun Hideaway a very special bar, Flowers for all Occasions an artist run cafe and Cloud Cuckoo Land a bar attached to the new Secret Project Robot. Erik spends a lot of time thinking about the value of artists in society and tries to consciously create a world shaped by these notions.
Adrian Diaz is a DJ and curator who manages large scale art and creative events in New York City and Brooklyn. He has toured through Europe as a DJ while also spending time collecting records and sounds that fit his eclectic taste of dance, Italo disco and Nigerian Funk just to list a few. Adrian seeks sounds that are heavily rhythmic, danceable and epic in scope. His Mexican background and close proximity to Mexico growing up gives him an international vision for his events including, Tortura, a queer Latinx dance party held monthly at Secret Project Robot. In the past Adrian has worked with Authority Figure, Knockdown Center, Bushwig, Happyfun, and many more.
Jake Dibeler is a performance artist, with an interest in film and photography. He has performed his plays worldwide, including MoMA PS1 in New York, MoCA in Los Angeles, ICA in Philadelphia, and toured Europe extensively with his band bottoms.
Monica Mirabile is an artist and choreographer working in relational choreo-politics. She is known for her work in a duo known as FlucT with Sigrid Lauren, together dissecting how the body absorbs information under capitalism through aggressive channel changing dance. Her choreographed installations often break through the expectations of dance and enter into an interruptive discomfort while sometimes leading up to 150 performers as seen in her role as Co-Director of Authority Figure. Since graduating with a BFA in Interdisciplinary Sculpture at MICA, Mirabile’s provocative performances have been seen in numerous Galleries and Museums including Andrea Rosen Gallery, ICA Philidelphia, The Guggenheim, The Queens Museum and MOMA Ps1. She Founded Otion Front Studio in 2014, an experimental performance and rehearsal studio in Bushwick (now co-run with six other artists), is a partner in the latest iteration of SPR and bartends at HappyFun Hideaway. She was born in Clearwater Beach, FL 1988.
Dave Kadden is a curator and musician living in New York since late 2005. As Invisible Circle, a project using organ, oboe, and voice to create drones and repetition to explore meditative trance states, he has toured extensively through the US and southern South America. As an oboist, he has performed as a member of Many Mansions and CSC Funk Band, with Oneida, Awesome Color and Talk Normal, and has recorded with Anthony Braxton, MGMT, and a variety of different birds under the name Bird Muzik. He currently resides in Brooklyn, and enjoys that time of year when one can ride their bike to the beach and jump in the water.
William Schmiechen is a visual artist and musician hailing from the milky state of Wisconsin. He published his first book of drawings "Peep Houses" in the fall of 2016 & has toured the US and Europe ad naseaum in various musical projects.
Erik Zajaceksowski & Rachel Nelson (see above)
Fitz is a curator and dj who takes an educated run-up at pumping genres from across the world, all the way from Bombay's synth funk or Saz jams from Turkey through to heavy African percussion and everything else in between. He has put festivals and tours together across every continent and has dj'd the world inspiring people with his international psychedelic jams.
Etain Fitzpatrick is a video artist and founding member of the Mighty Robot A/V squad, she is an architect and contributor to the video team of Secret Project Robot.
Dough Roussin is a flash video game designer, musician and artist who makes big installations, big sounds and awesome video art. He has contributed to numerous installations at Secret Project Robot and has been a fellow brainchild in SPR's ludicrous ideas and art insanity.
Kayrock aka karl LaRocca is a Brooklyn based artist and a founding member of Kayrock Screenprinting. He has designed numerous posters, books, and records and worked with many contemporary artists to realize their fine art editions. His work has been collected by MOMA and the Allen Memorial Art Museum.