Four people crowd around a 3-foot Demogorgon puppet. They take turns playing with its levers, opening its scary plantlike mouth and moving its neck. Whenever someone takes a turn with the Demogorgon, wonder covers their face.
What’s a Demogorgon, you ask? You must have failed to catch Netflix’s show Stranger Things, one of the first shows in the streaming era to become a cultural phenomenon. The Stranger Things II Art Show (curated by arts collectives Menagerie and Retrograde Collective) celebrated the series at the Outlet Coworking space on K Street Saturday night.
The Demogorgon puppet was unique in its interactivity. Everything else was strictly of the “do not touch” variety, mostly paintings and drawings hanging on the wall. Even a miniature Dig Dug arcade game blasting ’70s power-pop was for looking only. One kid told their dad that they “really wanted to play it,” and the responsible parent promptly denied the request.
One playful piece by JP Novark reimagined the four child protagonists as the official Ghostbusters II film poster. It’s a cross-cultural ’80s piece of photo collage, but also a reference to a specific moment in Stranger Things II when the kids dress up as the Ghostbusters for Halloween.
Some of the more interesting works of art took creative leaps, including mildly erotic black-and-white renderings of the Demogorgon by Julia Garcia and Dungeons & Dragons depictions of the Stranger Things’ kids by Nate Flamm. There were also missing cat flyers for “Mews” up in the museum, referencing one character’s cat who was eaten by a Demogorgon.
The museum and patio were overflowing with people of all ages. Conversations of the show and other elements of pop culture filled the air like fog. One overheard conversation: “As much as I love cats, I prefer Alf.”
Some 50 artists participated in the exhibit, many of whom lurked around the museum, eager to strike up a conversation about their works. One drew a lot of attention for his shirt “The Matrix was a documentary,” with multiple people coming up to him to say, “Hey man, I really like your shirt.”
Attendees were granted only 30 minutes inside, but you could spend the entire evening in the patio area and grab Burly Beverages cocktails and listen to DJ Lady Grey spin ’80s synth-pop.
Later in the evening, DJ Lady Grey held a costume contest. Only three people participated. There were two kids dressed as the hero character Eleven—short hair Eleven, and punk rock Eleven—and the third was a frazzled, Christmas-lights holding Joyce Byers (the anxious mother played by Winona Ryder). The winner by round of applause was punk rock Eleven, who was awarded a crown. Then, someone found a second crown, and it was awarded to Joyce.
Hopefully later, someone found a third crown.