Darius Goodson and Evita Cortez are up front about Black Lodge. “We’re big David Lynch fans,” Cortez admits. The name of this DIY space in Deep Ellum is an homage to the surreal place from Twin Peaks that contains the infamous Red Room, where Agent Dale Cooper meets the Man from Another Place. “It was the idea of this mystery space that we found appealing,” she explains. Black Lodge may just look like a small room, but you never know what sort of environment it will be transformed into.
Times have changed a bit since Black Lodge first opened, back in the fall of 2012. With Deep Ellum on the rise again, some folks have had their rent raised or even faced eviction as buildings sell for three times what they were worth just a couple years ago. But Cortez and Goodson have none of these concerns. With a landlord who loves the gallery and supports what they are doing, the couple have no worries about the building being sold or the rent being raised. “It’s great for Deep Ellum to be alive again,” says Goodson. “The new development brings more people to the area and to our shows.”
Most days Black Lodge is a workspace for the two artists, but some nights the place is cleared out and it becomes a unique experimental venue or pop up gallery off the beaten path in Deep Ellum. Goodson and Cortez focus on performance art and experimental music. They also seek out artists from other cities who probably wouldn’t perform in Dallas otherwise.
The main goal of Black Lodge is to provide a safe place for exploration. With projectors or installation art added for visuals, it’s meant to be a casual setting away from the pressure of performing in a normal venue, which is why so many locals like to try out new projects here. In 2012, Unconscious Collective’s Gregg Prickett brought his Habu Habu project and Aaron Gonzalez went solo with Deflowered Electric Flesh Bride. Earlier this year, Sarah Ruth from They Say the Wind Made Them Crazy performed solo and Cygnus performed as Science Fictions.
But as their show last Friday demonstrated, even Black Lodge is being touched by Deep Ellum's recent growth. Until recently, Black Lodge drew small crowds. A few people would go out of their way for these shows. But many walked to the gallery from nearby homes; it is truly a neighborhood venue. Now, with Deep Ellum booming, more people are starting to show up, wandering over as other shows let out.
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“It’s good that Dallas is busy,” says Goodson. “No one knows that Dallas is busy like this.” Inside the space, performance artists and experimental musicians typically perform to crowds largely made up of their peers. But on the sidewalk there may be 10 people standing around, peering in to try and make sense of what is going on. The front window of the space typically isn’t obscured during performances, so it’s almost like a show in a storefront window.
Black Lodge is an unpretentious, welcoming environment. Goodson admits that there is a certain level of pretension that can exist at other experimental venues, specifically in other cities, that is absent from Black Lodge. Just recently he was out of town and saw a different attitude at a performance space. Artists were being bossed around, suddenly being told to perform now or not at all. “What is this shit?” he wondered. “This is a pool party. Who gives a fuck?”
Cortez and Goodson like to interact with other scenes and invite artists from other cities to Black Lodge. Right now they are interested in an alternative comedy scene in Houston and would like to bring some of those comics to Dallas for a show. “It’s really important,” Cortez says, of working with other cities. “All of our art is part of a dialog.”
They also want to address widespread cultural issues with their shows. Last month, there was a show called “Who Are Our Own People?” with four performance artists exploring themes of identity and marginalization within marginalized communities. “It was about exploring how marginalized cultures can sometimes reproduce oppressive systems,” says Cortez.
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“I’ll make art when I’m 40," adds Goodson, who has a background in sculpture and ceramics. Right now he just want to focus on showcasing artists that interest him. He has helped build animatronic dinosaurs for zoos and Back to the Future DeLoreans for an online prop shop. Cortez has an art history background and focuses on drawing. She likes to scan the drawings and create animated gifs. She is also working on an art installation for an upcoming exhibit this fall. The couple has also collaborated together on some work.
Cortez and Goodson do all the booking and run the shows themselves. Clearing their workspace and then putting it back together isn’t their favorite part of running a venue. Shows have been sporadic so far at Black Lodge, but they are planning to have them more frequently in the near future, hoping to average at least one every month. People have said they have never seen anything like it in Dallas, Denton or even Austin. Many of the artists they contact from out of town have no idea there is a place like this where they can perform in Dallas.
“It’s a labor of love,” Goodson admits. “But it’s what we love. It’s what we do."