story by Stu Dawrs
photo by Brad Goda
Don’t be alarmed if, having made your way into Ong King on a Friday night, you’re accosted by a bushy-haired young man in gold lamé pants who, in an improbable British accent, steers you toward an empty picture frame and begins extolling the virtues of an imaginary piece of art. It’s just a performance and this, you see, is See. That is, Cristian “See” Ellauri who, along with musician Jonathan Heraux, runs this hip Chinatown gallery and performance space.
“I really don’t see a lot of distinction between audience and performer,” says See, discussing the intimate space’s tendency to involve spectators in whatever happens to be going down on any given night. And given See’s and Jonathan’s backgrounds, what’s going down is almost always unexpected. Asked about his artistic background, See lets loose a chuckle, then begins ticking off a long list of pursuits.
“I do hip-hop theater; I run the Honolulu Underground Theater Collective; I write, direct and perform; I do slam poetry, freestyle hip-hop and Shakespeare on command.”
For his part, Jonathan was an aspiring biologist at the University of Hawai‘i when he decided to give it all up to pursue music fulltime. The result was one of Honolulu’s best jazz-fusion bands, Quadraphonix, and a move toward promoting multimedia art and music events around town. The shows proved to be incredibly popular … too popular, in fact. “The people who owned the venues were not in agreement with some of the art,” says Jonathan. “I guess the piece that included a live rooster didn’t go over too well with one owner, and eventually got us kicked out.”
And thus, says See, Ong King was born. “We both understood the need for an underground art space where new work could happen, boundaries could be shaken, and creative expression was safe to shine.”
Ong King now serves as a performance venue, art gallery and artistic learning center, with various classes (yoga, chi gong, drumming, acting) offered every day, “conscious parties” on Friday and Saturday nights (from roughly 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.), and open mic poetry and music on Sundays, from 8 p.m. to midnight.
Ong King Art Center
184 N. King St.