Josh Harris, Chairman Of Pseudo Programs, Inc., lives in a SoHo loft big enough to house a fleet of double-decker buses. A grid of steel tracks hang from the ceiling for lighting equipment and cameras; the entire space doubles as a television studio, with a control room in back. The walls are bare except for a trio of six-foot-tall paintings of a single image in red, blue, and yellow: a small figure kneeling in prayer to the crotch of a woman big enough to be the Statue of Liberty posing for Penthouse.
The 350-square-foot bathroom -- also equipped for cameras -- includes a sauna with two showers, a pull-cord spritzer for a quick cold rinse, and a three-tiered bench that could seat a football team. Three showerheads are directed at the top row of the bench; Josh Harris likes to shower lying down.
It's 6 p.m. on a Monday night, and Harris isn't home yet. But his door is always open to a revolving crew of downtown artists and performers. A man in oversize women's sunglasses who calls himself Alex Arcadia -- the crotch paintings are his -- is rummaging in Harris's stainless-steel industrial fridge. On a plastic Art Deco couch in the rear, a man in a crew cut and camouflage pants is showing off his latest prosthetic leg, which is also camouflage-colored. He's a video artist who calls himself Feedbuck. Alfredo Martinez, a 325-pound sculptor in an olive-green jacket and a baggy T-shirt, is watching a DVD of The Matrix, projected onto the wall.
"Is everybody here?" Harris says, bursting through the door. Thirty-eight years old and slightly pudgy, he is dressed as usual in cargo pants, a sport shirt, and white tennis shoes. He has assembled his "merry band," as he calls the group, for an excursion uptown to a panel discussion on Marcel Duchamp at Sotheby's.
As the founder of Pseudo Programs, the oldest and largest producer of television shows for the Internet, Harris is a major player in the race to define the post-television future of broadcast entertainment -- an area of intense interest on Wall Street and in Hollywood now that cable and phone companies are scrambling to install high-speed Internet connections into millions of homes. In a few days, Harris will be flying to Los Angeles to meet with "the Pop guys," meaning the top executives of Pop.com, a new online entertainment venture whose founders include Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Ron Howard.
But tonight, venture capital, strategic partnerships, and initial public offerings aren't on his agenda. "These are my people," Harris says, gesturing to the motley crowd. "My thing is fine art."
"The potential for a company like Pseudo is to start from a Website and replicate the success of ABC, NBC, or CBS -- a long shot but an enormous payoff."
They gather up video cameras and spill out onto the street, where two cabs are hailed. "I've been a big-game hunter for years," Harris explains. His sport is videotaping art-world events in the hopes of capturing footage of underground artists who may someday be famous, or pranks and performances of future historical note.
For Sotheby's, Feedbuck has loaded his camera with a tape of hard-core porn; the porn rolls on his camera's side viewfinder while he pretends to film the panel. A co-conspirator films Feedbuck shooting the crowd, careful to keep the porn images in focus. Harris, giggling, hides his face in his hands.
When the stunt wears thin, Harris films his pals clowning around with the art in an adjacent gallery. A crowd of security guards discreetly follows; cameras are forbidden, but a fuss would disturb the panel. Paul Miller, better known as D.J. Spooky, joins the group, rattling on about Michel Foucault and "the fucked-up shit" Jean-Michel Basquiat "must have been under." Martinez poses, head cocked, against the backdrop of a polka-dotted Damien Hirst.
After the panel ends, the crew heads to Obeca Li, an elegant Japanese restaurant in TriBeCa. Feedbuck immediately orders the table several plates of salmon-roll sushi topped with quail eggs; soon he is sucking down salmon sashimi with his fingers. Somebody lights a joint, but the waiter doesn't seem to mind. Harris abstains. "Let's face it," he says. "That panel at Sotheby's was a big fart. We were the only ones doing anything interesting. We were running the gallery." Dinner and sake for seven: $800.
Pseudo's offices and studios occupy four floors of loft space above Pottery Barn at the corner of Broadway and Houston. The only other tenant, on the second floor, is the artist Jeff Koons. The entrance is a dingy and unreliable freight elevator, usually crowded with kids wearing T-shirts, baggy jeans, nose rings, and candy-colored pagers. The place is a chaotic maze of desks, PCs, lumber, folding chairs, and digital-video equipment. The average age of Pseudo's 200-odd staff appears to be about 27.
A crowd of Pseudo employees has gathered in the black-box studio on Pseudo's sixth floor for the debut of a new show, and Anthony Asnes, Pseudo's chief operating officer, president, and acting chief executive, stands to the side, observing. A tall, slender 37-year-old with a receding hairline, he worked as a management consultant to industrial companies before Harris hired him four years ago. His job is to bring order to Pseudo's freewheeling day-to-day operations -- a task for which Harris is ill-equipped.