This week at The Kitchen, performance artist Trajal Harrell presents the latest incarnation of his decade-long exploration of combining postmodernism with the old-school voguing dance form. Presented in three different segments, Medium (M), Small (S), and Extra Small (XS) the different pieces explore the scenario of what it would have looked like if Harlem’s infamous vogue ball of the 1980s and 90s had moved downtown and cross-pollinated with the experimental and postmodern dance of the Judson Church scene.
Last night, I attended the sold-out performance of Medium (M), which is the only collaborative piece in the series, featuring the amazing talents of Cecilia Bengolea, Francois Chaignaud, and Marlene Freitas. Overall, I was struck by its absurdity and raw sexuality. The result of this exploration (at least in this incarnation) had subtle nuances of the voguing traditions in both the fashion, attitude, and technique but the entire piece itself was more experimental than anything else. As an evening length work, it felt slightly disjointed as a series of vignettes, which I suppose is the reference to Twenty Looks in the title. Therefore, as with any showcase of “twenty looks” one is not going to like everything on display. Some were esoteric allusions, others were obvious references to pop culture and avant garde icons (Prince, Leigh Bowery), and some were deliciously bizarre and hilarious. Most often beginning with the statement “The truth is, I am the real Mimosa,” the different pieces explored a unique relationship to movement creation or music as self-generating form of expressing gender, class and identity, much like the title’s reference to the brilliant documentary Paris Is Burning. While one can find solace in a certain form of collaborative expression, it is the individual artists that owns the unique identity of their movement, text, and fashion. Though they may not be cohesive at times, the overarching unity of the postmodern expression is what binds them together; the same way in which the legendary vogue ball brought together the fashonistas and freaks alike!
[Pictured: Top, Trajal Harrell in an earlier incarnation of Twenty Looks. Bottom, performance artists Cecilia Bengolea and Francois Chaignaud]
This week at The Kitchen, performance artist Trajal Harrell presents the latest incarnation of his decade-long...