Welcome to Performing NYC!

Featured

Welcome to the class blog for Art in the City: Performing NYC, a Learning Communities class for first year students at Pace University in New York City. Throughout the Fall 2012 semester as a class we will be posting our reactions to readings, performances, films and exhibitions as well as photographs taken on field trips in conjunction with the paired fine arts course Art in the City: New York and the Visual Arts. Each week, students will make one 300-500 word post and comment on the posts of at least two of their classmates.  This blog will also be the place to go for class announcements, syllabus updates, relevant event listings, video materials, and research resources.

In this course we will critically examine the relationship between gender, race, class and performance in New York City. Throughout this semester we will examine performances that focus on an exploration and articulation of gender, class, race and ethnic identifications. We will pay special attention to performance spaces that have been historically important in the development of experimental theatre, dance, poetry and performance art. We will also consider New York City itself as a site for public performance, protest, and graffiti art. What is the relationship between the history of these NYC cultural spaces and the work being developed there? Specifically we will be focusing on the WOW Cafe Theater, the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Dixon Place, the Bowery, Danspace and Judson Church. We will situate the work of contemporary artists throughout New York City within a theoretical framework that critically engages questions of identity politics as they relate to performance.

I Will Miss You ALL!

(I’m SO SO sorry this was late!!! I’m in Chicago and totally forgot about the time difference! It’s noon here!)

Firstly, I want to say that I am so thankful to have had a class where the ENTIRE class became so close. It was a great start to the next four (perhaps five) years of my college life. I hope to maintain relationships with all of you.

With that out of the way,

The project that Courtneigh, Courtney, Braden, and I put together could only be summarized as uncomfortable. When talking about it with them before actually filming, I had no idea how far it would go. It seemed like a harmless experiment that would be humorous for the class to watch afterwards. While shooting the video, when Courtneigh and Braden were asking the most disgusting questions to these unsuspecting people, I could only keep telling myself that we were trying to accomplish something by this. This was not just racism/sexism/classism for the sake of racism/sexism/classism, but a critique on how our society handles it.

In the end I believe whole-heartedly that we accomplished our goal. While we were not setting out to make anyone in particular look bigoted, unfortunately some people were honest. That was not our goal. We wanted the reactions to these questions, not the answers. That is why, while editing, I removed material that would put some of the students under an unsavory light. The reactions were what we were looking for, so that’s all we needed to include.

Later that day Courtney asked me to remove the video from YouTube. I respected that and thought it was a necessary action in respect to those students unknowingly partook in our experiment.

While it was a controversial video, I do believe it says something about our culture. I could relate our project to the readings of both Contracting Justice: The Viral Strategy of Felix Gonzalez-Torres, and Hip Hop Oddity.

 

The article about Felix Gonzalez-Torres and his art relates to our project because they both were created to gauge a reaction. His art is a tool to spread the word about AIDS and make people aware of the prevalence of it in our culture. We were attempting to do the same thing. Both situations were extremely controversial, but both achieved the goal they set out to accomplish.

Our project can also relate to the life of Nicki Minaj, written about in Hip Hop Oddity, because Nicki embraces all things. Out video tried to portray the uncomfortable feeling people have about speaking about issues unrelated to them, but Nicki embodies them. She has created herself around the issues in society and makes them her own. She has a white character, a poor character, and rich character, and herself. She plays both female and male roles in her performance life, and makes them part of her personality. She is the one person that would not be fazed by the questions we asked, but would answer them in a comfortable, rational way.

I also read excerpts from the novel, Beyond Silenced Voices: Class, Race, and Gender in United States Schools. This book spoke of the hardships students have mingling with people different than themselves. These are the voices of the students we interviewed. We did not allow the students we spoke to defend their answers, so reading the essays in the novel really opened my eyes to how the students answered and why they gave those answers.

While our video was taken off the Internet, and will probably not be seen by anyone other than me, I am still very proud of what we accomplished. We did not set out for answers to our questions, but I am glad we received them. It truly opened my eyes to the gaps between different genders, races, and classes, and I believe we opened the eyes of the people who we interviewed as well.

 

Works Cited

Criticism, Volume 51, Number 4, Fall 2010, pp. 559-587 (Article)

Ganz, Caryn. “Hip Hop Oddity .” Out. 2010: 90. Print.

Weis, Lois. Beyond Silenced Voices: Class, Race, and Gender in United States Schools. New York: SUNY Press, 1993. 437. Print.

Final Project

Camilla Vaernes

Gender, Race, and Class

For my final project I teamed up with Emily, Cat, Jake, and Mike. Together we experimented with how different genders, races, and classes are viewed in New York City. Emily was a butch Latina, Cat our host, Jake a homeless man, Mike a transvestite, and myself a wealthy brat. “…American society is now imposing a Eurocentric, Christian, heterosexual male ethos on all of us in order to maintain a uniquely American identity against the incursion of other…gays, coloreds, and practitioners of outlaw sexuality into its inner sanctum.” This is a quote from Adrian Piper’s piece in The Triple Negation of the Colored Women Artists. I thought this related to our project considering this is everything they want us not to be. Her story proves the suffering and pain of black women throughout history. It shows their strength and power throughout history, defying the principles of freedom and the truth of the American people.

We each took on these roles to see what kinds of reactions and rises we could get out of people. Some created more than others, but overall we each got to experience the life a person outside of our own for a day. Emily’s transformation was great. She made her skin completely orange, slicked her hair back, and put on baggy clothes as a lesbian Latina woman. She went to a store in Times Square to buy an outfit for her “boo”. Jake poses as a homeless man behind a Sephora with a sign and a blanket. Though he gets no money, he gets plenty of stares. Its definitely different seeing someone so young out on the streets asking for help. “Homelesssness is as old as the first permanent settlement. The wandering stranger was viewed with suspicion, if not hostility, and was often treated harshly. After centuries of assisting, denying, and rejecting the needs of the homeless, we are still searching for solutions to the problem.” This quote from an article by Leland Axelson and Paula Dail pretty much describes how Jake was treated. No one wants anything to do with the homeless. We using see them as dirty and bothersome. Though for some reason it is usually not frowned upon, there needs to be a change. We cannot have people as young as Jake living homeless on the street. No matter what gender, race, or class everyone deserves a chance to get up on their feet.

Mike the train, dressed in my clothes, got the most reactions out of all of us. He was definitely not one to miss. The pink fur vest and floral blouse stood out like no other. The makeup was so well done it made you think about what gender he really was. A quote by Pauline Greenhill reminded me a little of this. “I add to this series of interpretations the suggestion that cross-dressing ballads express and embody the possibility of same-sex attraction and of nonheterosexual activity. They provide historical examples of the possibility of breaking away from compulsory heterosexuality—or at least conceiving of doing so—which provides a counterpoint to analyses by those who focus upon the performativity of sex, gender, and sexuality. They also provide potentially current examples for gender bending and queer expression.” She basically explains cross-dressing as a form of expression. It is how one becomes open and free to be who they are. We see a lot of that in New York, and though they are bound to get stares, it is what they identify as and that’s something everyone should accept.

And then there was my role, which by definition doesn’t seem too hard at all, but it really was. I was made to play an obnoxious rich girl with money problems in the middle of Times Square. I definitely had some trouble with this role. Either I wasn’t loud enough or I was facing the wrong direction to the people. The role made me nervous and uncomfortable. I didn’t want to stand in the middle of Times Square screaming to my dad about money; that’s just embarrassing. Doing this project put me outside my comfort zone, but it also made me realize how easily we judge and view other people. Each and every one of us was viewed by the crowd as weird or not normal. We definitely made people uncomfortable. That’s what we were trying to accomplish. The odds are that we would’ve had the same reaction if we saw this happening in the street. Even in such a diverse and culturally accepting place like New York, people will judge.

 

“Neither a Man nor a Maid”: Sexualities and Gendered Meanings in Cross-Dressing Ballads

Pauline Greenhill

The Journal of American Folklore , Vol. 108, No. 428 (Spring, 1995), pp. 156-177

Published by: American Folklore Society

Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/541377

 

K, Aren. “Adrian Piper.” Raisin in the Sun. N.p., 30 May 2006. Web. 17 Dec. 2012.

 

The Changing Character of Homelessness in the United States

Leland J. Axelson and Paula W. Dail

Family Relations , Vol. 37, No. 4, The Contemporary Family: Consequences of Change (Oct., 1988), pp. 463-469

Published by: National Council on Family Relations

Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/584121

Final

            For our final project, each group member dressed up as a different kind of person. Jake was a homeless man, Emily was a Latino lesbian, Camila was a rich white girl, and I was a drag queen. After spending much time changing into these characters we were playing, we went to Times Square to film peoples’ reactions to us. Before leaving Pace University, we ate at the cafeteria. This was a very interesting experience. Prior to being dressed as a woman, I was pretty gung-ho about the whole thing. But as we entered the room, people would openly stare at me. One kid’s jaw actually dropped, which we unfortunately did not get on film. By this time, I started to realize what it feels like to be something that is not the norm.

            Riding the trains to and from Times Square was also an experience. People would stare, give me dirty looks, etc. Furthermore, I sat down real close next to this lady and asked her what time it was. She proceeded to tell me the time, but as she looked away, I could see she felt very uncomfortable. Then, I looked at her reflection on the subway door. I could see that she was smiling and trying not to laugh. I get it. Most people would feel uncomfortable in this situation, probably even myself. But I think it is very rude to act this way in front of people who are different. Yes, I would feel uncomfortable in this situation, but I would definitely not smile or stare intensely at someone.

            These reactions certainly surprised me, especially since this is New York City. I guess the reactions might have been a little bit more extreme, due to us probably being seen by mostly tourists. This project allowed me to experience what it is like to be a minority and go through the daily struggles of those peoples’ lives. It also opened my eyes to how much it hurts to wear flats.

 

 

 

Works Cited

 

Bowles, John Parish. Adrian Piper: Race, Gender, and Embodiment. Durham [N.C.: Duke UP, bbbb2011. Print.

 

Creekmur, Corey K., and Alexander Doty. Out in Culture: Gay, Lesbian, and Queer Essays on bbbbPopular Culture. Durham: Duke UP, 1995. Print.

 

Davy, Kate. Lady Dicks and Lesbian Brothers: Staging the Unimaginable at the WOW Café bbbbTheatre. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 2010. Print.

Final Project

After experiencing the realities of not being considered a part of the social norm in society, and especially being homeless for a day opened my eyes to the cruelty and harshness included in day-to-day lives of these groups of people. The goal of our group was to go out in New York City, one of the most diversified cities in the world and record the reactions of anyone and everyone who passed by. This allowed us to observe how all people; old and young would react to people who would be considered weird or abnormal in society. The reactions started when we first stepped foot outside the Pace building and did not end until we were back in our dorms. It was extremely interesting for me to feel a sense of “why is everyone starring and talking about me?” because quite honestly I had never experienced a situation like our group experiment. Most often than not I catch myself starring at the type of people we were dressed up as, and I feel like as a society we are taught to stare and wonder why someone is the way they are. This project made me think about why we ask these questions at all, maybe this is the lifestyle that makes them happy, maybe that is all they can afford, maybe they cannot help their situation anymore than they have already done? All of these questions came to mind and I had a sudden change in heart and attitude, I feel like by judging people based on their gender, race, or class can and should all be classified as racism and needs to stop. The entire day I was relating my situation with that of the women and the WOW Café Theater and how they were not looked at as normal, and pushed into a corner by all of the negative reactions towards their gender and sexuality. The women of the theater were pretty much forced to create an isolated theater where only women could perform, and I can see how the frustration of constantly being told and looked at as abnormal came into play. Emily’s role as a Latino lesbian who was not afraid to show it also reminded my of the WOW women and the reaction she received was by a man who seemed very awkward and uncomfortable. A replay of “Paris is Burning” was going on in my head as our group walked through Times Square especially every time I got a glimpse of Mike who was dressed as a woman. Mike probably gained the most reactions and most of them were a look of disgust. Like the drag queen culture that we observed in the film “Paris is Burning” that was given such a blind eye by many people in society, people didn’t want to recognize Mike for the woman he was displaying, yet they stared with the look of “Ew, that man is dressed like a girl.” My role in our experiment was to play a homeless man on the busy streets of New York City. My experience really helped me understand how difficult and unreliable begging on the streets of even Times Square can be. I did not receive any money but I did get looks of disgust and misbelief that even someone as young as myself could be begging for money with no home to go to sleep in at night. Children starred for endless periods of time while their parent’s look away and yelled for their kids to do the same. Rich people passed by without even looking twice at me or throwing a penny into my cup. After reading a segment from a book called “ Mean Streets: Youth Crime and Homelessness”, I remembered how it felt sitting on the street as young man and how this book was a perfect display of how it is being young an homeless. This book focuses on Canada’s homeless problem and how it does not make sense as to why in such large economically growing cities like, Toronto and Vancouver, and in my case New York City has so many homeless people. It is a shame that this is the case and most people will admit that they do not give money to homeless people because of preconceived notions as to what they will spend the money on and because most people feel like they should not help people who do not help themselves. I experienced this first hand and it was not fun nor was it easy. I learned that no matter where you go their will always be prejudice and racism against people whose gender, race, or class to not meet the societal norm.        

Works Cited

Davy, Kate. Lady Dicks and Lesbian Brothers: Staging the Unimaginable at the WOW

Café Theatre. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 2010. Print.

 

Hagan, John, and Bill McCarthy. Mean streets: Youth crime and homelessness.

Cambridge University Press, 1998.

 

Paris Is Burning. Prod. Jennie Livingston, Barry Swimar, Claire Goodman, Meg

McLagan, Nigel Finch, and Davis Lacy. Dir. Jennie Livingston. By Jonathan  

Oppenheim, Paul Gibson, Maryse Alberti, and Stacia Thompson. [Prestige],

1990.

AWWWWWWWWKWAAAARDDDDDDDDD

Final Essay

For my final project I had teamed up with Maggie, Courtney, and Courtneigh. Together we thought of many different video projects that we could film to hit all aspects of our class. We finally agreed on one project idea, to hold fake auditions for a short film. While the person whose auditioning thinks it will be a normal audition they are wrong. We sat them down and did the audition interview style. As they sat in confusion we (me & Courtneigh) asked them questions that usually never would be asked, such as “What race most offends you, do you like poor people, what do they think about seeing to men hooking up, etc.” These questions were designed to make them feel uncomfortable in order for us to see their reactions. Many of the auditioning people tried thinking before answering so they would not offend anyone. We arranged the questions to be asked towards the auditioning persons back round history. It was hard for both Courtneigh and myself to ask just brutal/offending questions waiting for their reaction. I must say I was very impressed with the reactions; they went red, quit, laughed, but no one left. While we were interviewing Maggie was a wonderful camerawomen. Courtney managed the door to keep it professional. All together as a group we gave input and ideas to how this project was going to work out.
During the semester we have read and watched many videos on these topics. If I were to compare our project with any of these readings/video I would have to pick the videos as well as the reading on Paris is Burning. I relate these two things in many strange ways. In Paris is Burning the drag queen’s were not afraid to be themselves. As they went to clubs at night they took the risk to be whom they really are. This could be compared to our project as the interviewee answering the questions honestly taking the risk to say what they truly mean.
Secondly, I would compare our project with the Wow Café from the book “Lady Dicks and Lesbian Brothers” we had read in class. As the Lesbian Brothers performed on the stage, they did not know exactly how the audience members would react. The Lesbian Brothers analyzed the audience so they could play along and make it enjoyable. While we did the same thing for our project, we did not know how the interviewee was going to react to our questions. As well as being able to show the film we made to audiences, looking at more and more of people’s reactions.
Lastly, my last comparison would have to be my outside source found through a database, Censorship and Intimacy: Awkwardness in the Awkward Age. As I started reading this I related it to a group discussion we had about the project. We had issues trying to pick what should be kept in editing and what should be deleted. I felt strongly that we should have showed more impactful and “racist” questions to give the viewers the full feel. While reading partially about this article it made me realize that yes censorship can take away from the depth of the point or we could have said more than we would have liked ruining the project. It was very difficult figuring this out just like the novelist, James. We based our decisions on how large our audience would be on how much to edit out. This is just like censorship figuring out if it will be public or more private.
Works Cited
Culver, Stuart. “Censorship and Intimacy: Awkwardness in the Awkward Age.” The Johns Hopkins University Press (1981).

Davy, Catherine. Lady Dicks and Lesbian Brothers. University of Michigan Press, 2011.

Paris is Burning Livingston, Jennie, Pepper Labeija, Kim Pendavis, Freddie Pendavis, Dorian Corey, Venus Xtravaganza, Willi Ninja, and Laurent O. St. Paris Is Burning. United States: Fox Lorber Home Video, 1992.

Well This Has Been Awkward

This project was so hard to do. It was the end of our class time together which is so sad but it’s also THE MOST AWKWARD thing I have ever had to go through but it had to be done. The two readings that identified most with Felix Gonzalez-Torres, and The Urban Bush Women readings

I think the Felix Gonzalez-Torres reading really applied to our project because it talks about the his works more specifically “Untitled” (Portrait of Ross in L.A.) . This piece of Art consisted of 175 pounds of candy that represented the ideal weight of Felix’s lover Ross as viewers see the piece they are encouraged to take a piece of candy to represent his lovers diminishing weight, while he suffered with an AIDS related illness. In our project we asked all of are participants a few questions that mad them very uncomfortable. Each question was molded and shaped around the person we asked and that really made things get awkward.  Felix’s piece lovers fit with our project because each person we asked questions to got something out of the experiment. After we were done and I saw one of the participants who lived on my floor she asked me how did my project go and she said  even though she was uncomfortable  she liked that the questions made her think about things she usually would not  think about. Much like Felix’s piece, the uncomfortable nature of our experiment allowed someone to take something from it; just like the piece of candy. The other reading that our experiment made me think of was the Urban Bush women readings because they were all about celebrating some uncomfortable.  In a strange way our project did the same thing it highlighted the uncomfortable nature of the questions asked and made people celebrate the fact that some things that we tend not to talk about still need to be discussed. Although the questions were awful we did get a lot of very positive answers. We can celebrate the fact that our generation is moving forward with a fearless and open mind.

Someone I read about that we did not discuss in class was  photographer Diana Arbus. Diana is a photographer that  celebrates the strange qualities in people and highlights the  beauty of them she has said

“Most people go through life dreading they’ll have a traumatic experience. Freaks          were born with their trauma. They’ve already passed their test in life. They’re  aristocrats”

She decided to celebrate these so called aristocrats because she wanted to force the looker to see things that they would usually turn away from she wanted to accept people to accept people for there flaws.  Our experiment reflects her work because we didn’t allow people to run from the questions they had to answer them, they had to care they were in a way forced to look at a car accident, and I believe our participants couldn’t turn away they felt compelled to look.

In our group project. We collectively thought of the questions and concept. I  interviewed the participants.   I really appreciated this experiment because it opened my eyes to Overall I have really fallen in love with this class we all brough a unique view point to the course and it was the perfect way to being my first semester of collage

Works Cited

Bernstein, Jeanne Wolff. “Unlocking Diane Arbus.” Studies In Gender & Sexuality 8.4                 (2007): 333-336. Academic Search Premier. Web. 17 Dec. 2012.

George-Graves, Nadine. Urban Bush Women: Twenty Years of African American DanceTheater, Community Engagement, and Working It Out. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 2010.Project MUSE. Web. 17 Dec. 2012. <http://muse.jhu.edu/&gt;.

Takano Chambers-Letson, Josh. “Contracting Justice: The Viral Strategy of Felix Gonzalez-Torres.” Criticism 51.4 (2010): 559-87. PFD