Taylor Mac: Queer American Artist-Shaman-Historian of the Century. Attain That Two Centuries.
The acclaimed performer and musician is about to perform a 24 -hour-long queer history of American popular music. In a single take.”>
At the beginning of the 24 th hour of Taylor Macs monumental 24-Decade History of Popular Music, the faggot womb of pink fabric that had stretched across the entire performance space at St. Anns Warehouse in Brooklyn became Taylors dress for the finale. It was as if wed been collected under the performers loins the whole period, I thought.
It was an appropriate climax, given that Mac had already appeared that nightthe eighth of eight three-hour concerts, each hour corresponding to a decadein a garment shaped like a giant labia( honoring the Lesbian Avengers of the 1990 s ), a headpiece of skulls raining down tears( to symbolize the AIDS epidemic ), a floor-length coat made of cassette videotapes from the Eighties, a flannel-and-denim homage to the lesbian way of the Michigan Womyns Music Festival, and, at times , nothing at all.
This show is not universal, Taylor said from the stage. Deal with it.
This weekend, the entire twenty-four hour showone hour for each decade from 1776 to 2016 will somehow, some route, be performed in its entirety by Mac and an ensemble of musicians, guests, and dandy minions.
Food will be provided, and hammocks to sleep in. The audience is requested to stay for the whole period. It will be, Mac said, a revolutionary faerie realness ritual, alluding to the queer subculture which formed in the late 1970 s and had now been created some of the most innovative gender-bending artists of the past decades, including John Cameron Mitchell, Justin Vivian Bond, and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.
Taylor Mac, too, emerges from that world.Born in 1973 and raised in rural California, Mac emerged in New Yorks queer, downtown arts scene in the late 1990 s and early 2000 saround the same period as Mitchells Hedwig and Bonds Kiki and Herb broke through.
In some routes, Taylor is a strolling contradiction: a subversive nonconformist who has won mainstream commendations( Guggenheim Fellowship, various grants ); relevant actors in both his own unclassifiable displays and traditional productions of Shakespeare and Brecht.
Ive insured nine hours of Macs genre-defying durational performanceparts cabaret, circus, interactive dance party, ritual, burlesque, concert, history lesson, drag prove, monologue, and performance artand , not surprisingly, I dont know where to begin describing it.
What Taylor Mac has brought to this warehouse in DUMBO, after years of workshopping it around the country, is a subversive counter-history of the United States, told through the prism of popular music. Its like Howard Zinn in a tutu. Playing the banjo.
And it is, as Mac has intended, a community event. First, everyone in the downtown faggot performance scene seemed to be either in the prove or attending it; I could name-drop the filmmakers, performers, producers, and performers who I spotted, but that seems antithetical to the communal spirit of the event.
Second, Mac often involves the audience in the performancesometimes uncomfortably, as when, to simulate the white flight of the 1950 s, Mac demanded that white audience members move out of certain sections of the space. Or when Mac seduced one of the straight male attendees to make out. Or when we had to throw ping-pong balls at each other to simulate the combats of World War I.
And then theres the sheer endurance of it. Three hours is a long time to watch a single performance, especially with no intermission, occasional meanders into the byways of American history( Im not sure I needed thirty minutes of a baby boomer couple lost in a inundate, or assaulted by zombies, or whatever that was ), and what Taylor has called the benefits of flaw.
I can only imagine what twenty-four hours will be like.( A few additional tickets were just released here .)
I wasnt the only one feeling that route. At the eighth prove, I sat next to Hunter Canning, relevant actors best known for starring in the underground-hit web series The Outs. I went through it at Taylors prove, Canning said. I learned about( faggot) history, chuckled, screamed and always at the edge of my seat. Yes, sometimes moments would go on too long. and Taylor would remind us that perfection is for assholes, and I couldnt is all very well. Its the unpredictability thats exciting and even dangerous at times.
In a press statement, Mac said that the concept of the event dates to an AIDS action I attended in 1987 What has stuck with me from that day was experiencing a community coming togetherin the face of such tragedy and injusticeand expressing their fury( and elation at being together) via music, dancing, chanting and agency.