She sewed a bra to her chest. She was completely naked. I couldn’t stop watching.
Miss Texas 1988, an avant garde Seattle drag queen, rocked my world in her work De(Fame.Femme)ation at the experimental performance platform 12 Minutes Max, where each artist has twelve minutes or fewer for their piece. From skateboarding in black pumps, to weight lifting in a ballgown, to rocking exactly half a face of makeup and a whole face of beard, Miss Texas 1988 showed that participating in different aspects of traditionally gendered behavior is 100% okay and 200% beautiful.
About five minutes into her allotted twelve, Miss Texas 1988 performed oral sex on a banana, and globbed chocolate pudding into her mouth – showcasing clear metaphors of queer sex. She took what forms the basis for wide scale oppression, of what some people think is “disgusting” and “wrong,” and forced the audience to pay attention, almost begging us to confront our own internalized homophobia. Do you know why this makes you uncomfortable? she seemed to ask.
Then Miss Texas 1988 took off all of her clothes, a bold move that would break a typical drag performance – the presence of a penis is often not accepted in the performance of womanhood. But with Miss Texas 1988, this was her point. Conventional structures of gender are socialized expectations, so easy to destroy with some fake eyelashes, a little blush, and a naked male-presenting body.
Closing the piece with a mix of desperation, gender nonconformity, and surprise, Miss Texas 1988 sewed a bra to her chest. In a just a few stitches a red brazier with black lace trim hung from her pectorals, puckering where the needle pierced her skin. While the bra continued to hang, Miss Texas 1988 packed all of her clothes and props in a blanket knit by someone who was “very kind, but probably homophobic,” uttered a quick “I’m sorry,” and scampered off the stage.
The audience clapped but stayed in their seats well after the Miss Texas 1988 left, shocked and still processing the performance. It seemed that, unsurprisingly, deconstructing rigid gender norms, showcasing queerness, celebrating both masculine and feminine, playing with vulnerability, and serving drag queen realness left quite an impression.
De(Fame.Femme)ation stood out at 12 Minutes Max because frankly, sewing things to body parts is hella memorable. But the other performances also had many amazing moments and meaningful social thrusts.
The first show of the night, created and performed by Ankita Das was Mallari, a classical Indian dance piece, full of precise movements, musicality, and charm. [no later than soon], created by To M0re and performed by Maeve Haselton and Hannah Rice, showed a modern duet that left the dancers running and throwing themselves across the floor, breathless and cozy in partnership. Pussy Willow, created by Hope Goldman and performed by Kara Beadle, explored female jazz glam through a raw, contemplative piece and sequin gold top. Performed and created by Naomi Macalalad Bragin, Little Brown Language grooved to a blend of Spanish and English texts, challenging the standardized imperialism of the “conquistadores” and the “perfect English washed in suburban whiteness.” suwannee, created by Alison Burke and performed by Burke, Sierra Hendrix, and Mike Gebhart, played with shadows of a dancing body, and vulnerability of uncertain storytelling.
On the Boards and BASE presented 12 Minutes Max, curated by Veronica Lee-Baik and Pol Rosenthal, on Sunday December 16, 2018 and Monday December 17, 2018 at BASE: Experimental Arts and Space.