Keep Cute and Carry On At The Halloween Drag Ball

October 25, 2013 • Culture

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Wigs, gigs and a penchant for sugar-coated mischief– that’s the idea behind this Sunday’s Halloween Drag Ball, the glam collaboration between MoMa PS1 and Candy Magazine.

The frisky affair is one in a series of PS1’s outstanding Sunday Sessions, “a weekly presentation of performance, moving images, music, dance, and discursive programs”, with a mission to embrace and promote live arts as a means of engaging with our sometimes less-than-live world.

With a not-to-be-missed lineup of gender critical, fab-party fixtures, the festivities begin with a 3-6pm drag workshop, hosted by artist and stylist Raul de Nieves. Plan to take your costume to the artists’ level of ingenuity, as whos–its and whats–its galore will be provided.

After donning the Primadonna get-up of your wildest dreams, prepare for the ball ahead, a whirling affair from 7-11, with DJ sets by JD Samson and Pyramid, (the sexy triumvirate Michael Magnan, Will Automagic and Nita Aviance), and a live performance by La’Fem Ladosha, House Mother of The House of Ladosha (AKA the goddess-daughter sprung from the depths of Naomi Campbell’s head).

With a celebratory intent to fuse the high-gloss of early eighties drag with the contemporary queer culture of our present day, the event’s supported by a slew of hosts from every arena of art, music, fashion and more, including: Justin Bond, Melissa Burns, SSION, Humberto Leon, Carol Lim, Kembra Pfahler, Chloë Sevigny, Casey Spooner, Wu Tsang, and Lypsinka, with infamous nightlife personality Ladyfag emceeing the fishy function.

In anticipation of a bash sure to be sweeter than a big bowl of candy corn, I spoke with MoMa PS1’s Associate Curator Jenny Schlenzka, and Margaret Knowles, Executive Assistant to the Curator, about all the delights one can expect. Rest assured, Style Con darlings– tricks and treats of every variety are welcome. Read on for the dish on all that’s in store, and make sure to lock down your tickets here.

A.E. Zimmer: Thanks again for speaking with us. I know I for one am thrilled for this Sunday– walk me through how it came into being and perhaps some of the things your most excited about.

Jenny Schlenzka: This year is a collaboration with Candy Magazine– we wanted to do something with them last year but then things were too last minute. I’m German, so we don’t have Halloween but we do have the Carnival, and I love Halloween parties. We’ve had some great Halloween parties here before with V Magazine, so we were thinking about a theme or partnership, someone brought up Candy and we just liked the idea of having  everyone in drag. Also, some of it fits with our program and our interests in general. On a more serious level, Queer artists, or artists who are interested in the bending of gender, ideas of gender, crossing over, really interests us. A lot of things have been happening within that in the last ten years, and I would say especially in the last five years it’s crossed over into the mainstream, perhaps due in part to gay marriage being allowed.

There’s so many different facets of gender bending or however you would like to call it, and then drag is already so iconic, so we thought of taking something serious or a political idea and make something fun out of it and bring all these different factions together. So because you know, we have the gay, and then the lesbian community, the queer community, the transgender community– I think in general [these communities] communicate and cross over a lot, but not so much maybe in the public perception. So I thought it would be fun to bring all of these different people together.

Margaret Knowles: Yeah, I think that’s something we really wanted to do as a host to those communities, as well as spanning a lot of different times. We really wanted to reference classical drag in the eighties. We’re having a screening of a film by Norman Nelson Sullivan as a sort of visual backdrop, with footage from Wigstock and Pyramid Club from the Eighties, we really wanted to tie that in with the contemporary drag scene.

JS: A lot of artists–Wu Tsang, for example– works with the idea of gender a lot in her art. But [the party] is not supposed to be very serious, actually it’s supposed to be pretty playful. There’s just so many people who would like to dress up in drag and need a good excuse. Myself included! [Laughs]

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AZ: It’s certainly a wonderful showcase of artists for any newcomer to the culture, whether in music, contemporary art, film, the whole bit. Are there any performers you’re particularly excited about?

JS: I think all of them! I mean, I’ve never seen The House of Ladosha live before, so I’m excited for them. Mainly I’m excited for just a big dance party. And Ladyfag, the nightlife queen, is going to be the emcee of the night, so I think she’ll be really great. I also have high hopes for the pageantry.

MK: That’s right, we’ll be doing a pageant. Before the performance, we’re going to have Ladyfag host a pageant and invite anyone on stage to strut, work their stuff, and show off their costumes. We really want people to come in costume, really decked out, and I think they will.

AZ: I know the earlier portion of the day will be devoted to encouraging attendees to get into the look. What will be available there for ball-goers looking to dress up their costumes? 

MK: Well, Raul de Nieves is an artist and friend who will be there as a stylist and host during the 3-6pm portion. He’s going out and creating what we’re calling a “drag kit”– he’s going vintage shopping, getting materials for his practice. You know, his practice is really involved with bejeweling and bedazzling, so his energy is going to influence that portion a lot.

JS: Though the afternoon is also meant for kids, too. We had artists last year bringing in things like proposals for costumes and such. The kids came in and naturally, immediately understood what this was about and dressed up and put on makeup, and were running around. It was a lot of fun, with both the kids and parents.

AZ: Of course kids know what to do instantaneously.

JS: Right, it’s in their blood. They definitely don’t need Halloween as an excuse!

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