Queer performance art series The News made a powerful debut Tuesday night at SOMArts. The evening offered an array of queer narratives, made even more timely and poignant by the federal appeals court ruling on Proposition 8 handed down that morning. Giving intense performances and showing works-in-progress were DIAmanda Kallas | Dia Dear, La Chica Boom, Peter Max Lawrence, Rotimi Agbabiaka, and Shaunna Vella. We also saw the Brontez Purnell Dance Company and Magic Meals.
Host Kolmel WithLove, a filmmaker and performer who curates The News, started things with her own performance in the gallery space of SOMArts. DIAmanda Kallas and La Chica Boom gave show-stopping performances that truly blew us away.
DIAmanda Kallas (not to be confused with Diamanda Galas, the performance artist most known for her compositions about AIDS) is a local performer who recently won Trannyshack's 13th Annual Star Search competition. Kallas presented a drag lip-synch to Antony and the Johnsons' perversely endearing single, "Cripple and the Starfish." Swathed in plastic wrap and white tulle, with the word "flaming" scrawled across the chest, Kallas embodied the lyrics "It's true I always wanted love to be full of pain," with uncomfortable sincerity.
Kallas placed songwriter Antony Hegarty's musings on a debilitating relationship into a queer context, capturing the hurt of navigating human relations while subject to judgment and backlash. The story of suffering was all the more sharp coming on the tide of the Proposition 8 decision, which could signal the end to systemic endorsement of hatred and bullying in our state. However, Kallas' drag did not render much hope for the future; ending the song with face buried in tulle, one glittery stiletto cast aside.
La Chica Boom also delivered an impressive performance with her racially charged burlesque gone awry. Only moments into her striptease, she broke down, pulling a lip liner pencil from her underwear and enacting a wrist-slitting with it. Then, she mimed with her shoes as if they were guns, frantically circling to ward off predators before turning the gun on herself in another suicidal act. After a moment of feigning death, a laugh track swelled with applause. Standing to acknowledge it, she unceremoniously stripped down, nipple pasties first, in a reversal of typical burlesque. The applause swelled repeatedly as she, apparently confused at its persistence, removed item after item, down to the flowers in her hair. The applause continued until she scooped her belongings up and scurried off stage.
Her performance managed to pack a hefty critique of the surveillance of queer bodies in contemporary culture into less than 10 minutes. Her satirical rendition of burlesque, rather than an intricate and titillating dance, plainly begged the question: "What is there left to see?" Using Chicana and feminist iconography, La Chica Boom pushes at the boundaries of the term "queer," advocating for a broader application of the word than in reference to sexuality alone.
Think you're ready to take the stage? To participate in The News, complete this brief online survey, and you might have the chance to present your freshest (perhaps even improvisational) work at the next installment on March 6. For further information, visit www.somarts.org or contact Kolmel WithLove at firstname.lastname@example.org.