On July 16, Outfest, Lez at the Mezz, and Mustache Mondays came together to throw a party at The Mezz in the Alexandria Hotel to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Platinum, Outfest’s experimental films section. Night Moves was two events in one: in the center was a dance party hosted by artist and filmmaker Nao Bustamante, with performer Drew Droege in drag as Chloë Sevigny and DJ Automaton and DJ Kim Anh spinning beats. On the fringes was a performance art show featuring work inspired by queer cinema past and present.
Combining a dance party with a performance art showcase is an ingenious stroke that is not attempted often enough. Dancing up a sweat is the ideal activity to metabolically prepare oneself for an evening of performance art, especially when the performances involve dildos, bondage, and dancing vaginas. The Mezz, a cavernous space with low, gilded ceilings, looks halfway through a centuries-long transition from Edwardian ballroom to warehouse loft, and is the perfect venue for a night such as this.
The performances told an abbreviated history of queer cinema. Marcus Kuiland-Nazario set up an arts and crafts space called “Crafternoon”, inspired by 60s underground cinema pioneer Jack Smith, where party-goers could make their own adult-themed crafts and accessories while watching a loop of Smith’s films. Softcore porn films from the 60s and 70s curated by Michelle Triple X screened against a section of the wall near the bar, with the nearest available seating being a church pew. It was a reminder that watching people fuck on a screen used to be, and sometimes still is, a social activity.
In another corner, Heather Cassils and Dawn Casper and friends staged an evening-long performance paying tribute to the aesthetics and conventions of 70s and 80s gay porn. Half a dozen women donned cutoffs, knee-length socks, bandannas, leather gear, fake mustaches, and not much else. The troupe went through a number of porn scenarios, going from a schoolboy circle jerk to biker gear and bondage. Real-time video of the performance and the authentic vintage porn were displayed on adjacent screens. Pornography from 30 years ago sure looks different, but regardless of the era it all seems to end the same way.
Ryan Heffington and The Ladyboys of Sweaty Sundays, clad uniformly in sequins and chest hair, did a dance number centered around the gay pastime of cross-dressing. The next act, Vagina Wolf and PERMS, featuring dancing vaginas and dancing wolves, embraced the lesbian/feminist tradition of demystifying and celebrating female genitalia. Fittingly, they were there to promote the upcoming film, “Who’s Afraid of Vagina Wolf”.
The last act of the evening, done by performance art collective Pigs in the Parlor, lived up to its name and gave a performance that was unsentimental, unforgiving, and unforgettable. Lead performer Pony came on stage stuck with a few dozen hypodermic needles inserted in his face at strategic angles. In front of a video projection of abstract images (eyes, hands, a sledgehammer destroying an alarm clock), Pony pulled them out very slowly along a length of string, creating unplanned spurts of blood in the process.
Some of the performances at Night Moves were inspired by the past, whether the past is the texture of doilies and feather boas, or the slick filth of the sequined hotpants and leather harnesses. Some of the performances were products of the present moment, where queer films, like all independent and outsider films, proceed from a combination of artistry, activism, fund raising, and self-promotion. Pigs in the Parlor’s act is a little more difficult to place. Certainly it comes from BDSM practices, but it concerns itself with activities that, unlike handcuffings and whippings, are unlikely to gain a foothold in the mainstream imagination. Pigs in the Parlor takes the dangerous route to the heart of its own queer experience, a body apocalypse where the human condition’s ability to express itself comes at odds with the limitations of its own language and its own body. It is a blacklight shining from the darkest provinces of a fringe world, a queer vision that is always at the edge of the horizon, borne restlessly into the future.