On Saturday, May 10, families were invited to learn about performance art with artist Alexandro Segade who is part of My Barbarian, a collective with Malik Gaines and Jade Gordon. My Barbarian combines experimental performance, traditional theater, and visual art to produce live events, music, and videos. In this Artist’s Choice workshop, families had the opportunity to watch and discuss excerpts of My Barbarian’s 2014 Biennial film Declaration of Infantile Anxiety Situations Reflected in the Creative Impulse, 2013.
The film, which features the three My Barbarian artists as well as their own mothers, explores psychoanalytical texts, issues of gender identity, and the 1970s feminist movement. To grasp these challenging themes, families focused on how the collective used settings, props, and gestures to set the scene for their characters and communicate a message.
Families were fascinated with the different period costumes, from western style overalls and late nineteenth-century prim white dresses to dapper styles of the 1940s. Segade explained that initially the three artists made their own costumes, but now they work with a costume designer and spend all day trying on different costumes until they find ones that portray specific characters and time periods perfectly.
Parents and kids engaged in warm-up activities and theater games to begin working together outside of their family units. Segade divided them into three mini communities made up of several families each. Using bits of colorful patterned fabric, the groups collaborated to create their own costumes to unify them as a unique community.
Based on different aspects of their costumes, the groups discussed what name, chant, and gesture would identify their community. One group, “The ELMS” derived their title from the first letter of each of their first names. From there, they developed a tree-like stance, reminiscent of an elm tree, with their arms stretched out as branches. The “One-Handed Wonders” were forced to work together after deciding on their special feature of each wrapping up one of their hands with fabric and string. The “Strong Bananas” were inspired by the jungle theme of the leopard print fabric they liked.
Families followed Segade in a parade through the Museum. There were hearty yells echoing through the space as the families danced around curious Museum visitors. Families were encouraged as they received a vigorous applause from the Whitney guards! Everyone thoroughly enjoyed this taste of performance art.
By Jamie Rosenfeld, Education Assistant