This Dancerie* explores Paris as the site of a queer century lived in public in a multi-event, multi-site, multi-media project that explores the ways in which gay men have created public expressions of desire despite prohibitions against the manifestation of those aspects of their lives.
In a series of projects spanning several years, This Dancerie will seek to:
- illuminate transitions in identity that evolve for cisgender males over the course of a century, moving from the modern construct of the homosexual to current articulations of “queerness;”
- will look at the persistence of public expressions of identity that defy binary gender definition across the century;
- reflect the critical social events that have had an impact on “queer” lives ranging from wars to public health crises to liberation struggles to fashion and entertainment;
- reflect the intersections of class, race, ethnicity, economics, politics and creed as well as immigration patterns that have created evolving heterogeneity in the French populus;
- reflect changing technologies that have supported notions of self actualization while challenging policies and practices that have defined standards of public decency.
The pretext of This Dancerie is urbanization as a prerequisite for modern homosexual subculture and the understanding that despite the lack of recognized communities or “gay ghettos,” gay men have lived forbidden aspects of their lives in many cities, in public. This Dancerie focuses on Paris as a crossroad of queer life in which, although, technically, homosexuality was legal since 1791,notions of public decency were legislated and under surveillance.
This Dancerie will highlight a series of sites and events across Paris of historical importance for gay men as members of a broader social context. For each site, narratives based on actual events will be developed and represented in public works that range from image projections to performing arts-based spectacles. Each narrative will seek to elaborate not only aspects of gay history but the intersection of that history with issues of race, class, creed, ethnicity, ability and gender. The role immigration has played will also be underscored in This Dancerie.
This Dancerie’s Artistic Director and Executive Producer is Tony Whitfield. Each work in the series that will constitute This Dancerie will be conceived, written, directed and produced by Whitfield in collaboration with a team of artists, performers and technicians based in Paris and New York. Each work will have a team specifically assembled to meet its artistic demands.
Over the course of the next five years, Whitfield plans to execute eight to ten works that will constitute This Dancerie in locations across Paris where same sex desire has created a shifting landscape of encoded behavior, transgressive beauty and seduction, criminalized activity, class-complicated entanglements, immigrant survival strategies, forbidden trans/interactions. These works will take place in public spaces, at night. It is hoped that some of these works will be featured as parts of Paris’ annual La Nuit Blanche festival. As such, they will also employ elements that will seek to engage viewers and community groups in a variety of ways that illuminate connections to the City’s gay history. In situations that range from motion activated videos to dance parties to social media directed investigations, This Dancerie will ask viewers/participants to question what it means to live a forbidden life in public. All aspects of This Dancerie will also become part of an app that will allow viewers to unpack the historical, biographical and artistic dimension of the work they are viewing in contexts that are mapped and layered. Whenever possible and appropriate, This Dancerie will seek to involve diverse gay communities directly in the development, production and realization of its components in ways that reveal histories, issues and contemporary manifestations and implications in the narratives they embody. It is also anticipated that all of the works that constitute the muti-year roll-out of This Dancerie will culminate in a month long installation at a Paris based cultural institution as well as series of short broadcast quality works. Various components of This Dancerie will also utilize radio and various forms of social media for dissemination to targeted audiences. In addition those works will be integrated into an evening long work that including live performance.
This Dancerie will be comprised of the following series of projects that are in various stages of development.
This Dancerie: A Cycle
1910 Whitfield will collaborate with composers to create augmented versions of Adrien Barrere’s 1910 film, Tom Pouce Suit Une Femme;
1918 Whitfield collaborates with a team of artists and performers to create a live event in that revives same-sex intimacy, brought to life during World War I;
1922-39 Whitfield and collaborators resurrect the diversity and celebration of same sex desire found in the Magic City’s annual Bals des Invertis;
1938 In a film installation on Isle de La Cité and a series of actions action across Paris , Whitfield will propose versions of a same sex relationship that played a key role in an event igniting the Holocaust;
1950-70 Whitfield constructs a meditation on romanticized queer blackness in mid-century Paris, ranging from American ex-patriot experiences to North-Africans in exile and at war;
1965 Whitfield will pay homage to transgender people who forged their identities in the sex-trade of Place Blanche by asking this generation of transgender people to recreate the physicality of the 60’s while discussing trans-life in 2016;
1974 Whitfield explores the arrival of terror in the heart of queer international glamour at the Intersection of Blvd. St Germain and Rue de Rennes in September of 1974;
1985 Building narratives from material culture that create portraits of 6 to 10 individuals with AIDS, Whitfield will collaborate with a group of AIDS survivors to explore the role Paris played in the epidemic;
1996 Bringing together survivors of the epidemic with queer people born after the arrival of protease inhibitors, Whitfield will facilitate collaborative events that explore the notion of queer life after AIDS;
life-in-progress Whitfield collaborates with a diverse group of artists and activists to create an environment that explores confronting French culture and the daily dissonant realities of exile, assimilation and difference for queer immigrants in Paris;
This Dancerie Reprise will weave together the threads of these pieces into an evening long event exploring a century of queer life lived in public.
- Please note that all projects discussed herein are in development and dependent upon the acquisition of rights for the use of work(s) by artists other than Tony Whitfield.
- *at urbandictionary.com the word dancerie (dancery) is defined as ” Any establishment in which music is played and dancing is likely to occur, such as a bar, nightclub, or strip joint.” and a “…word that Mary J. Blige invented,” meaning a “dance club, night club, or ghetto bar.” Used here, it describes a social environment where two or more individuals engage in ritualistic, inventive interaction. see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=znlFu_lemsU&list=RDznlFu_lemsU#t=0
- APP FOR THIS DANCERIE, IN DEVELOPMENT
- Whitfield CoLabs creates contexts that present and interpret aspect of urban experience that illuminate social change, particularly in the lives of underrepresented populations. Through collaboration with artists, designers, technicians and organizations that serve Whitfield CoLabs‘ subject populations, works will be developed and presented in multiple media to engender greater understanding of the histories that underpin current cultural phenomena. Through the application of transmedia storytelling strategies, audiences for Whitfield CoLabs‘ works will variously range from general urban populations in public spaces to product consumers to participants in social media.
- Fiscal sponsorship for Whitfield CoLabs and This Dancerie is provided by
- Generous support for This Dancerie has been provided by The New School and the School of Art and Design History and Theory at Parsons School of Design and funding from the Film, Video and Digital Production Program of the Jerome Foundation.