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Toxic Assemblages, Queer Socialities: A Dialogue of Mutual Poisoning


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An imposing drag queen in a leopard-print top flaunts her décolleté after the show. She totters through the glitter, tinsel, and pills scattered on the floor and walks over to a massive tropical plant, from which she fishes out a lighter, lights a cigarette, and breaks out in a terrible cough, exhaling glitter from deep in her throat. In the background, a slideshow displays oversized portrait figures wearing fanciful masks made of various trashy but glamorous materials, partly referencing protest cultures and queer subcultures since the 1970s.

A curious communication between doubled images takes place, since the drag queen on stage as well as a punk figure now appearing there are the same figures portrayed in the projected slides. The punk appears in a cut denim vest, cheeky samurai-style hair tuft, and colorful makeup emphasizing the dark glitter eye shadow. Positioned in front of the photographs, curious doublings and overlappings are created as the punk recites a list of all the toxic substances that come to mind. Her tone of voice remains undecided, somewhere between condemnation and ovation, and the list seems to induce her to start cleaning the floor. Yet this transforms into a dance with a broom and a vacuum cleaner, where the whirling silver tinsel, the body in movement, the masks gazing from behind the figures onstage, and the tropical plants together form a queer assemblage—one that carries with it histories of intoxication. Destructive pleasures and pleasurable destructiveness are bound up with desiring relations.

In a further shift, the address to the audience returns from the punk to the drag queen, who, posing on a comfy chair, enters into a self-reflective monologue that turns into a complaint, then an accusatory dialogue that reveals the formerly intimate after-show scenario to have been a film production. A fight with the media apparatus over its inherent power relations, and the doubts and desires for recognition and control on the side of the protagonist, expose conditions of queer sociality and its limits.

And then it starts all over again with a cigarette smoked out of exhaustion on a toxic glimmering stage.

Read the full article here.