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Men Together: Gay Performance Festival . P.S. 122 (November). Over the past few years Gay Art has become the subject of increasing discussion among critics and artists alike. Beyond the obvious moralist's stumbling block-prevalence of highly (homo)erotic imagery-which has distinguished it from art produced by other minorities, a great number of the critical issues it poses hinge on its relationship to current styles and its potential to further the development of post-modern aesthetics. To paraphrase the poet Jane Cooper: if it is going to say dangerous things, it must say them with charm. (For "charm" read: clever acknowledgement in the form ofa standard which, almost by definition, is extrinsic to its content.) In Men Together: Gay Performance Festival, the attempt to fuse gay content and the stylistic language of the avantgarde became the fundamental link between the most interesting works. Organized by Tim Miller, this festival sought to present works that examine gay experience in terms that force the expansion of its expected artistic context. PostModern Faggot, a collaborative work by Miller and John Bernd, opened the festival. Its first section gives us all the information we need to know that this is a Lower Manhattan art event. Miller and Bernd are first seen sitting with their backs to the audience, perfectly still, wearing black, Lower East Side cheap, chic overcoats . They then begin a repetitive approach /avoidance dance sequence that brings to mind every minimal piece you've ever seen. Movement patterns soon break from abstraction and become a cruising /courting ritual. Miller then sits and begins to read a long passage from Swann's Way in which Proust discusses in florid detail his obsessive love for Gilberte. Against this, Bernd performs a solo that is equally one-tracked. For both Bernd and Proust emotion is translated into focused adherence to detail. Miller then performs a solo which is as rough and viscerally reactive as Bernd's was cerebral. The performance evolves through shifts in language, both physical and verbal, passing from the expounding of theory through its degeneration to finding viable forms for interaction. Surprisingly, although we are told the sexual orientation of the two performers , what characterizes their relationship to one another is never explicitly sexual . In not being so, it hones in on affectionate , mutually supportive possibilities particular to gay friendship. In Norman Frisch's Short Lessons in Socially Restricted Sign Language, communication is also the central issue. Constructed around a series of pre-recorded lectures, the limitations of various forms of sign language and how they relate to sexual development are discussed. With the aid of an interpreter, Tavoria Rae Kellam, the lectures are signed in either American sign language, the colloquial system used by the deaf to communicate among themselves, or signed English, the formal language used in pedagogy. While visual aids flash on the screen behind Kellam, the lessons move quickly through sexual vocabulary to sex related concepts and their approximations in various forms of sign language, to the reading of texts and the translation of a dialogue between a sex therapist and his patient. From the lectures we learn that the incidence of homosexuality is unusually high in deaf men, and that this is attributed to a state of "arrested adolescence" due to isolation, a less than efficient means of socialization, and abnormal subjectivity. The only gay man in this performance (Bruce Hlibok) becomes the test case for that assessment of homosexuality as pathology. His actions are sequences so illogical , however, that they neither mock nor affirm the suspect theory. Contrary to Short Lessons... which is constructed around the imparting of information , Jeff McMahon's one-man, "active text performance" is totally dependent upon the conveyance of its irrationality. Smile at Knife is a schizophrenic monologue distilled from the anxieties of a boy who is mugged in the city. The narrative explodes with anger and self-loathing, with both liberal and fascist impulses. McMahon assumes, simultaneously, the roles of victim and attacker. This piece's inclusion in the festival at first seems odd since there is nothing explicitly homosexual about its content. However, it becomes something other than the voice of a typical urban dweller-that of...


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pp. 38-39
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