With Malik Gaines & Thomas J. Lax
The following discussion was recorded at Nocturnal Dream Shows on October 12, 2016. The conversation between Malik Gaines & Thomas J. Lax followed a screening of Tricia’s Wedding (1971), a satire of a presidential wedding that features a multiracial collective of psychedelic drag performers called the Cockettes. Gaines and Lax discussed the film’s legacy, radical ambivalence, “failure as a mode outside the demands of straight productivity,” and the transformative possibilities of the carnivalesque. They compared the Cockettes’ work to the performative repertoire of the Black Panther Party and other imaginative methods of social noncompliance.
Please join Hurtme O. Hurtme, Eartha Kitt, Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi, Jacqueline Onassis, Queen Elizabeth, Elizabeth Taylor, and Coretta Scott King for a screening of Tricia’s Wedding (1971), a satire of a presidential wedding that features a multiracial collective of psychedelic drag performers called the Cockettes. Tricia’s Wedding premiered in theaters on June 12, 1971, the day that President Richard Nixon’s daughter Tricia was married at the White House—and on national television.
In his new book, Black Performance on the Outskirts of the Left: A History of the Impossible, scholar and artist Malik Gaines describes how the Cockettes enact their idea of a White House wedding: The Cockettes “imaged and imagined a negation of ruling order, using satirical doubling and the violation of taboos to terrorize the notion of the paternalistic state,” Gaines writes. “They at first appear to relish the pretense of importance they are mimicking, an act of class drag that exaggerates their own social status. Soon, though, the pious wedding ceremony descends into the narrative’s Bacchanalian climax, desecrating the pious order of Nixon’s heteronormative ritual.”
Upon its release, Tricia’s Wedding pronounced itself a “film of international magnitude.” As part of their effort to track dissent, members of the Nixon Administration monitored the film, which offers an example of political satire speaking directly to power. Following the screening of the thirty-three minute film, Gaines and curator Thomas J. Lax will discuss the film’s legacy, methods of social non-compliance, and the transformative possibilities of the carnivalesque. Gaines compares the Cockettes’ work to the performative repertoire of the Black Panther Party, situated across the San Francisco Bay; the group added to the discussion of radical theatricality and the high stakes of 1960s protest movements.
Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. In order to ensure that events are accessible and comfortable, we’ll open the doors at 6:30 p.m. and strictly limit admittance to our legal capacity. Please check Triple Canopy’s Facebook and Twitter accounts for updates, as we’ll indicate if events are sold out.
Triple Canopy’s venue is located at 264 Canal Street, 3W, near several Canal Street subway stations. Our floor is accessible by elevator (63" × 60" car, 31" door) and stairway. Due to the age and other characteristics of the building, our bathrooms are not ADA-accessible, though several such bathrooms are located nearby. If you have specific questions about access, please write at least three days before the event and we will make every effort to accommodate you.
- Malik Gaines is an artist and writer based in New York. His essays have appeared in Art Journal, Women & Performance, and in numerous exhibition catalogues and arts publications. His book, Black Performance on the Outskirts of the Left, traces a circulation of political ideas in performances of the 1960s and beyond. Since 2000, Gaines has performed and exhibited extensively with the group My Barbarian, whose work has been shown at MoMA, the New Museum, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Kitchen, LACMA, MOCA LA, ICA Philadelphia, Toronto’s Power Plant, Amsterdam’s De Appel, Madrid’s El Matadero, Cairo’s Townhouse Gallery, and many others, and has been included in the Whitney Biennial, two Performa Biennials, the Montreal Biennial, and the Baltic Triennial. Gaines also makes performance and video work solo, and in other collaborations. He is assistant professor of Performance Studies in New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and holds a PhD in Theater Performance Studies from UCLA and an MFA in writing from CalArts.
- Thomas J. Lax is the associate curator of media and performance art at MoMA, a position he’s held since 2014. At the Museum, he has organized or co-organized projects including Steffani Jemison: Promise Machine, Greater New York 2015, Maria Hassabi: PLASTIC, Projects: Neïl Beloufa, and Modern Dance: Ralph Lemon, among others. He is currently working on a major project on the legacy of Judson Dance Theater. Previously he worked at the Studio Museum in Harlem for seven years, on exhibitions such as Kalup Linzy: If It Don’t Fit, VideoStudio, Fore, and When the Stars Begin to Fall: Imagination and the American South. Thomas writes regularly for a variety of publications and is a faculty member at the Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance at Wesleyan University’s Center for the Arts. He is also on the advisory committees of Contemporary And, the Laundromat Project, Recess, Vera List Center for Arts and Politics, among others. Thomas holds degrees from Brown University and Columbia University and in 2015 was awarded the Walter Hopps Award for Curatorial Achievement.