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Living in Color: Decolonizing Art—Burlesque and Be...

Living in Color: Decolonizing Art—Burlesque and Beyond

The POC burlesque show coming to campus at the tail-end of reading week is placing more than just models of color in the limelight; they’re here to shed light on the exclusive practices of art fields.

The event, ASSthetics: A Case for Reclamation, was created by members of Living in Color (a campus artist collective) who felt the annual burlesque show put on by Lipstick Theatre wasn’t accepting some body types of models auditioning to be in the show.

“Some of the people who were in the auditioning process for [Lipstick Theatre] solos felt that they were transphobic, fat-phobic, and misrepresented what certain identities or sexual practices would have looked like,” says Courtney Morrison, an LIC Junior. “Many people dropped just from their discomfort with the entire thing.”

LIC’s event is here to reaffirm that if the marginalized put their bodies and sexualities on display, they must be the ones to control what is considered beautiful—not white, able-bodied, heterosexual hegemonic norms.

This mentality lies at the heart of what Living in Color is and the kind of work they do.

Living in Color is an artist collective for people of color and their other intersecting identities who are set on making more of a presence within whitewashed art fields, says junior Darcelle Pluviose, an artist member of the organization. They’re especially concerned with those fields prioritized by academia and other social institutions that don’t allow enough space for people of color.

Most recently, LIC sold original “Decolonial Love Letters” for Valentine’s Day. They recognized that the way Valentine’s Day has been socially constructed and capitalized upon is sometimes unhealthy and excludes a lot of different types of love-filled relationships. For this, they co-opted the event.

Pluviose talks more about their letters:

“‘Be Mine’ is often a phrase used for cards and sweets [but] spreads the message that you can own somebody and that you are owned by someone… People who buy those may be trying to send a different message, but that is the only one they have to use from these big card companies. ‘I love you and we grow together and we have room to grow together,’ for example, is a healthier way to think of yourself in relationship to others.”

Some other card examples are

Roses are red, violets are blue. I want to disrupt the gender binary with you.

You’re a person, not property. I greatly appreciate your existence, especially in the vicinity of mine. Let’s be rad together.

You are who you are, and not what I’d like you to be. I love the you that is not a reflection of me.

Can’t spell revolution without “love”.

“Love liberates, it doesn’t bind.” -Maya Angelou

I love you, you love me. Massacre the bourgeois.

LIC has annual events, too.

Their biggest event is an annual showcase in the fall. The first one, in 2015, centered on activists of color, different forms of activism, and how they can manifest through or as your art. This past fall’s showcase was about language, and different ways we communicate that aren’t exclusive to spoken language. This may include spoken word or physical actions.

They’ve also started a response campaign to Black Girl Magic called Black Femme Magic. In BFM, they do photo shoots around Chicago of all types of identities, not prioritizing thin, light-skin, able-bodied models like BGM. LIC always defers to the model to ask what look makes them most comfortable and expresses their identity best.

Morrison says, “LIC serves to be a space to challenge, to question, to represent accurately and effectively—to build conversations. For a lot of what’s going on in mainstream [culture], whether it’s on a smaller scale at Northwestern or at the national [level]… we wish to spread light on and showcase those who’ve been either ignored or excluded from the conversations.”

Living in Color presents ASSthetics: A Case for Reclamation, happening Friday, March 10th in McCormick Auditorium at Norris.


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