Portada catálogo Elements of Vogue

Elements of Vogue


Elements of Vogue was shown at CA2M between November 2017 and May 2018. This exhibition explored how minorities use their bodies to create dissident forms of beauty, subjectivity and desire. Voguing is an underground dance form inspired by fashion magazine poses, invented by bodies that have been criminalised, racialised, medicalised, and punished repeatedly. It first emerged in the African-American community and then spread all over the world. This project advertised through 'word-of-mouth': without much media publicity, it ended up being the biggest public success in the museum's history. We like to think that the fundamental reason behind this is that the quest to transform society to include all bodies is at the heart of our museums' work.

This book is being released just after the exhibition's visit to the Museo Universitario del Chopo in Mexico City, where it closed its doors a few days before the country's lockdown started. When the exhibition opened in Madrid, the CA2M published Cuerpo político negro, a compilation of the critical and theoretical discourses that are fundamental to a political understanding of Blackness today. When creating this new book, we thought a lot about two terms from vogue slang: read and shade. The first, to read, means to call out your opponent's flaws with grace and defiance. The second, shade, is a semi-veiled expression of mockery or contempt that takes an exceptionally ambiguous, stealthy or indirect form. It is both a sign of contempt and of recognition. If, in 2017, we published a reader, now we are offering a shader.

In this book, the curators' notes offer a reading of radical performance through each of the works exhibited at CA2M. However, they are interspersed with a number of quotations and cross-references, including statements by those who have taken part in the performances, parades, and dances, that serve to throw shade at the exhibition narrative. In other words, they challenge any official interpretation of the story. This book leans towards sharing a multiplicity of voices without letting any single dominant authorial voice prevail. Among these voices, we have placed the text of Benji Hart's inaugural performance, the first Spanish translations of works by queer poets Essex Hemphill and Assotto Saint, and a formerly forgotten text by Marlon T. Riggs. This rediscovered work, entitled "Letter to the Dead", was fundamental during the AIDS crisis.

We would like to think of this book as collective choreography (or, more precisely, a shade composition). Shade is a rhetorical strategy that lives on the margins of mainstream culture,  embodying the ambiguities of hegemonic language at every turn, always calling into question any normative reading of history. We hope you get to enjoy it soon in paper form and to see ferranElOtro's design in all its glory.

With the support of
Logo Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam