Saturday, November 27, 2010

ARTIST PROFILE for Jennifer Tyburczy


Everyone give a warm welcome to the FABULOUS JENNIFER TYBURCZY!!


Tell us what kind of studies you are doing regarding performance? What are your interests?

I received a Ph.D. in Performance Studies from Northwestern University. It’s a discipline that views performance broadly, centralizing embodiment and how the body navigates different kinds of spaces. For me, this translates to projects in museums, where I track and analyze the ways in which museum populations interface with objects in space. I’m interested in thinking about how space is sexed through staging particular sexual social relationships between bodies and objects in display environments.

As a discipline, performance studies also views performance as an object and a method of study. Due to my interest in museums that explicitly display sexuality, I couple my analysis of exhibits and my ethnography with museum staff and visitors with curatorial work, programming initiatives, and archival cataloguing.

I’m interested in public sexual culture in general, and when I began to study the ways in which people produce and consume sex, I looked for a way to participate in that process through performance. When I moved to Chicago in 2005, the neo-burlesque scene was really picking up steam. I went to a show organized by JT Newman that billed itself as a queer neo-burlesque show. At the show, the MC (Miss Tamale) announced that Newman would be holding auditions for a new troupe called the Girlie Q Variety Hour. I tried out, made the troupe, and the rest was history.

I fell in love with the neo-burlesque format. As an art form, neo-burlesque is an interdisciplinary, postmodern pastiche that combines diverse performance traditions such as circus arts, vaudeville, slapstick and bawdy comedy, feminist performance art, queer aesthetics (e.g., drag and camp), dancing (inclusive of but not exclusively striptease), spoken word, and social and political satire. As a busy graduate student at the time (and now a busy postdoctoral fellow), I never had the time to devote to full-blown theater projects. Neo-burlesque allowed me to quickly put together pieces and polish those 3-5 minute pieces to my perfectionist liking, but still retain some of the raw excitement of a work-in-progress. It was also really informative to my research. I got the opportunity to hail the gaze in a variety of different ways, via a variety of different dramatic personae (specifically Mistress Overdone and Mister Overdone). I often find myself writing and thinking about those experiences in my scholarship.

What kind of performances have you done? Tell us about your most
rewarding performance experience.

My interest in performance began before I arrived in Chicago. I took classes in the Performance as Public Practice (PPP) program at UT Austin (where I received my master’s in English literature). At the time, I was writing about the adaptation of nineteenth-century gothic novels to the stage, and when I found out the PPP program was offering classes in the oral interpretation of literature, I immediately took them. The most influential class was a course called “Performing Black Feminisms” taught by Omi (Joni) Jones. She taught us how to think critically about performing a character different from own raced and gendered experiences. As a white woman, I found it terrifying, at first, to perform blackness in front of my colleagues, but the experience profoundly changed me and my work. I found it to be a revolution--to learn about difference through embodiment--and I wanted the rest of my life to be devoted to the project of thinking through and with embodiment as a way of knowing. So now I teach classes that invite students to adapt novels and short stories from all over the world as a way of teaching an empathetic kind of critical citizenship.

While at Austin, I was also very fortunate to perform with Linda Montano and a group called Hard Women at the Blanton Museum of Art. Performing in a gallery space as a provocative train conductress with the intention to illuminate gender biases really got me thinking about how performance can interrupt and reconfigure a traditional space for a different purpose.

My time in Chicago was filled with neo-burlesque performance, and I curated and produced two shows--a queer neo-burlesque show at Northwestern and a show called “The Freak Museum,” which combined my two loves of museum installation and neo-burlesque through an examination of historical and contemporary “freakdom.”

Here in Houston, I recently performed at Diverseworks during the “Come As You Are: Celebrate Queer Sex” show (which you, Julia, so kindly invited me to take part in, along with Blake Smith), and more recently at the Glitter Fall Variety Show, a charity event for the Transgender Foundation of America at the Usual Pub.

What performance artists really excite you? Who has inspired you?

Oh, there are so many. I’m really inspired by feminist performance artists of the 70s and queer performance artists working out of drag and camp aesthetic traditions. Carolee Schneeman is a goddess. I’m also really excited by Marina Abramovic, Andrea Fraser, Yayoi Kusama, Yoko Ono, Annie Sprinkle, Saint Orlan, Vaginal Creme Davis, Carmelita Tropicana, Holly Hughes, Tim Miller, Karen Finley, Sandra Bernhard...

The comedy of Bea Arthur and Lucille Ball is also really inspiring, as is the work of my colleagues in neo-burlesque such as JT Newman, Miss Tamale, Matthew Hollis, Vagina Jenkins, and La Chica Boom.

What have you discovered about performance art in Houston since you
have been here?

When people ask me about the arts scene in Houston, I say that it’s incredible, fresh, and exciting. Of course, it's not New York, L.A., or Chicago, and that's an awesome thing for performance art. Artists travel to these other places with work that’s often all sealed and polished up. It’s a finished product. From what I’ve seen so far in Houston, lots of fabulous artists travel here with works in progress to get feedback. This is really exciting because then audiences here actually get to have a stake in the outcome of the piece. It
is also a wonderful place to cultivate homegrown works in progress. There’s a rawness and a freshness to the performance art scene here in Houston like I’ve never been a part of anywhere else. And what’s more, I was immediately embraced and invited to perform. It’s a very open and accepting space with kickass artists doing really cutting edge work with, it seems, a social conscious. For me, Houston is a performance art laboratory.

Do you have any plans or desires for the Houston performance art scene?

I want to continue to entertain and serve my LGBTQ community through my performance art as well as overlap with other queer-friendly performance artists to see what we can drum up. I’d love to bring a little more neo-burlesque to Houston, and I’ve taken some steps to see where that can go. My time here in Houston is just beginning, and I have so much to learn from all the fabulous artists who have been so kind as to give me a space to express myself.


Check out some more info on Jenn at her Rice Profile!!

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