In conjunction with our exhibition Out [o] Fashion Photography: Embracing Beauty, the Henry offers two film screenings this month to expand upon the ideas and concepts presented in the exhibition.
Paris is Burning: May 9th, 7-8:20 pm
Paris is Burning is a documentary film directed by Jennie Livingston that explores issues of race, class, and gender in the context of the New York City drag balls of the 1980s. This intimate and controversial film immerses the viewer in a subculture where contestants compete in categories that often skew and mimic hetero normative notions of race and gender. Regarding the film, philosopher Judith Butler questions whether, “parodying the dominant norms is enough to displace them…whether the denaturalization of gender cannot be the very vehicle for a reconsolidation of hegemonic norms.” The film will be introduced by Seattle filmmaker Tiffany Gannon.
We chose to screen this film as it explores the idea of seeing and being seen and also considers the notion of idealized beauty and “the gendered image,” a prominent theme explored in Out [o] Fashion. Until recently, Paris is Burning was, according to NPR, “difficult to see except at late-night art house showings and on vintage VHS, only a few years ago did some kind soul uploaded it to YouTube” (Read more of the NPR article here). You can now watch the film on Netflix, but this screening at the Henry will be via vintage VHS.
Cleopatra Jones: May 30th, 7-8:30pm
Cleopatra Jones is a Blaxploitation film starring Tamara Dobson which reflexively deals with themes of feminism, sexuality, race, and pop culture during a transitional time in the 1970’s, a social climate that witnessed the rise of both second-wave feminism and the Black Power movement. In this film, Dobson takes the role of the first black superheroine in the genre – a striking, fierce, and fashion-conscious spy who travels the world on a mission to cut off illicit supplies at their source. This screening will also feature an introduction and discussion with African American Film Studies scholar Sonnet Retman.
Cleopatra Jones creates a counter-narrative to earlier images of women, much like the photography of women photographers such as Gertrude Käsebier, Lisette Model, and Imogen Cunningham, all of whom are featured in Out [o] Fashion.