Drag Face

Edgar Arceneaux Until, Until Until
Edgar Arceneaux film still from "Until, Until, Until"

Master of Fine Arts program at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University in collaboration with the MIT List Visual Arts Center and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston presents

Colloquium 2016, DRAG FACE

Friday, November 18, 2016 from 2pm-5pm
Remis Auditorium, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

This year’s colloquium participants include Danielle Abrams, performance artist and visiting faculty at SMFA at Tufts; Edgar Arceneaux, artist currently featured in the solo exhibit “Written in Smoke and Fire” at MIT List Visual Arts Center; Henriette Huldisch, curator at MIT‘s List Visual Arts Center; writer, artist and curator, Kareem Khubchandani, Assistant Professor in Drama and Dance at Tufts University and Laine Rettmer, Master of Fine Arts Candidate at SMFA at Tufts.  The discussant will be Jeannie Simms, Chair of Photography and Professor of Practice at SMFA at Tufts.

The colloquium presenters will consider the complexities in which performance intersects with identity-forming discourses including gender, ethnicity, race and class. From the history of black-face in late nineteenth century vaudeville to drag in contemporary underground queer clubs, the speakers will explore the social and political implications of masquerade.   

Danielle Abrams will present her character, “Routine”, a comedian from the 1960s Catskill region of New York, otherwise known as the Borscht Belt.  Routine was developed from Abrams’ research into the legacy of Jewish popular entertainment beginning with blackface performances in the late 19th-early 20th century.

Kareem Khubchandani who often appears as his alter ego LaWhore Vagistan, will discuss his upcoming book titled Ishtyle: Improvising Gay South Asian Nightlife, a performance ethnography of gay nightlife spaces in Bangalore and Chicago.

Edgar Arceneaux will speak about “Until, Until, Until…”, a short feature film which originated as a theatrical play. Arceneaux’s film will be screened at the MFA following the colloquium.  In this work, Arceneaux examines Broadway legend Ben Vereen’s controversial blackface performance at Ronald Reagan’s 1981 inaugural celebration.

About the Panelists

Danielle Abrams adopts personae that animate the dualistic relationships between racial and ethnic groups. Her performances propose dialogues between characters that include notable public figures such as African-American revolutionaries, Jewish ballerinas, and her biracial family. By rearranging time periods and juxtaposing clans, Abrams’ characters build a social vision that is liberated from the scripts of the past. Danielle Abrams has performed and presented work at ICA Boston, Detroit Institute of the Arts, Bronx Museum of the Arts, Roger Smith Hotel, The Jewish Museum (NY), Queens Museum, Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum, Project Row Houses, Grand Central Art Center, and The Kitchen. Abrams has received grants from The New York Foundation of the Arts, Urban Arts Initiative, and the Franklin Furnace Performance Art Fund. Danielle is a professor of performance at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University.

Edgar Arceneaux investigates historical patterns through drawings, installations, and multimedia events. Arceneaux’s awards and residencies include the Malcolm McLaren Award from Performa (2015), Rauschenberg Residency (2013), United States Artists Fellowship (2007), ArtPace Residency (2006), Joyce Award (2005), and a Creative Capital Grant (2005). His work has been presented at Performa (2015); Biennale de Montreal (2014); Shanghai Biennale (2014); MoCA Detroit (2011); Bienal de São Paulo (2011); and the Whitney Biennial (2008). He currently is featured in a solo exhibition, “Written in Smoke and Fire” at MIT List Visual Arts Center curated by Henriette Huldisch.

Henriette Huldisch is curator at the MIT List Visual Arts Center in Cambridge, MA, and recently organized Tala Madani: First Light (2016) and Rosa Barba: The Color Out of Space (2015/16). Previously, she worked at Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum for Contemporary Art – Berlin, where she curated exhibitions with Harun Farocki, Anthony McCall, and others. From 2010-2014, Huldisch also served as Visiting Curator at Cornerhouse, Manchester, and from 2004-2008, she was Assistant Curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Among her publications are Tala Madani: First Light (2016), Ellen Harvey: The Museum of Failure (2015), the 2008 Biennial Exhibition catalogue, and numerous contributions to exhibition catalogues and publications such as Artforum.

Kareem Khubchadani is an Assistant Professor in Drama and Dance at Tufts University. His research and teaching interests include dance studies, queer nightlife, South Asian diaspora, global queer politics, performance ethnography, critical race studies, masculinity and femininity, and drag. Kareem’s publications have discussed: black-Asian intimacies in film; performance and drag as pedagogical tools; transgender theater and queer activism in India; and the state of queer theater in the academy. He is currently working on a book project titled Ishtyle: Improvising Gay South Asian Nightlife, a performance ethnography of gay nightlife spaces in Bangalore and Chicago.

Laine Rettmer is a visual artist and opera director who’s work explores methods of social control, and attempts to refocus male-oriented narratives onto female protagonists. Rettmer’s work has been shown at Manifesta (2016), Yuan Art Museum (2016), Perkins and Ping (2016), Present Company (2015), and NADA NY, NADA Presents, (2014). She is the resident stage director for the New York based company LoftOpera, and has stage directed for numerous contemporary and experimental opera companies such as Guerrilla Opera and the Ecce Ensemble. This summer, she was the recipient of an Art School Alliance Fellowship from the Hochschule für bildende Kunste Hamburg and is currently a second year MFA candidate at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts.

Jeannie Simms’ works are rooted in photography and the moving image. She scours history and contemporary situations, contesting accepted perspectives and proposing new narratives with interests in language, labor and migration. Her work on Same Sex marriage was featured on BBC World News America television program. Past shows include the Currier Museum, the Provincetown Art Association & Museum, the Society for Cinema and Media Studies, The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), San Francisco Camerawork, International Film Festival Rotterdam, Courtisane Video and New Media Festival in Belgium, the ICA in London, the ARS Electronica Center in List Austria, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Alternative Film Center in Belgrade, Serbia and Montenegro, Los Angeles County Exhibitions (LACE) and the Tufts University Aidekman Art Gallery. She completed a residency at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts and received a film commission from the Nara International Film Festival in Japan. Simms has been funded by Art Matters, The Cambridge Arts Council and a Daynard Faculty Travel Fellowship from the SMFA. She is the Chair of the Photography Department at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston at Tufts University.


DRAG FACE has been organized by Mary Ellen Strom, Director of the Master of Fine Arts program SMFA Tufts with Colloquium 2016 participants Abrams, Arceneaux, Huldisch, Khubchandani and Simms and with advisement from Carol Stakenas.

DRAG FACE, Colloquium 2016 was funded by The Master of Fine Arts program at School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University, with in-kind support from MIT List Visual Arts Center and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Special thanks to Jen Mergel, Lisa Bynoe, Nancy Bauer, Carol Stakenas, Caleb Davis, Henriette Huldisch, Katherine Irving and Carter Long.