Theatrical art collective My Barbarian, founded in Los Angeles in 2000, and now based in LA and NYC, is the subject of a new exhibition and live in-person and livestream performance series opening on Friday, October 29, at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Consisting of Malik Gaines, Jade Gordon, and Alexandro Segade, the trio creates performances and video installations that use an interdisciplinary mix of theatrical play, masks, drawings, music, installations, texts, puppets, and paintings to draw allegorical narratives out of historical problems, current political crises, and social conflicts of class, gender, race, and sexuality in their signature humorous and accessible style.
Segade (MFA, Interdisciplinary Studio Art, UCLA) is co-chair of Film/Video at Bard College’s MFA program. Gordon (MA, Applied Theater, USC) has taught at CalArts and the Stella Adler Academy, and is co-owner of Wombleton Records. Gaines (PhD, Performance Studies, UCLA; MFA, Writing, CalArts) is Assistant Professor of Performance Studies at NYU. Together as My Barbarian, they adapt a range of sources, including modern plays, historical texts, mythology, ritual, and media narratives, into structures for performances and related works. The resulting projects build on and reimagine the wide-ranging sources that inform them, such as queer and feminist theory, conceptualism, performance, institutional critique, social movements, pop culture, and political, musical, and community-based theater.
Created in close collaboration with the artists and drawing from their extensive archive, the Whitney programming presents a survey of the past 20 years of the group’s creative output, along the first published monograph of their work (co-edited by the artists and curator Adrienne Edwards and scheduled for release by Yale University Press on January 25, 2022) and a new piece for the camera, Rose Bird, commissioned by the museum. Composed, directed, and performed by the trio, the world-premiere work pays homage to the eponymous first female chief justice of the California Supreme Court, who became a controversial figure due to her opposition to the death penalty – a sentence she repeatedly overturned during her decade-long tenure. Working with a variety of texts, Rose Bird will reimagine scenes from her biography as a teleplay and appropriate the media reports that framed her personal life and work.
My Barbarian runs October 29, 2021-February 27, 2022, at the Whitney Museum of American Art, 99 Gansevoort Street, NYC. Visitors aged 12 and older must show proof of a COVID-19 vaccine for admission, in accordance with NYC requirements; visitors aged 18 and older will also be asked to show photo ID. Face coverings are required for everyone. All performances take place throughout the Museum and over livestream. For timed tickets to the museum, which must be reserved in advance (priced at $25 general admission; $18 for seniors, students, and visitors with disabilities; and Pay-What-You-Wish on Fridays, 7–10 pm), go online. For more information, visit the website.