Over the sounds of static, screaming and bodily functions, the creatures of the art piece “19 Rusted Antennae” stalked on stage. Despite a trigger warning for “vomiting of goop onstage,” this year’s Queer Fashion Show (QFS) audience remained in their seats on May 13 and 14.
One creature had long antennae, painted-on teeth and a transparent cranium revealing a veiny brain. Another, with purple and green wings and a tail, held her hands over her mouth as she walked across the rainbow catwalk. Then, the promised goop fell onto the stage and audience members.
“We wanted the viewer to experience something you couldn’t look away from,” said “19 Antennae” artist and UC Santa Cruz student Ynez Barber. “Because it had a beautiful element and also a horrifying element in equal measure … We were just exploring the grotesque but also the beautiful, and how the grotesque can be beautiful.”
The galaxy backdrop, through which the creatures emerged, reflected this year’s “Space and Time” theme. The Ass-Tronauts, the organizers of the event, felt space and time was a perfect metaphor for queerness.
“When you’ve been given the default, the mold is straight. That’s planet Earth,” said director/intergalactic engineer Jamie Joy. “That’s where you stay. You don’t realize that you can explore other galaxies and that … the law of the land isn’t always straight.”
Between acts, the Ass-Tronauts included short biographies of queer people who changed the course of history. Historical figures included Ahebi Ugbabe, a female Warrior King who took many wives; Marsha P. Johnson, the first person to throw a brick at the Stonewall Riots; and Willem Arondeus, an
artist who helped bomb the census bureau during World War II and whose last words when executed were “Homosexuals are not cowards.”
“Time also allows you to look at all the ways that queerness has existed in the past, the present and what it can look like in the future,” said emcee/space captain Abyan Mama-Farah.
The performances from the night showed each artist’s courage, whether they bared everything on stage or broke the mold of heteronormativity — one performer was brave enough to withstand the pain of flogging. While lip-syncing to “Apply” by Glasser, Dee Lyrium was flogged by her two friends Maxx Salem Maloy and Sparrow Frost. The sounds of leather hitting flesh were louder than the speakers as Dee Lyrium’s face contorted in pain but kept lip-syncing.
“I don’t care what people get out of my performance,” Lyrium said. “I’m there for the extreme emotional state that it’s going to cause me.”
Being open about sexuality was another way performers showed bravery. Bella Rose’s “Sexy Sacred Woman” combined spoken word and burlesque dancing that titillated audience members.
“[QFS] was just this awesome opportunity to have an audience that the majority of whom would be turned on by my burlesque would be women,” Rose said. “And that’s just the first time for me.”
An important part of QFS is fashion, which student Jesse Huynh, a designer for the show, felt was missing for the last few years. This year he created a mini-collection “Silk and Stone” for the show. His six dresses were long, elegant, black and white, flowing skirts. Each model strutted down the catwalk with high-heeled shoes made from unexpected materials.
“[There is a] sense of cosmic universe, but a lot of my pieces have to do with this concept of hard and soft, post-apocalyptic,” Huynh said. “The shoes, the belts, the accessories are all made of recycled metal and recycled glass. There’s a huge theme of sustainability and revival.”
Other acts included The Marvin Gays, a drag king group; Fur, Femme, and FKA, a fully improvisational dance; Coming Out, a two-part musical skit that ended with a performer cutting her hair off; Royals and Rebels, a spoken word poem inspired by Steven Universe; the Hitchhiker’s Guide to Polyamory, a pop-culture-inspired video and live action skit; and Queer Cadets, a dance troupe that uses chairs as sexy props.
“There are a lot of spaces that claim to be accepting and supportive and body positive,” said Alex Liley-Roth, cameraperson for the show. “This is one of the rare places where it’s a real thing and celebrated versus mainstream media ‘celebrating it’ commercially.”
Audience members could feel the celebration as they were drawn onstage by the final performance “For the Adventurous and Unabashed.” Wearing costumes made of balloons, the Ass-Tronauts danced to the “Space Jam Theme Song” and handed out balloon hearts.
“Everyone seemed to be really excited and really into the show,” said audience member and UCSC student Stella Fronius. “The stage seemed to come alive when they were dancing … It’s UCSC at its best.”
To become involved in QFS, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the Porter Activities Office in Porter D-143.