by Lucas de Lima on Mar.27, 2012
Some might say poetry is behind visual art, but I think it’s more so the case that voguing is light years ahead of everything. Last summer, I wrote a couple of posts about the death drop/shablam move, in which young queers of color collapse on dancefloors in a thrilling, terrifying reenactment of urban violence. Today I’d like to tell you, Montevidayans, about my new favorite phenomenon of NYC black and Latino queer culture and its extreme verbal/visual fluency: Zebra Katz’s “Im a Read” featuring Njena Redd Foxxx. Gather and behold how this video turns the page on big bling beats and delivers, instead, a thousand tiny paper cuts to your eyes and ears. It is nothing short of a primer on cannibalizing your enemies, schooling yourself in their flaws, and dressing them down through sheer minimalist precision:
“Reading” in ball culture is “the real art form of insult” (Dorien Corey, Paris is Burning). Especially in the classroom–every kid’s training ground in racism and heterosexism–it takes ferosh verbal swagger to throw shade back at one’s perpetrator and “chop that bitch,” “slice that bitch,” “dice that bitch,” “ice that bitch,” “proofread that bitch,” “send that bitch to college,” “give that bitch some knowledge.” A razorblade visual sense is just as crucial for channeling voguing’s particular sacredness. To “pass” as another person, whether a straight private schoolgirl or teacher, is fundamental to this fine art. We are dealing, after all, with your education in realness. Don’t even act like you can’t get an F. Two masked, braided, gender-defying dark spirits punctuate the video’s report card of carnage and incantation of death spells in a drama that evokes the potatoesque’s annihilation and proliferation of identities. Even our shaman-warrior vocalists confess, as if cohabiting with the bodies they target, “I’ma…that bitch.”
As with the death drop, an exaltation of queerness follows Zebra Katz and Njena Redd Foxxx’s descent into dystopian hallways. Because no other religion expresses tougher love. Here we witness an assault on gender so total that no bitch (boy or girl) remains safe from the ball goddess; we can only pray she will strike us offstage.