I believe Vogueing is an art form that is important, vital, beautiful, empowering, and continues to be marginalized and underappreciated in the dance world and in mainstream society. As I continue to educate myself and those around me, I think that the question of VOGUE or VAGUE? in this media installation is an essential first step in sparking conversation around what is authentic to Vogue culture and to cultivate an appreciation for the skill, strength, and difficulty of this form.
This tangible and archival media installation samples 50 of the more popular Vogue dance videos on YouTube and asks users to guess if what they are seeing is “Vague” or “Vogue.” It uses a program called MAX/MSP to loop 30 second videos in random order, switching to the next video after users guess correctly or incorrectly if the video is “Vogue” or “Vague.” The push buttons are controlled via the MAX patch through what is called a MakeyMakey, a circuit board that allows everyday objects to be connected to computer programs using electrical signals. If the user correctly guesses whether or not the video playing is “Vogue” or “Vague,” an image appears in a 3 second delay before the next random video begins saying “Shantay You Stay” (inspired by Rupaul’s Drag Race). If the user guesses incorrectly, another Rupaul quote pops up saying “Sashay Away”). These quotes are paired alongside two stunning images from the 5 elements of Vogue by Odera Igbokwe, who you can support by visiting odera.net.
I intentionally made the documentation video part history, part technological experience, and part reflection of the installation in order to educate a wide audience on the process and purpose behind this project. The only key information I may have omitted is that when dividing the videos between Vogue and Vague, I looked for authentic representations of Vogueing that had happened in a battle or ball, had been done by a legend, icon, or someone inside of a well-known House, or had been clearly following the “blueprint” and accurately representing the 5 elements, 3 styles, etc of Vogue. Vague was...well...vague….and often challenging to delineate. The fine line for me was if someone was inaccurately representing Vogue culture (breaking the blueprint) or Vogue-inspired (done in a studio or on a stage as part of a choreographic process rather than part of the technical training to compete).
I was incredibly privileged to have interview footage from a Q&A with Archie Burnett at the Phoenix, Arizona Come AZ You Are Ball (2019). Archie Burnett also tried out the installation and gave me feedback on what he considered vogueing or vaguing, building knowledge and conversation around this delineation into the Q&A and a Vogue class he taught the next day. The division was intended to cultivate conversation and consideration around what is authentic to Vogue culture, not as a form of judgment. I am by no means an expert or lay claim to be a representative of the Vogue community, but I have been listening deeply, observing, and doing my best to advocate for Vogue as a dance form that I have been in awe of for over a decade.