Screening of Paris is Burning and presentation by Fabienne Lasserre
June 3, 2014
Encouraging us to look and think beyond immediate geographical and cultural contexts to reflect on gender relations and the ways in which they may come into being, be maintained and affect a community, the artist Fabienne Lasserre gave a thought provoking talk comparing gender constructs presented in the documentary Paris is Burning, which chronicles the Ball and Drag culture in 1980s New York, and the Hain ceremony, a male initiation rite of the Selk’nam people of Tierra del Fuego.
Fabienne’s detailed analysis revealed that both the Ball Culture and the Hain ceremony ultimately highlight the construction of gender roles and the concomitant power relations as arbitrary and interchangeable, whilst pointing to performativity, ritual and repetition as modes of display and reinforcement, as well as disclosing elements of secrecy/taboo, implicit or explicit violence, control and coercion as mechanisms of their maintenance. Fabienne thereby offered useful insights into the social history of Tierra Del Fuego, adding a further perspective to and deepening our understanding of the island and its inhabitants.
Furthermore, the presentation triggered a discussion on modes and value(s) of documentation, as both the film Paris is Burning and the photographic images of the Selk’nam people used in the presentation, are materials collected and presented by an(-)‘other’ – in the case of the Hain ceremony by missionaries such as the Austrian ethnologist Martin Gusinde, and in the case of Paris is Burning by the (white, female) artist Jenny Livingston. This in turn ignited a self-reflective questioning of Ensayos’ and Beyond the End’s own modes of information and data collection, presentation and dissemination, a crucial and ongoing aspect of the project.