4/18/14

MAPPLETHORPE by Max Steele


Photo by Ingo Lamm

BAX | Brooklyn Arts Exchange
421 5th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11215

Friday-Saturday, May 2-3 @ 8:00pm
Sunday, May 4 @ 6:00pm

Tickets: $15 General | $8 Low-Income

Mapplethorpe is a kind of service, a product or device. A disposable personality, a soulless soul-singer, a TV character set to self-destruct, a eulogy to stay alive, a pop star designed for rancor. A lover who cannot bear the weight of the spotlight and whose incineration glimmers on command.

MAPPLETHORPE is about a singer, who chose the name Mapplethorpe (pronounced MAP'llthorpe) because he wanted a powerful name. A name that was about power. Plus it has the word "Map" in it, so you know where to go, where you are. And he's here to pay your ransom. And this show tells how.

He's a rising young talent, here to introduce himself through his Gay Ofay Reggae Cabaret.

Last year in my first year as an Artist In Residence at BAX, I made ENCOURAGER, a self-help seminar led by a sincere but inexpert guru. The theme of ENCOURAGER was that the only true self-help possible is self-destruction.

In MAPPLETHORPE, I'm using cabaret, comedy and popular music as ways to investigate morality, charisma, power and the impoverishment of imagination.


Photo by Ves Pitts

I've lived in New York since 2006, and have been performing music in nightclubs, writing and doing spoken word from my zine Scorcher, and making performance art for theaters, galleries and museums. In this new show, I'm trying to tie together the various ways I've been making and presenting work. MAPPLETHORPE represents a shift from the narrative and thematic work I've made in the past, towards a more abstract, dance-influenced and experimental type of performance. I'm willfully conflating minimalism with deprivation, and rigor with discomfort. This is the most experimental and riskiest artwork I've made, and is the truest distillation of my values, and the questions I'm reckoning with right now.

I wanted to make a cabaret show that was about alienation, rather than intimacy. I'm interested unpacking the so-called passivity of the audience. I'd like to find the logical conclusion of charisma, and to activate the values of the viewer. As audience members, we so often carry our own psyches and baggage with us into the experience of watching live performance, and I want to make artwork that doesn't disregard that baggage, but instead calls on it. I want the audience to feel activated, stimulated, and encouraged to judge, decide, and choose how they feel about the performance they're seeing. The subjective experience of MAPPLETHORPE depends entirely on the suspension of disbelief, on the conscious denial or acceptance of one's own tastes and beliefs.

The title of the show seems to reference a famous photographer, but is pronounced differently. This is a show about getting things wrong all the way. This is a world in which there's no excuse for ignorance. It's not an accident if it's a choice. This is a show about getting things wrong, on purpose, to see the other side of a mistake. This has less to do with failure, iconoclasm and revolution, and more to do with self-sabotage, disappointment, frustration, impatience and slapstick humor.

Using the constraints of a nominally accessible form, I want to create a situation in which someone could be loved for the all the wrong reasons, and hated for all the right reasons.

Some more information about me and the project:
http://artistservices.bax.org/max-steele
http://helixqpn.tumblr.com/post/75894224999/the-helix-interview-max-steele

I've made a video playlist of songs and videos which inspired the project, you can check it out below:

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