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Gerard & Kelly; 'State of'

Gerard & Kelly, State of, two performances at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, LA.

Seen is a take on black male America. While media's stories of race and homosexuality seem to be viewed through spectacular incidents like the well-reported protest against the national anthem by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick or the red carpet features of Billy Porter or RuPaul's Drag Race on TV, State of appears to speak to everything left in between. A trumpet procession leads the way into a pole-dancing performance of the national anthem, where performers support between "boosts" and "rests" a fellow performer all wrapped in a shredded flag of stars-and-stripes. Just where it seems it might be a bit too contrived, audience participation from the house adds some levity, by way of asking an audience member to cue a YouTube recording of Marvin Gaye's performance of the National Anthem at the 1983 NBA All-Star game and to then dictate the Wikipedia page of the 1968 Olympics Black Power Salute. After a cover of Gaye's anthem, the audience watches as two black performers share a "dap," the historically black handshake originated during the Vietnam War, but finished here with the small flourish of a sassy finger snap. Mocking an olympic lighting ceremony, the two pass the torch by way of a guest's disposable lighter, leading into a group game of capture the flag. Bringing the shredded flag back to the pole, the audience watches as the white performer is grabbed by the pants, only to reveal his own stars and stripes on a worn jockstrap.

It is interesting to note that both Gerard & Kelly are white men, and one can't help but wonder if they are actually possibly exploiting narratives of black pain. It seems particularly poignant in light of the recent Super Bowl, where advertisements from both Trump and democratic candidate Bloomberg were criticized for exploiting these narratives for their own interests, during a game already known for its reliance on black men, despite providing little to actually support their communities. While just coincidential observations, performances such as this can hardly be viewed in a vacuum. The duo have directed and starred nevertheless in a performance, as equally intriguing as it is moving with its many cultural subtleties, that was sure to garner attention during LA's edition of Frieze weekend.

-Derrick Riley is a designer living in Los Angeles and a local correspondent for C-print.

All photo credit and images courtesy of Derrick Riley.


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