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Mall Madness

Christeene invades foodcourt and your eyesockets

By Andy Campbell, 1:01PM, Wed. Jun. 15, 2011

SoCo Sweetie!
SoCo Sweetie!
photo by photo courtesy of Niki Nash

On Fri., May 20 at approximately 12:30pm, Christeene bulldozed through the Barton Creek mall foodcourt – eating people's food, kissing patrons on the cheek and asking for rides on the mall cop's segues (Paging Paul Blart!). For many present Christeene's "visit" could be filed away in the "things you can't unsee" category. Just the way it should be.

I think I've mentioned this before, but Christeene fits categorically into Jose Esteban Muñoz's discussion of "terrorist drag". He was talking about New York-cum-Berlin drag impresario Vaginal Creme Davis, and her penchant for dragging up as a white supremacist named Clarence (also Vaginal Davis' birthname), thereby terrorizing queer audiences, while at the same time compromising powerful racial dynamics.

Christeene, who was shooting snippets for her video "African Mayonnaise" was engaged in a similar project, only around issues of class. This is much better put by art historian Chelsea Weathers, who says:

[Christeene's] own battle against a category that Muñoz identifies as “commercial drag”—the presentation of a “sanitized and desexualized queer subject for mass consumption.” This stereotypical drag queen, dressed in the trappings that, thanks to corporate-sponsored television programs like RuPaul’s Drag Race and Hollywood films such as The Birdcage, read as standard, is a stand-in for mainstream conceptions of drag performance as a nonthreatening form of transvestitism or genderqueerness. Soileau’s disidentificatory strategy is not intended to alienate that mainstream contingent or reject the image it perpetuates but, rather, to hold a mirror up to it. And the reflection Christeene offers includes the necessarily unsanitized underbelly of queer experience – the ambiguity of identifying as queer and the anger and humor that is part and parcel of that experience. … The radical social critique in Christeene’s performance ultimately addresses the same hegemonic system that sterilized perceptions of drag culture and queerness in the first place – the indiscriminate consumption of mass culture that Christeene, a sort of collective Picture of Dorian Gray, emerges from and also lays to waste.

Christeene engaged with the world outside of queer clubs… a world which was by turns fascinated, repulsed and politically indifferent to her. In other words the same shitty bouquet of projections many queer bodies receive these days.

Christeene: a mirror of our world. Who knew?

Until "African Mayonnaise" sees light, enjoy the latest release, "Working on Grandma."

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