is the Empress of the American Empire in
Empire, Love to Love You, Baby
is a light-hearted, intelligent, and
extremely hilarious lecture/performance about a serious, alienating
and sometimes frightening subject: American nationalism.
Read entire review and view Empire poster below images
Empire, Love to Love You Baby! is Ricky Seabra’s third solo performance which taps into the questioning of the American Empire as it is today. As a Brazilian-American artist who keenly constructs and deconstructs images live on stage, Seabra delves deep into the collective memory of American nationalism. Using cameras, the Internet (three cheers for YouTube & Google Earth!), clips & samples, pen & paper, he creates a unique world in which criticism and hilarity go hand in hand. What does one do when he discovers he is part of an Empire and finds out it has no Emperor....or Empress? ;-) So brace yourself for Uber-Americana straight from the Bronx...
premiered June 15th in Mechelen at the Kunstencentrum nOna, Belgium
Less America, More Tenderness!
Monday, 24th of November 2008
Ljubljana –International Festival for Contemporary Performing Arts Exodos is taking place in these November days, and among others we saw a performance by Ricky Seabra Empire, Love to Love You, Baby, which he performed twice in the frame of the festival.
In his project Empire, Love to Love You, Baby, Ricky Seabra deconstructed American national fixations.
With the appearance of Rickyoncé - the new Empress who bets on bootylicious United States of America - the irony of American imperialistic tendencies is brought to absurdity: Seabra, who in his transvestite edition oscillates between the point of view of an MTV star and the logic of an average Quaker, has plenty of sexy ideas and suggestions about how the Sons of Sam could really rule the world. In any case, Empire, Love to Love You, Baby leaves the viewer with an ambiguous impression. Mocking the icons and American symbols and re-contextualizing this imagery surely comes out as a critique and the artist stands up against the imperialism of his home country, displayed on the level of a nation and originating from the demonic collective unconscious (or, as the author says, it's about »deep shit«). The target of Seabra's offensive however, is not limited just to American nationalism but also points to the institution of prejudice and stereotypes non-Americans foster about America and its people. In other words, he is not trying to be apologetic on behalf of American identity or be overtly moralizing, instead he puts himself exactly on the spot from which most people see USA: the disseminators of the holy truth. Seabra, however, doesn't try to force this truth on you instead he only displays its mechanisms.
Ricky Seabra reasons with the wink of an eye
America is an Empire without an emperor. Hence, Ricky Seabra crowns himself Empress. I should have known this beforehand: Ricky Seabra's performance Empire is definitely more than somewhat gay. There was, after all, a nude soldier on the poster, with an automatic machine gun covering his genitals. But who would have expected a drag queen show? The Brazilian American artist Ricky Seabra has worked in our country before, with, among others, Airplanes & Skyscrapers (2002). Empire, which premiered last week in KC nOna, is an extremely hilarious lecture/performance about a serious, alienating and sometimes frightening subject: American nationalism.
Seabra starts with an analysis of the American anthem. This anthem is regularly sung by pop diva's at sporting events. You remember of course the incident with Janet Jackson's nipple and the fuss that caused. But one doesn't laugh at the anthem. Even less susceptible to irony is the flag this anthem talks about. In the anthem, the important question turns out to be whether the stars and stripes are still waving after the battle. The text gives no solution: it remains an open question. Seabra shows fragments of these pop diva performances and alternates them with the text on the screen. According to him, the question marks gradually disappeared out of the song text. A meaningful omission?
Seabra shows how to correctly fold the American flag and shows the type of films that are heavily parodied by the Simpsons: the stupid animated films that drill the constitution, the founding fathers and the flag into school children's heads. Even if you've seen these parodies a lot, the originals remain more horrifying than silly.
America behaves as an empire, but looses grip because it lacks an emperor or empress. When Seabra states this, he undresses and somewhat later a Beyoncé-clone appears on stage. She is Rickyoncé, empress of a bootyliscious country. (this is an eye wink to Beyoncé, as well as the subtitle of this performance: Love to Love You, Baby, one of her hit singles).
The tone of the performance hardly changes after this. The drag diva keeps on giving us seriousness in a party dress. On her laptop, she surfs to a Google Earth where she has marked all the American army bases on the globe. Seabra doesn't give any comment here, but the image of his laptop is projected on a video screen behind him, and he mixes these images of the globe with images from Nancy Sinatra's These Boots Are Made for Walking. Power is indeed as simple as shoes: you need one to walk on and one to conquer the world. Later on, Rickyoncé also shows her warriors: she finds them by surfing to a gay pornsite: www.malecorps.com.
Empire is a light-hearted, intelligent performance. Seabra doesn't do more than collect images from TV, films and internet, as far as they fit his subject. A bit like Michael Moore. But Seabra doesn't feel the need to convince his audience. Moore makes his arguments with a hammer - which is valuable - and Seabra with the wink of an eye.
- Marc Cloostermans
December 10, 2008
Ricky loves Empire – and Empire loves Ricky
PREAMBLE BY Michel Foucault:
Ricky Seabra: Don't criticize USA soldiers, fuck them!
And because Ricky really likes the sky and universe, he uses similar symbols for interpretation, or more precisely, deconstruction of American mythology. From this bunch of symbols he choses the following ones, starting from the air: American air bases, spread all over the map of the world, the American flag, proudly waving in the air, White house, Twin towers, Bombs bursting in air and finally – the American national anthem, starting with a black star - Whitney Houston, ending by a white star - Mariah Carey. Amazing. We can't really criticize any one of the singers. Or the performance at all. And especially not Ricky. He made a good piece. Entertaining one. With nice images, interesting lights, with a sense of healthy wittiness, a refreshing self-referenciality and some interesting interventions.
What did he actually do to present, represent and make fun of his own Empire? He simply became an empire! He undressed and dressed himself into a half Whitney - half Mariah. He became Ricky Martin, Riki Lake and Ricky, the striptease guy at the same time. Yes, he was convincing. Until the end, when he visually introduced a next possible empire – CHINA. With some chinese boys, imitating a boy band song ... As long as you love me ... As long as America loves China – or as long China loves America? This is a question. Hamletian one. So, as long as they love each other there will be peace on planet Earth. Poppishly terrifying. So, what about the Chinese? They already knew (since middle ages) how to become an Empire: If you want to be Empire, create an empire way of living. Become an empire. Imitation is possible.
CLOSING BY Michel Foucault:
18 December 2008
The most terrifying moment was when he showed a compilation from disaster and shitty sci-fi blockbusters like Independence Day (is Will Smith still alive, by the way?) and The Day After. To see, how such a ‘great’ nation blows up their skyscrapers, Black House (haaah) and things like that, you really start to wonder what the hell is happening in their fatty heads. You had some shit in sunny September morning, didn’t you get the point? Why don’t you stop playing with your country like a mad farmer with his chainsaw? Other wicked episode was when he demonstrated porn photo collection of USA army soldiers and their Little Soldiers as well. Well, apparently those are the thingies they do to get some extra earnings while they're in service.
Yeah, Rickyoncé really knew exactly what he wanted to say with his work, which, I suppose, require much power from him. Remarkable guy, that’s for sure. Interesting, what he will do next, unless some guys with sunglasses and little earphones won’t visit him in late hours of the night to ask some simple questions by cup of tea…
Stanley H. Orny