MoMA PS1 Sunday Sessions presents the Masters Ball

On Sunday, April 20, Sunday Sessions presents The Masters Ball, a celebration of the history and pedagogy of New York City’s house and ballroom scene. The ball foregrounds twined notions of mastery—namely, virtuosic artistry and the labors of teaching and learning—while engaging with the history of the ballroom community, for to walk the runway is to engage a tradition and announce terms for the ongoing project of the community. The dialogue between runway and community, unlike the conventions that govern most relationships between performance and audience, weaves a thread of debate, influence, and inspiration that is the living memory of the scene.

The Masters Ball is part of Ballstar Weekend, a series of events that emerge from a multi-year investigation undertaken by the Vogue’ology collective, which includes members of New York City’s house and ballroom scene and the sound-art collective, Ultra-red. Vogue’ology is grounded in the ballroom scene’s history of autonomous, self-organized struggle and a shared investment in collective art practices. Among the collective’s concerns is how the history of the ballroom scene intersects with the multiple and often divergent struggles for freedom in the United States and elsewhere. This question guided the performance of five protocols for listening to the sound of freedom undertaken at the 2012 Whitney Biennial by Arika, the Scottish experimental arts organization, in collaboration with Ultra-red and Vogue’ology.

Among the reference points for the current phase of Vogue’ology’s work are the Freedom Schools established half a century ago in Mississippi, which used radical, participatory pedagogies to undertake bass community organizing. The impact of this work on the civil rights movement cannot be overstated and remains among the most valuable tools for political organizing available to us today. Thus we ask, what do the pedagogies of the ballroom scene teach about the community’s past and present notions of freedom?

Ballstar Weekend consists of a series of closed consultations and community events alongside large-scale public activities. On Friday, April 18, 4 to 7pm, authors of recently published books about or inspired by the ballroom scene will discuss their work at The New School, and on the evening of Sunday, April 20, the celebration and debate initiated at The Masters Ball will continue on the runway at the The Road to Mastery Rumble Ball to be held at Escuelitas Club in Manhattan. In the weeks prior to and following Ballstar Weekend, Vogue’ology will host, at Union Theological Seminary, consultations between members of the ballroom scene and organizers, activists, scholars and artists on the topic of pedagogies of freedom. Vogue’ology members are also teaching the course Organizing for Freedom at The New School during the spring semester. The course brings students from the Eugene Lang College at The New School and members of the ballroom scene into dialogue with representatives of other constituencies and movements for seminars held at The Print Shop at MoMA PS1.