A performance presented by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities and the Corcoran Gallery of Art in conjunction with the 2013 National Cherry Blossom Festival.
Washington, DC native iona rozeal brown has extended the allegories of her paintings in this first work of live performance, battle of yestermore. Originally commissioned for the Performa 2011 festival in New York, and reprised at Art Basel Miami, battle of yestermore draws from the myth-based genres of Kabuki and Noh theater, as well as hip-hop culture and vogueing, made famous in the Harlem ballroom scene of the 1960s. This will be the debut performance of battle of yestermore in Washington, DC.
brown’s work examines the fluidity of identity and history through strange, erotic imagery about cultural exchange and the relationship between Asia and the United States. One of her primary subjects has been the phenomenon of ganguro—translated literally as “black face”—in which Japanese youth appropriate African-American hip-hop style through darkened skin and braided, cornrowed hair. brown’s paintings and performance engage this hybrid identity.
battle of yestermore brings the spiritual and earthly cast of characters from brown’s painting to life, to tell the story of an epic battle between a princess and the guardians of her family’s gravesite. The piece features vogueing legends Benny and Javier Ninja, with New York Hip Hop dancers Rokafella, Beasty, GI Jane, Lady Beast, Phoenix and Mona Lisa. brown performs an original sound score, accompanied by live musicians. The action unfolds on a catwalk-like dance floor in the Corcoran’s atrium, surrounded by an energetic, club-like scene. Featuring costumes and creative kimono adaptations by costume stylist Brent Barkhaus, the performance is a spectacular mash-up of hip hop and kabuki, break dancing and martial arts, all set to the bumping score of DJ brown.