CALLING ALL DIVAS
TYLER MATTHEW OYER
The legacies of HIV/AIDS in the United States have left us with a fracture of queer-artist mentors. For the living seeking intergenerational dialogue, this culture of incredible generational loss demands research and new methods of communication with sustained, overlooked, or forgotten legacies. Because queer histories and sensibilities do not follow linear, logical narrative constructs, “CALLING ALL DIVAS” was an exercise in mining for possible and impossible identifications, inspirations, and relationships in the devastated crisis-society. Conversing with the DIVA(S), stemming from an affect rooted in that which is bold, was the overarching task for this project. This was a research project whose purpose is not to concretely define DIVA, but to use it symbolically as a non-patriarchal icon, presenting examples of cross-genre queer inspiration in order to instigate and invigorate individuals to think and act in dialogue with actual and imagined legacies. I investigated, conversed, collaborated, and fantasized with persona, costume, text, movement, and music to create chapters that focused specifically on female/femme/queer inspiration. By imitating, honoring, listening, and conjuring people and characters, my body became a site of devastation and possibility. I momentarily became something I can never fully be.
“CALLING ALL DIVAS” was improvisatory, eclectic, idiosyncratic, gossip, using found object and anti-methods, counter-intuitive juxtapositions of events and materials. It denied the linear, rational, productive hyper-speed demanded and normalized by global neo-liberal capitalism. By fragmenting, slowing the pace, and presenting diverse methodologies, it presented research and laid bare the rules of gendered and re-gendered performance, possibly creating sources for new experiences and understandings of gendered subjectivity. Deviant in the face of product-oriented economic logics, this project does not intend to draw conclusions, state facts, or conclude any kinds of clear theses. It engaged activities that probably seem pointless, wasteful, or unproductive to those stranded in heternormative temporalities. Rather, queers, women, people of color, frustrated heteros, and those marginalized could find an invigorating essence to take beyond the dominant prescribed methods of identification and inheritance in the face of incomprehensible loss.
Performed in episodes, “CALLING ALL DIVAS” was presented twice in 2016. As part of the Soppen Performance Festival in Oslo, Norway, four DIVA conflations appeared, disappeared, and reappeared out of the woods as apparitions who cast spells, sang songs, and performed the role of festival host. In November 2016, “CALLING ALL DIVAS” became an endurance theater production at the Hammer Museum. Performed outdoors in the central courtyard, twenty-some DIVAS were referenced in a criss-crossing of text, costume, dance, song, audio recordings, and props. The resulting improvisational structure exceeded two hours of non-stop DIVA action.