“Calico Economies” was the final performance in a series of public performances under the umbrella project Queer-A-Fest Destiny. These performances dealt with queer identity at the turn of the 20th century, while collapsing contemporary colloquialisms, personal narrative, and western aesthetics.
The 2.5-hour performance began at the most eastern intersection of Fremont Street on the old Vegas Strip, moved westward, and ended at Main Street, where Fremont intersects at a T-juntion. My persona (referred to as the ‘figure’) within the performance—a camp and out-of-place genderqueer cowboy—moved westward with an inflatable punching pillar covered in faux-grass material, in order to claim space and continue moving ‘forward’/west. Through performing with the punching pillar as self/other—friend, adversary, lover, pony, cactus, and atomic bomb—the cowboy simultaneously became a spectacle/specter, showcasing affect, loss, desire, and nostalgia for spaces within the complicated Anglo-American narrative of exceptionalism. While physical and linguistic humor operated as an entry point to the work, as time passed, as Fremont Street security was called, the figure became a haunting presence, and a scapegoat for deviance/queer placement.
At the end of the end of the performance, the figure broke open the water-weighted punching pillar in order to reveal deep-blue water: referencing cultural aesthetic and conditional iconography of geographic location. The water was poured out onto the ground and devoured by the cowboy. The figure licked the pavement and enveloped themselves in this action of cleansing. The phallic punching pillar was deflated and opened up, rendering it without function for the figure, closing the fugue-like performance work.
Objects used in this performance were accumulated from years of performance work—these materials mark not only a historic condition with western travelers/expansionists, but how memory and trauma build within the body and within cultural consciousness.
The old Vegas Strip as the ‘landscape’ for the performance operated as hyper-simulation-intersections between collective memories—both imagined and erased. The combination and fissure of cultural histories/stories created a site whereby the spectacle/specter of the lost and queer cowpoke functioned as a testimony toward deviate and imaginative American-mythological futurity.