Whitney Biennial artist, Julie Atlas Muz, as a coquettish lunatic
By GUS SOLOMONS, JR.
Julie Atlas Muz is the quintessence of fabulousness in her new show at P.S. 122, which closed November 28, proudly parading her nakedness like the burlesque queen she is. She’s also a brave trouper, having to finish her last Saturday night performance while bleeding from a scalp wound sustained in a collision with one of P.S.122’s quaint onstage columns. It happened during the climax of her spectacle “I am the Moon and You are the Man on Me,” a scene in which she’s gang-raped. Her real mishap aside, who but Muz could so deftly turn hilarity into horror?
Muz’s no-holds-barred, politically incorrect imagination is in full bloom, as she riotously objectifies herself but still manages to maintain the upper hand. To the strains of Debussy’s “Claire de Lune” she slowly rises from a crouch to stand inside a big white balloon. As the music climaxes, she pops it and stands naked, glitter-sprinkled, like Botticelli’s Venus on the half-shell, as cave men slither towards her in waves and are yanked away by others. Then, she ever-so-slowly pulls an American flag from her rectum, and we’re off to the races.
Dressed in animal skins, the men (James Tigger! Ferguson, Luke Miller, Matthew Morgan, Adrian Clark, Angelo Iodice, and Jon Guymon) line up, imitating the evolution chart from ape to man. Then they don dapper urban togs (all the sensational costumes are by Machine) and flip Muz around like Betty Grable in a movie musical; they pass her overhead, let her climb over their backs, and catch her in their arms in a backward swan dive. After Muz romances the tallest, most dashing one (Miller), the raccoon-eyed dandies (the whimsical make-up is by Karl Giant) stage a jealous brawl in slow motion to Strauss’s “Tales form the Vienna Woods” and pull guns from their pants. As the music swells, Muz, carrying a baby doll and clad in rags, dashes into the shoot-out and takes a bullet to the head, tossing a spurt of red-glitter for blood.
A raucous game of Keep-away with a white kerchief between Muz and four guys, set to an up-tempo French rendition of “Comedie,” bursts gleefully into a jazz routine every time the chorus repeats. Muz and Morgan undertake a demure courtship in front of a sheet, while their shadows behind them (Miller and Ferguson) deviate into a lustier agenda of fondling and fucking.
The raunchiness escalates, as Muz test-humps the anonymous studs by turns; they’re wearing numbered hoods and jockstraps embossed with monikers like PZZAPI, MLKYWY, and IBRK4BVR. Three astronauts in silver space suits happen by; they strip and join in the fun. The sex play morphs into a violent gang rape of the overpowered Muz.
In the redemptive final scene, she stands in a transparent half-globe and smears white paint all over her nude body. Miller and Ferguson, also nude, paint themselves black and, like Japanese Bunraku puppeteers, they land a toy rocket ship on Muz’s head. When she upends herself, feet over head, they manipulate a miniature astronaut who plants an American flag in her vagina. The ever-resourceful Muz gets the last laugh, when she makes the flag wave.
“I am the Moon” was astutely directed and paced by Katherine Valentine; Severn Clay designed the shimmering lighting and, with Muz and Leonel Valle, the set; Yehuda Duenyas crafted the sound.