Talk: Sabel Gavaldon on A Brief History of the ‘Ha!’

18 May 2019, 16:00

Leiomy Maldonado at the OVAH Ball (6 May 2018) as part of the exhibition ‘Elements of Vogue’ at CA2M Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo, Madrid. Photo by Sue Ponce Gómez

Welcome to a talk with Gasworks’ curator Sabel Gavaldon approaching questions of appropriation and identity, in connection to the exhibition Roxy Farhat: WUH-PSHHH! at Index.

For this event, Sabel Gavaldon invites the audience on a journey through the history of the ballroom ‘Ha’. This takes the form of a non-linear chronology of bootleg copies and remixes, parodies and versions, nods and references, acts of cultural appropriation and re-signification spanning over a century of coalitions between political minorities that dominant culture has consigned to the margins, incarcerated and pathologised throughout the modern period.

Sampled, remixed and reworked over a thousand times, ‘The Ha Dance’, a classic house track by legendary duo Masters at Work, has become the paradigm of ballroom beats. Frenzied tribal drums, thunderous crash cymbals and a raw industrial edge define the sound of modern ballroom, a defiantly queer underground scene and kinship system that unfolds around transgender pageants and spectacular dance battles between queens of Black and Latino descent.

Departing from the exhibition Elements of Vogue (co-curated with Manuel Segade at CA2M, Madrid), which transformed the museum into a dancefloor, Gavaldon’s talk at Index will take the form of a sampler: a repository of textual, sonic and visual materials including excerpts from poems, letters, manifestoes and a variety of subcultural references that allow reconstructing the histories of vogue and ballroom culture as a case study in radical performance. Beyond identity and representation, the emergence of voguing points towards the emergence of a minoritarian politics.

Sabel Gavaldon is curator of Gasworks, London. His projects explore minoritarian poetics and politics while engaging in unorthodox curatorial formats, rhythms and temporalities. These include transforming the atrium of a museum into a dancefloor; exhibiting in a derelict factory the imagined ruins of a lost civilization; and co-running a curatorial laboratory based on gardening as a model to experiment with collective forms of exhibition-making. His last group exhibition was Elements of Vogue: A Case Study in Radical Performance at CA2M, Madrid. In 2016, he was nominated for the ICI New York Independent Vision Curatorial Award.