Here we bring together work being made using what we see as cross-platform cabaret methods—variety, risk, fabulosity (especially in the face of a flop), glamour, gutter, glitter, refraction, incompletion, sharing fame and resources, experimentation, subtle charm, kindness, bitchiness, amateurism, vulnerability, trust, mutual support, practice, improvisation, genius, flare, ritual and urgency on stages, in the streets and online.
We are most interested in work made using these and other cabaret methods by artists within the shifting constellations of trans- feminist and queer (TFQ) lives and worlds, cultural, sexual, and political scenes. For those who are in these scenes, this might feel like a rather obvious framing: by “trans- feminist” we mean an intersectional, assemblaged, and entangled feminist agenda that centers – is oriented by, towards, and not away from – transgender, transsexual, non-binary, gender-non-conforming people, politics, and theory. Trans- scenes that are also queer and feminist. Queer scenes that are shaped primarily by commitments to trans- feminist people and politics, aesthetics, theory. Queer scenes that center feminist trans people. You know what we’re talking about: the queer scenes with an analysis of gender, race and class (and other power formations)...and without money.
Cabaret Commons Ethics & Praxis
In addition to being a gathering place for (gr)assroots cabaret, the Cabaret Commons is also a university-based research project. There are long histories of researchers mining cultural communities (their own as well as really not theirs) for intellectual resources...without giving much back. This is part of a normalized “exposure economy” in which artists are asked to collaborate in research projects for free, with exposure (in research publications or websites) (de)posited as ‘payment.’ Research economies have come to depend on the normalization of artist and activist labour as ‘on the house’; as ‘labours of love’ and so free of charge; where the cash/caché of being studied is payment enough. We are trying to shift this caché research economy and are working to secure funding in order to pay Cabaret Commons contributing editors, writers, artists and curators. This also means that we prioritize payment, critical engagement, context and consent over mass-production of content. We hope that the Cabaret Commons will be a platform through which cabaret worlds might circulate our materials to each other and, selectively perhaps, to new audiences.
Cabaret scenes are usually small and cabaret artists often make work within the context of a scene, not necessarily intended for a world-wide internet audience. For this reason, some work that appears here may be accessible only by permission of the author(s) or artists. Not everything produced within trans- feminist and queer worlds is looking for exposure, for a bigger audience. For some, the Cabaret Commons may be a repository for the purposes of digital preservation and selective circulation. We stand behind the need for unopen access and minor digitization, and small online venues for our cultural heritage materials.