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"International superstar of feminism", Creative Debuts, London

Gentleman Josephine,

Friday October 11th, 2019 

Drag Take-over at Bowes Museum with the DGA, as part of #Untitled10 2019 commission by The Bowes Centre

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Friday 11th October 2019

"Gentleman Josephine and Mr Sappho" - a series of performative responses to gender ambiguity and LGBTQ+ history in the Bowes collection. A collaboration between #Untitled10 2019 artist Lady Kitt and performance collective DGA 


As part of #Untitled 10 2019, Bowes Museum welcomes it's first drag* take over in tribute to co-founder Josephine's work as a 19th century "drag king". This will comprise four performances by Lady Kitt and Newcastle based drag collective DGA, throughout the day:


11am-12pm "Our love is a stow away. Always?" Picture galleries.    


12.45pm "Gentleman Josephine" . Blue Picture Gallery


2.15pm -3.15pm repeat "Our love" Picture Galleries

4pm repeat "Gentleman Josephine " Blue Picture Gallery

Venue: The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, Co Durham, UK. For address, access & ticket info click: HERE

Kitt and the DGA's performance work celebrates and examines the often hidden queer stories of the Bowes collection specifically and in history more generally. The performances show case a range drag styles and techniques from high energy lip sync to intimate and thought provoking dance work.


 During their research into the lgbtq+ history of the collection, artist and drag king Lady Kitt, has been inspired by James Pradier's silver sculpture of Sappho, the 1600s painting “Amarillis Crowning Mirtillo” and Josephine Bowes performance work and life in Paris. 


Before she married John Bowes,  Josephine is known to have performed several "breeches roles" (young male characters played by women) during her career. This was not unusual for female performers at the time: it allowed women to showcase a broad  range of performance skills and also, to display their legs in short trousers, which they could not do in restrictive 19th century gowns. The high energy "Gentleman Josephine" lip sync performance references this, along with other gender ambiguous / LGBTQ+ figures from history including Ann Lister. With many thanks to Emmanuela Wroth for sharing her research into Josephine’s performance work, which this piece references.

"Our love is a stow away. Always?" is a durational , semi improvised dance work, inspired by the 1600s painting “Amarillis Crowning Mirtillo”. This camp painting depicts a (largely) female kissing contest, plus a rouge man who has sneaked in, disguised as a women. Despite the colourful and theatrical nature of the painting, the performance is reflective and quiet. In the Bowes collection (and in many museums and historic buildings), if queerness is represented at all, it is often shown in this theatrical way. While this can feel celebratory, it can also have a masking effect. As the  over the top, comic presentation of a pantomime dame can mask ideas of gender and sexuality,  so campy historic art works seem to present a one dimensional version of LGBTQ+ experience. The performance aims to gently challenges this,  presenting the queer performers in a series of tender and authentic interactions. This work is inspired by, and performed with kind permission from, artist Oliver Doe.


*Drag is a form of performance art. Practitioners  use a variety of techniques (including costumes) to explore definitions and expressions of gender. This can include people who identify as women impersonating men and vice versa. Many drag artist identify as non-binary/ gender queer and drag performers of all genders, and none, may explore gender ambiguity as part of their work.


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