In her own words, Gutierrez is “driven to question how identity is formed, expressed, valued, and weighed as a woman, as a transwoman, as a Latinx woman, as a woman of indigenous descent, as a femme artist and maker.” Through videos, photographs, performances, installations, and self-released albums and magazines, she incisively plays with stereotypes and their repeated commodification.
Clubbing explores the coding and performance of gender binaries in a scene of multiple selves sharing an otherworldly space that blends fantasy and reality. Gutierrez claims total control of every aspect of her projects, including Clubbing, taking on all the roles in front of and behind the camera. From the painted-on eyes to the sixties’ mod costumes to the addictive groove that gets these bodies moving, it all comes back to Gutierrez, alone in her studio, aiming to create a welcoming world for all.
Though on first glance she appears to present heterosexual pairings, Gutierrez’s layered drag performances open a kaleidoscope of queer possibility. Filmed through gauze, the hazy indefinability of the locale evokes the idea of queer nightclubs as utopian zones, havens from a dangerously divisive society, since utopia means “no place” in Greek. Celebrating the joys found there, Clubbing stands as an ode to the creativity and liberation of dance floors and their importance as places for self-discovery, interpersonal harmony, and nonconformist community building.
Feel free to step up and dance along. The floor lights pulse with the music, while the black pathways transfer vibrations from the soundtrack to the soles of your feet.
Audio Note: Electric fuzzy keyboard and clonking wooden beats start the instrumental song that continues throughout the video. A plucked bass and kick drum join as the Clubbing credit appears, after which a consistent groovy melody comes primarily through bass, keyboard, and electric guitar sounds. The chorus, when the dancers are in sync, has increased volume and percussion, which can be felt and seen on the nearby dance floor.
Martine Gutierrez, born 1989, Berkeley, CA
Clubbing, 2012, HD video (color, sound); 3:06 min.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase, 2021.23.2
Silver and black tinsel lines three walls to define a corner gallery. A raised dance floor is positioned in front of the projected video art. The dance floor has white light up squares and a black ramp leading up to a haptic crosswalk. The video opens in close-up as two stylish figures in glittery black and silver outfits turn to face the camera. The first is female presenting, with long black hair, the other has shorter hair and a painted-on mustache. All characters also have extra-large eyes and eyelashes painted onto their cheeks. The title, Clubbing, appears against a shimmery silver-gold background that stays consistent throughout. The camera drops down to reveal the two figures in sexy sixties-inspired clothes, doing sixties-style dance moves with nonchalant cool. At the instrumental chorus, they break into exuberant mirrored choreography, spinning around each other. At the one-minute mark, another couple is introduced, first in close-up and then seen sharing the shimmery dance space. They are dressed more elegantly and move more freely, but it is clear now that all characters are played by the same person. As the chorus returns, they dance in sync in a line, twirling between each other to change positions. A third couple appears, moving shyly at first and then overtaken by the music just in time for another chorus. All six dancers jump, swirl, and get down in a line. The wide shot is then replaced by layered close-ups of faces, arms, and swiveling hips that slowly peel back to two final dancers. Floating credits in glitter signal the end.
With your back turned away from the video, walk straight out of the tinsel area, and away from the dance floor. To your right is a wall with the next section text alongside a glass doorway that leads into a video room. The QR code is about fifteen feet from the end of the dancefloor ramp. To the left of the glass door is a stanchion that demarcates a two-foot space off the long wall that follows, guiding people to engage with the long photo panels from a few feet away, or to pass on the other side of a bench running down the middle of the gallery.