Madison Moore

Madison Moore

I earned the PhD in American Studies from Yale University in December 2012 with a focus on performance studies, popular culture, fashion and music. Drawing from contemporary art history and theory, queer studies, popular music and ethnic studies, my dissertation theorized the notion of a ‘fabulous class’ — a modern twist on Thorstein Veblen’s idea of a ‘leisure class’ — which I see as a class of people, usually marginalized, who use the body as a site of artwork and creative agency. The research for that project took me to vogue balls and nightclubs, luxury boutiques and live music performances. All of this meant to address the question: what does it mean to be fabulous?

If I wasn’t working on my dissertation I was probably in New York City at a party — a party in a museum, a party in a gallery, a party in a parking lot, a party in a nightclub, illegal parties on a bridge. I’ve always been a club kid, sneaking my way into New York nightclubs before I was even of age. I love the way people let themselves go on the dance floor, forgetting their daytime persona, sexuality, and mode of self-expression. In grad school I was out so much that (likely jealous) grad students from other programs questioned my seriousness as a scholar. Because of course, being a ‘serious scholar’ and being interested in nightlife don’t go hand in hand — or so the gatekeepers of the ivory tower would have you believe. But this was actually a key learning experience: that’s when I intellectually devoted myself to the power of pleasure, to understanding the critical intervention pleasure makes, particularly for marginalized communities who often make do with what they’ve got. And look fabulous while doing it.

As part of Modern Moves I’m excited to pursue a series of multidimensional projects that consider the theory and culture of the DJ, underground techno and house scenes in Detroit, London, Sao Paulo and Berlin at the very least, underground voguing and house ball scenes around the globe and the connection between the fierce queerness of voguing and other forms of afro-diasporic dance, like Brazilian capoeira. Where nightlife itself is concerned, I love the sound, sweat, and sexuality of a dance floor. So many bodies packed so tightly in one space. I love how we respond to the call, response and thrill of deep, rib-cage rattling bass, that moment where the music stops being a sound and becomes a feeling, an invisible entity in the room. That’s my favorite part about being out: having bass pound its way through our souls as we dance alone together.

Most people don’t know that I’m a classically trained violinist, and that until very recently I was being primed to be a concert violinist. It’s interesting to see how my life long work in music and performance has manifested itself, from Bach to Berghain and from Shostakovich to Frankie Knuckles. As part of the fabulous Modern Moves team I’ll have the amazing opportunity to build my DJ profile and record a techno record, creative projects which will ultimately bring my life full circle if you really think about it.

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