Dazzle, born Matthew Flower in 1972 in Pennsylvania, is a renowned, multifaceted artist whose costume design work, rooted in the practice and aesthetic of “queer maximalism” has in itself helped define this very label. On September 10, MAD opened “Queer Maximalism x Machine Dazzle,” the first solo exhibition dedicated to Dazzle’s work, which encompasses an expanding repertoire of costume design, performance, music, and stagecraft. The exhibition, curated by Elissa Auther, Deputy Director of Curatorial Affairs and William and Mildred Lasdon Chief Curator, brings together over 80 of the artist’s creations for performance in a wide range of stages, plus ephemera, videos, and photography, all documenting his work and life and the metamorphosis of Matthew Flower into Machine Dazzle.
The name Machine Dazzle originated when Dazzle joined the performance group Dazzle Dancers. Founded in New York in 1996, the Dazzle Dancers are known for their sense of humor and propensity for nudity, they often appear at festivals and in the queer nightlife scene. “Machine” comes from Dazzle’s apparently inexhaustible reserve of energy when it comes to both dancing with and creating the costumes for this ensemble.
It makes sense then that the first of many mirrored platforms exhibiting Dazzle’s work is an ode to his crew. Featuring a disco ball, red solo cups pouring glitter, spare gogo boy outfits, and Club Kid costumes made with a vast variety of found objects (including a stuffed animal of Dory from Finding Nemo), the set introduces an expansive universe where intrinsically queer characters coexist with each other and form part of a broader narrative of queer history and the subcultures that shaped it.