In 2016, New York performance artist Taylor Mac won accolades for an insanely ambitious 24-hour show that tracked the history of American music via old songs, original compositions, and gasp-inducing outfits. With Mac now bringing a chopped-down version to DC, we talked to him and his costume designer, known as Machine Dazzle.
This costume, which incorporates clock hands and a weather vane, was meant to evoke the Underground Railroad. “I wanted to use elements of time and direction and give a nod to migration in symbolic ways,” says Dazzle. “I was really just being poetic. I was thinking about migration and freedom.”
The imagery here is more direct—especially that big peace sign. Mac’s hat is intended to call to mind suits worn by the moon-landing astronauts. “I call this a space ’fro,” says Dazzle. “A spacey-future-helmet-hairdo kind of thing.”
Most people don’t immediately associate the Civil War with hot dogs, but Dazzle decided to avoid the obvious by pairing wieners—which became popular around that time—with a barbed-wire skirt. “What I love about the costumes is that they’re metaphors,” says Mac. “They’re really art pieces that I just happen to get to hang out in.”
See Taylor Mac: A 24-Decade History of Popular Music (Abridged) at the Kennedy Center on March 6. Tickets are $39 to $119.
This article appears in the March 2018 issue of Washingtonian.