Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Julius Eastman: The Unforgotten

As an out gay black man working in a predominantly straight white environment, Eastman grew progressively more uncomfortable. In a pivotal SEM performance of John Cage’s Song Books in June 1975, with Cage present, Eastman staged a lecture on “a new system of love” in which he undressed a male volunteer (possibly his boyfriend), while making sexual overtures in acrobatic baritone. Cage was furious.

“Julius tried to ‘out’ Cage,” Di Pietro says. “He said, I hate that Cage never speaks about sex. But he regretted it because Cage was so angry. Julius was deeply divided.”

“Cage thought it was a parody of him,” says SEM co-founder Petr Kotik. “It was a huge scandal. Julius started identifying with the black community. He moved to New York in 1976, just as Pierre Boulez wanted to do Mad King with him. Do you know how many doors that would have opened?”

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