Arts & Culture

Machine Dazzle's elaborate costumes on display at Hancher

It's part of a week of events culminating in a Taylor Mac performance

IOWA CITY — Machine Dazzle doesn’t necessarily think of himself as a costume designer, though that is his title. The elaborate outfits he created for theater artist Taylor Mac to wear onstage during Mac’s show, “A 24-Decade History of Popular Music,” are more like wearable sculptures.

“I’m not a trained tailor or costume designer. I’m an artist in the role of costume designer,” Dazzle said Tuesday. “I believe a costume can have its own story and be its own character.”

He and his sartorial interpretations of American history on Tuesday were at Hancher Auditorium, preparing for a week of events in Iowa City culminating in a performance Saturday by Mac at Hancher.

The “24-Decade History of Popular Music” was performed in Brooklyn in 2016 over a full 24 hours, with one hour for each decade of American history, interpreted through 246 songs, and it since has been presented in shorter increments. Hancher audiences will get a two-hour abridged version Saturday.

To design the costumes, Dazzle (né Matthew Flower), created wearable amalgamations of pop culture references, period pieces and political statements, crafted with a generous amount of sequins, feathers, tassels and billowing fabric.

One costume, representing 1956-1966, features a facsimile of Jackie O. in a pop art polka dot dress festooned with Barbie dolls and Campbell soup cans. Others represent the AIDS crisis, the Harlem Renaissance, the American Revolution and other seminal periods of American history.

“I’m interested in what was going on socially and politically in each decade,” Dazzle said. “We are telling stories from 1776 to today.”

The costumes are on display at Hancher’s Stanley Cafe until Mac’s performance. The public is welcome to view the work there 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday to Friday, 5 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday and before the show Saturday.

This is the first time the Stanley Cafe has been used for an art exhibit, said Hancher Executive Director Chuck Swanson. It is a perfect place for such a showcase, with natural light from the floor-to-ceiling windows, Dazzle said.

“This is the best way I’ve had to display the costumes,” he said.

The Hancher performance and art display are just two of several related events this week.

Held in conjunction with Flyover Fest, a festival celebrating diversity and inclusion in the arts, Mac’s visit also includes a conversation Thursday with author Garth Greenwell.

Dazzle will participate in two Flyover events — a conversation Friday with University of Iowa Museum of Art curator Vero Rose Smith at the Iowa Memorial Union, followed by the “Dazzle Crawl,” a parade past local art installations throughout downtown Iowa City. Area artists will take over business windows to present their takes on untold stories in local history, accompanied by live performances and one-night art pieces. Dazzle also will meet with UI students.

On Tuesday, he visited South East Junior High School, where students made May Day baskets to deliver to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.

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If you go

Machine Dazzle costumes on display

  • When: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday to Friday, 5 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday and before the Taylor Mac show Saturday
  • Where: Stanley Cafe, Hancher Auditorium, 141 E. Park Road, Iowa City

Creative Matters Lecture: Taylor Mac in conversation with Garth Greenwelll

  • When: 7 p.m. Thursday
  • Where: Strauss Hall, Hancher Auditorium, 141 E. Park Road, Iowa City
  • Cost: Free

 “A Dazzled Life:” Machine Dazzle in conversation with University of Iowa Museum of Art curator Vero Rose Smith

  • When: 3 to 4 p.m. Friday
  • Where: Richie Ballroom, Iowa Memorial Union, 125 N. Madison St., Iowa City
  • Cost: Free

Dazzle Crawl

  • When: 5 to 7 p.m. Friday
  • Where: Starts at 287 N. Linn St., Iowa City
  • Cost: Free

Taylor Mac: A 24-Decade History of Popular Music (Abridged)

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