A few years ago, Brandeis University garnered unexpected attention when it received an Honorable Mention in Playboy Magazine as a “Party School” due to its annual event, Liquid Latex.
The Playboy mention has affected public perception of the Brandeis Liquid Latex Club and our annual spring show ever since, forever coding our event as “overly sexual,” “controversial” and “a chance for women to indecorously show off their bodies.” Not to mention a number of other qualifiers placed upon us that suggest our mission as a student-run club is to sexualize the bodies of fellow students in a crude manner.
We have witnessed a decline in enthusiasm for our club and annual show—this vision of needing to sexualize, to make controversial and to restrict individual bodies to a societal standard permeating its atmosphere.
In its now 18 years, Liquid Latex has evolved into an event of misconceptions. The expectation of our show is no longer the original intention of our club. Rather, it is viewed as a sexualized, societally regressive show where any Brandeisian can come ogle their fellow students who choose to show off their bodies because they want to be seen in that sexualized way.
We want to take all those misconceptions and explain to our student population what Liquid Latex really is—what it means to us—and why we believe it is powerful, beautiful and important to this campus.
What comes to mind when we, the Liquid Latex Executive Board, think of Liquid Latex are our own personal experiences with the show. We remember unapologetic women, men and non-binary people on stage in Levin Ballroom, transformed into works of art. We remember them reveling in their own individual power and loving every moment of what they are doing. We remember the feeling of being onstage first as vulnerable, being covered in nothing but latex body paint, but then as euphoric, hearing the loud applause and cheers of the audience. We remember feeling proud of our bodies, of the time and effort we put into the final moments on stage, of the walking pieces of art we have become.
Creating an environment where feelings of acceptance and freedom are possible is an important goal of the Liquid Latex Club.
In 2000, Liquid Latex was introduced to Brandeis as a one-time performance by Alaric Troy ’00 and Sharon Gobuty ’00 as part of the Leonard Bernstein Festival of the Arts. They named the show, in its first incarnation, “The Body Art Fashion Show.” Due to overwhelming success, the show was re-named, and a club was created to produce the show. It is now its own separate entity that we continue today. The original mission of Liquid Latex was, and continues to be, to make our bodies into masterpieces.
Of course, there is no denying that our annual show puts our performers, and our audience, in a vulnerable state.This is not because of objectification, but because the audience has agreed to view our relatively nude models in a space of art, as part of a creative visual experience.
After all, it is not everyday that we see partially nude bodies dancing onstage in latex paint. The models are choosing to share their bodies—their art—with the audience. There is a beauty to be found in that feeling of vulnerability, not just in the art onstage, but in the bodies
themselves. There is power to be found in doing something new, something unique, and then getting to share that wonderful experience with your peers.
When we think of Liquid Latex, we think of feeling beautiful. We think of feeling comfortable in our own skin. We think of accepting ourselves and our bodies as we are, perhaps for the first time. We think of having the opportunity to do something incredible that no other university does. We think of feeling, in a word: powerful. We want you, the Brandeis community, to think so too.
We want to go back to where it all began, to that very first “Body Art Fashion Show” where our performers feel powerful, and recognize themselves as the works of art they are: both as themselves in their bodies and as they are transformed into a canvas. We want to reclaim our image and our show. To help in this, we ask that you consider participating in Liquid Latex, whether that be as a painter, a model, a supportive friend or an audience member.
Additionally, we are asking past participants of Liquid Latex to submit testimonials expressing what Liquid Latex has meant to them. There is a form on our Facebook page (Brandeis Liquid Latex Club) to fill out if you wish to submit a testimonial. And if you want to get involved and be a model in this year’s show, we are holding drop-in Model Placements on Thursday, Nov. 30 from 7–9 p.m. in Ridgewood Commons.
Help us, the Liquid Latex Club community, reclaim Liquid Latex as a show that promotes art as a tool for social transformation, community building and empowerment.