March 26: Here Lies Love: Making Sense of Martial Law in the Philippines

Here Lies Love: Making Sense of Martial Law in the Philippines

a lecture by Christine Bacareza Balance
March 26, Thursday
6:30 to 8 pm

Christine Balance, Asian American Studies, Culture and Theory, & Women’s Studies, University of California Irvine

In Here Lies Love (2014), an immersive theatrical experience created by musician David Byrne, DJ/producer Fatboy Slim, and theatre director Alex Timbers, former Philippine First Lady Imelda Marcos’ rags-to-riches tale takes place on a dance floor. With infectious pop tunes performed by a DJ, live band, and sung by an all-Asian American cast, the show asks its audience to move with, while being moved by, it. Placed “in the center of the action,” audience members are directed by ushers, decked in neon-pink jumpsuits, to move in concert with the show’s rotating platforms. The show’s “360-degree scenic and video environment” spans from amateurish and kitschy backdrops to walls of TV screens projecting both the actors’ and audience’s actions, as captured by roving cameras. In these moments, when the show’s stars— Ferdinand Marcos (Jose Lllana) and Imelda Marcos (Ruthie Ann Miles)—descend from their elevated stages, we, the common masses, feel summoned to touch them. If we do, we know that these moves will be broadcast by the installed surveillance system.

Promoted as a theatrical event unable to fit into generic categories bound by time (as Byrne describes on his website, the show is “neither a period piece nor a biography, neither a play nor a traditional musical”), Here Lies Love touts itself as outside of history.  But, is it?  In her presentation, Balance argues that Here Lies Love in fact stages the cultural traces of two very different 1980s: the demise of the Marcoses’ 21-year long martial rule in the Philippines and the burgeoning downtown New York arts scene of Byrne’s early career. Against critiques of Byrne/Slim/Timbers’ theatrical collaboration that question the show’s relationship to history and the merits of the creators’ artistic choices — which are seen by some to reinforce the sensational celebrity power of the Philippines’ former First Lady (and a dictator’s wife) — Balance attends to the theatrical production’s performative aspects. That is, she asks, what does Here Lies Love do and, more specifically, how might it instruct us to move forward with new ways of “making sense” of martial law in Philippine and U.S. histories?
Performance Studies Studio
721 Broadway, 6th Floor

Co-sponsored by the NYU Asian/Pacific/American Institute; Center for the Study of Gender & Sexuality; and Department of Performance Studies.

This event is free & open to the public. Venue is wheelchair accessible.
For more information about this event, please contact the NYU Center for the Study of Gender & Sexuality at 212-992-9540 or csgs(at)
Facebook event page here.