Headmaster No. 8
The Village People Issue
For Headmaster No. 8, the Village People provide a framework in which we can examine hypermasculinity, sexuality, and gay male subcultures. Six artists were each assigned projects analyzing contemporary issues through the lens of one of the six archetypes embodied by this iconic group, while other artists focused on cultural topics, critiquing the group’s social context and legacy.
Headmaster No. 8 features original projects by:
Cover by Bernhard Willhelm. Photo by Josh Paul Thomas.
A few years ago we began throwing around the idea of a concept issue. Inspired by the impending anniversary of the Village People’s 1977 debut, we thought the group’s rigid structural conceit might provide a lens through which we could examine issues of contemporary masculinity, specifically as it related to images of fun-loving queer cops, cowboys, and sailors.
While we love disco (and a few Village People songs), we were more interested in the group’s campy approach to butch identity and its occasionally disputed embrace of queer lifestyles. In reality, the Village People were a multi-racial prefab boyband whose flamboyant run up the Top 40 lasted all of eighteen months, but whose legacy lives on still at straight weddings and middle school dances. (They’re still touring too, though the group was recently rebooted, its longtime members all ousted after a lengthy legal battle over who owned the rights to the name.)
This issue ended up capturing what feels like a very specific moment in American history. Some of the projects were unexpectedly timely. Alan Ruiz’s monument to New York nightlife pioneer David Mancuso was turned in several months before Mancuso passed away in November 2016 (though his essay was later retooled to reflect on the new presidential administration). Wolfgang Tillmans’ assignment was inspired by the jaunty song “Fire Island,” but the resulting project features a lot of blood and the beaten image of an American flag, a topical and unusually loaded object of aggression.
A few artists gave us wholly unexpected projects. When we assigned Chicago artist Derrick Woods-Morrow the issue’s requisite “Cop project” we had no idea that he would literally bathe a North Carolina police officer, transcribing their intimate conversation in handwriting over a series of Polaroids.
Inspired by the Village People’s debut, a four-song album about gay destinations, Emmy Bright looked at migratory queers in various American cities. Though the late seventies was a time of economic turmoil, the era remembered for fun and frivolity has given way to gentrification and anxiety. One of the first projects completed for the issue, Bright’s study is perhaps most representative of increasingly turbulent times in the United States, and our place in it.
We’re very excited about all the projects in this issue, and we hope you spend some time with them.
Dance, Dance, Dance,