“Round Up: The Best of Prospect.2 New Orleans: Part 3,” Pelican Bomb

By Taylor Murrow, pelicanbomb.com

Dawn DeDeaux
Brulatour House and Courtyard
520 Royal Street
October 22, 2011-January 29, 2012

The moment the sky turns dark is transformative. In the Brulatour Courtyard, it’s the time when Dawn DeDeaux’s perverted portrait of Ignatius Reilly comes to life, converting the romanticism of the historic courtyard into the dark imaginings of John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces. Those familiar with the iconic New Orleans novel will recognize central elements from the narrative in this installation. The Levy Pants revolution, the Lucky Dog cart, and Reilly’s hunting cap all make appearances; while Reilly’s slovenly bed occupies center stage of the courtyard, fountain spewing from its center.

DeDeaux pairs Toole’s famous imagery with a rich symbolic language of her own: white death masks and red pantaloons figure prominently. Robert E. Lee’s Civil War boots and white camellias recall the Confederate South. Robed mannequins in dunce caps on the surrounding balcony—a disturbing confederacy of dunces—bring to mind visions of the occult, looming with a sinister Klan-like presence.

In the novel, masturbatory Reilly, always spiteful towards the dunces of the outside world, is fixated on the goddess Fortuna, regularly invoking her in his long-winded philosophical dialogues. DeDeaux’s Fortuna takes form with full cosmic force as New Orleans sissy bounce artists Big Freedia and Katey Red. Masked and in surreal costume, accompanied by their attendant dancers, they float and gyrate to a bounce track, spinning their wheels of fortune. DeDeaux, known for her pioneering use of digital media, further tricks out the experience, manipulating projections and reflections to give the illusion of a hypnotizing Fortuna performing at the foot of Reilly’s bed, taunting onlookers. Her voyeuristic investigation into the fetishism and confusion of Toole’s novel utilizes seemingly every space in the courtyard to provide a one-of-a-kind sensory experience, extracting viewers’ own latent sexuality and fear, and heightening them to haunting effect.