Cupcake interview with Sue Hogan of Unison Fetish

photo by Hope Davis

The upcoming Unison Fetish dates and times are:

Saturday & Sunday 9/13 & 9/14 and 9/20 & 9/21 @ 3pm & 5pm
Bleecker Playground @ West 11th & Bleecker Streets

See the end of this post for a video of Unison Fetish performing, as well as our previous post about Unison Fetish and my Flickr set from a previous performance and Hope Davis's extensive Flickr set. This is one of my favorite cupcake interviews ever; Sue has taken her unique perspective on Magnolia Bakery and her neighborhood and transformed it into art - cupcake art! We are always in favor of creative ways of using cupcakes and exploring their meaning. Be sure to check out Unison Fetish if you have a chance.

Sue Hogan
Sue Hogan from a performance of Look!

Name: Sue Hogan
Location: Unison Fetish takes place on the northeast corner of West 11th and Bleecker Streets in the sitting area of Bleecker Playground across from the Magnolia Bakery.
Occupation: Choreographer

Cupcake Cadet Corps dancing
photo by Rachel Kramer Bussel

What was the inspiration for your dance performance piece? How much of it has to do with the general trend of cupcakes’ popularity? How much has to do with Magnolia Bakery?

The creation of desire and how it is expressed through the transformation of the area around the Magnolia Bakery was my initial inspiration for Unison Fetish. The line outside the bakery, not the bakery itself, symbolized that transformation. I have lived nearby in a rent-stabilized apartment since 1993, and watched the area of Bleecker Street below Abingdon Square change completely. Prior to the early part of this decade, the street had been a lesser-known section of Greenwich Village with small unique shops and restaurants.

Now in 2008, 90% of these businesses have been replaced by a mall of luxury chain boutiques capable of paying anywhere from $20,000-$70,000 a month in rent. Suddenly the area is a destination point for tourists, shoppers, and celebrity watchers. Suddenly the desire for a Magnolia cupcake is strong enough that people will wait in line for 30-40 minutes to purchase one. Suddenly, the Magnolia cupcake had become a unison fetish. How was that desire created?

The creation of desires to consume in our culture and questions of why, how, by whom, and for whom these desires are created intrigue me. I wanted to explore these issues and questions with a site-specific event where the performers would dance with cupcakes.

Do the performances change each time you participate?

Yes! One of exciting things about performing in a public space is the blurring of the line between audience and performers. At one show, several guys with red t-shirts emblazoned with white letters that said, “The Warriors of Wall Street” started dancing with Cadet Schles during the performance while others took their picture. They had to have a picture of a “drag queen” for their corporate scavenger hunt.

Why six cadets and 12 cupcakes? How did you choose who would be part of it?

I envisioned the Cadets as a type of pep squad/dance team that often execute unison movement, and they usually have at least six members. I felt that 2 cupcakes per Cadet was a manageable number. I could see a larger number of performers (like the Rockettes!) but I’d need much more funding for that!

I chose dancers I knew; however, I did stipulate that as Cupcake Cadets, they must be able to tolerate dancing with icing on their fingers.

the cupcake march of Unison Fetish and the Cupcake Cadet Corps
photo by Rachel Kramer Bussel

What kinds of reactions have you gotten to the piece?

The tourists and shoppers have seemed quite surprised and delighted. They immediately started to document the event with video and flash cameras. The local residents have appreciated the satirical aspects of the event.

What message do you want to send to those who are waiting upwards of 30 minutes on line for a cupcake?

I don’t believe in making art with to send a “message.” For me, art, whether live performance, film, visual art, music, or written word, places a frame around or provides a reflection of the human experience.

If you could replace Magnolia Bakery, what would you put in its stead?

I wouldn’t think of replacing it!

photo by Hope Davis

What do you mean by the cupcake as “cultural fetish object?” What do you see as its more proper role?

The Magnolia cupcake has gone from a 1950s retro treat from a neighborhood bakery to become a cultural fetish object. I use the term fetish object in both an erotic sense, as well as to represent the small, carved figures used by the Zuni Indians to invoke attributes such as courage, honor, and wisdom. The Magnolia cupcake is often sought after not for its intrinsic cupcake qualities, but for the attributes with which pop culture has imbued it: hipness, celebrity, exclusivity, luxury.

Cupcakes can have proper and improper roles—-far be it for me to judge!

What do you hope viewers will take away from the piece?

I’m excited about having new audiences who may not be familiar with dance and contemporary performance see Unison Fetish.

photo by Hope Davis

And now for some personal questions…

How often do you eat cupcakes?

Unfortunately not very often. I’m a recovering sugar addict.

What's the best thing about eating cupcakes?

The icing.

What's your favorite type of cupcake?

Hummingbird cupcakes.

How do cupcakes compare/contrast to other baked goods for you?

They are often cuter than other baked goods.

Do you bake your own cupcakes? Or (even better) have someone who bakes them for you?

My oven in my rent-stabilized apartment hasn’t worked for a very long time, so I don’t have an opportunity to bake cupcakes. When I had access to oven, I used to bake muffins, which are cousins to cupcakes.

What's your first cupcake-related memory?

My mother made sour cream nutmeg cupcakes iced with vanilla glaze.

What's the most fun you've ever had with a cupcake?

I’m sorry, but I have to keep that private.

Watch Unison Fetish in action (see more video on the Cupcakes Take the Cake YouTube channel as well as one from PWRVideo):


Carmen said…
Me encantó, el vestido de las chicas y todo el contexto sobre la adoración al cupcake, me encanta su blog.
Saludos desde México