EMPIRE, Love to Love You, Baby



Rickyoncé is the Empress of the American Empire in
Empire, Love to Love You, Baby

Empire is a light-hearted, intelligent, and extremely hilarious lecture/performance about a serious, alienating and sometimes frightening subject: American nationalism.
- De Standaard newspaper, Belgium

Read entire review and view Empire poster below images

empress of america empress of america
empress of america

Empire, Love to Love You Baby! is Ricky Seabra’s third solo performance which taps into the questioning of the American Empire as it is today. As a Brazilian-American artist who keenly constructs and deconstructs images live on stage, Seabra delves deep into the collective memory of American nationalism. Using cameras, the Internet (three cheers for YouTube & Google Earth!), clips & samples, pen & paper, he creates a unique world in which criticism and hilarity go hand in hand. What does one do when he discovers he is part of an Empire and finds out it has no Emperor....or Empress? ;-) So brace yourself for Uber-Americana straight from the Bronx...

Empire premiered June 15th in Mechelen at the Kunstencentrum nOna, Belgium
Concept and text Ricky Seabra,
directed by Dirk Verstockt
Produced by Kunstencentrum nOna
Soundtrack: Kreng
Video Editing: Stef Deneer
History consultant: Jan de Pauw



Less America, More Tenderness!


Monday, 24th of November 2008
Text: Ana Schnabl

Ljubljana –International Festival for Contemporary Performing Arts Exodos is taking place in these November days, and among others we saw a performance by Ricky Seabra Empire, Love to Love You, Baby, which he performed twice in the frame of the festival.

In his project Empire, Love to Love You, Baby, Ricky Seabra deconstructed American national fixations.
Formerly a graphic designer at Miramax, Seabra is a graduate of visual communications and Master of Arts in industrial design, who nine years ago quit his job and moved to Amsterdam to become a storyteller – mostly performing on stage.

Against Imperialism
Seabra owns a Brazilian as well as an American passport and this duality is exactly what legitimates his project, presented last Friday and Saturday at Plesni Teater Ljubljana (more precisely, at the “Imperial PTL Theatre”, as he called it) and grants this project with much appreciated connivance. Seabra as a kind of lecturer/performer takes on the task of deconstructing American national – if not nationalistic – fixations that are exceptionally successful and persistent in getting under the skin or rather into the »souls of individuals« and the phantasmagoria of pop culture phenomena following 9/11, while explaining at the same time that the historical foundations for all of this were laid long time ago. He talks about how the question marks at the end of particular lines of the American anthem were erased so that there would be no doubt of the American sense of equality, freedom and courage; he talks about the sacredness of the American flag, about the symbolic slogan "Support your troops" and ethical primacy of American army and other forms of Imperial attitude. His performance / presentation is comic and satiric and reminds one of a stand-up comedy with an excellent dramaturgical concept and make-up of live animations, music hits, TV shows, projections of websites and a very persuasive and thought-out choreography.

With the appearance of Rickyoncé - the new Empress who bets on bootylicious United States of America - the irony of American imperialistic tendencies is brought to absurdity: Seabra, who in his transvestite edition oscillates between the point of view of an MTV star and the logic of an average Quaker, has plenty of sexy ideas and suggestions about how the Sons of Sam could really rule the world. In any case, Empire, Love to Love You, Baby leaves the viewer with an ambiguous impression. Mocking the icons and American symbols and re-contextualizing this imagery surely comes out as a critique and the artist stands up against the imperialism of his home country, displayed on the level of a nation and originating from the demonic collective unconscious (or, as the author says, it's about »deep shit«). The target of Seabra's offensive however, is not limited just to American nationalism but also points to the institution of prejudice and stereotypes non-Americans foster about America and its people. In other words, he is not trying to be apologetic on behalf of American identity or be overtly moralizing, instead he puts himself exactly on the spot from which most people see USA: the disseminators of the holy truth. Seabra, however, doesn't try to force this truth on you instead he only displays its mechanisms.

Monday June 19, De Standaard, Belgium: translated from Dutch

Ricky Seabra reasons with the wink of an eye

America is an Empire without an emperor. Hence, Ricky Seabra crowns himself Empress. I should have known this beforehand: Ricky Seabra's performance Empire is definitely more than somewhat gay. There was, after all, a nude soldier on the poster, with an automatic machine gun covering his genitals. But who would have expected a drag queen show? The Brazilian American artist Ricky Seabra has worked in our country before, with, among others, Airplanes & Skyscrapers (2002). Empire, which premiered last week in KC nOna, is an extremely hilarious lecture/performance about a serious, alienating and sometimes frightening subject: American nationalism.

Seabra starts with an analysis of the American anthem. This anthem is regularly sung by pop diva's at sporting events. You remember of course the incident with Janet Jackson's nipple and the fuss that caused. But one doesn't laugh at the anthem. Even less susceptible to irony is the flag this anthem talks about. In the anthem, the important question turns out to be whether the stars and stripes are still waving after the battle. The text gives no solution: it remains an open question. Seabra shows fragments of these pop diva performances and alternates them with the text on the screen. According to him, the question marks gradually disappeared out of the song text. A meaningful omission?

Seabra shows how to correctly fold the American flag and shows the type of films that are heavily parodied by the Simpsons: the stupid animated films that drill the constitution, the founding fathers and the flag into school children's heads. Even if you've seen these parodies a lot, the originals remain more horrifying than silly.

America behaves as an empire, but looses grip because it lacks an emperor or empress. When Seabra states this, he undresses and somewhat later a Beyoncé-clone appears on stage. She is Rickyoncé, empress of a bootyliscious country. (this is an eye wink to Beyoncé, as well as the subtitle of this performance: Love to Love You, Baby, one of her hit singles).

The tone of the performance hardly changes after this. The drag diva keeps on giving us seriousness in a party dress. On her laptop, she surfs to a Google Earth where she has marked all the American army bases on the globe. Seabra doesn't give any comment here, but the image of his laptop is projected on a video screen behind him, and he mixes these images of the globe with images from Nancy Sinatra's These Boots Are Made for Walking. Power is indeed as simple as shoes: you need one to walk on and one to conquer the world. Later on, Rickyoncé also shows her warriors: she finds them by surfing to a gay pornsite: www.malecorps.com.

Empire is a light-hearted, intelligent performance. Seabra doesn't do more than collect images from TV, films and internet, as far as they fit his subject. A bit like Michael Moore. But Seabra doesn't feel the need to convince his audience. Moore makes his arguments with a hammer - which is valuable - and Seabra with the wink of an eye.

- Marc Cloostermans

December 10, 2008

Ricky loves Empire – and Empire loves Ricky

by Andreja Kopac, November 22, 2008,
Exodos Festival, Ljubljana, Slovenia

PREAMBLE BY Michel Foucault:
Sexuality is a part of our lives. It is a part of freedom that we enjoy in this world. We have to understand that there is, with our wishes, through our wishes, strength in new types of relationships, new ways of love and new forms of creation. Sex is not a destiny, it is an access to creative life. We are not supposed to find out that we are homosexual. Before that we have to create a gay way of living. Become gay.

Ricky Seabra: Don't criticize USA soldiers, fuck them!
Ricky then … Let me think … Until now I have heard of three Rickys. First is Ricky Martin, pop singer from the USA. Viva la Vida Loca. Second is Ricky Lake. Woman, moderator of her own talk show. (Actually she is Riki with a K). Third is Ricky, the famous Slovenian stripteaser. Part of the Chippendales group. Some people think he is the one of the most goodlooking strippers in Slovenia. The name Ricky has, at first glance, some certain pop connotations. Pop is written in the name. Performer Ricky Seabra has a father, who was by the age of 18 speaking 6 languages fluently. His mother is Brazilian with a special interest in antiques. Ricky has a childish dream to be an astronaut. His place to be was always the sky. Planes and aircrafts. Skyscrapers and towers. All together, crossing one another. Ricky is a graduated student of communication design and has a Master degree in industrial design. Studying in USA. Living in Rio. Because of the weather. Very nice. Very American.

And because Ricky really likes the sky and universe, he uses similar symbols for interpretation, or more precisely, deconstruction of American mythology. From this bunch of symbols he choses the following ones, starting from the air: American air bases, spread all over the map of the world, the American flag, proudly waving in the air, White house, Twin towers, Bombs bursting in air and finally – the American national anthem, starting with a black star - Whitney Houston, ending by a white star - Mariah Carey. Amazing. We can't really criticize any one of the singers. Or the performance at all. And especially not Ricky. He made a good piece. Entertaining one. With nice images, interesting lights, with a sense of healthy wittiness, a refreshing self-referenciality and some interesting interventions.

What did he actually do to present, represent and make fun of his own Empire? He simply became an empire! He undressed and dressed himself into a half Whitney - half Mariah. He became Ricky Martin, Riki Lake and Ricky, the striptease guy at the same time. Yes, he was convincing. Until the end, when he visually introduced a next possible empire – CHINA. With some chinese boys, imitating a boy band song ... As long as you love me ... As long as America loves China – or as long China loves America? This is a question. Hamletian one. So, as long as they love each other there will be peace on planet Earth. Poppishly terrifying. So, what about the Chinese? They already knew (since middle ages) how to become an Empire: If you want to be Empire, create an empire way of living. Become an empire. Imitation is possible.

CLOSING BY Michel Foucault:
EMPIRE is a part of our lives. It is a part of freedom that we are enjoying in this world. We have to understand that there is, with our wishes, through our wishes strength in new types of relationships, new ways of love and new forms of creation. EMPIRE is not a destiny, it is an access to creative life. We are not supposed to find out that we are PART OF THE EMPIRE. Before that we have to create an EMPIRE way of living. Become EMPIRE.

18 December 2008

Review: When Sexy Hottie is Having Brain

Aw, aw, could you imagine what a cutie I saw yesterday in the theatre in Ljubljana!...On a stage, by the way, not in the audience. That was the moment when I remembered my wonderings about turning to boy-lover profession, still, I stayed to chicks (it’s just easier somehow). Righty then, the thing was that he had a solo performance called Empire. I love to love you, baby (well, you see, what I’m tryin’ to say, uh?). It was about The States and the old stuff with them: patriotic madness and military obsessions. But haba- haba, mummy llliked the guy, Ricky Seabra!!! What a body, what skin, although, no big wonder, coz he was from Brazil and he had just returned from the desert sands. Having had a pretty rough tour through different countries, something like European, can’t remember, but it isn’t so important. What a sense of humour, my looord! I pissed my pants for about five times, and, no doubt, I wasn’t the only one. And at the same time he managed to kick butt of some serious problems and did it in different ways, using loads of videos - some live captured on the stage, some, taken from the net, projected on screen; then suddenly turning into transvestite or just ugly babe. He called himself Rickyoncé, you know, from where he pulled the strings, don’t ya? With that he crowned himself as the Empress of The States. Gosh, in some moments I thought that he’s gone with the birds – toot, toot!,- you know, the artist in that modern theatre bullshit sometimes has their little surprises. No, no, everything was O.K., he’s just a hell of a good actor. Though he has a designers degree.

The most terrifying moment was when he showed a compilation from disaster and shitty sci-fi blockbusters like Independence Day (is Will Smith still alive, by the way?) and The Day After. To see, how such a ‘great’ nation blows up their skyscrapers, Black House (haaah) and things like that, you really start to wonder what the hell is happening in their fatty heads. You had some shit in sunny September morning, didn’t you get the point? Why don’t you stop playing with your country like a mad farmer with his chainsaw? Other wicked episode was when he demonstrated porn photo collection of USA army soldiers and their Little Soldiers as well. Well, apparently those are the thingies they do to get some extra earnings while they're in service.

Yeah, Rickyoncé really knew exactly what he wanted to say with his work, which, I suppose, require much power from him. Remarkable guy, that’s for sure. Interesting, what he will do next, unless some guys with sunglasses and little earphones won’t visit him in late hours of the night to ask some simple questions by cup of tea…

Stanley H. Orny

Estreia, Kunstencentrum NONA, Mechelen, Belgica

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