The concept of Tandemonium is simple yet completely different: each attendee has two tansan (the currency of the Tandemonium world), which they can use to dictate what Mrs. Tan has to do in the show. In other drag performances, the artist has a planned lineup of gimmicks and songs to lipsync to. Sure, they may take requests, but in Tandemonium, the two-show digital performance largely depends on what the audience wants Mrs. Tan to do. It was wildly entertaining. It also showed us who we are as people.
There is a menu board where the audience can choose what Mrs. Tan has to do, with the corresponding number of tansan. The first half sounds innocent and fun, such as lipsync to a song, smile for five minutes straight, do a shoutout, drink a glass of alcohol. But they progress to more disturbing things, such as drip candle wax on your body, eat dog food, drink your own vomit, eat a lit cigarette, pierce yourself on camera. For a certain fee, you can also request Mrs. Tan to do something off the menu.
There’s also an interesting catch. You can also cancel any request by paying the same amount of tansan.
Tandemonium starts harmless enough. The audience asked her to do the simple and fun stuff. Mrs. Tan does death drops, smiles at the camera while telling jokes, and even does a 3-part lipsync to Whitney Houston songs without even running out of breath. In the first show, a lot of people requested Mrs. Tan to drink glasses of alcohol.
At some point, Mrs. Tan is visibly drunk, and audience members cancel some requests. Since guests only have two tansan each and outrageous requests cost more, many pool their resources. The chatbox flooded with messages asking others if they have tansan to spare to cancel weird requests. Others bought more, at P100 each. Even if they worked hard to cancel outrageous requests (we never know who is making them), they couldn’t stop Mrs. Tan from doing this one: eat raw meat.
Mrs. Tan, drunk at this point, bravely does the task. Mrs. Tan is obviously uncomfortable but they are dedicated to the concept of the show: make a request, I’ll do it. We watch helplessly. The show ends when Mrs. Tan is asked to drink another glass of alcohol. They are on the verge of blacking out but we hear them say something along the lines of “someone made the request, we have to do it.” Mrs. Tan eventually passes out on the floor and there are a few seconds of unsettling silence as Mrs. Tan is on the screen, unconscious, before everything cuts to black.
I also watched the second show and it was completely different. While the audience in the first performance scrambled to raise funds to cancel outrageous requests, the one in the second seemed more passive. In the chatbox, one person said, “wag puro cancel.” Later on, someone asked, “why cancel?” It’s the same concept but Mrs. Tan takes in more requests with seemingly fewer cancelations. To keep the show fresh for repeat viewers, there are new tasks, like do five death drops in a row. One even requested Mrs. Tan to death drop from a chair. The request to eat dog food wasn’t canceled and Mrs. Tan gamely did it (they later called it dehumanizing). The second show ends with Mrs. Tan drinking Liquid X, an ominous-looking black broth that makes her vomit and later, pass out.
It’s a disturbing show that’s reminiscent of Marina Abramovic’s Rhythm 0. In the show, the artist laid out 72 objects on a table, which the audience is free to use on her. The items range from paint, a comb, lipstick, flowers to more dangerous stuff like a gun, pocket knife, nails, an ax, and a box of razor blades. Of this performance, Abramovic said, “the experience I drew from this work was that in your own performances you can go very far, but if you leave decisions to the public, you can be killed.”
Similar to Rhythm 0, Tandemonium asks: if given the resources, what are you capable of inflicting on another person? What makes Tandemonium different is that we are reminded when each task is announced that we also have the power to cancel it.
Mrs. Tan briefed me on what to expect before the show and I was worried. Given how freely and violently we attack each other in the comments section on social media, how we gleefully bully and dox people online, I wondered how the audience would react. Would they enjoy dehumanizing Mrs. Tan? Or would they step in? More importantly, by not interfering, does that make us complicit?
Tandemonium showed who we are as people today. The show proved that we are still driven by kindness and empathy. In the first show, audiences willingly gave up their tansan to cancel requests. They urged one another to donate. There was visible concern. The second audience was a bit more adventurous and willing to see how far Mrs. Tan will go, but you could clearly see there was an effort to cancel weird tasks. During the debriefing with drag artist Clea Torres, someone made an interesting point: Tandemonium is also about power and money. You have greater power if you have more money.
Mrs. Tan showed a different side of drag through Tandemonium. She entertained us with her charm and humor (I still can’t get their “hey hey hey” out of my head), and they held a mirror up to us to show who we are as people. Thankfully, the image we saw is one of people looking out for each other. I like what I’m seeing.
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