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Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Jerk-Off Festival in Paris is aptly named. They sure acted like Gallic jerks to the Bad Breast Production. We were slated to perform in Paris for this queer festival July 1-4, but they pulled the plug. If anyone has any dirt on these icky people please give it to me so. I was looking forward to seeing Paris again and visiting Rick Owens and Michele Lamy.
The final group of performances by my students at Malmö was open to the entire Academy, and we had a good crowd, with some special celebrity guests in the form of Malmö Academy grad and one half of Fine Art Union.
Jessica Sanderheim began the presentations with a lovely contemplative crystaline watery mess with nice repeatitive movements. It was tranquil, calming and very thought provoking.
Natalie Sanchez wore a feminine Abu Gharib gown, defecated blue pigment on to canvas and ignited the room in an expanded cinema pageant of brilliant starlight and volcanic music chimes. Powerful and profound.
Johanna Stillman played on the notion of Paul Bern´s so-called suicide note to Jean Harlow by having the audience write their own suicide letter and then displayed them gallery style on the white lecture room walls. Sweet and perfect.
The Prince of Babylon, and great beauty of Bagdad, thus spake Zardasht Faraj with assist from Gwen Stefanie, Michael Jackson and other pop supositories in re-reading text and context. Roland Barthes eat your funky heart out.
Stine Midstaeter dressed to impress with bling and blang read aloud her screenplay on adult adoption, with such yearning and intensity. This is one scenario that needs to reach the silver nitrate screen--Graumanns Chinese Theatre or the Egyptian.
The last performance ended the afternoon on a high note with Ihra Lill Scharning´s My Worst Nightmare. If all Norwiegan nightmare´s were like this i would want want every night. A beautiful short film bathed in Leonard Cohen with Ms. Scharning clad in pink serenading the audience of her peers with an Eddie Grant love ballad. Sublime.
I can’t believe that Platinum Jungle has come to an end. I really loved meeting such a marvelously talented group of students doing such diverse work. There are some shtars here in Malmö ready to take their rightful place in the heavenly firmament.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Went with my talented and beautiful student Karen Gimle to see a performative lecture by the art collective Fine Art Union at Signale Gallery. Fine Art Union is a Norweigan artist group based in Malmö, and Karen has collaborated with them. Seeing a bit of FAU performing live and on video they remind me of LA performance art legend Johanna Went. FAU have a explorative quality in their work and expressive singing voices. We share a distrust of art institutions while maintaining a messy kibbles and bit aesthetic. It was grand to hear that FAU performed at the incredible Wu’s Wildness space in Los Ang at the Silverplatter in Westlake/MacArthur Park. FAU as future primitives unfurled a Gay Rainbow/Leather/Bear Flag while performing at Signale and it was a complete hoot.
Second day of final class projects and Helena Olsson performed a movement piece with Sewing Machine in C major. Nice hommage to Jean Harlow with a little bit Cary Grant thrown in for good measure as she disected and deconstructed live a bias cut white evening gown and perfected her bee stung lips. Nice way to start the morning and it got better with petite Maria Norman donning a Jane Avril outfit and taking Josephine Baker to new heights in an ecstatic dance of epic porportions. All of my lesbian drama went out the window as Ihra Lill Scharning and Ellinor Aurora Aasgaard used the internet, a web camera chat room and partner fascination to love juicy and hilarious results. Last but not least Ms. Catherine Helberg did her native town in Sweden take on the ubiquitous La Baker banana dance, this time substituting a Herring manifest. Didnt notice the fish smell until the end of her gala interpretive dance. Tomorrow, the last day of performances are open to Academy community, and after a champagne salon.
One of my cute and sensitively manly NYU grad students Carlos Reyes sent me a link to a marvelous video he created called Portrait of the Artist as an Artist.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Received a wonderful emug from the gorgeous and multi talented artist Heather Cassils, who among other things has also worked as part of the art collective Toxic Titties. Heather as many of you know was prominently featured in the 9 minute music video of pop starlet Lady GaGa, sharing a passionate lovesexy smoochy. The video reminds me of Cheryl Dunye's lesbian prison film The Stranger Inside, and i am sure that was one of the directors influences. Also in the video is R&B Prinzessin Beyonce.
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
Thank you for the outpour of support and comments over these past few day. I really appreciate it!! The video has over 15 million hits on the internet allready so I think its safe to say that this is another step for queer representation. All though I am happy to have had this experience and excited that the image is everywhere, there is absolutly no mention of who I am and what I do, (beyond making out with pop stars.)
My partner worked with a publicist last night and a press release went out this morning.
Please forward to any and all of your contacts in the art/ film and music worlds.
Help give a different kind of credit to the "girl" who kissed Lady Gaga.
Thank you!
Heather Cassils
Who’s the “Girl” Kissing Lady Gaga in Controversial “Telephone” Video?

Lady Gaga’s epic nine-minute video “Telephone” has caused an up-roar
on the Internet, in part because of a sizzling queer kiss with a
female prison inmate. The video has already racked up 15 million
views on You Tube alone and now the “girl” has been revealed as Los
Angeles artist Heather Cassils.

Heather is a visual artist, stunt person and a body builder whose
exaggerated physique questions ideas about gender. It was for that
very reason that Lady Gaga handpicked her for a featured moment in the
jail yard scene during “Telephone.” When Gaga walks into a prison
yard, glasses flaming with cigarettes and smoke, she is approached and
seduced by Heather. With her unconventional beauty and strength,
Heather steals the scene.

Heather’s body is a work of art sculpted over the past decade as a
response to traditional ideas of gender. Somewhere in the “in-between”
of girl or boy, woman or man, she is a queer artist. Her work has been
so influential, the Canada-native was recently granted a green card as
an “Alien of Extraordinary Ability” to continue performing in the
United States.

While the make out session with the pop star was provocative, it was
anything but gratuitous. Rather, it added another layer to the ongoing
conversation about sexual identity and beauty. Heather’s response to
the media frenzy over the video is overwhelmingly positive. She
states: “it was exciting to be picked by Lady Gaga because I know my
body is different and I knew this video would give mass exposure of a
very unconventional female body.”

Heather moved to Los Angeles from Montreal to pursue her Master’s
Degree in Fine Art’s from Cal Arts, completed in 2005. Her work can
be seen in film, as well as formal gallery and museum settings. You
can find out more about Heather here:

To reach Heather for an interview or photo opportunities, please
contact Cristy Michel at
Today my students started to present their class performance finals. With the help of Miss Margot the technical coordinator at Malmö we turned the lecture room into the Platinum Jungle performance space, complete with video documentation. One of the youngest students the beautiful Elsine Hoff Levinsen who is just shy of 18 years of age presented a nice recitation that included two of her oil paintings. Her work already has a performative charge to it and she took it to the next level.
The equally beautiful and serene Jessica Sanderheim had the class follow her in pagentry procession mode to a 2nd floor closet which she converted into mini amphitheatre and installation space where she cleverly projected a short film with text that seemed to float in the room in a very mysterious fashion. Great way to start the week. Tomorrow six more student performances---a veritable variete show.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Part one of a wonderful letter received from that first family of experimental film Sherry & Ernie,who i love dearly and two of the most gifted and fun loving people i know. Enjoy dear readers.

Hi Vag--Sherry and I are traveling in Vietnam and now in Cambodia and as of tomorrow back to Vietnam, where we'll be till mid-April. We expect to be back in Europe all summer, doing various little things in Copenhagen, Ljubljana and in Portugal--we'll have to plot a way to get to Berlin as well--in our whirlwind tour. Anyway I wrote the notes below a little while ago and now have written another little such letter that continues the story--which I'll send you in a separate email. I have to say that you would be much loved in Phnom Penh. We stayed at a gay-friendly guesthouse there--and the city which is very lively is for sure gay-friendly overall (unlike it would seem on first inspection much of Saigon...). Anyway, just wanted to catch you up on some of our adventures--love, Ernie (and Sherry)
Happy New Year--from Saigon!
(on the streets of Saigon, cheap and, as you can see, smudgy copyshop editions of travel and Vietnam-interest books in English are widely available. This is a pirated Bantam 1968 edition of General Giap's manual.)

Sherry and I arrived at Tan Son Nhut Airport—a designation like so many others with a grim resonance for us for more than forty years—just minutes before Tet, the week-long New Year’s Festival was to begin. Outside the airport people were clamoring for taxis—so anxious or so excited were they to get into Saigon proper before the Year of the Tiger began. We got in the mood.

Once we grabbed one, the taxi ride in was exhilarating, after the 24 hour trip from snowy New York City, as the streets were thronged with dozens hundreds thousands of young people on motorbikes—motos, as they are called here. Sometimes whole families are bunched on a single moto. Stopped at red lights,we called out Happy New Year, from the taxi window, in between erratic bits of videotaping.

Upon checking in at our hotel, situated just two short blocks from the central Cho Ben Thanh market, we asked about the fireworks and were assured that the best place to see them now was the roof of the hotel….Up we went in the elevator, with a bunch of other visitors to Saigon, both Vietnamese and not. We were in time—which seemed auspicious—and was, as it turned out, for our nine days in Ho Chi Minh City. As the fireworks boomed the strangers looking out on the roof wished each other a Happy Year of the Tiger, in several languages.

I suppose in exploring every unknown and alluringly foreign city the swirling atmosphere of chance, even if ultimately illusory, seems to take over with each glance left or right, or each uncertain step this way or that. But Tet in Saigon nourished that potential, as we wrestled with inadequate maps (the bookstores were all shut for the week—Tet, you know—and so we kept failing to find a decent map, which had its own detourned appeal once in awhile—but not always). In the first Temple (Quan Am Pagoda) we went to in the Cholon District (which one reads about in Graham Greene’s The Quiet American as a suburb of Saigon, in the still-Frenchifed Fifties) we were struck right-on by the fantastic incense-drenched smokey spectacle of the rapt desire for good fortune. Dozens of worshippers lighting joss sticks they stuck into ceramic jars and incense cones hung on the ceiling in hopes of good fortune for the coming year. It was enough to turn any sentient being into a believer on the spot. And so newly religious, I joined in the ceremony, as Sherry wielded the camera. The overlap of the practice of worship to the more mundane practices of everyday life was so striking that we left suitably dazzled and soon stumbled into an actual gaming arcade, a few blocks away, where luck was a bit more mixed with skill as Sherry and I took turns playing some kind of pinball with some young Vietnamese also playing and trying against high odds to instruct us on how to play. We were transfixed for quite awhile—and when we broke away, thanking our neighbors for their help—we asked the young attendant what we owed for playing—and she checked our scoreboard—and paid us 10,000 dong—about sixty cents.

A few days later, in a muted Disney-fied almost amusingly ghastly tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels outside Saigon (from which the 1968 Tet offensive was launched by the VC against Saigon) the politics of luck (another name for class struggle in this context?) were played out on all sorts of levels. For instance, at the climactic point in the tour you can pay a little extra for some ammo and shoot the Vietnam War weapon of your choice at a target range. That nobody ever seems to hit a target would appear to be one point of this game. The punishing noise is another.

But much more compelling was the chance to talk to the tour guide, who had been demonstrating and lecturing about the enemy (that is us, the US), demonstrating, that is, the use of boobytraps and lethal cages, how the tunnel entrances were camouflaged, how the VC did and didn’t survive in the tunnels. We talked to him about his own experience of the War—he was a man of about 67 years of age.. He’d been an advisor to the Green Berets, was wounded in 68 and luckily –there it is again—demobilized—so after ’75 when he should have been a target for ‘Reeducation’ was given a pass on that. He asked me whether I’d been in the army during the War and when I explained that I’d been a draft resister responded, “oh, like Muhammad Ali.” We had in common the knowledge that the War had been the determining moment in both our lives.

The Cu Chi Tunnels , like the War Remnants Museum and the Reunification Palace, are the major sites of the circuit of war tourism in the Saigon area. Tourists can be counted upon to always behave like tourists so there was no visible hesitation in snapping photos in front of US tanks on the grounds of the War Remnants Museum, or in posing with broad smiles with arms draped around the VC mannequins at Cu Chi, etc. And of course we videotaped many of them doing so. And since it was Tet a great many of the tourists were Vietnamese—not just Westerners. These monuments (and others, scattered here and there, like the small street-corner memorial to the first monk who immolated himself, which is venerated on a daily basis by passersby) give Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City an ever-present ever-past sense of doubleness also hinted at by its double name.

There is much more to say but these are the themes we are reckoning with right now so far: the resonance of names, the deception of chance, and the persistence of burning—as we continue.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Did some performance exercises with the students today, like Mother May I?-Yes You May! We worked on opening our touch and voice chakras with gang massage, throwing voice and conjuring voice in the spirit. We did some mummification sculpting and value currency repeating the phrases: ”I am the most beautiful and talented in the world, I make the best choices and i am a visionary. My excrement doesnt stink, I can go a year without taking a bath and i have absolutely no b.o. I can eat raw onions and maggots and still have sparkling minty fresh breath.
Later in the evening i attended a happening by one of the students which was a great experiment in sensory deprevation, by forcing people to spend 2 hours in pure darkness.
Woke up Saturday morning thinking about the beautiful Matt Dike, one of those boys I liked back in the 1980s who got away from me. Matt Dike was one of the owners of a rap label out of LA called Delicious Vinyl that gave us Tone Loc and Young MC. Matt was also the third member of The Dust Brothers who went on to successes producing Beck and the Beastie Boys. Matt in fact was crucial in the production of the Beastie Boys seminar and highly influential album Paul´s Boutique. When I first met Matt in the early 1980s he was a recent transplant from New York City. He had pale skin, light colored hair and the sexiest most kissable ruby lips imagineable. He use to DJ an underground club called Nairobi Room that i would frequent that was on Third Street near Crescent Heights. Matt was a closet dinge queen, who had a strong desire for black boys but wasn´t able to express it. We exchanged google eyes with each other, but he was way too uncomfortable with his sexuality to make a play for me. Plus i think i scared him a bit because of my drag persona. He was flirtatious with me and playful when i was dressed in boy wear, but he found my femininity problematic. Maybe there could have been something there between us, but in my youth i was just too dogmatic in my belief system to give Matt a chance, and looking back now i regret that. Over the years he would DJ the Rhymthm Lounge on Melrose Avenue and Larchmont and Rhythm Lounge SoHo in Lincoln Heights. He also was the main DJ with Bradley Bransome´s Power Tools Club. Bradley was a cute photographer form ID and Face Magazine, very cute tall and blonde. Later he wound up having a serious drug problem. Wonder what ever happened to him, he was very adorable looking in the mid – late 1980s. But getting back to Matt Dike. I remember when he had a studio on Santa Monica Blvd near Vine Street. At that time I lived on La Mirada Avenue at the famous Karnak Apts. There use to be some great parties at the Karnak as members of the bands The Nymphs, Lazy Cowgirls and Fiends lived in the building not to mention a slew of other bands. There was also a lot of hot parties at the Happy Malaga Castle, an old building in Hollywood not far from The Karnak where Greta Garba use to have many a rendevous with her lesbian lovers.
Matt wanted me to play Funky Cold Medina in the Tone Loc video and i was horrified that he would suggest such a thing. He didnt even ask me personally but got one of his co-horts Mickey Petralia to do the dirty deed. I liked Mickey though he was very cute. I think Mickey works in music in movies these days. The last time Matt & I had a flirtation was in around 1994 at a big opening at ACE Gallery on Wilshire Blvd on the Miracle Mile. I felt like he was trying in an awkward way to open up to me, but i took his hesitation for arrogance and was rude to him. A few times i saw him from a distance in Silverlake in the late 90s. At this point he was working a Rick Rubin look of a long greasy billygoat gruff beard and basically looking like he was homeless, and living up in the Silverlake Hills in a big house that some people dubbed the Cocaine Compound. If any of my faithful readers out there know what happened to Matt Dike please drop me a line. He was always the boy that got away from me, and it was mainly my own fault. Vaginal Davis is definately a bitch goddess.