Behind the scenes encounters with the protagonists of Mike and Claire’s new short, produced by Allday Digest. We met a cadre of artists immersed in the tradition of queer and activist performance art, picking up the provocations initiated by such figures as Charles Atlas, Jack Smith, Kembra Pfahler, Genesis P-Orridge and Leigh Bowery. Here they open up about their creative processes of transfiguration, identity exploration, and the creation of fictitious—sexualized or not—selves. Come along for the ride as we talk about the motivations for accessing these artists’ most intense, elemental personas.
Who I am is of no concern to me, so I tend to let other people answer that question; I act, sometimes I model, I write on special occasions. Identity used to be very important to me, but I’ve slowly allowed myself to shift focus toward more nourishing fare. Action has become far more vital to me than identity.
I inspire my work, and so do other people. If I have an audience, I have no expectation of it. I can only thank them when I’m through.
I don’t love to answer questions about my work. I would rather the work spoke for itself.
Where are you?
For this project, I brought in what I’d been working on: a scene from “Three Sisters” by Anton Chekhov. Mike and Claire are skilled at beckoning collaborators into their world. We made proposals and figured it out.
What inspires your work?
Hope for a better future.
Collaboration is a constant for me. As much as I cherish and require a private practice, I feel very aware of my youth and aptitude for change. Co-writing my first feature film with Maiko Endo, now my second with Victoria Cronin and Adinah Dancyger; making the YOUWHO album “score” with Brian Close; crafting characters with different directors; publishing zines with my partner Jack Shannon... all these projects come to be through collaboration and could not have happened in the same way without it.
There are these chosen collaborations in making most work but with performance especially, an artist must take into account the constant potential for an unchosen collaboration with the audience. A viewer participates in a work just by viewing and though most do so inactively with respect, the work is affected by being viewed, and the opportunity for the variable of viewer to be further activated is ever-charged.
“I’ve been a lot of other things, creatures, people with many different names.”
I don’t like being asked, “What do you do? What kind of work do you make?” or anything else vague and uncaring. I like specific questions, where someone questions something they experienced and where it comes from. I especially like being asked what I think of works... I don’t know how to feel when people ask me what a performance is about or “trying to say.” On the one hand I hope of course the work translates enough, but on the other I really appreciate the investigation and it can be so hard to articulate through performance. That kind of dialogue can become key in making stronger, clearer work.
Right now, I’m in my studio. Surrounded by plants and “art stuff”... I share my chair with my cat/muse: Peony Z. For the collaboration with Mike and Claire, I presented CHIBI CHERRY, a character I created at the start of this year. Deeply conflicted, she thinks she wants to be a pop star. Working with her is my attempt to investigate a self-critique through performance. When I approach her there is a focus on movement, what it feels like to have a body, for that body to be female and how to handle insecurity as an artist.
Jack & Peter
We are experimental multi-disciplinary media theater improvisors and practitioners that have been dancers, artists, administrators, producers, presenters, curators, and cultural workers. We are motivated by the process of art-making as a collective socio-political tool that gives voice to an inclusive diversity of form, function and fun.
Our work invariably intersects with queer, feminist, people of color, AIDS identity and culture that subverts established concepts using found materials, film, music, performance and our bodies within an economy of means and “can do” imagination. We founded the Lower East Side community garden Le Petit Versailles that is a platform for realizing these ideas for ourselves and others.
We believe there is no such thing as the ideal performance space as each one, indoors or out, presents new challenges that help shape and redefine our work. But any space must be one where we can take whatever risks possible with administrative and financial support to do so—for us AND our audiences.
WE are here with you NOW and forever, struggling along with the rest of humanity on the arc of life...
For more than three decades we’ve developed works that investigate our interracial partnership; first in our films “The Male Gayze” and “Black & White Study” and then as dance theater works. Our performance for the video played with new motifs and materials to see where this investigation continues to takes us.
I am Colin Self, a human being, composer, choreographer. I’ve been an actress, a child, a goblin, a womyn. In my most recent past lives I was a high priestess murdered by the church for heresy, then a voluptuous seductress who used her body for power. This is my first life in a male body.
I’m inspired by communities and individuals fostering new possibilities and new ways of thinking and living. I’m inspired by systems of nature and technology, cognitive activism, and play. My work involves an overlapping and hybridizing of many communities of vocalists, dancers, biomechanics, engineers, programmers, hackers, drag queens, designers, writers, and creatures. I currently am invested in creating systems of play that challenge the limitations of human capacity for creating change.
What’s your ideal performance space?
An opera house that is forever being demolished and built at the same time.
“I am in the middle of a lake on an island in the forest.”
Can you tell us about your performance for this film?
This song, Who’s Afraid (Of The Art Of Noise)? is a favorite song from The Art of Noise’s album Daft. I’ve recently felt a personal dis-identification of drag and lip syncing—slipping into another realm or reason—and I like that this song has a compositional form sort of slipping between states. It’s highly energetic and frenetic, and moves quickly, so I thought about the dance this way—slipping and sliding quickly through states of being.
My name is Glossy Bohemond and I have been creating a character named Mimi over the course of about 6-7 years. I am also a visual artist, makeup artist, and basically anything that has to do with a paint brush.
The character of Mimi is a collection of visual and personality traits that randomly came together in a harmonious, twisted way. Beaker from the muppets, my Lebanese heritage touches into the accent of her voice, the makeup of Mimi from the Drew Carey Show, and the most awfully produced independent pop music you’ve ever heard.
Mimi loves to share her talents with the world, especially anyone willing to get close enough to her face to see if she’s actually real or all prosthetics. Her early music is shallow, crass and mostly about money. Recently, however, she’s entered the New York City scene and is rediscovering the roots of her queer core. The shift has brought out some new music that will hopefully create a place where people are endeared by a greater message of love and connectivity, while getting a little filth thrown around every now and again.
“Baking a meat pie under her skirt on a picnic date seemed to be the most appropriate thing...”
What’s your ideal performance space?
Honestly, anywhere for anyone who is willing to not throw food or objects at her. But specifically Madison Square Garden.
Right now, Mimi’s living under my bed here in Bed/Stuy. She’s made a cute nest down there. The piece with Mike and Claire, like most of Mimi’s work, was created in a matter of minutes. Baking a meat pie under her skirt on a picnic date seemed to be the most appropriate thing for her to do in this particular moment of her career.
I’m Alexandra Marzella. Right now I’m an artist, model and actress. I’ve been a fashion designer, a stylist, a pizza delivery girl and an editor at VFILES. I dabble in social media, dance, performance art, music, fashion, sex work, painting, drawing, sculpture, photography and video. I’ve also started to do some talks about censorship and feminism.
My work is inspired by humans I love, nature, biology and emotions. My practice is evolving daily. I like to think that my work interacts with all kinds of people. But I need to work harder to reach the ultimate audience. I’m currently dealing with a lot of growth in all areas so all of these things are expanding and contracting. I suppose I think of life as one big performance but I try to be as honest and real as possible.
My ideal performance space? An adult jungle gym of sorts, preferably one that collaborators or I have made. Close quarters are also challenging and fun. Taking more constructed performances to nature and/or the streets would be a courageous step for me.
“My ideal performance space? An adult jungle gym of sorts...”
Right now, I’m in Bushwick in Brooklyn, New York. I’m in bed answering emails. I should be dancing around my loft.
Tell us a little bit about your performance in this video?
Mike and Claire and the people they involved in this video lifted my spirits so high. I was running late and got pretty stressed, up until I arrived. Those feelings drifted away as soon as I got to the space and dove in. My performance was more about relaxing and having fun than anything else. I played myself. This is a pretty constant theme in my work though I’d like to play more characters rather than always a version of myself which is usually the case. I suppose this performance is about doing your damn thang. Doing what feels good and exploring various emotions while doing so.
Mars & Leah
We’re Mars and Leah. We are one, we are two, we are lovers, we are friends, we are whatever we choose to be at any given time. We have been dissected, rearranged, and we’ve put ourselves back together (but not for the last time).
We pick things up as we go. Most of what inspires us comes from our peers because, honestly, our friends are some of the most brilliant individuals out there. But a lot of it is also just things we find deep in the Internet, or things we brought with us from the communities we left in our hometowns and past lives.
In the most literal sense, we interact with each other, and extend that to other artists in our community as often as possible. In terms of the content of our work, we interact with drag/camp aesthetics and historical methods of bloodletting and healing. Queer/feminist and art theory is definitely something we keep in the back of our heads, as well. Although we don’t tend to make work that’s based off theory, we do both come from relatively academic backgrounds (we’re presently finishing up our BFA’s), so that’s ultimately something we’re always going to be interacting with, consciously or not.
“We interact with drag/camp aesthetics & historical methods of bloodletting & healing.”
An ideal performance space is just as much about the audience as the venue itself. So often in performance spaces there’s a totally static relationship between audience and performer, with the performers giving and the audience receiving as silent participants. We’re interested in breaking that dichotomy up a little bit. We both started out performing in bars, and that’s a super-responsive environment. People aren’t usually there to see you, they’re there with their friends to get drunk and have fun, so there’s some pressure involved in getting their attention and making them care, but once they do, they’re yelling and cheering and throwing money and it’s totally euphoric. In terms of actual space, we’re interested in continuing our work outside of institutions, maybe in the woods somewhere. It’d be great to be surrounded by nature but still receiving that energy from people.
What’s your favorite question to answer concerning your work? Least favorite?
Our favorite questions are always ones we haven’t gotten before, that give us an opportunity to look at our work in new ways and give a glimpse into what someone else might be gaining from it that we hadn’t thought of. The worst is when someone just asks “doesn’t that hurt?” or “what does this have to do with being transgender?” (since the answer for both is usually very little).
Where are you?
Completely outside ourselves.
Collaboration is something that’s really important to both of us, so when Mike and Claire asked us to come in and do whatever, we felt we should do something that felt responsive to the themes and energy we get from their work. It’s a bit of a departure from the performances we usually do, but we wanted to do something that was going to be fun and playful, something that evokes a kind of childhood naiveté, with a twist.
Interview with Mike & Claire