Belles Lettres for Performance Art Babes

In lieu of prescribed weekly dustings, coats of blood red paint are regularly applied to cigarette ash laden surfaces in anticipation of guests, often at the very last minute, or so the mythology goes. The red of a thick uterine wall, not of a scraped knee, its glossy, blistered surface gives no hint to its relative wetness.  The sanguine monochrome pervades, camouflaging bedframes, dresser drawers, a claw foot tub and a seven foot phallus that in any other context would be hard to overlook – here, almost invisible, it gets knocked over constantly.

Kembra Pfahler has conceived of her apartment as a womb; blatant and intentional décor that has, no doubt, been analyzed ad nauseam by friends and critics and is one which need not be circumvented.  The space simply serves as a practical extension of her provisional role as our performance art mother.  We meet remotely the first two times, before she effortlessly welcomes the group into her cavernous atelier.  She explains that we are not to leave anything behind, “the pH balance is off and things tend to disintegrate”.  The space we share is fugitive and in it destruction is as inevitable as creation. 

As in nature, there is no plan and imperfect ideas emerge indiscriminately, sometimes lurching forward in awkward bursts.  Each night we collectively birth an orphanage full of monstrous babies.  With the tacit understanding that they are all equally ugly and therefore we raise them unconditionally like a village.  We also understand, few of them will mature, but nonetheless we cherish the short time we have together.  We stay up late cooing and coddling, bleary-eyed and disoriented.

For those ideas that manage to survive, we start making plans,  becoming unrealistically ambitious.  Again, we mutually agree to foster each other’s lofty aspirations despite glaring deficiencies.   Eventually, we take our sideshow on the road and perform at an East Village bar populated by a host of other surrogates.  Mothers in leather, in drag, covered in cake, paint, and plastic sheeting, grin ear-to-ear, shake their heads, and snap their fingers in enthusiastic acceptance of every bumbling articulation.

Here, cultivation and growth spark exchange, but consumption is never a consideration. We are not cannibals.  If our babies are unfortunate enough to survive, the market will voraciously dissect and devoured them.  We mostly choose to put them to rest after the celebration, unwilling to serve them up to idea-starved patrons.

In New York, innumerable ideas are bred in the shadows each night and only a few precocious brats make their way into galleries and fairs. However, it is the ghosts of foundling attempts and concepts that drive the art world; they are what bring us to the show regardless of what endures.   It is fortuitous that the powers that be are oblivious to all the “bad” art being unabashedly raised by a collection of naïve and unfit mothers, otherwise the dirty and delicate ecosystem in which we all coexist may cease to be.