Vaginal Davis, dejecta/protecta, MOCA Grand Avenue, downtown LA, January 22, 2011
Vaginal Davis’ dejecta/protecta, a curated/collaborative evening of installation and performance, was a multisensory experience that was hard to wrap my mind around. I felt incredibly pampered and privileged to be there, but I also wasn’t quite sure what to make of the barrage of miscellaneous messages that came my way. Maybe it’s just something that you need to let wash over you like lawn sprinklers or a feather boa. Below, I describe what happened for those who couldn’t get tickets and are dying to know.
Thirty people were admitted into each of the four performances. I attended the last one, which started at 11pm, an hour behind schedule (thankfully, the festive community atmosphere at MOCA made that hour go by very quickly). At the appointed time, each of us was individually led by hand into the museum’s Ahmanson Auditorium by a beautiful, scantily-clad, faun-like young person. Inside, we found the auditorium darkened and completely transformed. Distressed paper was draped everywhere, converting the descending rows of seats into a sort of Zabriskie Point-like landscape, interrupted by a couple of stage setups and a film projector. Various images and titles were projected on the screen, Basquiat-like drawings hung on the walls, and Julie Tolentino, fed by an assistant sitting above her in a high chair, continuously consumed a long drip of honey, which descended into her mouth and poured down her naked chest. In front of her, there was a long banquet table with upended buckets for seats.
Fabulous hostesses Zackary Drucker and Wu Ingrid Tsang were on hand to graciously guide us to our places at the table. Each place setting was marked by a book. I got John Fante’s Ask the Dust; Cheri Gaulke, who sat next to me, got Joan Didion’s Play It As It Lays. Service immediately commenced on a 10-course “Richard Serra New Vo Riche Minimalist Feast.” Each course consisted of a single bite of scrumptious food, served on a small sheet of paper which was then removed when we were finished. The feast started with a “dumb bread crumb” and progressed through a “vulvic arugula leaf” and a “lost lamb meaty meatball,” among other delights. Everything tasted lovely, with the notable exception of “deep fried pud,” which we were all pretty sure was an actual McDonald’s french fry, and not a fresh one at that. My favorite was the final sequence of “Trini Alvarado Peppermint Patty” immediately followed by “Meyer Lansky lemon round.” Big dose of chocolate and peppermint, then a tangy lemon slice—yow!
As we ate, Ms. Davis’ voice and those of others could be heard over the speaker system, alternately making fun of Davis’ reputation and waxing theoretical about capitalism. Presently, the voices started announcing the other featured performers for the evening: Larry-Bob Roberts read from his book, The International Homosexual Conspiracy; Janie Geiser’s graphic collage film, Terrace 49, was screened; Jean Spinosa and two friends performed a dramatic dance that seemed to comment on the stigmatization of creativity as madness; and The Boyfriend, a sort of barbershop/Weimar cabaret trio, performed a song-and-dance number that commented on war.
The fauns, when not serving us food, lay on the stage, fetchingly draped over each other’s bodies like Andy Warhol’s grandchildren. As the grand finale, Ms. Davis herself descended the stairs, sat down on her throne, and angelically read from her book, Beware the Holy Retarded Whore, with some help from her young friends.