Vaginal Davis, dejecta/protecta, MOCA Grand Avenue, downtown LA, January 22, 2011

An evening of revelry begins

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!

"blue head cheese crumble with
honey Annie Sprinkle"

"bareback baby kayle"

"pork shlong with chimmichurri"

"fool moon pickled carbunkle"

Julie Tolentino

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.

Jean Spinosa and friend

The Boyfriend

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.

Vaginal Davis reads from Beware
the Holy Retarded Whore

8 Responses to “Vaginal Davis, dejecta/protecta, MOCA Grand Avenue, downtown LA, January 22, 2011”

  1. An excellent account of the evening!

  2. Verle Oberon Says:

    You really described this event perfectly. The Honey Dripping piece with Julie Tolentino and her lover PigPen was beautiful and went so well with the dinner party table and the minimalist meal served. The french fries were definately McDonalds but everything else was gourmet and the menu with hysterical names of the food. two of the boys that escorted me and my husband had very visible erections, and i appreciated this bit of naughtyness. the girls were these nice sculptured gowns that i would love to buy. Didnt recognize the Ahmansan Theatre and the voice overs in Korean and Spanish were a nice touch and also the strange hypnotic musical score and music with the 16 milimeter films projected and the screen tests of the young people. Who was singing the Johnny Thunders song that was so amazing. How did LA let Vaginal Davis leave? She is a treasure.

  3. Verle, thank you so much for your comments! There was so much going on in the space of that one hour that it was hard to take it all in. I love the additional details that you highlight. I also welcome more comments from people who are intimate with Vag’s work – I have only a passing familiarity so I’m sure there were nuances that I missed!

  4. Hi Carol,
    Thank-you! I’m so glad you wrote this. I went at 7 o’clock and, though some aspects were different, the effect was equally compelling. In addition to the amazing Julie Tolentino/PigPen honey performance, the elegant Wu Ingrid Tsang meal co-hostessed by ZacKary Drucker, and the Warhol screen-test kids, we were treated to, an academic lecture on “Judy Garland Modalities and the Lacanian Beauty of the FagHag” by Robert Summers, an erotic collage film by Lewis Klahr, and a raunchy performance by country singer Glen Meadmore.
    I have followed Vaginal Davis’s work since the early 90s after hearing about her work from Canadian curator Wayne Baerwaldt; she is also very close with my mother-in-law Bibbe Hansen, who performed in the band Black Fag with her and starred in her film “The White to Be Angry.” Though I did not live in LA during Ms. Davis’s Club Sucker days, I did visit Bricktops at the Parlour Club regularly. Never before was there such a club.
    Though she no longer lives here, Ms. Davis has many “children” in the Los Angeles queer and trans communities, whom she mentors from afar. Many of them collaborated on dejecta/protecta, while people like Glenn Meadmore have been long-time collaborators. In addition to being a sexy sassy provocateur, she brings people together with a certain Southern grace and charm. Vaginal Davis is incredibly special and it is a great loss to Los Angeles that she no longer lives here.

  5. I can’t think of an artist who more completely inhabits the notion of the Carnivalesque.

  6. Hi Lisa!

    Wow, thank you for this! I did realize after checking out this great photo collection [http://picasaweb.google.com/k.chmielin/2011MOCAVaginalDavis?authkey=Gv1sRgCKLa_5Wz48DdtgE&feat=email#] that each performance must have been unique. What an extravaganza of an evening!

    In one of her interviews, Vag said that “only Los Angeles could have produced someone like me.” I love that she said that, and you’re right, she’s very special, and it seems like she’s someone who hasn’t received the attention and documentation that she deserves. This of course has been true of much of LA art history, in particular its histories involving performance and queer movements. I wonder if Vag and others will get some overdue attention via the upcoming PST projects?

    That’s funny that you mention your mother-in-law; I’ve been reading some histories of LA punk and rock music lately, and Bibbe Hansen appears quite frequently as an interviewee! She sounds like an amazing resource who has had her finger on the pulse of a lot of important movements.

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts. Let’s get Vag to move back to LA where she belongs!!

  7. Verle Oberon Says:

    Bibbe Hansen was the youngest of the Warhol stars appearing in his 1965 film Prison with Edie Sedgewick when she was just 13 years of age. Also in 10 Beautiful Girls and La Ventura Restaurant. Bibbe was in Brian DePalma Phantom of the Paradise is was noted for her love affair with director DePalma. Her father was the fluxus artist Al Hansen and mother Audrey Hansen who was a dancer and artist. Bibbe Hansen and Vaginal Davis had the short lived band black fag in the early 90s that started as a joke on her pop star son Beck Hansen. There is a famous article on the band black fag in Spin Magazine by writer Dennis Cooper from the early 90s. i think they recorded one record with Kim Gordon producing. Bibbe and her father Al Hansen were very active in LA’s early punk scene. In the spring of last year Bibbe appeared on vaginal davis performance installation talk show Speaking From the Diaphragm at PS 122 in New York along with Adam Green of The Mouldy Peaches. Davis won the Ethyl Eichelberger Award that year. Davis will be returning to Los Angeles via Pacific Standard Time series and West of Rome/The Getty for a performance in 2012 that has something to do with memory and the Womens Building. Davis was on Stray Pop with Stella KXLU 88.9 friday and talked about this project and that she wants to work with Phranc the Jewish Lesbian Folksinger who she has a long history with. I personally saw Davis and Phranc opening up for John Waters at UCLA Live back in 2005 and it was incredible and mind blowing and all of Waters former stars of his films were in attendance at a reception during the intermission.

  8. Hi Carol, my name is Sha. I’m a student from Cal State Long Beach and one of my professors referred us to your website🙂 I am new to the whole performance art scene and reading your blog has opened up my eyes.

    This entry in particular is so interesting and evocative. I loved hearing about your experience going to the show. In addition, I believe art and food just go so well together🙂 I have yet to experience a real, first-hand performance.

    Anyway, just wanted to say I enjoy your blog, and I can’t wait for the next entries to come!

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