Have you ever lived as if everywhere was your bedroom? Nikki Darling seems to live that way.
She makes the stage her bedroom. She makes her bedroom the page. She recreates her bedroom everywhere and ecstatically let’s us chill in it with her. Shut the door. Pass the bong, homeslice. Homeskillet. Homefemme. Let the cat sit on your lap. She’s declawed. Not. It smells like a California girl in here and in here. Everything Darling does, which is art, is staged in the most unstaged way. That’s how bedrooms are. Bedrooms are theatres, coffins, dance parties, libraries, studios, and feminist art schools. Some bedrooms are feminist graduate schools.
PINK TRUMPET AND THE PURPLE PROSE, Darling’s chapbook and related tangible and virtual objet, which are put out by Raquel Gutierrez’s ECONO TEXTUAL OBJECTS, slide open the window to Darling’s bedroom. The specific parts- -a volume of prose and poems, a pull out manifesto titled CARL ANDRE ANA MENDIETA HUNTER AND MY TITS, a poster trilogy, and a private, online video she gave me the password to- – make funky sense as an intimate collection. A family of grrrls. The pieces work together the way personal ephemera lived together in the time before the internet, when you would take what meant something to you and stab it to your bedroom wall, lick it and stick it to your dresser mirror, shove it in a makeshift scrapbook or album you would never let your dad touch because this kind of shit is NFDs. Not fer dads. You would cling to this stuff because it pleased you, and it inspired you to sit in your room and make stuff and cry and maybe be a little bit mesmerized by your own period blood. Art with bedroom eyes. Art by and for the cotton panty matriarchy. Hanes her way. You know?
Darling’s work (work it girl, working girl) reminds us that the bedroom might possibly be, even more so than the bathroom, a girl’s/woman’s most creative space. There’s a reason womb sounds like a slippery variation of room. Let’s treat Darling’s collection like a bedwomb with comatose daises on the nightstand, underwears discarded face up, face down and face sideways on the floor, nail polish and acetone freckling the caca-colored carpet, and a twin bed fertile and ready with period leakage, sweat, tears, and cumaflouge. Okay, so we’re at Nikki’s, kneeling on the floor, and whom do we find here?
The bodies of Ana Mendieta and Nikki Darling!
(this is one of those lil posters I was talking about. Note the Barbara Krugerish text. Krugerish text pops up everywhere these days. Walk around the hood in Long Beach and you’ll see hella teens wearing Marilyn Monroe t-shirts with Kruger-inspired text shielding her tatas. Ask a homey to tell you the feminist art history behind his outfit and he’ll answer, “Huh?” You may answer, “I thought so.” Its like female artists don’t exist. ITS LIKE THEY MIGHT AS WELL BE DEAD. WHICH BRINGS US BACK TO MENDIETA’S CORPSE AND CARL ANDRE ANA MENDIETA HUNTER AND MY TITS: “It was all part of this larger project, this sort of body of work in which I was trying to channel artists like Hannah Wilke and Ana Mendieta. Because Mendieta had been killed by a man and it was so bogus. No one really talked about it as being super bogus unless the man who killed her, Carl Andre, her husband at the time who shoved out a 29th story window in a jealous rage, had the occasional retrospective…”)
Out The Window Into Your Love resurrects, reincarnates, and resuscitates Ana Mendieta. We travel out one window, from a world where Mendieta is an artist slaughtered by the push of patriarchy, pusher Carl Andre, and art pushes us onto Darling’s carpet, where Mendieta lives and performs through Darling’s body. By staging Mendieta’s death, Darling brings her to pseudolife and how religious and femininely satanic is that? Even the California soil Darling plays dead against has the look of bedroom carpeting. Darling is playing dead in her room. She is playing dead for a dude in order to escape that dude: “It was all for Hunter, the artist that didn’t love me but that I had developed an insanely slightly creepy irrational crush on in the way that I sometimes did…”
Out The Window Into Your Love exemplifies what Rebecca Solnit is talking about when she asserts, “There are so many forms of female nonexistence,” and also, “the woman who is represented is obscured, but the woman who represents is not.”
We dare not interrupt Darling and Mendieta’s death play so we look into the medicine cabinet of her mind: her bookshelf. (Remember, we’re hanging out in her bedroom while she plays dead.)
Genet and Sontag and Genet, Sontag and theory. Ann Carson and a DVD of a Streetcar Named Desire. Pictures of the Cindys, Sherman and Lauper, tacked to the walls. Lisa Simpson and Betty Page, too. Where is Lisa Simpson dressed as Betty Page? We trip on an empty Boones bottle. We are more careful not to trip on the half full cherry Slurpee so that Darling won’t bleed. The air is theory. Queer theory, feminist theory, weary theory, eerie theory:
“Math isn’t Science because structure isn’t real.”
Sentences like this give us permission to smoke in Darling’s bedroom.
We squat, slide a Marlboro from the box on the dusty windowsill, and put it to our mouths. Theory lights it:
“Time takes a cigarette and puts it in your mouth…I thought about…How I’d never felt at home in my body yet was still so aware of it’s power. Like someone had given me a chainsaw for Christmas and I was asked to carry it around in a lace bra, never sure exactly how to turn it on.”
Darling’s videoed performance piece is less Mendieta and less Wilke and more the bitches I hung out with in high school. After school, we’d shut ourselves in my bedroom and play music, mostly records we got from thrift shops, and dance ourselves into an occult frenzy. We could smell the fires from the great witch hunts, Joan of Arc’s body barbecuing as we sweated to the Bee Gees, my mom yelling in Spanish to quit acting crazy: it was time for dinner. Darling projects scenes from a Streetcar Named Desire on the wall behind her and does the same kind of dancing, bedroom dancing. She goes till she’s as sweaty as a barbecued witch, and she moves to shit that is powerful and dumb, shit like Mariah Carey. Post dance fever, she kneels and reads from her chapbook.
So now Darling is kneeling across from us, naked, a sweaty occultist, channeling Erato.
I experience poems ideaesthesiacally, and Darling’s embody sex in California. Dandelions. Cough syrup. Nopales. Toaster oven crumbs. Strawberry jam. Sunscreen. Blonde horses. Paper moons. Syrup for pancakes. Armpit sweat. Catnip. Coyote fur. Torn origami. Twitching angel fish. Black magic. Blood from nose. Blood from lip. Blood from the moon. Gloria Anzaldua’s skin. Sunflowers.
Darling points at her body and reads her piece Nikki Darling Is a Body: “…Nikki Darling as a body has had her most influential moments of clarity deep in the night when all words are thoughts except words of urgency and meaning.” Though Darling squats naked before us and labels herself a body, or perhaps uses the body as analogy, she does, after all, say, “as a body,” the words that ground her most as a body are these: “Okay, I’m pushing the Latina thing. But what’s wrong with that? Being half Chicana is fucking cool.”
Similar to Darling, I’m three quarters Chicana and I wonder if we added ourselves together how much Chicana we’d have on our hands. When you tell people you are part Chicana, people often questions the whyness, and moreover, the howness. They do this through your body. They interrogate your eye color, skin color, hair color, eye shape, lip size, booty. They require justification of your Chicanness through your body and through your name and naming and the body is Nikki Darling’s grand bedroom project.
If you haven’t heard that Nia King edited a book called Queer & Trans Artists of Color: Stories of Some of Our Lives, well, then you’ve been failing at life. From the book’s description:
Mixed-race queer art activist Nia King left a full-time job in an effort to center her life around making art. Grappling with questions of purpose, survival, and compromise, she started a podcast called We Want the Airwaves in order to pick the brains of fellow queer and trans artists of color about their work, their lives, and “making it” – both in terms of success and in terms of survival. In this collection of interviews, Nia discusses fat burlesque with Magnoliah Black, queer fashion with Kiam Marcelo Junio, interning at Playboy with Janet Mock, dating gay Latino Republicans with Julio Salgado, intellectual hazing with Kortney Ryan Ziegler, gay gentrification with Van Binfa, getting a book deal with Virgie Tovar, the politics of black drag with Micia Mosely, evading deportation with Yosimar Reyes, weird science with Ryka Aoki, gay public sex in Africa with Nick Mwaluko, thin privilege with Fabian Romero, the tyranny of “self-care” with Lovemme Corazón, “selling out” with Miss Persia and Daddie$ Pla$tik, the self-employed art activist hustle with Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarsinha, and much, much more.
Nia is revolutionizing the archive, y’all! Below is an excerpt from the book, featuring the interview Nia did with novelist, Ryka Aoki. See them both on February 12 at the Radar Reading Series -San Francisco Public Library – Main Branch – 100 Larkin Street in San Francisco – Latino/Hispanic Rooms A&B (basement level) – 6pm – FREE – Hosted by Virgie Tovar – Artist Q&A featuring REAL LIVE COOKIES to follow reading. Click here to view the Facebook invite.
Here’s the excerpt:
Ryka: I don’t see myself as a warrior. I see myself as a teacher. When there’s somebody who’s my adversary, I don’t think of that person as an obstacle. I think of that person as a learning experience. I’m going to sometimes be the student; I’m going to sometimes be the teacher. But we’re going to get through this, and we’re each going to become wiser for the encounter. I’m not a fighter. I love learning, I love teaching. Why can’t we use that, and have social justice in a way where there doesn’t have to be a winner or loser, where we all become more aware?
Nia: Yeah. I feel like you’re describing utopia.
Ryka: Yeah, but the person who says, “We’re going to kill all our enemies so we’re going to be the only ones who are strong and we’re going to take justice back”—really, is that any more realistic?
Nia: I mean, I don’t know if that’s justice—
Ryka: That’s not justice. When you hear people going, “We’ve got to struggle against the man,” to me, that’s purgatory. You’re going to spend the rest of your life struggling against the man. You dream of purgatory, I’ll dream of utopia, and together we’re still going to work with each other. I’m not going to invalidate you; it’s just that I can’t see where you’re coming from and you can’t see where I’m coming from, but you know what? The heart can’t see the brain, but they work together.
Nia: Yeah, I really admire and kind of envy your wisdom and how… at peace with all of this you seem.
Ryka: I love what I do! I love to write! I love my teaching! You know, I teach on my birthday sometimes, and I tell my students, “My birthday wish for all of you is to have a job that you love enough that you want to come on your birthday and go do it!”
Nia: I’m getting emotional!
Nia: No, that’s really sweet! You just have this amazing spirit of kindness and generosity. I think it’s hard to maintain that. Often being in social justice makes people jaded and bitter, and you just don’t seem to have any of that at all!
Ryka: No. It’s like, every day that I can look out and see that tree and see how beautiful the light is off of it, I win.
Nia: Yeah. I feel like I look out that window and see the American flag and think about war and nationalism and—
Ryka: Sometimes it’s good to see the symbols. Sometimes it’s good to see the colors. The funny thing about being jaded is that people think that’s the end state; you start from innocent, and you become jaded. It’s like being a butterfly. You look at the monarch butterfly, and it looks like it’s jaded, but actually what’s going on there under the hard shell is a transformation. I think that if you just stay with the process, eventually you realize this sort of “jaded” covering is simply holding your wings back. Break through it, and you’ll be fine.
This Friday Radar will be at the Center for Sex & Culture in San Francisco (1349 Mission Street, between 9th and 10th) at 8pm for the Banned Book Book Club! We’re featuring an all-star perv lineup that will heat your cold little Grinch heart right up. $10 admission! Click here for the Facebook event details.
Carol Queen will be breathing new and sexy life into Judy Blume’s work! She’ll be joined by La Chica Boom/Xandra Ibarra, Jiz Lee, Lil Miss Hot Mess, Dodie Belamie, and Aya de Leon. We asked Carol a bunch of questions and wanted to share her infinite wisdoms with you:
Beside perhaps “artist” or “writer,” talk about another identity that matters to you.
I’m choosing “sexologist” as my alt ID; I’m doing so because so many people are studying sexology and trying to make lives as sex educators today, unimaginably many more than when I was a pup, and the culture has not kept up and made work for all of us. Sexology is still sort of a bastard child, professionally and academically, but the fact is, it is one of the most interdisciplinary fields anyone could ever tackle: everything from medicine to law to sociology to arts and literature live within its purview, because what isn’t relevant to sex?
Is the internet ruining the world? Why or why not.
Yes! Sorta. Here’s why I say this: When I turn to the Internet to research something, anything, I very often find that ‘Net-available information dries up by about the year 1998. I want to check something that happened earlier in my life, or get the kind of historical perspective I used to go to the library for, and I very often come up short. The Internet is information overload, of course. But it is vastly wide but not deep. Of course I could still go to the library, but not everything makes it into a book or journal; the Web promises us all knowledge, in a way, but a lot of the time it delivers us blogs and lists. Oh, and cats! And porn. Which people today apparently often mistake for sex education. (Oh, plus? Apparently libraries are getting rid of lots of books and teaching librarians to search the Internet. Sigh.)
Give us one piece of advice you want to share with artists – about life, bills, process, editing, brainstorming, anything.
I’m going to give advice I wish someone had given me. Back before I was ever published, I journaled––I journaled all the time, for many years every single day. Since I’ve been writing for publication, I abandoned that practice––when I thought about it at all, I’d say I stopped because I was pouring whatever I wanted to process and address into my fiction or essays. Maybe, but I really regret now not continuing that part of my writing practice. It gave me something in the way of introspective and processual opportunity that no other kind of writing does; also, it allowed me to document things that now I wish I’d documented throughout the ensuing 25 years. Keep up your journal, and don’t do it as a blog that everyone else can read––unless you will truly disclose everything in that format. In my experience, most people don’t, and that means a big segment of our generational truth is left on the cutting-room floor. We need that history.
Dr. Carol Queen [www.carolqueen.com] is a writer and cultural sexologist and is the co-founder of the Center for Sex & Culture [www.sexandculture.org] in San Francisco. She is a noted erotic writer and essayist whose work has appeared in dozens of anthologies. She’s written three books: the essay collection Real Live Nude Girl: Chronicles of Sex-Positive Culture; erotic novel The Leather Daddy and the Femme; and Exhibitionism for the Shy, which explores issues of erotic self-esteem and enhancement. She’s also edited several volumes of erotica and essays. Queen works as staff sexologist and Company Historian at Good Vibrations, the women-founded sex shop, where she has worked since 1990. She has been speaking publicly about sexuality for over 30 years. Her perspective in addressing sexual diversity incorporates personal experience, accurate sex information, and informed cultural commentary. She has addressed many conferences, including the International Condom Conference, the International Conference on Prostitution, and the International Conference on Pornography; she frequently addresses college as well as general and specialized audiences. Five years ago she debated the question of promiscuity (“Virtue or vice?”) for the Oxford Union at Oxford University, England.
When you watch Xandra Ibarra/La Chica Boom perform you know that you are witnessing a spectacle (or as she would call it, a “spictacle”) unprecedented in terms of its grandiosity, brilliance, and perversity. Chica Boom will be reading at the Banned Book Book Club: Sex Edition at the Center for Sex & Culture on December 12 at 8pm. We asked Chica Boom some questions about her influences, fantasy date and advice for artists. Here’s what she said:
Who influences your work?
I am influenced by everything. Maybe I am gullible; maybe I let in too much. Don’t care. I am influenced by my mom’s humor, the mushroom jazz in my panties, the interactions between animals, ‘Nordic track’ behavior, the catholic doctrine of transubstantiation and the rigor of cockroaches. Ugly things, color, sound, movement and lots and lots of feelings influence me. My zodiac sign is cancer; yup I feel, I feel you, but mostly I feel me. I am also influenced by my own obsessions whether they make sense or not. I perform them, photograph them, act them out or seek to experience them in some way or another. Fortunately or unfortunately my obsessions are always about sex and race and the multitude of ways that these two things work. I imagine the ways they work together in an alternate universe. I make boob juice or agua calientes, have you heard?
You get to have an epic dream date with anyone dead or alive: who are they and where do you go on your date?
I would meet a 35-year-old Lacan in Mexico City at a dirty strip club called “Wawis” in the 1920s in the early afternoon. We would tip the dancers too much and get drunk. Then we would go drunk shopping for plants and street food to put in our new apartment. You see, he would become a lesbionic man and want to u-haul into my life. I would like it. He would love it.
One piece of advice you want to share with artists – about life, bills, process, editing, brainstorming, anything.
Being broke sucks. Learn to do lots of things porque nunca sabes cuando lo vas a necesitar.
Xandra Ibarra/La Chica Boom is an Oakland-based performance and video artist from the El Paso/Juarez border who performs and works under the alias of La Chica Boom. La Chica Boom is a performance art project that uses hyper-raciality/sexuality/
We chatted with James Tracy, author of “Dispatches Against Displacement: Field Notes From San Francisco’s Housing Wars,” a bunch of personal questions and here’s what he said. He will be reading at the San Francisco Public Library (100 Larkin Street) on Tuesday, November 4 for the Radar Reading Series. Click here for the Facebook event page.
Who influences you & your work?
Is the internet ruining the world? Why or why not.
What’s one piece of advice you want to share with artists – about life, bills, process, editing, brainstorming, anything?