Vaginal Davis, the one-of-a-kind genderqueer performance artist/writer (Cholita, Bricktops, Fertile LaToya Jackson Magazine, much, much more) returns from her adopted home of Berlin for My Pussy Is Still in Los Angeles (I Only Live in Berlin) at the old Bullocks Wilshire. Still jetlagged, she updates us on what the heck she's been up to.
L.A. WEEKLY: Can you share some details about the show?
VAGINAL DAVIS: I am really delighted being back here for Pacific Standard Time and working with curator Emi Fontana, the beautiful, fiery founder of West of Rome Public Art Agency. Emi is like my long-lost twin art sister. My piece at the historic Bullocks Wilshire department store is the only piece in the festival that isn't a re-enactment but an original commission piece making its world premiere. I don't want to give away too many details, as I love cultivating a certain element of surprise, but this event will be a playful and whimsical meditation on the powerful legacy of '70s feminism and in particular the famed Women's Building in Los Angeles, which has informed many performers today whether they are aware of it or not.
I really adore Terry Wolverton's book Insurgent Muse: Life and Art at the Woman's Building, because it's so personal and has such a great, gossipy tone. In Berlin I curate a monthly performative silent-film event called "Rising Stars, Falling Stars" at Arsenal Institut fuer Film und Videokunst, where I work closely with that institution's archive. Wolverton's book is all about what makes an archive, so it was the perfect tome to base my performance on. Archives are gossip, I'm a gossip queen and gossip is the one true endless archive.
How much more appreciated do you feel in Berlin compared to L.A.?
Getting gentrified out of my gorgeous Streamline Moderne Koreatown apartment made me a little bitter toward L.A., and so I felt underappreciated on every level, but now, since I have been living in Berlin for almost seven years, I think I've actually formed a better understanding of this city.
There are so few of us native Angelenos. Most people move here from somewhere else, but those of us born in this city really understand the true twisted nature of this nutters town. Its beautiful but tragic at the same time. L.A. is filled with so many wondrous contradictions, and that's what makes it one of the most incredible places in the world.
How has the city changed?
L.A. has changed so much it's almost unrecognizable to me. Especially in Hollywood, Silver Lake and Echo Park. It's difficult to properly articulate what I am feeling as I walk the lonely streets, observing everyone and everything, or riding on the subway system and buses, which are the Southland's true barometer and soul of the city. It makes me sad seeing the defeated and forlorn faces of the underclass population. Since I wasn't born a middle-class person, I feel fortunate that through art I've escaped a future that most likely would have been very bleak. L.A. has turned into a boutique city like San Francisco, New York, London and Paris. What made L.A. so special is that it was one of the only major cities that was really affordable, and that certainly isn't the case anymore.
What do you miss?
I really miss the gorgeous Southern California winter light. And big leggy blondines or ginger-haired, surfer-boy fleshpots with big feet in flip-flops. Yummy.
Vaginal Davis: My Pussy is Still in Los Angeles (I Only Live in Berlin), Bullocks Wilshire, 3050 Wilshire Blvd., fifth floor; Sun., Jan. 29, 1-3:30 p.m.; $50 (includes limited-edition, handmade artist book signed, high tea party with finger foods). (626) 793-1504, westofrome.org/future. --L.M.