Andrea Crespo

LISTE art fair 2016, Jun 14 – 19

13 June 2016

LISTE, Art Basel’s sister, home of emerging artists’ art fair is on in the medieval Swiss town, running June 14 to 19.

This year’s event sees a whole host of exciting names presented by their respective international galleries, with some artists coming together for the first time, giving forth their work in in-booth collaborations.

There will also be performances taking place across the week under umbrella title and theme ‘Trans-Corporeal Metabolisms – The 12th Performance Project‘ featuring Keren Cytter who has extended her invite to other artists and musicians such as Sarah Abu Abdallah, Alice Theobald and Misanthrope CA (Rob Kulisek/David Lieske), as well as Dorota GawędaEglė Kulbokaitė.

Our LISTE recommendations are:

Andrea Crespo @ Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler

Sebastian Black @ C l e a r i n g

Flavio Merlo @ Ellis King

Yuji Agematsu, Liz Craft and Sam Pulitzer @ Real Fine Arts

GCC, DIS and Ned Vena @ Project Native Informant

Jesse Darling and Phoebe Collings-James, who have made an accompanying spell called Calapso Chevalois, @ Arcadia Missa

Darja Bajagić, Steve Bishop, Stuart Middleton and Taocheng Wang @ Carlos/ Ishikawa

Gili Tal and Alex Vivian @ Sandy Brown

See the Liste website for more details.**

Taocheng Wang, Massage Near Me (2015). Courtesy the artist and Company, New York
Taocheng Wang, ‘Massage Near Me’ (2015). Courtesy the artist and Company, New York.



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Andrea Crespo, Hannah Black + art in conversation

7 December 2015

Andrea Crespo’s virocrypsis at New York’s Swiss Institute consists of a thresholdIt appears as part of an installation at the Hans Schärer: Madonnas and Erotic Watercolors / Andrea Crespo exhibition, running November 17 to December 20 (Schärer’s exhibition runs until February), and later emerges in conversation with Hannah Black on November 18. Crespo’s works introduce what the event description calls “conjoined characters named Cynthia and Celinde”, guiding the viewer to a dark room, in which a short film loops. Clinicality, and how the sociality of neurodivergence is shaped by it, permeates the work: one portrait of Cynthia/Celinde, on display before one enters the film, lists their “patient(s) history”. The film itself employs imagery that is functional and mechanical, featuring a recurrent “clinical white line” that was also part of ‘Polymorphoses (epilogue)‘ (2015)The inclusion of computer fans and drops of water, loading screens and clips of cellular division, conflates the physical and the digital, the visceral with the technological, in a manner which both references post-technical identity politics and speaks to the medicalization of the body.

Andrea Crespo, 'virocrypsis' (2015). Video still. Super Weird Rin - Singing Animation by jim830928. Courtesy Swiss Institute, New York.
Andrea Crespo, ‘virocrypsis’ (2015). Install view. Super Weird Rin – Singing Animation by jim830928. Courtesy Swiss Institute, New York.

Etymologically, ‘viro’ derives from ‘viral’, and crypsis, in ecology, refers to the “ability of organism to avoid observation or detection by other organisms”. The ‘avoidance’ of crypsis can be used to frame the epistemological aspect of the work, primarily through its rejection of pathology as identity, and conflation of the infrastructural with the personal. Cynthia/Celinde’s assertion of their self -to quote the dialogue of the film, “It’s just us”, “Our perseverating embrace” -is at once singular and infectious, infinite.

The ‘perseverating’ of Cynthia/Celinde connotes multiplicity, within the self and within the user-generated, subcultural databases (e.g. DeviantArt) from which Crespo derives content. In conversation with Black, she speaks of avatars in these communities as “figurations they find for themselves” for lack of representation. These “subdivisions of the self” accordingly function to reimagine marginalized bodies as tenable in ways they are institutionally deemed untenable, as in sexuality. Eroticism in virocrypsis reappropriates clinical language (e.g. “ceaselessly stimulating”) to demonstrate how bodies alienated by or excluded from what is normalized as sex seek out other forms of tactility. It echoes the artists Camille Holvoet and Thanh My Diep, both of whom, as Jayinee Basu writes for Broadly, “challenge the longstanding public perception [that] people with disabilities are… asexual.” Diep’s work, specifically, is reminiscent of Crespo’s; the video ‘Nature of Pleasure’ (2013) shows two silhouettes merging to kiss, then overlapping, suggesting a desire for wholeness, communion, and (re)union.

Andrea Crespo, 'patient(s) history' (2015). Detail. Courtesy Swiss Institute, New York.
Andrea Crespo, ‘patient(s) history’ (2015). Detail. Courtesy Swiss Institute, New York.

Communion carries a theological connotation, which virocrypsis realizes as the embodied and the disembodied. One of the last scenes of the film discusses the ‘penance’ of Cynthia/Celinde in compelling people to emulate their communion with one another. I interpret the line “we’ve always been around” to allude to the Platonic Androgyne, written of in Plato’s Symposium as follows: “the two parts of man… each desiring his other half, came together and throwing their arms around one another, entwined in mutual embraces, longing to grow into one”. The incorporation of archetypal references suggests that Cynthia/Celinde’s ‘reprogramming’, estranged as it may seem, taps into something timeless. I see this as the principal connection between Crespo and Schärer’s work, namely his Madonnas: the infinite ideations of the figure, depicted as formless or ambiguous -even androgynous -in a way that emulates classical iconography yet abstracts from it, focused to the point of obsession, devotion.

And yet the overarching, private ‘avoidance’ of which this is part cannot -and, perhaps, should not -succeed. Black begins her discussion with the etymology of ‘sister’ as “one’s own woman”, reinterpreted for virocrypsis as “the shared impossibility of never being given a body in the first place”. Crespo’s film observes that we are “automatically mirror[ing] certain forms”, in ways that both oppress us and compel us to oppress. This problematizes the posturing of digital avatars as infinite or futuristic, as they often derive from unspoken historical and political contexts: Crespo and Black discussed the “teratological imaginary”, or the aestheticization of deformity, as a post-war, post-nuclear phenomenon, deriving from East Asian collective trauma. The ‘zombie’ as a symbol in US popular culture, was/is similarly decontextualized and removed from its origin in Haitian slavery. Crespo’s assessment of humanity seeking “conjoinment with machines”, in terms of transhumanist hybridity and sexuality, reminds me of sex robots -controversial bodies for how they can receive misogynistic violence, are “forms [men] want to fuck”. Black summarizes this in acknowledging that the posthumanist discourse often makes ideological proxies of technology for its perceived novelty, shifting the focus away from the persistent reality of racialized and/or gendered violence.      

Andrea Crespo, virocrypsis (2015). Installation view. Courtesy Swiss Institute, New York.
Andrea Crespo, virocrypsis (2015). Installation view. Courtesy Swiss Institute, New York.

Similarly, the perceived novelty of marginalized artists is proxied by artworld discourse, centering the ‘newness’ over the reality of marginalization, over the artists themselves. Crespo begins the conversation acknowledging the fact that, at the reception for her opening, the director of the Swiss Institute, Simon Castets, misgendered her. Black related her experience to Crespo’s in saying, “our presences here are [both] some kind of achievement and some kind of lie”. Her statement speaks to the fact that the art institution does not know -nor fully understand -what it is curating. Hans Schärer, the influential Swiss artist and dead white man with whom Crespo is exhibiting, likely never faced such a fundamental affront to his work and identity as an artist. We must therefore always be critical of the motives of institutional inclusion, distinguishing attempts at reparatory understanding from, to quote Crespo, the “extract[ion] of cultural capital from vulnerable bodies”.**

Andrea Crespo’s virocrypsis is on display at the Swiss Institute, November 17 to December 20. The conversation between Andrea Crespo and Hannah Black is viewable on Artforum.

Header image: Andrea Crespo, ‘virocrypsis’ (2015). Video still. Super Weird Rin – Singing Animation by jim830928. Courtesy Swiss Institute, New York.

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Andrea Crespo @ Swiss Institute, Nov 18 – Dec 20

18 November 2015

Andrea Crespo launches their first institutional solo exhibition in the US with virocrypsis, running at New York’s Swiss Institute / Contemporary Art New York from November 18 to December 20.

The show is centred on a new video by the same name, which develops Crespo’s “ongoing inquiry into posthuman desire” and attention to communities that have formed “on sites where desire can be seen to take various forms”.

The conjoined characters of Cynthia and Celinde appear in a number of Crespo’s works to this effect, and the new video features “a splintered dialogue” between the two characters along with splattering liquid, bioprinters producing new fruits and singing five-headed Vocaloid(s).

See the exhibition page for details. **


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Looking back at Transformation Marathon, p.2 (EST)

26 October 2015

The Transformation Marathon, hosted by Serpentine Sackler Gallery and curated by Hans-Ulrich Obrist, is a combination group show/art conference that, according to the press announcement “addresse[s] cultural, political and physical shifts, asking how significant change can be achieved today”. Watching and listening in Eastern Standard Time (EST), five hours behind London’s GMT, by way of the stream over the course of a 24-hour live event/radio show. That I could be present at the Marathon denotes a sort of institutional transformation in itself, the incorporation of digitality and broadening of artistic platforms –drawing on, to paraphrase, Marisa Olson’s idea that URL is IRL. But does technical change actually necessitate cultural and political shifts? In considering the works and presentations on show, one wonders just how transformative, how changed, this institution, these ideologies and these identities really are.

The 7 to 10 pm block (which I viewed at 2 to 5 pm EST) of the marathon began with art duo Gilbert & George’s take on the theme. They used their segment to spotlight –rather, appropriate –a third person, a Filipina transgender woman named Victoria. The transformation was twofold as it marked their becoming a trio, and Victoria was upheld as an example of, to paraphrase G&G’s interview, “the real transformation”. This notion of transformation is therefore predicated on two white men making a “living sculpture” of –that is to say, objectifying –a trans woman of color, by way of showcasing the popular and preconceived transition narrative. This, coupled with their discussion of their Banksy-level confrontational broadsides (reading, e.g. “Fuck the Planet” re: “people that want to save the planet,” to quote George), and the universalizing slogan that overarches their career (“Art for All”), set a tone that would follow the remainder of the live stream: mostly white participants presenting archaic, or humanistic, ideas or fallacies of transformation, while more marginalized artists exhibited radicalized ones, and effectively transformed the space.

Gilbert & George and Victoria @ the Transformation Marathon (2015). Photo by Plastiques. Courtesy Serpentine Galleries, London.
Gilbert & George and Victoria @ Transformation Marathon (2015). Photo by Plastiques. Courtesy Serpentine Galleries, London.

This was the dissonance in Bruno Latour’s participation, both in his lecture and in conversation with Obrist and Tino Sehgal. In his disorganized lecture, he argued that there was “no transformation without institution,” riffing on Whitehead’s interpretation of substance theory to say that institution is “subsistence” –i.e., is a transformative body –rather than “substance,” static. He concluded his segment with the idea that the art institution is “finally very weakened” because of those who are resistant to “critique,” reminding us that transformation is not limited to “the margins,” and that “science is one institution to cherish.” It is unclear, though, if in “cherish[ing]” the institution, we are to accept it as apolitical and ideologically neutral.

Neither Latour nor Sehgal (nor Obrist, who moderated) acknowledge this in their conversation, and instead reinscribe it through their values. Latour stated, to paraphrase, that hierarchy “has to be worked out gradually,” and defined his latest project, Reset, as “getting the politics out so that it is the human alone.” For someone like Latour to attempt to curate and/or facilitate a psychosocial “reset” universalizes the white man’s experience as the “human experience,” which is, in no way, transformative. Sehgal disapproved of the counterculture idea, similar to Latour alleging “transformation without innovation,” stating that no one can be “outside the market,” yet so much of what makes one “marketable” stems from how one is privileged by, to use bell hooks’ terming, the “imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy.” Marketability, also, does not necessarily mean empowerment or freedom: case in point, G&G’s inclusion of Victoria as an object, while maintaining their own subjectivity as European men, references the topical media phenomenon of the ‘Transgender Tipping Point -the saturation of the public consciousness with consumable trans narratives -more than it recognizes her autonomy. It is perhaps more useful to think of “outside the market” in terms of lacking access, being more analogous to “outside the canon.”  Jeff Koons was brought up as having said that he has “2.7 seconds to create a sense of acceptance in the viewer,” and while the conversation fixated on time/attention, the depth of the experience, I think the more crucial question is whether art should seek acceptance at all, whether acceptance is but reinscription.

Rebecca Lewin and Gil Leung @ Transformation Marathon on Serpentine Radio (2015). Courtesy Serpentine Galleries, London.
Rebecca Lewin and Gil Leung @ Transformation Marathon on Serpentine Radio (2015). Courtesy Serpentine Galleries, London.

The same problems plagued the discussion of ecology and the so-called ‘anthropocene’. It is unsurprising that Latour’s humanistic sensibilities about art permeate his consideration of the earth: both he and Sehgal defaulted to the Foucauldian “technologies of the self”, paraphrasing Felix Guattari in agreeing there would be “no solution to climate change without a change in subjectivity”, without a change to the aforesaid technologies. Both also often used the collective ‘we’ in reference to responsibility, which must be interrogated: we, as Saskia Sassen pointed out earlier in the program, are not all equally accountable for the ecological catastrophe that comes with globalization. There are so many ideological loose ends to how this subject was treated. It is germane to compare Latour’s statement of “we are rocks now”, in the spirit of his and James Lovelock’s universalizing ‘Gaia’ idea, to Syrian artist Nizar Ali Badr’s depiction of the refugee crisis in pebble art: these are not the same rocks, these are not the same ‘we’. The treatment of the earth in art, accordingly, is dependent on the artist: Keren Cytter incorporated images of earthly destruction in her film, Metamorphosis, to create danger within a nonlinear narrative, while Eyal Weizman used “physical clocks” for the purpose of reconstructing a day in the 2014 Gaza war. In contrast to ‘Gaia’, Lynn Hershman Leeson, in excerpts from The Infinity Engine, understands that “nature” is more constructed than transcendent, and “what was formerly known as nature” is no longer that.

Grace Wales Bonner with Moussa Dembele and Moussa Dembele @ the Transformation Marathon (2015). Photo by Plastiques. Courtesy Serpentine Galleries, London.
Grace Wales Bonner with Moussa Dembele and Moussa Dembele @ Transformation Marathon (2015). Photo by Plastiques. Courtesy Serpentine Galleries, London.

It was ironic, especially in light of Dorothea von Hantelmann’s lecture and the insistence that ecology is communal, to see this conversation meant to question the contemporary notion of ‘gathering’, via a platform that, as Sehgal pointed out, maintained the traditional subject-object distance between speaker and audience, juxtaposed with the fact that artists of color did actually transform the space. Jamaican-British menswear designer Grace Wales Bonner staged the musical composition ‘Everythings for Real’, named for her series of collages/zines, and performed by Moussa Dembele and Moussa Dembele. Nkisi closed the livestream with a DJ set. In both cases, to draw on the emphasis von Hantelmann placed on experientiality, there is a palpable liveness to these musical works: the range and collaboration between players in Bonner’s piece, the interaction of their personalities with the music (one performer ended on “shave and a haircut”); the curation of an interactive atmosphere through Nkisi’s ‘Occult Instability’. Both artists importantly forgo the institutional formalism by dissolving the subject-object separation. Accordingly, the audience did not seem to know how to interpret either performance, to some extent, with people clapping prematurely during Bonner’s piece, and some not being able to keep up with the crossfades in Nkisi’s sometimes abrasive, or unexpected, or “unstable” performance. This sense of temporal, atmospheric change through music was echoed in Jumana Manna’s broadcast from ‘A Magical Substance Flows into Me’, in which she referenced the idea of Palestinian music as “closely connected with the elemental forces of the universe [and] shap[ing the] harmony of the universe” –or, something that is at once “real” and “occult.”

Saskia Sassen @ the Transformation Marathon (2015). Photo by Manuela Barczewski. Courtesy Serpentine Galleries, London.
Saskia Sassen @ Transformation Marathon (2015). Photo by Manuela Barczewski. Courtesy Serpentine Galleries, London.

Andrea Crespo’s short film, “Polymorphoses (epilogue),” also accomplished the subversion, though by way of the subject-object dialectic. The film begins and ends with the sweeping of a clinical white line across the screen –a possible symbol, re: Latour’s “cherish[ed]” science, for the whitewashed normativity proposed by medical science, how it punishes neurodivergence; to quote the text of the film, “we become ‘sentient’ and/or sapient/so to speak”. The incorporation of public digital sources like DeviantArt and Wikipedia both creates and refers to community/gathering as much as it creates and refers to, as Anton Haugen wrote for Rhizome, “the malleability of the self”. The ontological multiplicity is a Foucauldian “technology” of its own, necessitated by institutional pressure and the advent of technology a la Leeson. It returns us to the pervasive question, also posed by Katherine Angel and Helen Hester in ‘Technosexuals’, of what is or is not a legitimate body or legitimate personhood. **

See here for ‘Looking back at Transformation Marathon, p.1 (GMT)’.

Transformation Marathon was on at London’s Serpentine Sackler Gallery, running October 17 to 18, 2015.

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Andrea Crespo @ Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler reviewed

13 March 2015

Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), previously known as Multiple Personality Disorder, is considered a complex mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association that is difficult to diagnose and often caused by trauma. This is not the case in Andrea Crespo’s sis: somatic system exhibition running at Berlin’s Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler. Here the artist presents as a so-called ‘plurality‘ under the names Celinde and Cynthia embodied in hyperreal hentai characters. They could resemble the CGI avatars of Kate Cooper’s RIGGED show opened at KW last year, except that Crespo’s characters represent a certain System community, a healthy multiplicity, rather than an image of a modified world.

Cynthia and Celinde have their own personalities and preferences but exist in the same body and head space. Hand drawn with ink, grading from white to dark purple, they kiss, fight or just exist among psychiatric mood charts and text. Spreading from paper to framed glass on eight digital prints in Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler’s first room and office, the charts show moods scanning “DEPRESSED” and “ELEVATED” to reaching the neutral green-coloured “NORMAL” state between. Transferred into data, the drawings and chart were scanned by mobile scanners, leaving suggested traces in the form of glowing lines.

Andrea Crespo, sis- somatic system (2015). Exhibition view. Image courtesy Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler.
Andrea Crespo, sis- somatic system (2015). Exhibition view. Image courtesy Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler.

Thick black curtains divide the gallery’s space. Before entering the other side, the viewer is met with a warning that what they are about to experience might provoke psychogenic nonepileptic seizures and are reminded that sis is“not liable for undesired changes”.

A strong video work and an impressive continuation of Crespo’s multi-layered sis project , ‘Parabiosis’(2015) –as in, the temporary loss of conductivity or excitability of a nerve cell –is central to sis: somatic system. Projected on a whole wall, the dark-toned video begins with two glowing lines scanning across the screen horizontally, followed by an almost unbearably high-pitched signal. These are effects designed to trigger a personality switch in a person with DID. Simulating a scan, the image of Cynthia and Celinde appears as the line moves and, as with the prints, the act of scanning becomes a method for diagnosing apparent abnormalities such as autism or what the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) defines as Gender Dysphoria.

sis is somewhat evocative of Pierre Huyghe and Phillippe Parreno’s ‘Annlee’, where an empty avatar is bought and later imbued with multiple identities and personalities by the artists in ‘No Ghost Just a Shell‘ (2002). Exploring the possibilities of buying \an avatar normally used for advertising, Huyghe and Parreno purchase a woman’s body and use her as an object before setting her free. Crespo’s sis figure, however, is less host and more an extension of the artist themself,  perhaps as a play on the ‘cis’ of cisgender, ‘System’, or ‘sister’ –all of which have implications that are socially, even diagnostically ascribed states of being.

Through text sis speaks to their audience: “You are drifting”, “never alone”, say some of the messages appearing among hashtags, mood charts and a diagram depicting the “Phantom Limbs, Phantom Body, Phantom Self…” of autoscopic phenomena. “#queer”, “#polygender”, “#autistics” run along a ribbon of labels including “#schizoaffective”, “#borderline”, “#bipolar. They’re words that were once defined, or are still defined as disorders by the APA. As a glowing line opens the video –scanning over the assertion, “you are a signal” –it also closes it. Two lines cross each other and arrive at either end. The noise fades.

Andrea Crespo’s sis: somatic system is on at Berlin’s Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler, running February 11 to April 21, 2015.

Header image: Andrea Crespo, Parabiosis (2015). Digital video installation view. Image courtesy Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler.

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Chez Deep, Dea Nova + the world according to Alexis Penney

16 December 2014
Artist, writer and performer Alexis Penney introduces a “new queer embodiment of deity” Dea Nova with 19 videos recorded during a three-hour performance showcase and a letter:

The past few years have been marked by my very public journeys and transitions through what felt like several lifetimes, onto a path that for me finally feels holistic and entire, via music, writing and image-making, often through social media, and performance creating, often within the folds of several interlocking communities and ritual forms. By leaving behind homes and communities, I found a true sense of home, and community, that transcends place. By facing and living with death, I’ve found what finally feels authentically like my life, or life herself.

Living as I do, as publicly and transparently as I can, I find myself the repository of questions, fears and anxieties about a lot of things: chiefly the idea of religion, spirituality and the question of deity and belief and how they are to exist within the context of our lives now. A reductionist, rational science reigns even while our cultural, social, economic and even psychic structures seem to be at their most irrational. Technology planetarily connects us and globally oppresses us. These are well-founded fears, taken in the context of our collective histories, many facets of which are still coming to light, and questions which don’t have simple answers, or maybe even answers at all.

“It seems to me suddenly that everything is a matter of perspective.”

For me, the practices of Wicca (bending, shaping), of yoga (union, yoking), of drag and even art, have all formed the syncretic idea of my life’s religion (reunion, reconnection) and practice, what I like to call informally my Circle: the infinitely permeable but contained system of meaning or agreements. It describes my experiences and those of others as they contribute to our shared realities in a way that makes everything – from sex to psychedelicsm, servitude and psychic pain – cohere and actually agree, even those facets that seem to want to nominally contradict. It seems to me suddenly that everything is a matter of perspective.

But who is She, and why She? I see and intuit within our shared histories, or herstories, part of our Thealogy, the denigration of woman, of the feminine – and even the creation of said division – as fundamental and essential to the way of life we can term patriarchy. Just as the denigration of blackness, the creation and conception of racial divisions, tribal allegiences, sectarian striation, class stratifications, and the traumatic split between human and Other-than-human, all these distinctions reify the regime we have been sold as the ultimate truth. I would never language patriarchy as wrong or unnatural, but unsustainable, as it threatens all other truths outside of its own, just as much as it threatens its own by actively destroying the world on which it attempts to stand apart. So, with care for my language, as non-violently as I can, I call myself a Transfeminist, someone who interfaces with the world through the experience of the dynamic and very trans feminine experience, the experience of someone forced to identify as a or many particular Others but who lives between the bleed lines, in the spans between momentary identities.

“I call myself a Transfeminist, someone who interfaces with the world through the experience of the dynamic and very trans feminine experience…”

Starhawk says, “The image of the Goddess inspires women to see ourselves as divine, our bodies sacred, the changing phases of our lives as holy, our aggression as healthy, our anger as purifying, and our power to nurture and create, but also to limit and destroy when necessary, as the very force that sustains all life.” But also that “all things are swirls of energy, vortexes of moving forces, currents in an ever-changing sea. Underlying the appearance of separateness, of fixed objects within a linear stream of time, reality is a field of energies that congeal, temporarily, into forms. In time, all ‘fixed’ things dissolve, only to coalesce again into new forms, new vehicles.”

The Goddess is a vehicle for our collective energies, our belief, a metaphor, for that’s all anything ever is, to describe what we are, beyond just you and me, though also within each of us, and with aspects singular and personal to each of us. Any two people create an energy through their connection and relationship, which changes if two become three, and so on. Chez Deep has been since her inception five, and not just a sum of five people or artists but an idea embodied within and somehow still transcendent of those five. Now, as we enter a phase of transitioning to being four, sending our sister Hari off on her own with love, the idea of what Dea Nova was, is and could be, beyond just the final collaboration between the original five of us, seems to be growing, disseminating.

“What is a body anyway but a shifting ever-changing dynamic confluence of disparate parts”.

When I left San Francisco, I thought maybe I would never find another community that I didn’t necessarily create myself, for myself and my kin, and I resigned to that. But then I found myself existing in new contexts – within New York nightlife, collectively through Chez Deep and singularly as myself; within the world of Bathsalts, dually alongside Colin [Self] and singularly as myself; and I suddenly realize how many overlapping contexts and agreements a body can host. What is a body anyway but a shifting ever-changing dynamic confluence of disparate parts, mostly water, mostly bacteria and fungus and virus, mostly empty space? But also a body is always, already in conversation with a community, a super or meta-organism.

Dea Nova embodied that ideal for me. She came to me in a dream. Put these people into conversation. That’s it. Not just Chez Deep. Not just one scene but several. Just to see. Who are we? What are we? What can we be? It remains to be seen. As the landscapes of drag, and performance, and art, and technology, and our collective psyche, and economies of truth shift and change, I think we will see the rise and spread of culture, community and connection in ways both baffling and powerful affirming, inspiring and  depressing.

“I think we will see the rise and spread of culture, community and connection in ways both baffling and powerful affirming…”

“'[w]hy are there two sexes? For the same reason we cut thecards when we shuffle the deck,” says Starhawk. But there were never just two, just as there was never just night and day, black or white. It probably made a lot of sense at many times and places, and the dualistic splits manifest within our cultures and worlds and psyches manifested, in my belief, exactly what they were designed to. But there is always still one. And one is extremely challenging. Because from one, we can count up to infinity, and never stop counting, but also implicit (and not opposite) one is zero. A circle. Or probably more apt, a spiral. It’s all a matter of perspective. So here is a bevy of perspectives, selected here but fully accessible in its entirety – 19 performances in all – to be accessed in whatever way makes the most sense to you. A huge thank you to all the beautiful and inspiring and powerful women and people that have made my journey home to myself, in New York, right now, so baffling and inspiring and frightening and joyous. I would like this to also be a challenge to you, in your community, wherever you are. Show us who She is to you. Show us your meta-organism. A time looms when we will all be called upon to be our own Messiahs for ourselves and our kindred. I want to hear what you have to say. I want to see your drag.

Starhawk says, “Decide what is sacred to you, and put your best life energies at its service. Make that the focus of your studies, your work, the test for your pleasures and you relationships. Don’t ever let fear or craving for security turn you aside. When you serve your passion, when you are willing to risk yourself for something, your greatest creative energies are released. Hard work is required, but nothing is more joyful than work infused by love.”

Satnam and blessed be!

– Alexis Penney

Chez Deep Present: Dea Nova was on at New York’s Santos Party House on September 17, 2014.

Header image: Alexis Penney’s Sore blog.

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