“And instead of crying at the sight of a damaged ruined blown to shreds statue of Liberty like Charlton Heston and instead of crying and saying “what have we done,” I want to get doodled up and stand next to it…”.
“Artists help each other, artists help each other, artists help each other…availabism”. The feeling in here tonight is strong, dynamic, something good going on in these rooms, something hopeful, positive, brilliant actually . Those in the know have been in a fervour of anticipation for a couple of weeks now, New York artist Kembra Pfahler is in town, she has a solo show at the intimate Emalin Gallery (currently in a space in a warehouse type industrial building over in Shoreditch, East London). Opening night was last night and as we said the other day, Ron Athey mentioned this was happening, that should have been all the information you needed to make you want to go…
“Kembra Pfahler is an American filmmaker associated with the Cinema of Transgression, a performance artist, rock musician and film actress. She is best known as the lead singer of the cult glam-punk band The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black, and for the often nude and sexual nature of her art exhibits”.
There’s a buzz of excitement in the air. The small gallery over the street from that hideous Boxpark thing and the Shoreditch overground station, already has quite a crowd crammed in when we get there, the rain clearly hasn’t put anyone off, the place is steaming, the place is packed. Thin Lizzy are blasting, Jailbreak is rocking, atmosphere hits you straight away (along with the heat, hot in here!). Things are looking and sounding good, there’s very tall dancers on the stage (the tall nature of the red creature might be down to the big heels and the even bigger hair), there’s constructed rooms of art, there’s more giant women with big big hair on the stage now, there’s a blue one next to red one and there goes a yellow creature. People are crowded in, waiting, anticipating, dancing, boys in pretty dresses, girls with shaved heads and big smiles – punk rockers, artists, performers, glamsters, performance artists, familiar faces – there’s glammed-up punk rock performance artists, there’s curious onlookers hugging the walls, they’re all excited, we;re all eccited, you can feel it in the air… The music is flowing, people are dancing, singing, mouthing the words – The Sweet, Ramones, Geordie, Alvin Stardust, Bowie, old rock ‘n roll, stomping glam, 70’s pop, punk. There’s black and white pentagrams, flag-like backdrops, crosses, there’s painted Karen Black logos stenciled on the walls next to the feminist statements – Future Feminist,,,
The philosophy of availabism is what she calls it, the main gallery area is housing a stage, the walls are freshly painted white (well they were at the start, they’re a little more colourfully messed up by the end of the evening). Kembra has constructed a version of her New York apartment, dark red walls, tile red, beautiful tile red. The red rooms are there, to the side of the main white gallery space, two tile-red rooms, full of art – art on the apartment walls, installations, and she’s got all “doodled up” to stand next to it. Well a lot more than just standing. she has a troupe of performers, all in the same big (big) black wigs and big black high heels, she’s red, there’s a blue creature, a yellow one, another in red – get the idea that she might have gathered them together since she arrived in London for the show – someone said something about meeting her at a the Genesis P.Orridge gig at Cafe Oto last week and being invited to join the performance… And what a performance, or set of performances. what a set of gloriously unrehearsed semi-spontanious performances, “performance artists aren’t entertainers”, but this is extremely entertaining and although it is taking itself very seriously – and rightly so, this is clearly very serious art, high art, – taking itself serious but this is art with a smile, art reaching out, inclusive, friendly art, challenging but not detached, not aloof, this is warm, this is an artist engaging, a set of artists engaging, this is lots and lots of fun!
There’s a small stage packed with hair and colour and pentagrams and punk rock performance (to backing tracks), there’s more “traditional” performance art pieces (whatever that means?), there’s butt-painting, there’s that theme from Frozen that almost everyone is singling along to very loudly (been stuck in our heads ever since), people are hugging, strangers talking, barriers coming down, there are on-stage headstands and crosses inserted, there;s paint getting everywhere, butt prints on the stage, hand prints on the ceiling – gloriously messy – and they look so good up there, all “doodled up” and on the stage next to her apartment rooms that means so much to her, to us, for her new York rooms read our London art studio we call home or his shared warehouse or their flat they make music in in Oakland or Berlin…
And so Kembra Pfahler’s opening night more than happened, it more than lived up to all the anticipation, to the word of mouth buzz, and once more art excited, art and artists alive in this under siege city of ours where it is mostly about surviving while creating now . This was lots and lots of fun, and all the time this was serious art, serious performance, serious art on the walls, this was serious subject, serious messages, creativity in the face of gentrification – survival, but mote than just mere existence – artists coming together, people coming together, getting doodled up and doing things rather than just crying over the spilled mil, people doing!. Rather like this philosophy of availabism and her showing ending mantra of “Artists help each other, artists help each other, artists help each other…”. Brilliant night, vital art, serious fun. (SW)
And the word is they’re going to do it all again tonight (Wednesday), another impromptu gathering on the big haired creatures and…..
Capital Improvements: A solo exhibition and performance by Kembra Pfahler opened last night (15th November, 6 – 9:00pm) the show runs from November 16th to December 21st, 2016 (with a film screening on Thursday, 17th November, (9:30 – 11:30pm) You find it at Emalin Gallery. Emalin is at Unit 4, Huntingdon Estate, Bethnal Green Road, London, E1 6JU
Kembra’s Artist Statement for once is important, we make no apology for posting it in full here….
“I wanted to share with London a show called Capital Improvements. It means that when you’ve got a living situation that’s managed by a landlord, they improve your life by giving you shiny new appliances, they cover your old walls with new white perfect surfaces. They redesign your living space to homogenize it and then are able to raise your rent from 600 dollars to up to 5 thousand dollars. This was the situation in my building as it was repurchased by a new landlord a few years ago, he’s not uncool, he just is a businessman who wants for some reason to make money in a neighborhood that was largely salvaged by artists since the 60’s. We fought for heat, for water, for safe conditions. Yes we were gentrifiers as well when we arrived in the late 70’s but we still were part of the semi middle class. The semi lower middle class that no longer is able to exist in New York City any longer. The rents rose but it was still manageable for young artists well into the 80s.
This is a long complex history but what happened to me was I refused capital improvement in my home when offered. I love the wabi-sabi… the beautiful decay and imperfection of my home. The design elements in the house have been lauded by many and I wanted to share parts of this space with you here at Emalin gallery, the tile red and the objects that are here represent 30 years of struggle and dreaming up a vocabulary of images that later became known as “the manual of action” more specifically the availabist manual of action.
Availabism is a term I developed which makes the best use of what is available. I always loved the last scene in “Planet of the Apes” where Charlton Heston realizes the world as he knew it no longer exists. That he thought he’d been lost, on another planet, but didn’t actually realize he’d been home all along. More and more the city…All of our cities are losing their identities by way of financial racism and globalization and by changing the look of something, by way of chicly redecorating it changes
its value. I told my landlord I loved the way my apartment looked and didn’t need a capital improvement. In fact, my idea of a capital improvement would be to spray paint the Statue of Liberty black and have it hold a pentagram. A symbol to me that’s not indicative of a skygod religion. You know the sci-fi religions that have always been cringe-worthy to me with their misogynist undertones. But I’m saying a lot clearly and believe me I’m aware that I’m not saying it perfectly and we all know the awkward failures of artists who try to speak on politics with a desire to change the world, it’s a kind of optimism I realize. That doesn’t suit many.. but I imagined that if I could change the environment I lived in and express myself through interdisciplinary art and live in an immersive anti-naturalist severe dwelling that was transformed by me from the floor up. Tore up from the floor up. It could somehow have a contagious effect on those that experienced it… this work actually. My studio is the brain and the work born of it, the body. I fought for years to remain here and they still of course want me out. They want us all out. I’m not exaggerating this my English friends as I know it’s happening to you all as well. This show shares with you the space where I created the tools to express my views, thoughts and feelings, there were movementsborn in this place. “Extremism” “beautilism” “anti-naturalism” “availabism”…I have been able to live a contrarian type of existence here… an alternative type of life style one that seems to be viewed as a rarity these days, which is why I think so many people come in and want to photograph my apartment all the time now. It’s a place I have fought so hard to keep, and instead of crying at the sight of a damaged ruined blown to shreds statue of Liberty like Charlton Heston and instead of crying and saying “what have we done,” I want to get doodled up and stand next to it. I know I have to take responsibility for being a part of it… but I want to say “what can we do” of course and spray it black Can we change the ending of this horror film we are in? Does this have anything at all to do with my art exhibit at Emalin? (KP NYC October 29th)
Click on an image to enlarge or run the fractured slideshow and a vague sequence of events…