VAGINAL DAVIS AT P.S. 122
By Noah Michelson
When the brainy, high-'n'-low-culture-mixing, not-just-a-drag-queen performance artist Vaginal Davis (above center) left his native L.A. for Berlin a few years ago, it was Lala-land's loss and Europe's gain. But last month, New York City's East Village -- specifically, its venerable performance space P.S. 122, which is amid a much-deserved renovation -- got a delicious taste of Davis and his many friends in a show called "Speaking From the Diaphragm," which became the downtown freak-show must-see of the month, a raunchy, messy take on Davis' beloved 1970s TV talk shows. Over the course of a month, the show's guests made up a below-14th-St. who's who including Justin Bond, Annie Sprinkle, Kate Bornstein and Dynasty Handbag. We were lucky to get into the packed house the last night, when Davis held court, mic and cue cards in hand, alongside his host, the banjo-playing "bearded sex symbol Miss Jennifer Miller," and surrounded by a bevy of nubile, nearly naked boys and girls who fiddled on laptops and projected dirty Chatroulette rooms onto opposite walls. It was just one of the many visual and aural distractions that made the night so delightfully maddening. Davis, wearing a sensible dress and ballet flats, promised a night of "failuretics," whatever that is, plus "miscegenation, mayhem and murder."
Most of that transpired, despite the murder. Davis claimed that Obama was secretly from Madagascar. "I could have sex with this floor," he proclaimed, then, well, kind of had sex with the floor. Some cute art kids came on and did an installation piece involving the abuse of a human animal that resulted in a milky red liquid spilling all over the stage. A naked woman dressed up her vagina as a little Mexican-seeming guy, complete with sombrero-type hat, then manipulated it to make it appear as though it was lip-syncing. Its name was Mr. Pussy. Live onstage rimming occurred. Brian Kenny came onstage and showed an arty porn-techno montage, while his boyfriend Slava Mogutin recited poems he wrote as a teen. Julie Atlas Muz demonstrated how to suck a huge cock, by lying on a table with one's head hanging down and mouth open. Best of all, performance-art godmother Penny Arcade, 61, flashed her boobs, then (apparently genuinely) went off on two of the young nubile kids for disrespectfully fiddling with their laptops during her performance. Then she smoked a joint and passed it around, while everyone else, on stage and off, got drunk on various liquors. "It's hard being a content-based artist in an atmosphere like this," Arcade kvetched. She was right. With all the guests hanging out onstage after their acts, the night's content was, by turns, hilarious, scary, messy, stupid, inspired, boring, beautiful and alcohol- and pot-addled. But everyone seemed, well, content.
-- TIM MURPHY
Previously > Bryan Batt: Mom is Dear