Category Archives: We Were There

#Girlgaze: The Girls Behind the Camera


On the day of the inauguration, I spent a few hours with photographs by young women artists at the #girlgaze: a frame of mind exhibit at the Annenberg Space for Photography in LA. It was my personal West Coast protest: what better place to focus my attention for a few hours than on a diverse, global array of girl artists. 

It felt political to enter a space designed with the aesthetics of a teenage girl’s bedroom in mind–all neon pink, selfie-generating machine, and Lana del Ray on the playlist–and to call that space not lesser-than, not derided, not frivolous, but art. Important art.

The Girlgaze project, a multimedia digital platform “that generates visibility and creates community for the next generation of female photographers,” was founded by Amanda de Cadenet, along with an impressive team of collaborators. Their mission is to “support girls behind the camera.” Their manifesto, posted at the entrance to the show, reads:

We are taking back the word girl. We are pushing back against the cultural projections and traditional gender roles imposed upon girls from the outside world, media and culture. Instead, we aim to represent the intelligence, creativity, complexity and diversity of girls’ experience—across nationality, ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation, and economic background—by taking the camera into our own hands. It is up to us—those who identify with being a girl—to show our perspectives, tell our stories, and determine our own identity, sexuality, and beauty.

I interviewed one of the artists in the exhibit, Abby Berger, who, at sixteen years old at the time of her acceptance to the show (though she’s now seventeen), was one of the youngest #girlgaze artists. Abby, who lives in New Orleans, is also the daughter of a friend of mine. I remember when my girlfriend shared with me that her daughter’s photography was gaining some notoriety on Instagram. A few months later, this friend told me Abby’s work would be shown in Beverly Hillsand I knew immediately that she meant the #girlgaze exhibit.

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WE WERE THERE: Weird Sister at Art After Trump

Art After Trump Weird Sister

Last Thursday night, December 15th, Weird Sister joined Hyperallergic, Well-Read Black Girl, The Creative Independent, Lenny, VIDA, and many other arts organizations for ART AFTER TRUMP at Housing Works Bookstore. The night featured over 150 artists of all disciplines responding to the questions posed by the event organizers: “As an artist, how are you reacting to this uncertain future? What do you want to say or do?” Performances ranged from poems and essay excerpts to letters, speeches, and songs—you can listen to full audio from the event over on The Creative Independent. Below are the pieces that Weird Sister’s five performers—Merve Kayan, Christopher Soto/Loma, Naomi Extra, Cathy de la Cruz, and myself—shared that night:


“In 1961, Fannie Lou Hamer went to the hospital to have a cyst removed and left with a hysterectomy. Forced hysterectomies on black and brown women were a common practice in Mississippi. One of many victims of gendered racial violence, Hamer’s body, as both woman and black was under siege by the state. Still, she fought. In 1963, Hamer and a fierce set of lesser known black women—June Johnson, Anelle Ponder, Dorothy Height—used their voices to fight against voter suppression and more broadly, the Trumps  of their time.

I refuse to think of Trump as a threat located in a single body. I resist this as a mode of organizing and as a political stance. As a black woman in America, I reject anti Trumpness as a galvanizing energy in fighting oppression. It is contrary to my lived experience. It is contrary to the political work of black women radicals like Fannie Lou Hamer, Ida B. Wells, and Ella Baker who fought against multiple forms of oppression. Who fought for women’s rights, labor rights, and civil rights. As a black feminist, I locate myself as part of a long history of fighting against the Trump-like terrors that have plagued poor people, women, the LGBTQ community, and people of color for centuries. Continue reading

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WE WERE THERE: Josie Long’s Something Better

Josie Long

It has taken me over a week to write about Josie Long’s off Broadway stand-up show, Something Better. It’s not that I didn’t like the show—I did, I liked it a lot, but since T***p (I can’t even say his name) became the President-Elect, it’s been hard to feel good about doing anything (including writing) that isn’t direct political action. This all feels releavant since Something Better is the British comedian’s response to feeling the same kind of defeat I’m speaking of, when her native UK withdrew from the European Union earlier this year. Long didn’t know what her U.S. audience would be going through when she wrote the show and booked this tour. She didn’t know how close to home her material would hit.

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WE WERE THERE: HER/LA’s Mothership Festival

HER/LA Mothership festival

Photo by Samantha Snitzer

On November 5th, 6th, and 7th, a group of two hundred women convened in Desert Hot Springs, California, for HER/LA’s Mothership, a queer, trans, and non-binary inclusive feminist festival for women. I attended Mothership with my childhood best friend, Chris Tsuyuki, with whom I’m writing this piece. For full transparency, I am white, and Chris is third-generation Japanese American. This year’s event was the second iteration of the festival—the first taking place in LA as a pop-up festival—so, as Chris points out, “it’s still growing and findings its audience and voice. If they can reach out to more POC feminists, this festival can probably grow into something that really feels like it’s for all of us.”

Chris and I camped Friday and Saturday nights, beside Camp Beaverton, the lesbian Burning Man camp. The camping spot was an open space behind Sam’s Family Spa and Hot Water Resort—essentially a trailer/RV park with three mineral pools—which meant we had electricity, potable water, toilets, and showers. A hundred or so camping tents surrounded four festival tents, where various workshops and activities were held throughout the weekend. The most popular event was “How to Drive a Vulva,” a presentation by sex educator Allison Moon, who was so energetic, intelligent, hilarious, and queer- and trans-inclusive that you could feel the positive energy vibrating through the room. If only everyone—specifically teens—could have access to such powerful sex education, where the focus is on feeling healthy about your sexuality, asking for and giving consent, communicating your needs during sexual activities, advocating for your own pleasure, and using safe sex practices. It always feels so important to hear someone talk about sex, bodies, and desire in healthy ways, and even for this audience of twenty- and thirty-somethings, it felt like Moon’s sex-positivity was something we all needed to hear.

Another popular event was the panel “Women’s Sexuality in the Media,” hosted by former editor-in-chief of AfterEllen Trish Bendix, with writer and actress Alexandra Roxo, artist and creator of the male-nipple sticker Micol Hebron, “Bye Felipe” creator Alexandra Tweten, and writer and actress Mel Shimkovitz. The panelists, acknowledging how white the panel was (Bendix reported that some panelists had cancelled), talked about working in the media, art, and film industries. It was an interesting glimpse into those worlds, though the one-hour time constraint meant we couldn’t get into a very deep or political discussion.

Chris and I, knowing we would write about Mothership for Weird Sister, observed the festival with a critical eye. We thought about white feminism. We talked with some women from London about Brexit and our upcoming election. We talked with some straight women who felt a bit left out for being straight at what felt like a mostly queer event. We thought about how different it was to be with only female-identified people for the weekend, how safe it felt, how the male gaze was absent; in its place were a lot of women walking around with bare chests—but no feeling of being just a pretty object. There were, of course, many beautiful women, with all manner of gender representation, all of whom seemed to feel comfortable in their own skin. From Chris’ perspective: “I don’t know if this comfort in one’s own skin is special in the greater scheme of things, or just a special first experience for me, but not only by removing the male gaze and not having our bodies hypersexualized, I felt comfortable in a way I never have. Just the women letting it all hang out. It’s the first time I’ve sat (in the dirt) and not even thought about sucking my stomach in. I saw such a diversity in body types and a celebration of the beauty of our differences that I’ve never known before firsthand.”

The only men on the campground were the guys inside the Pie for the People foodtruck, a Joshua Tree pizzeria. When the breakfast food truck didn’t show up on Sunday morning, these guys made breakfast pizzas. They were friendly and chatty, yet respectful of the space HER/LA was creating. A caption on Mothership’s Instagram account sums it up well: “A love note for Pie for the People: We feel like you’ve become a part of our festival, we love you, we appreciate you, you’re delicious!”

On Saturday night, Chris and I drank cocktails mixed by Chelsea Vonchaz and Cherryl Warner, the founders of #HappyPeriod, a nonprofit providing menstrual hygiene kits to homeless people, which received, as a donation, a portion of the weekend’s proceeds. We danced to DJ Good Boy, LEX, and CLAY. We made new friends. We went to the creativity tent and put “CUNT” stickers on our faces and took pictures. We celebrated. We connected. And we got female-symbol tattoos by Hannah Uribe. It was a warm desert night so a bunch of us in the tattooing tent, including Uribe, took off our shirts, put stickers on our nipples, and got tattooed like goddamn fucking women.

And then, Tuesday happened.

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WE WERE THERE: Readings and performances in response to Zoe Leonard’s I want a president

I want a president

“I want a president” on display at the High Line

Readings and performances in response to Zoe Leonard’s “I want a president,” featuring: Eileen Myles, Justin Vivian Bond, Sharon Hayes, Pamela Sneed, Wu Tsang, Fred Moten, Morgan Bassichis, Mel Elberg, Malik Gaines and Alexandro Segade, and Layli Long Solider

Sunday, November 6th, 2016

Chelsea Market Passage, on the High Line at West 16th Street, NY, NY


To make the private into something public is an action that has terrific repercussions on the reinvented world.
David Wojnarowicz

Spotted at Interference Archive

Spotted at Interference Archive

The night before I went to see readings and performances at the High Line in response to Zoe Leonard’s work I want a president, I found myself in front of a poster that said “Defeat Reagan in 1984.” I couldn’t believe how much it felt like I was staring into the present when I looked at it. It was probably the most simultaneously punk rock and haunting image I’ve seen this year.

I got to the High Line the next afternoon with a few minutes to spare. Then I remembered how long the High Line is (1.45 miles) and how I hadn’t looked up where this event actually was. As I walked along, annoyed at tourists who simply walked the pace I would walk if I was on vacation—I thought about the first time I ever went to the High Line. I was on what I thought was a date or didn’t think was a date until we were there. That’s the feeling the High Line gives me. By the time my maybe-date and I finished dinner and got up there it was sunset. It was beautiful. I thought we should kiss. And when we didn’t, I still thought it was beautiful, just disappointing. We never went out again. But that’s what I think of when I think of the High Line—somewhere that bourgie people go to kiss because of the view. I say this all to explain why it feels so completely radical to have Zoe Leonard’s I want a president installed there.

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How to Not Tell a Rape Joke–Adrienne Truscott’s Asking For It: A One-Lady Rape About Comedy Starring Her Pussy And Little Else!

Performance still from ASKING FOR IT

Performance still from ASKING FOR IT

Asking for It: A One-Lady Rape About Comedy Starring Her Pussy And Little Else! is a performance that’s very much about performance. It’s a one-woman show where the performer runs out into the audience to steal sips of audience member drinks, leaving lipstick trails on our cocktail glasses. The character that Adrienne Truscott portrays is a party girl who just wants to go out and have fun. Along the way, she encounters a bartender who wants to get her blackout drunk so that the men at his bar can have their way with her… again. When told from this character’s perspective, the idea is horrifying. Then you start to realize how nonchalantly this “joke” could be told from a comic’s mouth into a microphone. Truscott’s anonymous character is the female butt of a misogynist joke manifested in the flesh. She’s the embodiment of the woman whose body and misery is someone else’s punch line. Truscott wants the audience to remember that the woman on the receiving end of a rape joke is in fact a real human being who statistically is out in the world being assaulted somewhere right now.

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We Were There: Black Women Artists for Black Lives Matter at The New Museum

Black Women Artists for Black Lives Matter
Thursday, September 1st, 2016
The New Museum, New York City

Black Women Artists for Black Lives Matter


At 6pm there was a line coming out of The New Museum that went down Bowery and Stanton nearly meeting Chrystie. We were here to see the one-night pop-up event Black Women Artists for Black Lives Matter (BWAforBLM). As part of her residency, artist Simone Leigh invited BWAforBLM, a collective she organized this past July, for an evening of solidarity.


We were all in line waiting to see Black women artists. We were essentially waiting for them.

Through September 18th, Leigh is exhibiting The Waiting Room, a statement and response to what institutions do to the female Black body. She honors Esmin Elizabeth Green who died after lingering for 24 hours in a hospital waiting room.

“Obedience is one of the main threats to black women’s health; it was a survival mechanism that Green waited 24 hours before collapsing,” says Leigh. “What happened to Green is an example of the lack of empathy people have towards the pain of black women.”

For her exhibit, Leigh centralizes the care of the body, and asserts disobedience as a form of self-determination. There are stations for healing and time for healers.

Waiting or not waiting is a form of privilege choosing. I saw the waiting of us, the diverse formation of folks standing in line, as a kind of belated honor to Black women artists. As I stood with friends, young people of color who work in museums, there was a patience in the statement our collective waiting body said to institutions of art that evening, We value Black women, the bodies and spaces they inhabit, and the art they create. Give them your time, space, and attention. Continue reading


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PJ Harvey in LA: 50 Ft Queenie and Rising

Photo by: Solvej Schou

Photo by: Solvej Schou

“Tell you my name/ F U and CK/ 50 foot queenie/ Force ten hurricane!!”

I first heard Polly Jean Harvey belt those words–from her fuzz-soaked mantra “50 Ft Queenie” off her second album “Rid of Me”– live in 1993, at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles. I was 14 then, a combat boots wearing Hollywood teen with anger over the death of my mom, who died when I was a kid, just brimming on the surface, ready to explode.

PJ Harvey embodied that anger. She harnessed it. She made it acceptable, accepted, real and true. Words steeped in sexuality, revenge, art and the blues surged through her. She was wiry, stylish and beautifully British. She was the main headlining act, the star, only a year after her 1992 debut “Dry” hit all of us with an onslaught of grinding, raw Telecaster rock ‘n’ roll and songs referencing the bible, desire and rejection, and filled with gut-clenching moans. Distinctly female moans. Radiohead opened for HER, not the other way around.

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The Strongest Girls in the World: A Review of Wigs

Still image from WIGS

Writer/performer/director/artist/professor, Lindsay Beamish thinks about rooms a lot. Some of her earliest art projects show a fascination with women in abandoned rooms. Ms. Beamish likes to make jokes while alone in her bedroom, and she once locked herself in a motel room in the middle of nowhere Wyoming to write her Master’s thesis, which garnered her the Iron Horse Discovered Voices Award in 2011.

Beamish describes her current project, Wigs as being about “two captured preteen girls locked in a room.” Wigs is a two-woman theatrical piece written, directed and starring Lindsay Beamish and Amanda Vitiello, and is currently showing at the New York International Fringe Festival. The origins of Wigs began with Beamish and Vitiello, in an empty room. According to the Wigs Artist’s Note, with “the impetus of challenging ourselves to work in ways that we hadn’t before; ways that were uncomfortably outside of our typical modes of creating original theater.” Rehearsal for Wigs began with Beamish shouting commands at Vitiello who only brought with her to that initial rehearsal space, The Flo Rida featuring Sia song, “Wild Ones” which is prominently featured in the final piece.

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WE WERE THERE: Sorority – A Queer Performance K-Hole

Thursday, June 16th, 2016
Lyric Hyperion Theatere & Cafe, Los Angeles, CA
I almost didn’t go because I’d come down with some kind of physical plague along with the emotional one I had already been feeling that week, but really thankgawd I have a girlfriend who thinks it’s important for us to show up to community events in the wake of tragedy because the opposite of lonely grieving might be cabaret.

Is there anything gayer? I think I first realized I was gay while attending a weekly cabaret at the Slipper Club in Madison, Wisconsin during my senior year of college. Until then I was very Natasha Lyonne at the outset But I’m A Cheerleader, when she’s still like, “Everyone looks at other girls all the time!” Like her, I thought “everyone had those thoughts,” but the cabaret showed me that what I desired wasn’t just a trip to clamtown (which is requisite, but maybe not sufficient for gayness) but instead a more permanent residence in the sequin-covered cabaret world where camp is the very best way to communicate pathos. I wanted to live among this cheeky and earnest community with its visible belief that desire for the spotlight was what made one deserving of it, where people cheered and sang in such familial chorus.What I remember most about that Midwestern cabaret was that for each finale, the entire cast would get onstage and sing “Que Sera Sera” in this overdone way that made the lyrics —will I be pretty? will I be rich? — seem ridiculous (how hilariously heterocapitalist!)—and yearningly anxious (but like I kind of need to be sort of rich and super pretty!) at the exact same time. At the cabaret, I learned about expressing nostalgia through mockery, about using tacky overperformance as a form of worship. I heard the language there and recognized it as my mother tongue.
SORORITY, organized and hosted by Los Angeles playwright Gina Young, has re-immersed me in that language—has reintroduced the feelings that are able to be articulated and felt when queers get onstage in front of a queer audience. The series, which launched at the Lyric-Hyperion Theater in LA in April, occurring every Thursday night during that month, has reemerged as a monthly event this summer. On its Facebook page, SORORITY is described as a “queer performance k-hole” which includes “works-in-progress,” “theatrical situations,” and “summertime short shorts.” The unfinished feel is refreshing: where LA’s performance scene can sometimes feel like its requires an art school education to access, SORORITY’s performances are playful and engaging. The series is also— with its late-night start time, availability of cocktails, variety-show vibe, and abundance of bad wigs—a true cabaret. Continue reading

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