Vaginal Davis is an originator of the homo-core punk movement and a gender-queer art-music icon. Her concept bands — including Pedro Muriel and Esther, Cholita! The Female Menudo, black fag, and the Afro Sisters — have left an indelible mark on the development of underground music. Like Ron Athey, Ms Davis made her name in LA’s club performance scene, and has earned herself a similar notoriety as a cultural antagonist and erotic provocateur.
Set apart from gallery-centered art, and Hollywood movies, and from those systems’ necessities of high-polish, low-substance production, Vaginal Davis’s low-budget — often no-budget — performance, experimental film and video practice has critiqued exclusionary conceits from the outside. Davis has been a prolific producer of club performance, video and Xerox-produced Zines, and other forms of antagonistic low-cost, high-impact work. Such as in her drag reconstruction of Vanessa Beecroft’s Navy SEALs performance, Ms Davis derails collector-friendly raciness in spectacles of femininity, queerness and blackness. She critiques both the gallery system and the larger cultural trend that it mirrors, with tongue-in-cheek self-exploitation and rude provocations of racial and gender confusion.
Vaginal Davis is the key proponent of the disruptive performance aesthetic known as terrorist drag. Disrupting the cultural assimilation of gay-oriented and corporate-friendly drag, she positions herself at an uncomfortable tangent to the conservative politics of gay culture, mining its contradictory impulses to interrupt the entrenchment of its assimilatory strategies. A self-labeled “sexual repulsive,” Ms Davis consistently refuses to ease conservative tactics within gay and black politics, employing punk music, invented biography, insults, self-mockery, and repeated incitements to group sexual revolt — all to hilarious and devastating effect. Her body a car-crash of excessive significations, Vaginal Davis stages a clash of identifications within and against both heterosexual and queer cultures, and Black and Hispanic identities. From bubblegum songstress Graziela Grejalva to aging deviant John Dean Egg III, Davis’s personas reject the internal counter-cultural mandate to refuse self-criticism, instead problematising the functions and assumptions of normative trends within the margins. By renewing uncertainties within alternative cultures and identities, Vaginal Davis opens up spaces for their continual struggle towards renewed and greater challenges, over and against these practices’ timid appeasement and appropriation by the mainstream. – Dominic Johnson, Frieze Magazine
Title: Princess Edmond de Polignac
Medium: Water color pencil, Wet & Wild Sold Gold nail varnish, hydrogen peroxide, glycerine, AquaNet hair spray, and witch hazel on Dittrich & Schlechtriem business card
Dimensions (sq inches): 8 x 5 cm (3.25 x 2 in)
Minimum Bid: $550
Approximate Value: $550