Kenneth Tam
's Basement
Travis Diehl
The Female
Cool School
Catherine Wagley
The Rise
of the L.A.
Art Witch
Amanda Yates Garcia
Interview with
Mernet Larsen
Julie Weitz
Agnes Martin
at LACMA
Jessica Simmons
Launch Party Carla Issue 6
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
Analia Saban
Ry Rocklen
Sarah Cain
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews:
Made in L.A. 2016
Doug Aitken Electric Earth
Mertzbau

Jean-Pascal Flavian and Mika Tajima
Mark A. Rodruigez
The Weeping Line
Molly Larkey, Aaron Horst,
Keith J. Varadi, Katie Bode,
Stuart Krimko, Matt Stromberg
Non-Fiction
at The Underground Museum
Catherine Wagley
The Art of Birth Carmen Winant
Escape from Bunker Hill
John Knight
at REDCAT
Travis Diehl
Ed Boreal Speaks Benjamin Lord
Art Advice (from Men) Sarah Weber
Routine Pleasures
at the MAK Center
Jonathan Griffin
Launch Party Carla Issue 5
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
Fay Ray
John Baldessari
Claire Kennedy
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Hana Cohn, Eli Diner,
Claire De Dobay Rifelj,
Katie Bode, Molly Larkey,
Keith J. Varadi
Moon, laub, and Love Catherine Wagley
Walk Artisanal Jonathan Griffin
Reconsidering
Marva Marrow's
Inside the L.A. Artist
Anthony Pearson
Mystery Science Thater
Diana Thater
at LACMA
Aaron Horst
Informal Feminisms Federica Bueti and Jan Verwoert
Marva Marrow Photographs
Lita Albuquerque
Launch Party Carla Issue 4
Interiors and Interiority:
Njideka Akunyili Crosby
Char Jansen
Reviews Claire de Dobay Rifelj,
Matt Stromberg, Hana Cohn,
Lindsay Preston Zappas,
Simone Krug, Keith Vaughn,
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
Le Louvre, Las Vegas Evan Moffitt
iPhones, Flesh,
and the Word
F.B.I.
at Arturo Bandini
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Women Talking About Barney Catherine Wagley
Lingua Ignota
Faith Wilding
at The Armory Center
for the Arts
and LOUDHAILER
Benjamin Lord
A Conversation
with Amalia Ulman
Char Jansen
How We Practice Carmen Winant
Launch Party Carla Issue 3
Share Your Piece of the Puzzle Federica Bueti
Amanda Ross-Ho Photographs
Erik Frydenborg
Reviews Eli Diner, Jonathan Griffin,
Don Edler, Aaron Horst
Hot Tears Carmen Winant
Slow View:
Molly Larkey
Anna Breininger and Kate Whitlock
Americanicity's Paintings
Orion Martin
at Favorite Goods
Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal
Layers of Leimert Park Catherine Wagley
Junkspace Junk Food
Parker Ito
at Kaldi, Smart Objects,
White Cube, and
Château Shatto
Evan Moffitt
Melrose Hustle Keith Vaughn
Reviews Benjamin Lord, Aaron Horst, Stephen Kent
Top-Down Bottom-Up Jenny Gagalka
Snap Reviews Aaron Horst, Char Jansen, Randy Rice, Lindsay Preston Zappas
Max Maslansky Photographs
Monica Majoli
at the Tom of Finland Foundation
White Lee, Black Lee
William Pope.L’s Reenactor
Travis Diehl
Dora Budor Interview Char Jensen
MEAT PHYSICS/
Metaphysical L.A.
Travis Diehl
Art for Art’s Sake:
L.A. in the 1990s
Anthony Pearson
A Dialogue in Two
Synchronous Atmospheres
Erik Morse
with Alexandra Grant
SOGTFO
at François Ghebaly
Jonathan Griffin
#studio #visit
with #devin #kenny
@barnettcohen
Mateo Tannatt
Photographs
Jibade-Khalil Huffman
VESSEL // CINS and
VESSEL // PERF
Ben Medansky
I've been a lot of places,
seen so many faces
Nora Slade
Launch Party Carla Issue 1
Slow View:
Discussion on One Work
Anna Breininger
with Julian Rogers
Reviews Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal, Catherine Wagley, Keith Vaughn, Aaron Horst, Kate Wolf, Mateo Tannatt, Evan Moffitt, Cal Siegel
We’re in This Together Lauren Cherry & Max Springer
Distribution
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6150 Wilshire Blvd. #5
Los Angeles, CA 90048

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3315 W. Washington Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90018

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3301 W. Washington Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90018

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5118 W. Jefferson Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90016

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Culver City, CA 90232

Luis De Jesus
2685 S. La Cienega Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90034

MiM Gallery
2636 La Cienega Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90034

Roberts and Tilton
5801 Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232

Samuel Freeman
2639 S. La Cienega Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90034

Susanne Vielmetter
6006 Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232
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Los Angeles, CA 90046

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743 N. La Brea Ave.
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Regen Projects
6750 Santa Monica Blvd.
LLos Angeles, CA 90038

Shulamit Nazarian
616 N. La Brea
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Various Small Fires
812 Highland Ave.
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1639 18th St.
Santa Monica, CA 90404

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Los Angeles, CA 90291

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306 Windward Ave.
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602 Moulton Ave.
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Chimento Contemporary
622 S. Anderson St., #105
Los Angeles, CA 90023

Ibid.
670 S. Anderson St.
Los Angeles, CA 90023

Ooga Twooga
356 Mission Rd.
Los Angeles, CA 90033

Parrasch Heijnen Gallery
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Nicodim Gallery
571 S. Anderson St.
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Venus Over Los Angeles
601 S. Anderson St.
Los Angeles, CA 90023
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145 N. Raymond Ave.
Pasadena, CA 91103

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5800 Fulton Ave.
Valley Glen, CA 91401

Natural
15168 Raymer St.
Van Nuys, CA 91405

The Pit
918 Ruberta Ave.
Glendale, CA 91201

Put on a Happy Face

On Dynasty Handbag

Dynasty Handbag photographed in Brooklyn, NY May 18, 2013. Photographer: Allison Michael Orenstein. Sylist: Emily Bess

Dynasty Handbag, Cruising the Meatrack in Fire Island. Image courtesy of the artist. Photo: Allison Michael Orenstein.

Remember last November? Remember when yesterday’s nightmare became today’s reality, and those first jolts of post-election high alert crystalized into an ongoing state of alarm? It’s no accident that the first cultural happening I managed to see in our new illiberal era was something called Weirdo Night at El Cid, a monthly comedy and performance intervention run by Dynasty Handbag (née Jibz Cameron). As digital hygiene took precedence over personal, it felt good and safe to subject my body to a few stiff drinks and some incisively physical comedy. Still, it was tough to confront even a sendup of the current social id. One guest, Jason Black, performed a discomfiting satire of a “downtown” bro-comedian, plunking down too-soon material, like, to wit: “I don’t hate Hillary Clinton because she’s a woman. I hate her because she’s a bitch.” He’s fucking with us, I said—he’s fucking with us. “That doesn’t make it funny,” said my friend. Sure enough, the “comic” got roundly heckled off stage by conceptual wrestler Candy Pain (Mikki Olson), who then cancelled his limp parody with an act of her own: a germane diatribe against white men with microphones. By the time she drew a balloon labeled patriarchy from a giant bag of candy and popped it with her thighs, the whole room felt a little lighter.

But it was Dynasty Handbag who sent the crowd back, somewhat recharged, into the bitterly disfigured landscape, with a video of her own: a makeup tutorial for life under fascist rule. First, the eyes: “Start with a placid, American, pastoral, beautiful, national parks, lake blue…” Green mountains arching under her eyebrows, sunshine yellow above. To “accent things a little bit,” Dynasty jabs at her tear ducts with black—“just covering our landscape with doom, capitalism, white supremacy…” then smudges it to shit. It looks like she’s been punched in the face. (How does the joke go? “You look like I feel…”) Two minutes later she’s completed shame-pink cheeks, a Jokerish red mouth, and, because we’ll all lose our healthcare soon, two blacked out front teeth. “It’s the same great taste but a whole new look,” she sings, keeping it light. Cut to black, beat, then back: Dynasty’s still singing, but her face is worry-lined, her eyes dart: “It’s a new thing, but it’s an old thing…”

True, things are always already kind of mussed under heteronormative neocapitalist patriarchy, and Dynasty’s makeup isn’t usually all that different. Her wardrobe, too, is a silent scream: heavy on bowler hats, taupe Spanx, fashion leotards, and thrifted silk suits with the tags still on. Even on a good day, her solo routines lurch from slice-of-life monologues into violent interpretive dance; harangues on nut milks and jars; and lip syncing Black Sabbath. All is laced with sub-linguistic outbursts that embody then expel the bullshit and stress of modern intellectual life—without losing sight of the fact that these very real anxieties are accouterments of her bubble—whiteness, artness, even big-city queerness—and, by extension, ours. Handbag’s overarching joke hangs on the double-bind of high culture: capitalist exploitation on the one hand, and anti-capitalist complacency on the other. The punch line is that these self-made communities, these nights of avant-comedy included, just might keep us sane. Especially now that a bigoted insult comic has the world’s most powerful mic.

Backstage_Charlie_Gross

Dynasty Handbag, Backstage at Joe’s Pub, NY. Image courtesy of the artist. Photo: Charlie Gross.

There’s a reason those New Age folks say be here now. Look at the alternatives: depression lies behind, anxiety ahead. But the present has its problems, too. In her video The Quiet Storm, 2007, with Hedia Maron, just walking down to the deli for a sandwich reminds Dynasty of her paralyzing inadequacy, and leads her to take a desperate vow of silence. The show must go on—and it will—but in the meantime, our struggle is real against a self-trolling inner monologue. Another day begins in an air thick with panic. The now is the center of the anxious-depressive knot.

And what could be more now than the news? Her evening-length performance Good Morning Evening Feelings (2015) takes the format of a morning talk show—the sort of lite fare pitched at viewers presumed to be half asleep—and hurtles it at a self-flagellating audience content with being Woke. In lieu of pet tricks and gossip, the show is structured by fear, anger, guilt, and shame—what Dynasty calls F.A.G.S. After making smoothies of fearful memories and interviewing Womanhood herself, Dynasty confronts shame (a collective, human, environmental shame) with a skit called “Flaming Headlines.” She unfurls a newspaper (print! trees!) and delivers her hot takes. The hole in the ozone layer should be filled; the stock market is up, and that’s good. But her inner critic (in booming voiceover) won’t let her be smug for long, mocking her hairspray, daring her to define what a stock even is. The sketch plummets into a big band swing number about how today is the day to feel bad, tomorrow is the day to feel worse. Dynasty cowers behind her paper.

Dynasty Handbag, Soggy Glasses at BAM, NY (2014) (performance still). Image courtesy of the artist. Photo: Alex Escalante.

Dynasty Handbag, Soggy Glasses at BAM, NY (2014) (performance still). Image courtesy of the artist. Photo: Alex Escalante.

Oh yeah, remember the environment? Dynasty takes more than one jab at those of us who think activism means flushing our toilets only once a day. As her routines move past grammar and sense, Dynasty performs a crazy quilt response to unacceptable circumstances, shaming the rational costume of narcissists in both jumpers and suits. But who are those newspeople kidding? We’re all fucked, even those doing the fucking; even if they don’t know it yet. Meanwhile, there’s the power of a joke to snatch a good breath from a poisonous atmosphere. Meanwhile, there’s comedy to frame up the clownish, even vaudeville tactics of power.

The mask of self-righteous reality-denial apparently works well enough. A joke can parry a hard question (“There you go again,”) or turn a dog-whistle into doublespeak. (1) But to step beyond rhetoric is to risk failure. Failure to change, failure to win—failure of equality and justice and truth; failure to take care of our planet; failure of democracy and direct action (at least for now). Then there are the more individuated failures—career, project, chitchat, to-do list, or simply a life in the arts—which feel all the more crushing because they’re our own damn fault. Dynasty’s act makes fun of failure, personal and collective alike; she’s made lemonade out of at least one failed attempt to break into TV, for instance (but let’s hope the next one succeeds). (2) She’s up there rehearsing her own foibles and insecurities in ways that we might relate to, or at least laugh with, and suddenly, for those few seconds, we drop out of our own inward spirals of depression and anxiety, let failure rest in the past, and land on the much wider vista of now.

But now, more than ever, there is no escape. Not from each other, and not from ourselves. “The Age of Humanism is Ending,” says one of my browser tabs. (3) In another is a video of Dynasty doing the “Vague”—all feather dusters and bad lace; Madonna it ain’t. “Am I historical or hysterical?” she asks, in a kind of mumbling coda. So much for the slick copping of a queer subculture. Performance, in Dynasty Handbag’s hands, is a tour de force not of orthogonal moves but of waggling arms and scrunched faces. She makes a manic virtue of uncertainty, and gives us hope of overcoming a basic fear of being—if not stupid, then at least silly, or at least human. There are those public figures who won’t be caught looking ridiculous, and those who will never admit that they’re fools. For the rest of us, there’s Dynasty Handbag, sounding the alarm.

Dynasty Handbag, I Never Were Again, A Concert at Gibney Dance Center, NY (2015) (performance still). Image courtesy of the artist. Photo: Scott Shaw.

Dynasty Handbag, I Never Were Again, A Concert at Gibney Dance Center, NY (2015) (performance still). Image courtesy of the artist. Photo: Scott Shaw.

DSC_0078

Dynasty Handbag, I, An Moron, (2016) (performance still). Image courtesy of the Hammer Museum. Photo: Todd Cheney.

Dynasty Handbag, I, An Moron, (2016) (performance still).  Image courtesy of the Hammer Museum. Photo: Todd Cheney.

Dynasty Handbag, I, An Moron, (2016) (performance still). Image courtesy of the Hammer Museum. Photo: Todd Cheney.

 

issue-7-cover-icon-web

Originally published in Carla issue 7

(1) See Emily Nussbaum, “How Jokes Won the Election,” The New Yorker, 2017, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/01/23/how-jokes-won-the-election.

(2) See Jibz Cameron and Hedia Maron, “The Dynasty Handbag Show,” Triple Canopy’s Internet as Material, 2013, https://www.canopycanopycanopy.com/contents/the_dynasty_handbag_show.

(3)  See Mbembe, Achille. “The Age of Humanism is Ending,” http://mg.co.za/article/2016-12-22-00-the-age-of-humanism-is-ending. The Mail & Guardian, 2016. Web.