Published Aug 01, 2003I really didn't really want to go to Birmingham again. No, not bloody Birmingham, Alabama, like some people have the gall to ask. Who the hell goes to bloody buggering Birmingham, Alabama? I'm talking about bleeding bollocksy Birmingham, England. I'd been there three or four or six years ago but retained very little memory of the experience, although I do recall writing a column about it something about cruising the canals, shooting up cocaine in my hotel room with some dumb young blond hustler I'd purloined from the street, and getting picked up at a club by a tall black BBC employee whose apartment was strewn with boxes for his impending move to London. It's the alcohol. If I didn't write things down, I would have virtually no memory at all. Maybe I should try that.
The name of the gay performance art festival I have been invited to is Fierce, an unfortunate moniker that begs the question: How many S's are there in the word fierce? I succumb to the invitation only because the specific event I am to participate in is being curated by my friends Vaginal Davis and Ron Athey, the deranged duo responsible for the infamous Platinum Oasis happenings in L.A. at which I performed, if you can call photographing blood-soaked fornicating porn models "performing," and I think you can. This performance/endurance event is called Visions of Excess, featuring various artists interpreting the life and work of Georges Bataille, the French novelist, philosopher and "metaphysician of evil," author of Story of the Eye and The Trial of Gilles De Rais. Terribly trendy, I know, but Athey and Davis are crackpot geniuses so they can get away with it.
The visiting artists invited to throw in their two cents worth on the subject of Bataille include friends of mine from far and near including Yaroslav Mogutin, Glenn Belverio, Kembra Pfhaler, and of course Ron and Vag themselves, so it almost has the feeling of a high school reunion, if high school reunions were held in hell. All seriousness aside, it really is a rare chance to see all my old compadres all at once in one place. It's a good excuse for us to get together, catch up, and get misty-eyed with daddy nostalgia. I think I may throw up.
Another enticement to fly my weary bones from Berlin, where I am in the midst of editing my new movie The Raspberry Reich, to Birmingham which may be England's second largest city, but is really just one big shopping mall surrounded by a plethora of Al Quaeda sleeper cells is that Udo Kier is scheduled to make an appearance. Udo! Star of Andy Warhol's Blood for Dracula and Flesh for Frankenstein (both directed by Paul Morrissey)! Udo! Frequent player in the movies of Fassbinder and Lars Von Trier! Udo! The wacky German john in Gus Van Sant's My Own Private Idaho! I saw him once dressed in tout leather at Club Sucker in Los Angeles, but I didn't have the nerve to talk to him because he looked kind of mean. This time I'll have the nerve.
I'm picked up at the airport on Friday by a chap named Simon whose boyfriend, Mark, is the director of the Fierce festival. It's hard to remember any names from this point on, because everyone in England is either named Mark or Simon. Or Nigel. Even the girls. I know I should remember Mark from the last time I was here, or from London, or someplace, but I'll be buggered if I can recall any of our shared past experience together. I must have repressed memory syndrome, like the Hulk. Mark deposits me at the Holiday Inn in the heart of downtown Birmingham. Even though it was only an hour and a half flight from Berlin, I'm jet-lagged, but before I have a chance to catch 40 winks I get a call from Miss Davis summoning me to her room. I dutifully drag my weary carcass up to her floor and knock on her door. I'm greeted by Glenn Belverio, the former post-queer activist drag queen Ms. Glennda Orgasm, who is now a big deal fashion editor in New York, having recently won a gaggle of awards for guest editing some obscure, high-end Hong Kong and Japanese fashion mags. Glenn went through a period of being unbearably snooty when he became a full-time fashion fag, but now he's evened out and become bearably snooty. Vag and Glenn and I go way, way back before you born, darling so we spend a commensurate amount of time reliving our past lives together.
Kembra Pfhaler has arrived, so we head straight down to her room. I haven't seen Kembra since I went out on the town with her and her boyfriend, the famous art dealer/gallerist Colin de Land, about a year ago after the opening of Kembra's show at Colin's gallery, American Fine Art, in Chelsea. Sadly, Colin died of cancer since then, only several months ago, so Kembra is doing remarkably well just to show up at this event. Kembra is a trooper though she makes Judy Garland look like a quitter and I can only marvel at her strength and courage in dealing with the loss of her lover-man. I don't even want to think about what would happen to me if I lost the Muslim. I'd probably throw myself in front of a camel.
After a disco nap we decide to head out for food and drinks. As Udo Kier is currently walking down the red carpet with Nicole Kidman in Cannes as part of the cast of Lars Von Trier's new movie Dogville, he won't be arriving until the beginning of the event on Sunday. But international playboy Slava Mogutin and his six foot five Dutch modern dancer boyfriend Raoul have arrived, so they join the rest of us for a reunion dinner. The city is terribly expensive and seemingly full of tossers, but we try to make the best of it.
Saturday is a day of preparation for the event on Sunday, which means that we all head over together to check out the venue. It's a tacky titty bar appropriately called Demon in a dodgy neighbourhood just off the main strip. Part of the mandate for the event is to decorate the room or booth or broom closet assigned to us with whatever is available in the immediate vicinity, and to try to tie it in with the Bataille theme. This is an advantage for Kembra, who is already a self-proclaimed Allist, or Availabalist, her term for an artist who uses whatever flotsam or jetsam that is laying around to make her art. It's not just about art, it's a philosophy. She's also a minimalist, which makes it easier because that means she doesn't have to clutter up her life or art with a lot of crappy junk. Kembra is a true demimondaine.
Kembra and Slava and I forage around in the spacious attic of the Club Demon, excavating lots of hidden treasures. I find a bunch of old wooden letters spray painted gold and start to try to make words out of them, like an over-sized game of Scrabble. I manage to come up with the words HORN DOGGY, a favourite expression of Miss Davis, which I will use to adorn the main wall of my room. After all, it will be the space where all the public sex is going to take place. At least, that's the plan.
Next month: Visions of excess.