2 late 2 talk part two
11 June 2016
Adam currently lives and works in London.
A conversation between Adam Christensen and Marta Barmejo. Tuesday 14 June 2016, early afternoon. Adam’s horse box in a scrap yard somewhere in South East London where he lives. It’s raining outside. Drops falling against PVC ceiling are deafening. He lights some papier d’arménie and makes some coffee.
Adam Christensen: blah blah blah
Marta Bermejo: I think we could start describing how the show unfolded as the visitor came into the space for those who missed it.
AC: What do you mean?
MB: The first thing you’d come across in the foyer is that blue and orange drape where you picture yourself jumping over a fence. Three autobiographical texts were provided. Then in the gallery lights were pink, air was smokey and smell of chocolate. The largest and most recent drape was hanging over a beam. Was it Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween?
AC: She’s holding Michael Meyers severed head. She doesn’t wear a bra and panties in Halloween though. I made her more like in True/Lies. A mainstream breakthrough. The blockbuster as such. The film is really funny because she portrays a kind of caricature of herself. Goofy mumsy / clumsy sexy. Its pretty hilarious stuff. Have you watched it?
MBS: Not really. Is that the one with the striptease scene?
AC: yeah yeah
MBS: That image you chose for the drape is quite recurrent. It took me a while to recognize it till I remembered those Baroque paintings where Judith is carrying the head of Holofernes.
AC: It’s definitely playing with those images. When I did it I was thinking of these small paintings I made of female warriors.
MBS: Well here she is in underwear and smoking
AC: hahaha well I just wanted her to be more empowering. In the first Halloween film she is very strong at the beginning but in the end she’s a bit pathetic almost. She screams loads. When she returns to the Halloween series once more as an adult her role is reversed. She is really powerful and strong, walking around with an ax ready to face up to this weird man.
MBS: Definetely 2 late 2 talk part two is a tribute to the rise of a new kind of female character in Hollywood cinema. But it also feels that in the way you perform and play different roles it’s a tribute to gender fluidity. At first you portray yourself a bit as a killer jumping over that fence, then when you are dress up, playing your accordion and singing “you killed me” you position yourself in the other side. And by the end of the performance it looks like you are the heroine carrying a screen instead of a head. You transgress stereotypical characters by assuming them all at once.
AC: It’s scary listening to you. It’s scary to hear about your own shit. I know what you mean but I’m not sure how it ended up being like that. I mean. I’m obsessed with Hollywood and it’s dreadfully boring. Or maybe not boring! It’s dreadfully structured. Trapped in this repetition. When they try to present a female lead in an action film the woman has to incorporate a male aggression in order to become the heroine. An interesting film for this is Gena Davis in The Long Kiss Goodnight. Gena Davis’ effort here is exceptionally executed. Jamie Lee Curtis and Sigourney Weaver manage to do this fluidly. Mainly because they don’t have that Hollywood feminity. In fact its more awkward watching them in traditional female roles.
MBS: Yes it looks like we cannot get rid of these two distinctive and opposite set of stereotypes aligned with gender binary. And there’s the violence that goes along with the embodiment of these two artifices.
AC: yes yes
MBS: Can you tell me a bit about the drape depicting a person doing a moony that was hanged in the mezzanine?
AC: It’s not me though. It’s a man in the Fucktree. There’s a tree that comes out of the ground and then falls over and decide to keep growing. It’s perfect for men to lean over and take their trousers off. Innocently or slutly. It’s a passive pose. I guess I wanted to get that also with the impelling of the fence. Cause the action of crawling over the fence is really active and then it follows a passive one. I mean when I crawled that fence it was really high it was the high of the big Jamie Lee Curtis curtain. And then this guy passes by and says “Oi mate you’ve gotta take care with them fences. Two of my mates have died like that. Guts on the ground. Good luck yeah!” My mate was in the van laughing and filming…
MBS: Why did you have to jump that fence?
AC: Cause I needed to get into my studio and I had forgot my key. I was moving out and hadn’t paid the rent.
MBS; hahaha it’s interesting how these sci-fi cinematic narratives are intertwined with your personal life’s adventures.
AC: I’m way too dramatic. It’s a real struggle. I guess it’s the way of using that, of turning yourself into a comedy. Cause when you are in that melodrama. It’s very real. You can’t do anything about it till it’s passed. You can look back and go “oh my god what the fuck was wrong with me”?
MBS: I guess sewing these fabrics is a way for you to digest and deal with these stories in a very calm and meditative way.
AC: For me what I like about the curtains also is that it’s the first time I do something objet base for a change. You can actually touch it and walk around and sit in front of it. You can take your time with it as such. It’s the viewer’s time to take with it. I felt I needed this calmness in my work. I’m not imposing as such as when performing or as with my films. For me it’s about the colours, the shapes, the adding narratives.
MBS: is the pursue of calmness which leads you to sew by hand?
AC: I find the machine fast and aggressive. For me hand sewing is a way to slow down a bit and do things at the speed I enjoy as oppose to when you’re pushed to make art against a deadline.
MBS: I would like to know a bit more about how you re-appropriate the genre of cabaret and bring it to an art gallery context. We have talked before about how audiences react differently when you perform in a pub, a gallery or a festival like Glasgow International.
AC: These bending of elements I’m not sure if they feel awkward. It’s definitely playing with these cabaret stories and the figure of the comedian standing there. When you do it in a space like OUTPOST suddenly the performance becomes a focal point, a spectacle. I don’t mind this element of spectacle but I need to feel and engage with the audience so I can be more improvisational and (counter) react. I don’t know how I feel about being that alienated person who is unapproachable. In the gay club you put on a party with these elements of art chucked in there. People are drinking, getting in the mood, the smell of chocolate, the mysteriousness, this kind of sex-night club fetishism. By the time you perform people are really engaged. In the opening of Glasgow International they put this huge stage and suddenly you have to be this super star. It’s good for the experience but I had no clue what the audience felt. After that I went downstairs to the unisex toilet and played the accordion there for about an hour. A totally different experience. There were moments of awkwardness then moments were people were banging the bins and slamming the doors to the beats of what I was playing. There was a real flow. I enjoy both but its just more fun when you manage to get it beyond that thing of me here and you there and we need this distance.
MBS: Do you dress up only to perform?
AC: The first time I dressed up was by accident. I was an editor on a TV program and one of the trannies asked me to fill up minutes while the credits were rolling. “Put on this wig!” “Drink this cocktail from a straw VERY slowly! Slower!” Then I realised going to fetish clubs you get flirted with dressed up cause you become this object of desire. I understood it doesn’t take much just a wig, sexy underwear, heels or even just lipstick to cross that boundary. I just wanted to start dressing up more sincerely.
MB: What do you mean with sincerely?
AC: Instead of being just a layer it becomes part of your personality. I don’t think that me dressed up is another persona.
MB: I wonder how all this queer politics hype affects/effects you?
AC: I got invited over to a queer space in Copenhagen during a theatre seminar to talk about queer and politics. To be honest with you I was really scared and I just read one of my texts and played remixes I’d done of Madonna and Brigitte Nielsen. I gave them a theatre performance and then they put it in the context of the theories that they already had in their head which I don’t necessarily have. I like when I perform in a space where you don’t discuss it. You just are.
MB: Certainly to be a fag or a tranny is not enough to be ‘queer' it's necessary to subject your own identity to critique and I think you do in the way you perform your sex-gender-sexuality and in the way you re-appropriate certain gender roles in your shows. The fact that you’re not that interested in queer theory shows me how detached is theory from practice. How elitist it can come across. Or perhaps how the misuse of the word has made the word redundant…just a < > as B.P. Preciado puts it.
MB: Why Jamie Lee Curtis and Sigourney Weaver?
AC: It’s a tranny thing. We’ve got these obsessions, idealisations. My first one was Anne Linnet. A Danish singer singing about her lesbian melodramas. In my early 20s it was Brigitte Nielsen. She’s considered trash culture which is another way of saying there is more layers to her. A stunning, physically strong and exceptionally tall blond lady.
(Adam shows me his sci-fi and horror collection and talks about his favourite book House of psychotic women by Kier-La Janisse )
MB: What do you like about horror films?
AC: I like the psychology that goes into them. Like when you start thinking where is the director going with this? How far are they gonna push it? There’s so much controversy that goes along with horror films. For instance the director Dario Agento when he made The Stendhal Syndrome. I don’t know if you have watched it. It’s just very complicated how he uses his own daughter as victim. In The Stendhal Syndrome he films a rape scene with her. Dario Argento famously stands in as the faceless killer in his films. So when hands come out of the dark to assault his daughter’s character, the hands are his. Some of my favorite Horror films have really interesting female characters with great dialogue. There is a real development in their characters. Things are viewed from the female point of view. As you said with Almodovar, he gave space to these female actresses. They are more interesting and men are portrayed as dicks without brains. Again in The Stendhal Syndrome Dario Argento is particular good in his portrayals of his female character. You can feel he’s fascinated by his daughter psychology. After the rape, our heroine goes through the three stages victims of rape apparently goes through. The way it’s portrayed in the film is by morphing her into different representations of women in cinema. A struggle with female identity as portrayed in popular culture. (You know the different roles of women in cinema)
MB: The mother/wife, the witch/bitch or the saint/virgin? Oh look that image again
AC: Here it’s also playing with the Medussa’s myth but here she’s carrying Perseus head instead