Well, I know I promised days ago, faithful Filthy Dreams readers, that I wasn’t going to do a tired old best of list, but Filthy Dreams is nothing if not inconsistent and unpredictable. While I was going to write another “making up for lost time” review of Jordan Wolfson’s show at David Zwirner, I decided my critical views on the implications of this chained puppet’s absurd dance was too goddamn dark for New Year’s Eve. And I couldn’t do that to you, dear readers or me. I mean, we all know how terrible this year was and how bad it’ll probably get, right? Do I really need to spend time comparing a dancing dummy to our current national and human condition?
I don’t think so.
So instead, I’ve turned my thoughts to the positive resurrected some of my fanatical favorites from this past year. Yes, I give up–here’s a listicle. In order to make it a little more interesting, I’m doing it as superlatives like the high school yearbook of your New Year’s Eve dreams! So crack open a bottle of bubbly and let’s reminisce:
Favorite Solo Show: Nicole Eisenman’s Al-ugh-ories at the New Museum
In the catalogue to her New Museum survey, Eisenman explained, “My feeling about painting and gender is that whatever any dude feels entitled to, I feel like: ‘Fuck, I’m entitled to that too.’…” (14). Not only should Eisenman be entitled to the same art historical language as dudes, but she also deserves the same (if not more) praise than the hypermasculine male painters get. What did I write about the show back in June? Well:
“By creating work that appears both out of time and unmistakably of this era, Eisenman reflects, as Elizabeth Freeman describes, “temporal drag may offer a way of connecting queer performativity to disavowed political histories” (65). Connecting her own voice and aesthetic as a queer woman artist to these predetermined masters, Eisenman carves a place for herself within this typically white male framework–an unquestionably feminist and queer act.”
Favorite Group Show: Signal at Smack Mellon
As you know, faithful Filthy Dreams readers, we sure have covered a lot of fantastic group exhibitions this year. So this was a hard one to pick. But, in retrospect, my favorite was Signal, curated by Alexis Heller:
“With the unique imagery of the linear binary code as the exhibition’s title, Signal unmistakably announces its radical redefinition of legibility not just between the gender binaries but also, with the art space’s communication itself. Speaking beyond accepted codes to reject assumptions, Signal immediately strips viewers of their preconceived notions and facile readings.
Signal features a refreshingly diverse group of artists who work in a variety of disciplines in order to subvert the restrictive, repressive and quite often, oppressive gender binaries. Representing artists’ and their subjects’ own self-defined aesthetics and self-representations, Signal heralds an expansive understanding of gender.”
Favorite Duo Show: McDermott and McGough’s Velvet Rage, Flaming Youth and The Gift of Desperation at James Fuentes
Gilbert & George, Elmgreen & Dragset, McDermott & McGough…there are a lot of artistic duos. But this year, even though I loved Elmgreen & Dragset’s show at FLAG, I have to say McDermott & McGough won my heart. I mean, who doesn’t adore flaneurs?! :
“And let’s be honest, the pansy isn’t exactly politically correct either, typically depicted as a loathsome figure in phobic cartoons from the 1930s. I mean, why would anyone in their right mind want to engage with that in the sensitive political and theoretical arena of 2016? However, there remains something importantly transgressive in the dandy–a rouged finger in the eye of masculinity that threatens both hetero- and homonormativity. It’s a delicious embrace of stereotypes.
New York-based collective McDermott & McGough honor this subversive nature–and relevancy–of the fairy in their current exhibition Velvet Rage, Flaming Youth and the Gift of Desperation at James Fuentes Gallery. Following their career-long interest in gay culture from the turn of the century until the 1930s, the exhibition sees the collaborative duo resurrecting the imagery, themes and sometimes, entire paintings from their older work of the 1930s, which resurrected aesthetics from the early 20th century. It’s an anachronism within an anachronism. Is your head spinning yet? Well, ours is, Mary. You would think this double backward glance would deaden the political efficacy of the work. Instead, the duo’s exhibition questions the notion of progress in the gay community.”
Favorite Pandrogyne Show: Genesis Breyer P-Orridge “Try To Altar Everything” at Rubin Museum
Is this a duo? A solo? Both? It’s hard to say. So we gave the inimitable Genesis Breyer P-Orridge h/er own category: “Curated by the Rubin’s Beth Citron, I couldn’t help but fantasize how Citron convinced the museum’s board and donors to support Try To Altar Everything. Admittedly, Breyer P-Orridge’s art is relentlessly challenging, questioning much if not all of our preconceptions and layered with multiple references and meanings. You just have to look at the extensive companion flyer of terminology provided with the exhibition to witness the complexity of Breyer P-Orridge’s vision. I’m just saying, I would have loved to be a fly on the wall when board members were introduced to Mousetrap, a resin-covered collection of bloody tampons marking both the passage of time and Breyer P-Orridge’s deliciously subversive sense of humor.
Tracing the ties to primarily Nepalese and Tibetan forms of spirituality in h/er art, Try To Altar Everything provides cross-cultural context as an essential entry point into an ostensibly impenetrable and intimidating body of work. While the Andy Warhol Museum might boast Breyer P-Orridge’s first major museum exhibition with S/HE IS HER/E in 2013, Try To Altar Everything is perhaps the most successful curatorial display of h/er work I’ve experienced. Breyer P-Orridge’s art is best understood and viewed with a concrete thesis in mind rather than a simplistic–and some might say, lazy–chronological retrospective.”
Favorite Performance: Lady Bunny’s ‘Trans-Jester’ at Stonewall
TRIGGER WARNING! In Lady Bunny’s show Trans-Jester, she took aim at the pearl-clutching, political correctness running rampant in our culture. I saw the show before the election, but in retrospect, it’s become even more important in the context of Trump: “All this spells a problem in the queer community–particularly when, as seen with the Orlando shootings, the bathroom laws in states like North Carolina, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and a possible Trump/Pence presidency, there are very real issues of violence, phobia and hate that still threaten queer individuals. And here’s where Lady Bunny decided to step in. Thank god.”
Favorite Depressing Album From A Dead Guy: David Bowie’s Blackstar
I’ll admit, I’m still haunted by David Bowie’s goodbye letter Blackstar. From the title song, which seems to narrate a type of eternal recurrence with Bowie’s death heralding the coming of another “blackstar” (and another and another…and so on) to the bodiless freedom of “Lazarus,” the album somehow manages to capture transcendence. It’s uncanny, moving and unforgettable. In particular, I’m completely obsessed with the last couple high guitar wails of “I Can’t Give Everything Away.” With those final, otherworldly notes, Bowie was gone–back to his own planet.
Favorite Depressing Album From An Alive Guy: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ Skeleton Tree
I think the only thing that saved me from the lasting devastation of watching Andrew Dominik’s film One More Time With Feeling, which not only premiered The Bad Seeds’ new album Skeleton Tree but also captured the unthinkable grief after the sudden accidental death of Cave’s twin son, was the shock of the election. And that was two months later. Simply put, I was shook and it stuck. It wasn’t just me–I left the film and discovered a text from a friend and fellow Cave fanatic who just wrote, “Jesus, that movie.”
Even without the visuals of Nick’s speechless attempts to rectify his grief and find solace in creation, the album gives listeners the opportunity to peek into the depths of despair. Even though some of the album was written before Arthur (Cave’s son)’s death, references to “your little blue-eyed boy” and crash landings are almost too much to bear. It’s not easy or fun (not that any of Cave’s albums could be described in that way), but it is beautiful, particularly the final song “Skeleton Tree,” which juxtaposes this deep sense of loss with a glimmer of hope.
Favorite Book: In Their Arms by Thomas Moore
It might come as a surprise to you, dearest readers, but I read a lot less than I should. What?! I’m busy! But, I did manage to completely buzz through Thomas Moore’s In Their Arms in a little over a day. That should say something for the experimental novel’s strength: “‘The journey home is a blank. I’m so blurry that the world and my interactions with it are too opaque for either component to illuminate the other enough to form anything approaching sense,’ opens Thomas Moore’s second novel In Their Arms, which was recently published by Rebel Satori Press. The experimental fictional novel narrates the alienation, detachment and aloofness of our contemporary era despite the buffet of bodies available on online hook-up sites, gay bars and cruising apps. Even though, in 2016, there are many ways to be queer, Moore’s novel essentially shows that we are possibly even more alone.”
Favorite Blog: The return of DC’s Blog
Even though I wasn’t bold enough to tell him over the phone when conducting the interview published on Filthy Dreams, Dennis Cooper’s blog is a huge influence on Filthy Dreams. Why, if I hadn’t spent time binge-reading Cooper’s blog, I’m not sure Filthy Dreams would exist. This year, not only was Cooper’s blog disappeared by Google, he also relaunched it on a new platform–thankfully, returning to posts of GIFs, international male slaves of the month, art, music and other assorted but infinitely engrossing topics.
Favorite Twitter Account: @realDonaldTrump
Am I kidding? Sort of. I have to say, while Comrade Donald Trump may set America ablaze, she surely has made Twitter great again. Mimicking Trump’s syntax and replying to the copious absurd and terrifying tweets coming from our President-elect has become my new hobby. I think I finally found my medium–trolling! Tremendous achievement!
An added bonus to annoying the future President is the many garbled, nutty responses from Trump supporters. Sure, I know we’re not supposed to take these things lightly, but, as Charles Ludlam says, “Laugh and you are free.” Keep that in mind as the calendar turns 2017 tonight…