Last weekend, MoMa PS1 hosted a dreamy afternoon of music, discussion, and zines. Many writers and editors of The Media were involved: contributing editor Jenn Pelly curated the event, columnist Katie Alice Greer's band Priests performed, and there was a table of feminist zines curated by Media contributor Kate Wadkins and editorial facilitator Liz Pelly. In the words of MoMa PS1, the afternoon celebrated "music surrounding feminist punk rock with artists who embrace visceral and engaged performance underlined by socio-political critique." In addition to Priests, other performers included Downtown Boys (who arrived straight from performing at Smash it Dead Fest, and were featured in Katie's Fan Club column last week) plus Allison Crutchfield and Kyle Gilbride of Swearin, and Olga Bell of the Dirty Projectors. The artists all joined Jenn for a conversation, too.
The conversation covered the different interpretations of what it means to be "political" as an artist, the ways that identity and performance are inherently political, and the general frustration that comes with being pinned a "political" artist. "I don't consider myself a punk musician per se, but I am completely in awe of the shear energy and fearlessness," said Olga Bell. "I feel like it's especially appropriate at this time when people are turning inwards and our lives are becoming increasingly more isolated. I think it's an energy, no matter you want to call it or whatever label you put on it, that is so vital and pure and I really appreciate it."
"Where this microphone stand came from is political," said Katie Greer. "Or how we're having this show here is political. You can talk about those sorts of things no matter what you're talking about." Her bandmate Daniele Daniele added: "I think there is something about performance that channels politics really well. When I think about feminism, so much of what it means to be female is to be marked. To be male is to be unmarked, and to be female is to be marked. I think the same goes for race. To be white is to be unmarked and to be a person of color is to be marked. Those are marks we carry on our body that we don't necessarily feel in control of, and I think a natural defense for a lot of people is to build a facade that is made of our own marks, our own contrived identities and performance is a way of showing others how that is done, in the performance of an identity. It's like a shield. Creating your own identity through performance is a way of being like, you don't know me, I created this thing. It just seems like performance is such a natural place for politics, at least politics of gender and race."
"It's frustrating sometimes when you're being interviewed by somebody who doesn't really know you and they ask you about being a political band," said Victoria Ruiz of Downtown Boys. "Would they ask Belle & Sebastian this question? Or a band with all cis-gendered men this question? It's a great question and it needs to be asked to everyone. Why aren't we asking this to every single person?"
A clip of the discussion is above. Below, watch a video from Allison Crutchfield + Kyle Gilbride's performance.