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Future Feminism: A social, cultural and political vision for a feminine utopia

The power of pussy: The inimitable Kembra Pfahler, spreading the gospel with a friend

So much of the popular, social media-driven feminist discourse is desperately treading water these days. The advances we’ve made over the years that have drastically improved the lives of women (unions, better wages, health care advances , reproductive rights) are under attack, and it only makes sense that we’d cling to what little we have left. It’s in this frantic crisis that we can sometimes forget the more utopian ambitions of the feminist second wave—the impulse not to preserve what little we have, but to recreate society entirely, in a way that exceeds the meager ambitions we’ve come to accept. Future Feminism seeks to nurture and develop that impulse.

The brainchild of Kembra Pfhaler (best known for The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black and her performance art), Johanna Constantine (of The Blacklips Performance Cult), Sierra and Bianca Casady (CocoRosie) and Antony Hegarty (Antony and The Johnsons), the collective is the result of three years’ of consensus-based artistic and intellectual collaboration, much of it forged during rigorous retreats in isolated locations.

Kembra Pfhaler, Johanna Constantine, Sierra Casady, Bianca Casady and Antony Hegarty, presumably on retreat
I had to opportunity to speak with Bianca Casady about the projects’ multi-faceted development.

“We didn’t have any plans, so we definitely didn’t have any models [for organizing],” Casady confesses, “it was five artists—the most obvious thing to do was an art project together, a co-authored piece.” The “group-authored sculptural work” is to be debuted at The Hole gallery in NYC, Thursday September 11, but it’s merely a fraction of the multimedia project that Future Feminism has bloomed into. The Hole also promises performances and lectures from such heroic foremothers as Lydia Lunch, Laurie Anderson, Marina Abramović and no-wave goddess No Bra. The sculpture itself remains somewhat shrouded in mystery, as are the “13 Tenets of Future Feminism” they will reveal on the opening night.

The five artists central to the collective will perform a concert at Webster Hall this Sunday to fund the exhibition, as it’s completely artist-funded thus far. Casady notes that the relative independence and autonomy of the Future Feminist collective has allowed them the freedom and time necessary to truly work as a unified body, though the timing for the reveal could not be more provident.

Some of us are very unplugged from the media. Mostly we really come together as artists. We’re certainly noticing a lot of uprising and actions going on formally, and a lot of momentum and energy right now. The timing feels like less of a coincidence. It feels like things are at a boiling point.


Image from the Future Feminism Benefit Concert poster
No one can predict which projects will inspire or move the masses, but it’s exciting to see feminism embrace the ambition of utopian thinking again—and it’s especially powerful to see women working together and creating new, strange culture—something that could (if we’re lucky) threaten the status quo.

“We’re not really looking for equal rights—that’s really different in our attitude,” says Casady. “We’re not looking to climb up the male pyramid scheme and try to assimilate into it to find some kind of balance. We’re proposing a complete shift, with the goal of balance, but it’s not like we want to meet in the middle. We have to reach for a better sense of ‘middle.’”

That’s a sentiment that’s existed before in feminism—the idea that having “what men have” is not enough, that we all deserve more. It’s fallen to the wayside in years, but I foresee a revival, as movements like Future Feminism strive for a radically different society, invoking the very qualities so often derided as “feminine.” In the words of the collective, “The future is female.”

The (absolutely packed) roster for the run at The Hole gallery is below.

Thurs Sept 11: Opening 6-9PM

Fri Sept 12: Bianca and Sierra Casady, Sarah Schulman

Sat Sept 13: Johanna Constantine, Lydia Lunch

Sun Sept 14: Clark Render as Margaret Thatcher, Laurie Anderson

Wed Sept 17: Narcissister, Dynasty Handbag, No Bra

Thurs Sept 18: Ann Snitow speaks with the Future Feminists

Fri Sept 19: Kiki Smith presents Anne Waldman, Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge and Anne Carson

Sat Sept 20: Kembra Pfahler and The Girls of Karen Black

Sun Sept 21: Lorraine O’Grady

Wed Sept 24: Marina Abramović

Thurs Sept 25: Carolee Schneemann, Jessica Mitrani, Melanie Bonajo
Fri Sept 26: Terence Koh as Miss OO

Sat Sept 27: Viva Ruiz, Julianna Huxtable, Alexyss K.  Tylor

Sun Sept 14: The Factress aka Lucy Sexton, Clark Render as Margaret Thatcher, Laurie Anderson

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Watch Laurie Anderson’s dog Lolabelle improvise her own experimental music
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Lou Reed
Laurie Anderson

Laurie Anderson loved her dog Lolabelle. Upon Lola’s passing, Anderson created a lovely sculpture of her ashes in memoriam. She delivered introspective monologues about their relationship. She put on concerts for dogs with Lola sharing the stage (for the record, the music is actually kind of interesting—structureless, but very tonal, and not entirely composed of high pitched whistles inaudible to the human ear). Anderson even sent Lola to music therapy, the adorable results of which you can see below.

Billing itself as “Common Sense Counseling for Dogs and their Humans,” Dog Relations NYC is a sort of Montessori-style obedience school, and as far as I know, they’re the only pet service with a testimonial from Laurie Anderson and the late Lou Reed and on their homepage—apparently dog behavior counselor Elisabeth Weiss has quite the magic touch.

Elisabeth was one of the key people in helping maintain the spirit and integrity of Lola’s life. Everyday Lola looked forward to her time with Elisabeth. It was a great relationship that we all rejoiced in. Elisabeth is a kind dog genius. Her help cannot be overestimated and went far beyond what one can buy. Lolabelle loved her. We all loved her.

Lolabelle’s musical ventures were categorized by Dog Relations NYC as Occupational Therapy—she had actually been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, but honestly I’d imagine this is the sort of thing that might just calm any nervous little terrier. At any rate, she looks genuinely rapt by her own keyboard skills. On the first video, she is receiving no instruction from a human. The second is a collaboration of sorts for Rock n Roll Rescue, a benefit for Art For Animals.


Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Laurie Anderson on ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ and ‘Yankee Doodle’
07:05 am


Laurie Anderson

In this highly amusing “personal service announcement” shot sometime during the 1980s in the smoky kitchen of a greasy spoon somewhere, Laurie Anderson praises the lack of nationalistic bombast in our national anthem and describes “Yankee Doodle” as a “surrealist masterpiece.” The clip can be found on her Collected Videos, released in 1990. Unfortunately, it’s available in VHS format only.

Anderson is a national treasure—I can’t think of anyone else delivering a disquisition this thoughtful, original, whimsical, vivid, and bizarre (in the loveliest sense). As it happens, I agree with her on both counts. We’ve heard an awful lot of national anthems during the World Cup, and “The Star-Spangled Banner” is one of the finest out there; of course, “Yankee Doodle” is delightfully silly.

Happy Fourth of July everyone!

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Rock stars with their cats and dogs

Cool pictures of musicians with their pet dogs and cats, which show how even the most self-obsessed, narcissistic Rock god has a smidgen of humanity to care about someone other than themselves. Though admittedly, Iggy Pop looks like he’s about to eat his pet dog.
Patti Smith and stylist.
This is not a doggy bag, Iggy.
There’s a cat in there somewhere with Joey Ramone.
Tupac Shakur and a future internet meme.
Bjork and a kissing cousin.
O Superdog: Laurie Anderson and friend.
More cats and dogs and musicians, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Laurie Anderson gets her young feminist mind blown by a Playboy Bunny
05:37 am


Laurie Anderson

Laurie Anderson
A young Laurie Anderson with her revolutionary instrument, the tape-bow violin
Who doesn’t love Laurie Anderson? She creates brilliant experimental music and multi-media performances, but manages to remain intelligible to folks outside the avant-garde scene. One has to be completely lacking in pretension to perform a concert entirely for dogs (a project with her other half, Lou Reed), and somehow not come across as insufferable. I think it has something to do with her general humanity. She’s engaged with her audience, she has a sense of humor about herself, and her work has always been about observation and listening, as opposed to the narcissistic naval-gazing stereotypically (though not necessarily factually) ascribed to highly experimental artists.

In the video below, (an excerpt from her performance piece, “Empty Spaces”), Anderson tells a great story about a feminist demonstration early in her career. Like many young activists, she had perceived “the economic exploitation of women” as a fairly cut and dry issue, easily targeted and abolished. When a Playboy Bunny complicates her notion of exploitation, Anderson’s humility is piqued, and she’s forced to rethink what it means to work on behalf of women.


Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
After a very long walk on the wild side, Lou Reed gets life-saving liver transplant
07:05 am


Lou Reed
Laurie Anderson

Having taken a rather extended walk on the wild side in his day, it doesn’t come as a huge surprise, does it, that Lou Reed needed a liver transplant? Happily, the composer of “Heroin” and “I’m Waiting for the Man” was lucky enough (and wealthy enough) to get one last month, according to what his wife, musician/artist Laurie Anderson told the Times of London:

“I’ve been spending a lot of time in Cleveland [Ohio] these past few weeks . . .” the sentence begins, seemingly ushering in a less earth-shattering anecdote. “My husband had a big surgery, which went very well.”

What was it?

“A liver transplant. It’s as serious as it gets. He was dying. You don’t get it for fun.”

Anderson told the Times that Reed preferred to have the transplant in Cleveland, away from what she termed the “dysfunctional” hospitals of New York City. Can’t say I blame him!

“You send out two planes – one for the donor, one for the recipient – at the same time. You bring the donor in live, you take him off life support. It’s a technological feat.

“I was completely awestruck. I find certain things about technology truly, deeply inspiring.”

Anderson’s prognosis for her husband’s health looked on the bright side:

“I don’t think he’ll ever totally recover from this, but he’ll certainly be back to doing [things] in a few months. He’s already working and doing t’ai chi. I’m very happy. It’s a new life for him.

In April, Reed had abruptly pulled out of two performances at the massive Coachella festival in California.

Via Raw Story

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘Home of the Brave’: Laurie Anderson in concert (with William Burroughs)
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William S. Burroughs
Laurie Anderson

Laurie Anderson’s 1986 film, Home of the Brave, a documentation of her Mister Heartbreak concert tour, was shot in Union City, NJ, in the summer of 1985, at the Park Theater. Directed by Anderson, the film is a great record of the tightly choreographed hi-tech multmedia theatrical gimmickry she was known for at that stage of her career.

I recall thinking when Home of the Brave came out that it was an attempt to do for Laurie Anderson what Stop Making Sense had done for Talking Heads. King Crimson guitarist Adrian Belew, percussionist David Van Tieghem and Joy Askew are part of her backing band and William S. Burroughs walks onstage from time to time muttering cryptic things to great effect.

Home of the Brave has never been released on DVD, although a decent torrent file made from the laserdisc is pretty easy to find. I would buy this sucker on Blu-ray in a second.

Via La Cumbuca

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Laurie Anderson performs with a ‘pillow speaker’ in her mouth
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Laurie Anderson

Delightful short clip of Laurie Anderson performing a song with a “pillow speaker” at the School of Visual Arts graduates commencement ceremony.

Thank you kindly Ken Switzer

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Bizarre Top Of The Pops dance routine for ‘O Superman’

As if it wasn’t weird enough that Laurie Anderson’s “O Superman” got to number 2 on the British charts in 1981, here’s a really strange dance routine by Zoo from Top Of The Pops to accompany the vocodered, beatless wonder. YouTube uploader Sambda says:

“A spectacularly bad dance routine. An extreme example of “Top Of The Pops” choreographer Flick Colby’s habit of taking all lyrics (including obvious allegories) at face value. So we have to have a judge, a mom-and-dad etc. I suspect the only reason Superman himself didn’t appear was down to a rights issue.”

I think he may be onto something. It’s also worth watching for Peter Powell’s bizarre chain-mail sweater at the start:
Laurie Anderson - “O Superman” Top Of The Pops 1981

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Laurie Anderson’s classic deconstruction of the Star Spangled Banner

Do you smell something burning ?
thx Buh Zing !


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Animal Language: Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson stage a concert for dogs
02:27 pm


Lou Reed
Laurie Anderson

Oh Lou, you’re such a… wag. Hot on the heels of putting his, er, difficult, Metal Machine Music onto the concert stage, Lou Reed has a high frequency—literally—concert event planned in Australia with partner Laurie Anderson: a concert for canines…

From the NME:

Lou Reed and his partner, experimental musician Laurie Anderson, will be putting on a concert exclusively for dogs as part of Sydney’s Vivid LIVE festival on June 5.

The high-frequency ‘Music For Dogs’ gig will take place on Sydney Opera House’s northern boardwalk at 10am (EST). The show will be 20-minutes long due to the canine audience’s short attention span and will be inaudible to the humans present.

“Taking the idea of the apparently inaudible dog whistle to new artistic heights, our canine friends will be treated to a glorious cacophony of sound, while all we will hear is the lapping of the water on the harbour,” festival chiefs wrote on the event’s official website,

I have personally seen Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson walking their cute little dog many times in the West Village—I lived a half-block away from them for many years—so I think it’s pretty safe to assume that they are “dog people.” What would really be impressive, though, is if they did at least one show where no humans were present, just the pooches.

Thank you Chris Campion of Berlin, Germany!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Lou Reed: Pastoral Photographer
02:29 pm


Lou Reed
Laurie Anderson

I know we’re all making “walk on the ‘mild’ side” cracks right now, but the Velvet Undergrounder’s been snapping photos since the ‘60s, and is an admitted Leica-geek.  These two images have been culled from Reed’s new book of photographs (his third), Romanticism, a series of landscapes shot exclusively in black and white.

Finding just the right sequence for the photos, Reed says, was really no different than sequencing an album, “The response is emotional.  That’s all I want; they are taken with emotion and put together with emotion, equal emotion.”  And while the quality of Reed’s light looks stunning,

Rarely is there a human mark on the scene; for the most part, his photographs are of nature untouched: woods leading down to the edge of the sea, a layer of thick mist covering the earth.  The branches of a tree are abundant with fruit, another tree is dead; the trunk splinters as it disintegrates.  “I have never seen a tree that is not graceful,” he says.

Only one photograph, towards the end of the book, shows a human form (see above).  It is an androgynous gray figure, with short hair, facing away from the camera and outlined with light.  Light ripples across the top of the scene, suggesting water, and the rest is a mass of gray.  The figure is Reed’s wife, the musician and artist Laurie Anderson.

In The Independent: Lou Reed: Photographer

Posted by Bradley Novicoff | Leave a comment
The Spectrum: Psychedelic funhouse designed by Damon Albarn’s Father


Witness “The Spectrum” a fantastically psychedelic carnival fun house designed by Keith Albarn (father of Damon Albarn, a man considered a musical god in this household). Sadly this British Pathe film short is probably the only thing that remains of it and there is little to no information about it anywhere on the Internet. I’d have loved a chance to see this in person!


Watching this I got to thinking about a different druggy funhouse on this side of the pond—also no longer standing—the infamous Palladium night club of New York City. Once the fabled Palladium Ballroom, where Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Frank Zappa, Patti Smith, The Clash and Lou Reed all played, the Palladium reopened in 1985 owned by former jailbirds Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager, who had previously run Studio 54. Artists like Francesco Clemente, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, Laurie Anderson and Arata Isozaki were all commissioned to build installations.

The staircase was amazing (especially if you were super high!) and the Basquiat mural behind the upstairs bar was nothing short of astonishing (and really huge). A house would crash from the ceiling onto the dance floor like the one that killed the Wicked Witch of the West. It was a fantastically decadent place to spend one’s youth. Now it’s an NYU dorm with a Trader Joe’s grocery store downstairs! (I wonder if they were able to preserve the Basquiat? It was painted on the wall and probably as valuable as the real estate itself).


Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment