CALLING ALL DIVAS: BATMAN DRACULA (2017) is a reenactment of Andy Warhol and Jack Smith’s unfinished collaborative film of the same title from 1964. Overlaying original footage (sourced from YouTube) with new footage shot in my garden, the dreamlike images become visuals for the soundtrack of Klaus Nomi’s live performance of Henry Purcell’s “Cold Song” from 1982 (also sourced from YouTube). In this new music video format, Smith’s cape (in my impersonation of Smith) has been decorated with the motifs of Steven Arnold’s iconic photographs. As a work of performance, Warhol, Smith, Nomi, Purcell, Arnold, and King Arthur become overlapping audio and visual references collapsing in time, space, and interweaving narratives within the framework of my desire to locate queer lineage.
In the spirit of Kembra Pfahler’s working methodology availabism, I use the materials that are available to me: things that are Google-able and downloadable. The resulting forced collaborations may be inspirational or irresponsible paradoxes of the impossible and possible, dancing between material and magical realisms. I can never ask these collaborators for permission so is it even collaboration? Is it fandom? What are the rules to fandom? Idol worship? Obsession!? Where does fan art fall on the spectrum between teenage fantasies and museum collections? Is this an anti-method of archiving? Concepts of legitimization dissolve, mutate, or behave in the most idiosyncratic ways.
Age, time, disease, distance, finances, governments, languages, and ability are a few of many factors that can hinder individuals from meeting. In CALLING ALL DIVAS, I investigate, converse, collaborate, and fantasize with persona, costume, text, movement and music to create chapters that focus specifically on queer inspiration. By imitating, honoring, listening, and conjuring people and characters, my body becomes a site of devastation and possibility. I momentarily experience something I can never fully realized or become something I can never fully be. This is actual and symbolic. It is a reminder that the self is a concept to explore endlessly if one so desires. Invent, reinvent, actively dislocating and relocating. As José Esteban Muñoz reminds us, queerness is a becoming, an ideality, a horizon to look toward not a location to reach.
Uncomfortable as simple homage, the references in CALLING ALL DIVAS are looked to as material to learn from and with, alongside or through. Queerness maintains a distance from heteronormative temporalities as active critique, a behavior that transcends the specificities of history. While Warhol, Smith, Purcell, Arnold, and Nomi employed diverse creativities and criticalities in past times with different historical demands, aspects of their work, with reconsideration, still generate newness, exigencies, and potency today.
CALLING ALL DIVAS becomes a living archival method; not assembled according to conventional notions of historical institutionality. The references are political figures: feminist, queer, HIV+, POC, movement leaders, revolutionaries, academics, artists… the chapters continue to compound.
Deviant in the face of product-oriented economic logics, this project does not intend to draw conclusions, state facts, or conclude any kinds of clear theses. It engages activities that probably seem pointless, wasteful, or unproductive to those stranded in heternormative temporalities. Rather, queers, women, people of color, frustrated heteros, those marginalized can find an invigorating essence to take beyond the dominant prescribed methods of identification and inheritance in the face of violence, oppression, erasure and loss.