Phantasms - Page 2

A new wave of cyber-horror drag hits club stages. Plus: Gigamesh, Disquiet Night, Accidental Bear, Tormenta Tropical, more nightlife


"Everything I do is a reaction to being categorized: as a person of color, as a female-bodied queer," she said. "It's really bad right now, because it's so hip to be black, "urban culture" is being fetishized to an enormous extent. I feel I encounter so much that makes me angry just existing in this world as a queer creature. My performance and look ties everything to my experience through my body. That's where I express myself most fluidly, more acutely and vividly than through language."

"Horror is where I'm coming from and where I exist," Vain Hein, another performer, told me. Unlike Boy Child and Dia Dear, Vain Hein is open about his past: raised as a Born Again Christian in both Puget Sound and Phoenix, Arizona — "My childhood consisted of traveling between extremes" — he eventually found his way to the San Francisco Art Institute to study New Genres (this is actually a program there!) Vain Hein, who also performs to music he chops and screws at home, most explicitly ties sex to horror in his work — it's chockful of surprise lactations, menstrual blood, live births, prosthetic triple breasts, and weird asses.

VAIN HEIN (Photo by Eric Harvieux)

"I think a lot about the apocalypse, it's how I filter and understand the world. Decay, destruction — everything I wear is just what's at hand around my house, held together with scotch tape and nail glue, the shitty, shitty, shittest things ever that just fall apart during the night, even when I'm not performing. I literally shed my skin."

Yet even as a queer art student in San Francisco, liberated from fundamentalism, he never went out until last year. "I just had preconceived notions about what going to a gay club involved. Then my friend dragged me to a drag show in the spring, and I was like, 'I can do this.' I had studied mostly performance art and video so it was a good fit."

Being a young queer and not going to the clubs is incomprehensible to me — but of course these 20-somethings grew up with the Internet, where you can be gay by yourself, and which looms like a Poltergeist vortex over their work.

"Oh, the vast blessing of the Internet," boychild half-laughs. "I wish I was better at it. We're so bombarded with information and images, just so much shit. That can be great because my generation has all of the past available. But we've been drowning in this stream of complete crap, too. I can define myself as a freaky-freak just by how I navigate it. But the power of live performance is channeling all that into immediate emotion, a moment when everyone's together, something that can't and should never be documented as just images."

The charming and soft-spoken Dia Dear, who has become kind of a mother the nascent phantasmic drag scene — even though she, like boychild and Vain Hein, operates mostly outside traditional drag house family structures — says, "I haven't quite figured out my relationship to the Internet. I feel like it's a positive tool because it can connect us to the spirit of people who are dead. But it's also this kind of dark rectangle in the corner that can suck out all your energy. It exists for its own sake. But to be on the Internet now, you have to have a certain level of narcissism and self-interest. A lot like you have to have as a performer. Performance and the Internet should be natural lovers, in a sense. Twisted together ...entwined."


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