SEX AND ART: Semiotext(e) in performance at the Kitchen

The theory behind last Thursday night’s “Polysexuality” evening of performances at the Kitchen is espoused in the latest issue of that august intellectual journal Semiotext(e): 300 densely typed pages crammed with dizzyingly cerebral essays “illustrating the plural aspects of sexuality,” from self-sex to “sex of the gaze” to animal, child, even corporate sex and finally to critical (defunkt) sex.

            In practice, “Polysexuality”’s verbal equivalent was more like subway graffiti: sometimes witty or thought-provoking but most of the time sophomoric or unintelligible.

            Kenneth King’s dance was the kind that gives postmodernism a bad name: all walking and arm-waving, followed by breathy pseudo-profundities. A raven-tressed woman in a black party dress calling herself Terence Sellars read a chapter from her book The Complete Sadist about a blasé dominatrix and her shit-eating, piss-guzzling “toilet boy.” A remarkably tacky Australian drag queen li-synched to Lou Reed and Timi Yuro. Kathy Acker read an impenetrable poem, half in Arabic, about a matriphile (mother-fucker). Richard Foreman, supposedly on the phone from Minneapolis, emitted garbled chatter from the speakers. Kenneth King came back dressed as Nietzsche and read for years. Video monitors showed such exciting items as: Stuart Sherman performances; a woman fellating her lipstick; an extremely clinical film of a woman’s vagina dilating and contracting while she masturbated in a laboratory; two women taking turns sucking off a chubby redneck in a seedy motel in Technicolor; and various juvenile antics (such as waving, mooning and running around) that took place in “techno-lust” booths located in the Kitchen’s lobby and beamed by closed-circuit camera to the expectant audience. The audience snoozed, wandered around talking loudly, went out for drinks, went home, shouted “More sex! More sex!”

            Finally, a wild man introduced as Professor Mambuso (aka Manuel de Landa) took the stage carrying a lit cigar in his hair and flicked it in the face of a nearby photographer, then started insulting the audience, some of whom cheered and all of whom started moving away. Mambuso dumped the liquid over his head, smashed the bottle against forehead and began rolling around in the broken glass on the floor as if having an epileptic fit. While two guys dressed as doctors came on and started making jokes about cloning Reagan, Mambuso disappeared backstage and came back wearing a vest lined with firecrackers, which he then detonated; a woman with similar gear appeared in the audience and made her way toward the stage, sparking and cracking. By this time, most of the remaining audience was cowered in the farthest corner from the stage, near the exit. Mambuso and an assistant next came out with animals’ heads filled with small, slimy, possibly alive but presumably dead rodents and reptiles, which they flung at the retreating audience. Then Mambuso pulled out a gun and began firing at some boxes onstage; presumably the bullets were blanks, but this observer wasn’t hanging around to find out.

            On Monday, the director of the Kitchen called the Soho News to apologize for the event, saying it was “irresponsible” and “in bad taste,” and to disclaim any responsibility for the cruelty inflicted upon animals involved in the event.

Soho News, April 1981