My Summer Vacation or Mortville for Womyn

Katrina does Archery

I haven’t shot a bow since I was about 9 years old. It felt amazing to do it again.

Anybody who knows me knows that I am a community builder. I started a women’s basketball game, I make movies about girl gangs. I host parties and brunches, I make meals for people, I take my friends surfing. I’ve been joking about starting a surf camp for wayward girls. When I meet new friends I like, I introduce them to old friends I like. I’ve connected people that way for years, people who went on to play in bands together, to work together. It’s part of who I am. Ex girlfriends call me “the mayor,” In some circles I am known as “the Ambassador of Good Times.”

About a year and a half ago I was newly single and I saw Randee Riot’s photo album on facebook. She called it “Summer Camp.” Within were pictured Randee and her cute pals in cuddle piles on lawn chairs, in hammocks, in sunshine, out in the woods. I was intrigued, it looked great; I wanted to be there.
So I asked her about it and she said “Oh. It’s Michigan Womyns Music Festival. Katrina, it’s amazing you have to go!.” As it turns out, a few other women I know and love go to Michfest every year; the girls I play basketball with go and they all said the same thing. “Oh my god, It’s so much fun. It’s amazing. Katrina you HAVE to go.”
So I decided. “I have to go.”

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Honestly I didn’t even know Michfest was still going on. I had heard about it from way back. It was founded in 1976 by lesbian separatists. it’s women’s land with no men allowed. I never really was a fan of women’s music. I’m a rocker. I like AC/DC, GSX, I like punk rock. Not so much into folksy stuff apart from the occasional Kate Bush or Dolly Parton or Fiona Apple singalong.
I mean, when we were kids my stepmother played Buffy Sainte Marie and it was cute, I loved the political message. I am a feminist. I’m pro peace and nature. But please, that music is just so, uh, granola and most of its naked intimacy really makes me cringe all over.
I began, however, from Randee’s pictures and from my friends urgencies, to get the idea that Michigan Womyns Music Fest is about way more than the music. In fact, the whole experience of camping in the woods with a bunch of sexy friends who are way underdressed, the idea that we can all be together for a week in the woods and do workshops, play basketball, dance, do yoga, play football, shower together, do archery, go topless. It just all started to sound like too good to be true.
Also, I saw that Joan as Policewoman was on the bill and I like them.

Cut to early August, I didn’t have a ticket or a way to go, but a miracle happened, the heavens opened up and Randee came sailing on the Hand of God into my field of vision via text message: Contact Nicky Cutler right away; Go Magazine needs someone to go to Michfest.

So I did, it worked out and at the last possible second I got the green light. I packed up my jeep, reached out on facebook for a travel partner pal with a free week (“you have to be awesome and female”) Kat O. responded and we hit the road.

I hadn’t gone camping since I was a teenager. Since going single I’ve been threatening to go camping and here I was in the Michigan woods, pitching a tent. I felt like a girl scout again, improvising with ropes and tarp and twine and trees. We borrowed gear from other campers. We figured it out.

So how was Michfest? It was AMAZING. It was like being on a really pleasant, mellow acid trip. My cheeks ached from smiling all day long. I would say, “I’m just gonna go over here for a minute I’ll be right back.” Somehow these little errands would turn into wonderful journeys. Kat O. nailed it when she said it was like being a teenager, you’d go to the park to see what’s going on and then to someone’s basement to listen to them play music and then continue to drift pleasantly, aimlessly, throughout the evening. These desultory journeys were sensory treasure hunts; I found a spontaneous dance party, a bonfire with a rollicking conversation and someone grilling bratwurst in a cast iron skillet, bonfires with singing and s’mores, a conversation under a tree, a conversation in the shower, someone cute to make out with, a cuddle pile, a massage circle.

We also realized it reminded us tremendously of Mortville from “Desperate Living.” Minus Queen Carlotta but there were (female) leather daddies and crazy outfits and lots of gold lamé in this ramshackle, temporary city in the woods.

The showers at michfest are wide open in the woods. I stood showering with women of 70, women of 24, women of all sizes. And conversations just flowed everywhere. I felt the spirit of connecting with elders on a really sweet human level. I took an archery workshop. Other people took conscious communication workshops, dirty talk workshops, how to find your g-spot workshops. Team Dresch played and women crowd surfed without the fear of being groped by dudes. The sign language interpreters were amazing to watch. I’d never seen live music interpreted for the deaf before.

In the dark of night lit by torches and flashlights I watched a demonstration of fisting and female ejaculation. I hadn’t seen such a great graphic dirty show since Lady Hennessy took the stage at Pyramid Club in the late 80’s. I heard Dorothy Allison read her unpublished southern story within a story. I saw the milky-way, great oak trees, a raccoon in the moonlight that I whispered to. “Raccoon. I see you.”

It was my lesbian Heart of Darkness, my hippie Lord of the Flies; I went native, I drank the Kool Aid, I bought the tie-dye. It was a magnificent moment and I’ll never be the same.

There were drawbacks and downsides. Every ticket comes with 3 vegetarian meals a day and although I really like vegetarian food and would definitely cook something like what they served, somehow, overall the food just sucked. I wanted to like it. Some meals were great. But on the whole I was disappointed. I mean, would it kill them to put a little vegan bouillon in the rice? The weather on the whole was great but it did rain for two days straight and I had forgotten to pack any boots or any waterproof clothing.

One ugly thread was the political controversy that got visible this year with the implementation of red shirts to indicate the support of keeping MichFest only for wbw or “women born women.” Officially, the festival is not trans inclusive. Although I saw a full spectrum of the female gender represented from waxy, wasp-waisted high femme to bearded stone butch and a handful of ftm, mtf, trans and intersex people. It seemed like everyone was getting along. It was explained to me that no one is checking people at the gate for penises or vaginas or variants in between. It’s basically don’t ask don’t tell. However, there was a sad, uncomfortable, angry feeling among people who support trans friends and their inclusion. I brought it up with one old timer and she said yes, well, then they should start their own festival [that’s trans inclusive.] Some people simply won’t come to michfest because of this policy. Other people come and don’t tell their friends that they’re coming, because they don’t want to hurt their trans friends feelings by supporting a transphobic event. There’s an opinion floating around that the festival is losing steam and will die out because of this controversy, which is truly sad. I was pleased to see that there were trans and intersex people there, it made me feel at home because my chosen family includes queer folk of all gender persuasions.

I came home on a mission to convince all my favorite bands to play, my favorite writers to come read and to convince all my friends to come play in the woods next summer. At the end of the trip I returned to New York City and had the end of summer blues a little early. I don’t want to go back to school; to be civilized, I was Huckleberry Finn, a drifter, a girl pretending to be a boy pretending to be a girl, making friends, saving lives, having adventures, making maps, elaborate ones, of secret places, secrets with trees, with the soft ground, the surprise.
I didn’t want it to end.
all photos were taken with permission of the subject(s), and photo permission was cleared by the festival organizer / creator.

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Interview on TV

Here is the TV interview with Vera Solvadottir I mentioned in my post about the trip to Denmark & Iceland.

Outrageous underground fantasies.
I have to say THANKS to everyone who helped me out w the movies.. (in the interview I say I do it ALL but I really don’t..woops)
Gang Girls 2000 Credits
Surf Gang Credits
Hell on Wheels Gang Girls Forever Credits

Denmark / Iceland 2012

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Recently I went to Iceland and Denmark to screen my films and show my photography. I visited cities I’d never been to before, met interesting beautiful people, was on the front page of the paper, national radio, interviewed on national tv, called ‘a friend of iceland’ saw beautiful landscapes and felt snow falling on my face while floating on my back in a hot geothermal pool.

Getting off the plane in New York, the line I want to deliver: “I’m so depressed. I’ve eaten nothing but cheese and bread for a week. Europe. Good bread.” I don’t say this line, I’m not depressed (I’m just a little blue and distracted) and I’ve eaten almost every kind of food there is. Peas and Fish in mustard sauce. Lamb skewers. Chinese soup. Filet of reindeer. Skyr. I walked everywhere, I swam. I feel great.

DENMARK / Copenhagen

“Last nights artist talk by Katrina Del Mar was an amazing trip back in time to New York City 1988 and onwards. Alice Maude Roxby’s lecture gave insights in the subtle relations between the performance artist and the art photographer. Yoshiko Shimada showed excerpts of her work with Bubu de La Madelaine in the context of the live art scene in Japan in the 1990’s. Thank you to the many people who showed up and for the interesting discussion.” -Christian Van Schijndel

On the Edge of Society: Moments in Live Art –

LECTURE & PHOTO EXHIBITION
Public Event for Warehouse9
Curated by Jane Graham (UK/DK) Live discussion & artists’ talk, Friday 20 January
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Katrina del Mar & Dona Ann McAdams (US) present a series of films and photographs from the Golden Age of Performance Art (1988-2000) and discuss their impact on art history.
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Katrina del Mar presents a series of approx. 200 images from her vast archives. These images show the New York underground in all its brash, bloody, colourful and outrageousness. Featured performers include Kembra Pfahler and her band the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black, Chloe Dzubilo, Jayne County, Lunachicks, Antony Hegarty, Johanna Constantine, Michelley Queen of Queens, Sherri Vine, World Famous Bob and Karen Finley. Venues featured include many of the most happening spaces in the East Village pre-2000, like the Pyramid (home of Black Lips Performance Cult and Trip & Go Naked), Squeezebox, Limelight, Jackie 60…

Warehouse9 is in an old cattle holding area in the slaughterhouse district. The organizers Jorgen, Christian & Gritt are fabulous, they are all cool, accomplished and welcoming. Curator Jane Graham masterminded this show and she’s a sweetheart to work with. Gritt took me to the cool lesbian bars and a yoga class. I stayed at Carsten’s (fabulous gay) guest house.

I like finding and attending secret society meetings when I travel. Somehow I found my way up 11 flights of stairs to a tiny room in a tower where 25 or so people were talking about the benefits of meditation. In Danish. I didn’t understand a word. I found a seat in the back and eventually snoozed.

The curator and the other artist talk artists all went to dinner at a local Thai Restaurant called Porn Sak. I asked for the T shirt and the server informed me I would have to work there to get one.

Katrina and Alice Maude Roxby at Porn Sak photo by Yoshiko Shimada

While I’m in Copenhagen a debate roils on facebook. Betsy Todd thinks it’s ridiculous that any of my friends ought to suggest that I direct porn films. She says “So…after being in the photo/film game and being at the forefront of chronicling NYC underground queer and rock n roll culture for over 20yrs, the suggestion for KdM is to direct porn? Wow. Nice friends!”
Anyway, I think they’re all just joking. Right?

Looking at Art in Copenhagen photo by Katrina del Mar

Looking at Art in Copenhagen photo by Katrina del Mar

On the Edge of Society: Moments in Live Art Katrina del Mar @ Warehouse9 Copenhagen

During the Artists Talk Yoshiko Shimada screened the video where she’s pulling a string of scarves out of a woman’s vagina. It reminded me of seeing Lady Hennessy at the Pyramid Club in the late 80’s; a night I shall never forget even though (strangely) I was without a camera and didn’t shoot a single frame.

As is stated above the show was based on photography of performance based art from 1988-2000 I spent weeks digging through my archives to prepare for the show and I found so much great imagery. I hope this body of work can continue to be seen and shown. Eventually I’ll post excerpts of the actual work here.

ICELAND / Reykjavik & Moesfellsbaer

Iceland was snowy, more snowy than it’s been in decades. People here haven’t seen this kind of snow since they were children. I thought about those global warming theories I’ve heard where they say it’s warming up around the equator and it’s going to get colder at the poles. Iceland is beautiful, just like they say. Eerie and moonlike, with rainbows and aurora borealis. Fairyland. While I was there, a blizzard occurred every night and it was gorgeous every day.
We swam in hot geothermal pools did saunas and then ran through the snow.
Oh and we had a film screening of my GIRL GANG TRILOGY.
I made front page news and national TV in this wild nation.
Interview with Katrina del Mar on Icelandic TV
The screening was well attended (especially considering it was such a bad blizzard the roads and the airport shut down the next day) we had a crowd of Icelanders who laughed loudly through the funny scenes. People either get my films or they don’t and these people got it. I was pretty happy. The cinema was gorgeous and the films looked & sounded great.

Hell on Wheels seen from the projection room Bio Paradis, Reykjavik

Katrina del Mar w singer Nana Alfreds at Radio RUV, Reykjavik

Trilogy of UNDERGROUND GIRL GANG MOVIES FROM NYC
Bio Paradis, Reykjavik
Bandaríska költ-leikstýran Katrina Del Mar sýnir þrjár mynda sinna og svarar spurningum gesta á eftir.
Miðvikudaginn 25. janúar kl. 20
GANG GIRLS 2000 Super 8mm / 25:20
Surf Gang Super8mm / Video 35 min.
Hell on Wheels Gang Girls Forever!! HD Video / Super 8mm film 35 min.

I didn’t once handle cash in Iceland. I was supremely hosted by wealthy lesbians. I have patrons there, it seems. As a result I felt a bit like a dependent child, content to sleep in the back seat of the car, to go where they wanted to go and eat where and what they wanted to eat. They were paying, after all. I said “I’m easy like Sunday morning.” They laughed.

Director Katrina del Mar w Icelandic Pals at Bio Paradis in Reykjavik

Vera Sölvadóttir interviews Katrina del Mar for TV