DIVA: What can we expect from you at
Kembra Pfaler: It's the first time 'The
Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black' have played in London. My band is
essentially a basic meat and potatoes rock and roll band. We
activate our props and sculptures and have a performance element,
which makes us a little more transgressive. I'm from Los Angeles
and grew up seeing the first wave of punk rock like Lydia Lunch,
The Screamers, Johanna Went and X. I wanted to start something and
I knew it had to be different - thus Karen Black was born.
Who would be on your bill if you were curating
Antony and I have similar taste. I think he's one of the most
important artists alive today, a visionary. He invites us all to
wonder what we're doing here. Antony is very provocative and
serious in the gentlest way. I like a lot of the same artists as
him but also singers like Dionne Warwick and Burt Bacharach and the
valley of the dolls soundtrack. I have a background in film and I
love beach movies and sixties culture so I'd bring in that
You're a founder of Future Feminism. What's your
The whole world is changing and art and culture are changing. I
remember reading books by Philip K. Dick, who was always
threatening 'the future will be here soon!' The future is here now.
Technology is unrecognisable from ten years ago. Feminism in New
York City is a very uncool thing. The women's movement has been
ignored. The future is now and we're all living in this surreal
state of quasi-destructive modernism. There has to be a change in
the way we think as well as the way we act and it should be through
feminism and female thought. We want to broaden feminism. It
shouldn't just be for the western world. Feminism should be
activated in countries like Afghanistan where women are in a state
How important are art and culture in working through
issues of politics and gender?
Art heals. Art is the opposite of war. Creativity is one of the
nice things we can share as humans. I could have grown up to be a
language instructor and that might've been equally helpful. But art
is important in making the world a more beautiful place. I'm not
interested in being a superstar; I'm interested in being an
Do you court a cult following?
I don't really believe in followers, I don't like the idea of
celebrity. There are kids that work for me in Karen Black that I
could be working for next year. I think generating a following is
too hard. We want to instigate activity, but I don't know how culty
we are. I'm always surprised that people know us at all, if people
like me online they end up in the band! When I first started the
record companies in LA said if I looked like a regular girl I'd get
a record contract. I'm glad I didn't concede because now the future
is here we can be completely independent. The whole art world is
changing; the systems are crumbling.
How have you seen the 'underground' change?
It's a privilege to be allowed to be an artist for so many
years. Most of my friends died of AIDS in the eighties. It's so
amazing to have got all these extra years. I'm not very nostalgic,
I call it 'yesterbating', and can't stand people who say 'New York
used to be more interesting in the eighties' - if you think that
then clearly you're not paying attention now. The eighties weren't
a party. It was a really difficult time, like being in Vietnam or
World War One and seeing everyone get their heads blown off.
How important is your gay audience to you?
Straight people don't like me! We're a threat to straight
culture and that makes people uncomfortable. When I got to New York
I met Jack Smith and Quentin Crisp. The queer community never
ostracised me for looking or thinking differently.
Your work straddles art, performance, poetry, punk and
fashion, which art form are you most comfortable with?
I'm an availablist, someone that makes the best use of what's
available to them. It also depends on money. If I don't have the
money to book a recording studio, I'll draw more.
Do you ever take a day off from being a performance
artist and do something hideously mainstream like go to
Playboy and MAC cosmetics sponsor me. Hell yeah, I can get up at
8am and go to a business meeting - I've got the outfit! And
Starbucks is the only bathroom you can use in New York City.
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