— While at CalArts for graduate school from 1990 to 1992 I had the fortune of bonding with a group of fearless and powerful young women. Catherine Lord had just left as Dean of the School of Art, so feminism and gender equality were key topics. Tom Lawson stepped in as Dean and created an open atmosphere that allowed for experimentation; frankly, he looked the other way with some of our antics. These women included Denise Prince, Beata Henrichs, Ann Faison, and the Hubshman sisters (Linda and Sandy)—just to name a few. I was invited by Denise and Beata to join Speaker Death, a conceptual all-girls band they had formed, named after a KTEL album. The band began as an advertising campaign with DIY fliers before any of us even picked up an instrument. We eventually performed on a regular basis, jointly writing songs that were solely about women—Denise on drums, Beata on base, me on guitar and Linda as our kickass lead singer. I was in my first year of the graduate program, they in their 4th year of the BFA program. I was simply in awe. They were the most beautiful, powerful and outrageous women I had ever met. When Speaker Death finally played we borrowed instruments from the likes of Eddie Ruscha, Sam Durant, Adam McEwen and Anthony Burden. On the subject of feminism the school was somewhat ideologically divided between a focus on theory or behavioral action, with my group corresponding to the latter. At times we went too far, but we pushed boundaries in our search for empowerment. Nothing was off limits. Some of our behaviors resulted in a number of performances and, of course, the band was at the center. With their support I was determined to overcome some of my greatest fears, as well as push social boundaries. I don’t think I could pursue the current political direction of my work and activism if not for these formative years.
The particular performance shown in the video clip took place at an alternative space called The Other 15 Minutes, in 1990. The three performers are Denise Prince, myself, and Ann Faison, from left to right. We wanted to unhinge some of the sexual stereotypes of femininity, as well as literalize other male sexual fantasies in attempts to undermine them. I was thinking about a “Give’em their fantasies and scare ‘em” approach. We decided to make a satirical piece commenting on the fact that men always pee in public, yet women rarely do. The performance was an attempt to parody sexy female dancers epitomized in the 1980s weekly TV show Solid Gold, a program that played the top 10 music hits for the week. The show had a very tacky and sexy group of dancers called the Solid Gold Dancers. The New York Times referred to the program as “the pop music show that is its own parody…[enacting] mini-dramas…of covetousness, lust and aerobic toning—routines that typically have a minimal connection with the songs that back them up.” Denise Prince named our performance, “Gold in Unison”. She lent the footage to me so that I could present it here. Many thanks to our male background dancers; if you look carefully you will see Adam McEwen. Denise is still a close friend and huge inspiration. Currently she is making the most incredible work of her life that challenges my own, like few other contemporary practices.
Andrea Bowers received her MFA from CalArts and currently lives, works and teaches in Los Angeles, CA. Since 2003 Bowers’ work has focused primarily on direct action and non-violent civil disobedience enacted through the lives of mainly women. She presents the stories of activists to express her belief that dissent is essential to maintaining a democratic process, as well as to illustrate the importance of a political strategy that stands in opposition to violence and war.
Bowers recent solo exhibitions include THE POLITICAL LANDSCAPE at Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, MERCY MERCY ME at Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York, which also traveled to the MCA Sydney, and NI UNA MUERTE MAS at the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens. Recent group shows include DRAWN FROM PHOTOGRAPHY at the Drawing Center, NY, THE LAST NEWSPAPER at the New Museum, NY, THE SEVENTH HOUSE at Project Row Houses, Houston, and PROGRESS at the Whitney Museum of Art, New York. She was also included in the 2004 Whitney Biennial and the 2008 California Biennial and has exhibited at Secession in Vienna, REDCAT, Los Angeles and Artpace, San Antonio. Bowers is a 2008 United States Artists Broad Fellow and 2009 Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation grant recipient.