Text & Interview: Karisa Senavitis
Photo: Olimpia Dior
Challenging patriarchal institutions, Coco Dolle left France to make a life in New York as artist and curator. Decades later, she’s established Milk and Night as her curatorial identity and Legacy Fatale is her feminist performance group. Currently, Dolle’s curating a transgressive performance series called “Trans-ville” at Catinca Tabacaru Gallery. The spectacle spills onto the street, stunning passers-by and drawing them into fleshy celebrations of gender transformation. Act Three will take place December 13th 7-9pm. During plans for Trans-ville, we emailed about what drives her art and what to (wo)manifest in 2018.
On your website for Milk and Night, you describe your work as curatorial activism. What are curatorial activism and “coammunition” building?
I consider my curatorial practice as a form of political activism. I try to conceptualize my projects while challenging the protocols. As a non-academic curator focused on feminist and inclusive conversations, I like to bring women, feminists, gender-fluid artists, queer, and male artists altogether. My curatorial methods are strongly built on my community building—one I have been (and continue to be) modeling from scratch since I moved to New York in 1997, 20 years ago. Curatorial activism is a term used by feminist Maura Reilly in her new book, Curatorial Activism: Toward an Ethics of Curating; It is recognized and discussed by a consensus of contemporary curators and thinkers. It addresses issues of discrimination and privileges in the Art World.
Can you describe your performance group, Legacy Fatale, and the kind of community you are building?
Legacy Fatale is my socially aware project, my dance art practice, my spiritual feminism, my utopian dream. I love to work outside the boundaries of the studio practice with my dancers. It all started as a site-specific performance art project for the gallerist Jeffrey Deitch’s Art Parade in 2008. I wanted to create an Army of Women. I based the concept on the historical archetype of the Greek Amazon Warriors. Since then, I have developed Legacy Fatale into a model of female leadership exploring concepts of territorialities. We also tackle notions of the phenomenology of the body within choreographed happenings and group workshops. Throughout the years, I have invited numerous artists, dancers, healers, photographers and sound and film creatives to participate and collaborate, building it into a multi-disciplinary and sensory project. We continuously perform in galleries, museum, artist-in-residence, and festivals. I document everything, self-building upon a historical legacy of punk-femaleness.
What drew you and continues to activate your feminism? Feminism takes so many forms, I’m curious how you would define it?
Feminism is a weapon against generic gender dynamics, dogmas, imperialism and colonialism. Feminism is my critical mode of existence: I am an anti-conformist. I never liked to be compartmentalized, that’s why I moved to New York. I developed my voice here in a spirit of a collaboration with a free voice. Though I believe we are all still in the process of defining what contemporary feminism is about. Personally, I would like my feminism to break through the institutional level and take a stand on educational dialogues and women’s empowerment. How can we teach communities to live with notions of inclusion and diversity? How do we integrate an intelligible feminine principle in history curriculums? How do we improve sexual education in schools?
Feminism is a weapon against generic gender dynamics, dogmas, imperialism and colonialism. Feminism is my critical mode of existence: I am an anti-conformist.
Let’s talk about Trans-ville … The event series takes “trans” as a point of departure into many realms. What definitions do you want to add to or explore? How do the performances do this?
TRANS-Ville is a curation inclusive of all transgressive voices, where I welcome both the beauty and the beast if I may say. Performers are invited to explore a type of Trans —Trans being a prefix to many articulations indeed, as in Transition, Transcendence, Transgender, Transcultural, Transparent, Transformation, et cetera. I carefully select a mosaic of genres and artists tackling feminist issues, gender norms, gender fluidity, gay rights, human rights, et cetera. I’m interested in artists that address multiple narratives. Each act is very different in content, emotion, and form. I like to say that TRANS-Ville is quite orgasmic!
It seems like the storefront window becomes a significant component of the event. Can you speak to the chance encounters pedestrians have with the performances?
Catinca Tabacaru’s storefront window is a pivotal component of TRANS-Ville. Here we embrace the peep show genres. We love when the whole street gathers and gazes in awe and disarray of what is going on in here! It definitely has the Jaw dropping effect. Act 1 saw the entire clientele of Barrio Chino restaurant cross the street over to us as Christen Clifford took her Wolf Woman naked act down the sidewalk and smudged her pussy juice all over the windows. Act 2 encountered multiple bypassers promptly stopped while collective Ultracultural Others’ Katie Cercone presented a wild voluptuous version of a bi-sexual Indian Goddess Kali and later as transgender Daniella LaGaccia injected herself with a live dose of hormones.
With Catinca Tabacaru Gallery, I feel we are able to offer a safe space for the emerging and the established artists exploring these “illegal” conducts. Catinca isn’t afraid of reaching outside the classic gallery sphere and she can handle transgressive ideas. We met many moons ago at Miami Art Basel as I was presenting my performance project and looked for the right opportunity to work together. For TRANS-Ville, she offers an authentic space without codifications. And it’s Carte Blanche for me as a curator. I love it.
Do you see Trans-ville in dialogue with Legacy Fatale or any particular works of your own?
Legacy Fatale will perform in Act 3 of TRANS-Ville December 13th. We will present a piece on TRANS-politics. So yes there is always some kind of parallel.
Can you talk about your plans for Act 3 on Dec. 13th and the artists that will be taking part?
I’m very excited about Act 3. We will start with an original performance act by famously outrageous artist Ann Liv Young, followed by the intellectual feminism of Heide Hatry, a transcultural dance by Jodie Lyn-Kee-Chow, a hypnotic trance choreographed by Legacy Fatale, a transgalactic piece by night-life artist Gage of the Boone, and we end with a festive soul act by singer-songwriter Jade De LaFleur. Pretty cool line-up, right?
Was Trans-ville conceived as 3 acts? – might it continue?
Catinca and I took inspiration by the Vaudeville genre and wanted to offer short “Acts” instead of performance events. We built the programming for 2017 in a series of three for her gallery space. We are working on 2018.
Recently sexual assault and harassment charges are grabbing headlines in the entertainment and art world … which led to #NOTSURPRISED. I saw you posted this on Instagram. Do you have any comment on this action or our current moment?
As a woman, I have experienced some form of predatory conduct in a male-dominated business. Hence my feminist inclined projects, Milk and Night curatorial and Legacy Fatale performance art. Both emanate from a strong desire to build through the art world independently from its power structures.
I noticed you meditate and I was curious, what do you wish for NYC in 2018? What energies do we need to connect to? And what would you like to manifest?
I meditate, I dance, I teach, I preserve a live independent spirit. It isn’t easy every day to feel connected to your true nature, to feel that you are breathing life the way you want it to be. Empowering others and giving space for personal growth, I feel, is important to participate in a greater energy transfer along the way. Manifesting financial sustainability, quality family life, and health balance is a daily concern. I also wish New York were less saturated by corporate culture. I nurture local endeavors and community building. I’m involved in multiple circles. I would manifest expansion, work travels, and continuous exciting collaborations starting 2018. My Legacy Fatale project will be in its first decade then. I wish to work on bigger platforms with substantial budgets. I’m ready for that.
Besides Act 3, would you like to plug any upcoming events/exhibitions/etc.?
The Future is female and there is a lot of good coming ahead! Stay tuned 😉