My Life in the Tearoom of Ghosts

Me as Victorya Spectre performing The Residue of a Thousand Hugs in the Summer of 2013 photo courtesy of Thor Stockman

Around ten years ago, I was included to be part of The International Center of Photography’s triennial exhibition. And as part of that participation I spawned an alter ego, a figure that would allow me to visit my old Times Square haunts and hopefully reflect a bit on the process of sanitation and redevelopment going on in the area, as well as to tie in my (then) current experience of working at ICP as a teacher and artist. At that point ICP was located on 6th Avenue and 43rd Street, not far from my old stomping grounds: in my teens I was drawn to the area and in the summer of 1980 I lived on 47th between 10th and 11th avenues. For my part of the Triennial I organized a selection of works from ICP’s collection related to queerness, activism and Times Square, created new pieces around the Museum’s café and bathrooms and led one of my classes through a selection of queer zines and activist art, ultimately including their discussion and the zines they made in response in the show itself as a kind of reading lounge. So it was combination of classroom, exhibition space, archive and lounge. Much like Times Square itself.

Then, during the run of the show, I dressed up as Victorya Spectre, an apparition from the old days who would walk through the neighborhood, making a pilgrimage to the various sites of porn theaters and “adult” bookshops that had served in part as my sexual classroom in the late 70’s. The Adonis, Show World, The Victory Theater (which is where Victorya gets her name from), all the converted or erased sites that I had prowled. Victorya’s outfit was meant to be clownish and odd, vaguely reminiscent of Mickey Mouse, but also unbranded, to stand in contrast to the folks who were making a living out of dressing up as Elmo or Batman for tourist pics. I wanted to be a sight in tribute to the eccentrics that I remembered as populating the streets of New York and San Francisco, folks who were moving landmarks of their own invention. I went out about five times during the run of the show, unscheduled and walked the streets for a couple of hours. If folks approached me, I stayed silent, but handed them this flyer:

The QR code points one to this tumblr page It’s a curatorial project/bulletin board that I’ve now maintained for ten years, which is kind of shocking to me. I’ve been digging in the archives a lot lately, for a couple of reasons, and it’s been heartening to see how many chances I’ve had to work through the same sorts of concerns: sex and art making, the streets and museums, creating and teaching, my movements across the places they intersect. I feel haunted by them these days just as I was haunting them ten years ago.

Spirits of the Streets 2013 a fictional ad for Victorya Spectre’s one and only porn film

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