Posted on May 10, 2012 by in Talks

    Annie Sprinkle hosts her old friend Diane Torr, whose history as a performance artist, workshop leader and activist stretches back to the 1970s and through many contexts, from performative to activist, academic to street.

    In the 1970s Diane Torr studied and explored new dance and the work of Susan Sontag, Yvonne Rainer, and John Cage, among others. Political analysis and action entwined with her artmaking — working for feminist newspaper Majority Report, she met leading feminist/activists such as Kate Millet, Shere Hite, Susan Brownmiller and Valerie Solanas – and she developed her performance work at the same time. Torr joined all-girl art band, DISBAND, which had a core group of members, Martha Wilson (Director of Franklin Furnace Art Archives), Ingrid Sischy (editor of Interview Magazine), Donna Henes (self-proclaimed urban shaman), Ilona Granet (painter), and others who visited and contributed songs, such as visual artist, Barbara Kruger.

    While working as a go-go dancer from 1979-81 Torr created a performance with other go-go dancers called WOW-a-Go-Go, for the WOW (Women of the World) Theatre Festival in New York in 1981, the first time that “exotic dancers” had been seen at a Women’s Festival — this caused a certain amount of outrage, especially from Women Against Pornography.

    Torr began performance in drag in the early 1980s with a dance commission from Dansspace, New York, working together with visual artist Bradley Wester on a piece called Arousing Reconstructions (1982), in which each cross-dressed. Within the performance, they showed the results of research in developing an androgynous movement vocabulary in the form of a dance tableau which contained the archetypal male and female gestures, such as Rodin’s “The Thinker” image, Marilyn Monroe’s hand-over-mouth sexy gasp, and so on, aided conceptually by the writings of Deleuze, Guattari and Michel Foucault.

    Torr began teaching Drag King Workshops in New York in 1990 with make-up artist and FTM transsexual, Johnny Science. These workshops became very popular and were documented by BBC TV, The Washington Post, The Village Voice, London Independent, der Spiegel, and other publications. Her performance, Drag Kings and Subjects, became her signature piece, shown in venues and festivals throughout the US, Europe, and Brazil. Another popular work dealing with cross-dressing is an installation, Ideal Homo (1999), which is a series of photographs of Torr and Diva editor, Jane Czyzselska, dressed as a gay male couple, accompanied by a text and soundscore. Ideal Homo has been shown in galleries all over the world. In October 2010, her book, Sex, Drag and Male Roles; Investigating Gender as Performance, co-authored by Stephen Bottoms and published by University of Michigan Press, was released. A feature film, Man for a Day, based on Torr’s workshop and performance work, premiered at the 62nd Berlinale Film Festival in February 10 this year.

    About the Center for Sex & Culture:

    The Center for Sex & Culture is a three-time winner of the SF Bay Guardian’s Best of the Bay award (Best Emerging Sex Non-profit, 2005, Best Erotic Resurrection for its Erotic Reading Circle, 2007, and Best Contest for Wankers, 2009) and was included in SF Weekly’s 2005 Best Of San Francisco listing as “Best Place to Watch Pornos (and Be Considered Intellectual)” and as its 2011 winner as “Best Palace of Self-Pleasure.” CSC hosts educational and cultural events having to do with sexuality for adults of every orientation and gender that span the continuum from didactic to experiential. It maintains a sexuality library, archive and gallery, and supports sex-related research projects. CSC is a 501(c)(3) educational organization; for more detail, to sign up for twice-monthly e-mailed event updates and/or its press list, please email carol@sexandculture.org. To peruse the events calendar or learn more about the Center for Sex & Culture, seewww.sexandculture.org or visit our Tumblr site: http://centersexculture.tumblr.com/. CSC is on Facebook and tweets at @ CentrSexCulture.

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