From June 1992 to March 1995, in the midst of the AIDS crisis in NYC, an extraordinary theatrical collective emerged from underground called the Blacklips Performance Cult. Co-founded by ANOHNI with collaborators Johanna Constantine and Psychotic Eve and joined by a cabal of fellow artists, drag queens, punks, nightlife veterans and students, they performed a new play every Monday night at 1:00am at the now-closed Pyramid Club on Avenue A.
Companion Compilation, Blacklips Bar: Androgyns and Deviants — Industrial Romance for Bruised and Battered Angels, 1992–1995, Out March 10th;
Blacklips never courted mainstream attention, however, the group left a sustaining impression within New York’s late night subculture by melding hysterical drag, surreal horror, and disconcerting tenderness. This March sees the release of a book and compilation offering an immersive dive into Blacklips Performance Cult: Blacklips: Her Life and Her Many, Many Deaths, co-authored by ANOHNI and Marti Wilkerson and published by Anthology Editions, will be released March 14th, and its companion compilation, Blacklips Bar: Androgyns and Deviants — Industrial Romance for Bruised and Battered Angels, 1992–1995, will be out March 10th. Both are available for pre-order now.
In Blacklips: Her Life and Her Many, Many Deaths, ANOHNI and Wilkerson lay bare the collective’s archives in photographs, scripts, and the assembled ephemera from more than one hundred and twenty original plays. Featuring images from newly digitized film and video recordings, texts from participants and audience members, and an introduction by Participant, Inc’sLia Gangitano, this expansive collection introduces to the twenty-first century the short-lived and ruthlessly creative phenomenon that was Blacklips.
The Blacklips Bar: Androgyns and Deviants — Industrial Romance for Bruised and Battered Angels, 1992–1995 compilation combines original recordings and select DJ tracks from the Blacklips vaults. The double album vinyl edition is illustrated and designed by ANOHNI, and includes previously unseen ephemera and extensive liner notes by the artist.
Staging collectively conceived plays set Blacklips apart from other expressions of creativity in nightlife of the era, aligning the group with predecessors such as The Cockettes, Angels of Light, Bloolips and Theater of the Ridiculous. Blacklips members built sets from garbage and industrial refuse that they found in the streets of the East Village, in homage to Jack Smith and the aesthetics of post apocalyptic punk. The group staged spectacles that were alternately surreal, slapstick, violent and absurd, often ended with a pile of bodies on stage.
As Blacklips was the first showcase for ANOHNI’s music, this compilation features remastered original recordings by ANOHNI, plus DJ tracks by artists including New York legend Joey Arias in his incarnation as BIllie Holiday, LA death rock founder Rozz Williams, avant-garde icon Diamanda Galás, UK punk pioneer Dave Vanian, underground actress Edith Massey, London surrealist Leigh Bowery and his band Minty, and studio recordings by coke, James F. Murphy, Sissy Fitt and Ebony Jet. Dialogue, sound effects and ambient textures add to the cacophony of passion, stark violence, beauty, heartbreak and maniacal humor.
The work of Blacklips Performance Cult was unearthed for the first time at 13 Ways to Die, a recent exhibit at Participant Inc. in NYC, hailed by The New Yorker’s Hilton Als as “exquisite, emotional, and haunting.” Leading into the book and compilation release, ANOHNI, Wilkerson and Laurie Anderson will join in conversation at the New York Public Library on March 9th. For more information, visit the New York Public Library’s site.
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