Monday, November 30, 2009

Guadalajaratrippin' Pt. 1 - Vexing in Mexico

I just returned from Guadalajara where I participated in the opening of Vexing: Female Voices from East LA, an exhibition tracing the history of Chicanas from East LA who have been defining punk from the late seventies to the present. The exhibit, which opened at The Claremont Museum about a year ago, is now residing at the MUSA (Museo de las Artes de la Universidad de Guadalajara).

I'm not going to tell you all about the International Book Fair, or about Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa coughing up a politically correct answer when asked whether or not he liked punk rock (he likes all kinds of music)...seemed sort of odd that he would deliver a speech in a museum surrounded by punk mujeres if he doesn't really like punk but I guess he likes mujeres well enough.

Hmmm, I guess I'm feeling a little mean spirited today. I'm still irritated. My ego took its own little trip when I walked into the rotunda at the MUSA and noticed that there were histories of my two Las Tres bandmates and none of me. This area appeared to be the historical epicenter of the exhibit and although there were pictures of me and other female artists in different rooms, the absence of any written history of my contributions as an OG ELA punkera who was playing punk rock earlier than any of the women in that exhibit pissed me off.

"Did you fly me out to Guadalajara just to write me out of history?" I hissed at curator Pilar Tompkins.

"No, of course not. There are pictures of you in other rooms."

"At Claremont, you at least mentioned The Bags and showed where we fit into this history, but here - there's nothing." Pilar looked upset. I felt like a mean ole bully so I decided to walk away and wait until I could ambush co-curator Colin Gunckel and see if I could get an answer from him. I pulled him aside and asked him the same question. Colin apologized and said it had been an oversight because setting up the exhibit had been extremely difficult. I continued to press the issue. “I think there has been some confusion all along about what this show is trying to be. Is it about female punks from East LA? Is it about The Vex? Is it about the evolution of Chicana music?” My questions and accusations upset Colin. This was supposed to be a fun night. Although I was angry, I consider Colin a friend so I gave him a few choice words, accepted his apology and decided to move on.

Colin and I are remarkably elastic and we had no trouble jumping back into party mode after our little heart to heart. The crowd at the opening was a strange mix of suits and punks; highbrows sipping champagne from flutes eyed the teen punks suspiciously. It was a little tense. My bandmates and I had to run after the waiters to snag flutes off the trays as they tried to avoid us. When I walked back to where the flutes were being filled, the waiter pointed to a nicely dressed woman with perfectly flat-ironed hair and said, "She is telling us who we can give champagne to." I knew the woman. She was one of my fluffers who only a little while earlier had been telling me how happy she was that I was here and how much she respected my work. I had wondered then if she was a friend or faux, now I had my answer.

I showed him my lanyard and pointed to the words "Invitada de Honor" but he blew me off. Grrr... so much bullshit. This time I ran after the waiter and caught up to him just as he approached a group standing near the woman. He started handing out the champagne, deliberately avoiding me. A gentleman in the group handed me his flute and I thanked him with my best smile as the waiter huffed off to bring the approved guest a glass of champagne. Daggers from Miss Flat-Ironed cheered my heart.

Artist and musician Angie Garcia had designed furry panocha patches for us to pin onto our clothes. "Panocha" is slang for pussy in Mexico, and we wanted to put our pussy in their faces so my bandmates and I pinned the faux fur creations onto different parts our clothes. Bassist Sharon Needles pinned her triangular patch on her pants right over her real panocha, causing a few passersby to do a double take. I walked around the room using my panocha as a conversation starter.

"What do you think of my panocha?" I asked one man in a suit.

"What?" he asked nervously.

"My panocha pin, do you like it? He laughed warmly and stopped to talk to me and I was reminded not to judge people by their suits (my own hubby wears one everyday).

A breath of fresh air blew in with the Sirens who were just the right mix of cute, loud and irreverent. They stood in front of the screen where footage of one of their concerts was being projected and rocked out while the paparazzi (me included) snapped away. LOVE THEM!

It's funny but the whole us vs. them atmosphere made me enjoy the opening even more. It reminded me of what we were all riled up about in the early days of punk, this whole gentrification of what had once been an anti-establishment rebellion movement. It made me wish Jessee Zeroxed had been there to throw beer at his own artwork!

Later, The Sirens, our band (Teresa, Judy, Sharon, PK, Angie and I) and our other droogies all followed pie-eyed piper Colin Gunckle over to the Pulp Bar where the smoothest tequila and coldest buckets of beer awaited us. It wasn't long before we were all shouting "Panocha! Panocha! Panocha!" and the barkeep had to come over to our table. Instead of shushing us, she handed us Sharpies and asked us to go autograph her bathroom walls, which we did happily. Halfway through the second bottle of tequila, jet lag hit us so we said our goodbyes and went back to our hotel rooms to get some sleep.

Stayed tuned for Part 2 tomorrow.

Playing Pet The Panocha in Guadalajara. Video courtesy of Danny Hound Dog.


LouisJacinto said...


Colin said...

I didn't hear the whole champagne story! Whoa! I have something to tell you about THAT the next time we talk. Back storay!!!
Flat ironed hair? Mmmm...I'm trying to narrow it down. Ha.
On another note, I think your comments to me were/are completely and totally on point. Honestly, it was an unfortunate and boneheaded oversight (and as you mention, compounded by the complexities of preparing a show between Ann Arbor/LA/GDL), and I think this incarnation of "Vexing" definitely suffers for it. So I'm not satisfied with it either. And I take full responsibility.
There are a number of reasons I agreed to curate the show in the first place - and at the top of the list is paying proper and accurate tribute to those that have been overlooked or under-appreciated by previous versions of this history. So if we get the history wrong or don't give it justice - I haven't properly repaid the trust you've placed in me.
I appreciate your honesty about this issue, Alice.
On a different and more positive note - I think one of the most important reasons for doing the show in Guadalajara was for the young folks there. And on that score it was an immense success, much of which we owe to you, Teresa, Angie, Judy, Sharon, Patricia, The Sirens and Lysa. I don't think Guadalajara will ever be the same after that show, and they are clearly inspired by your trailblazing. You rocked the fokin crowd!!!
Mil gracias por todo tu hard work, dedication, and just for being who the hell you are.
Talk to you soon! said...

Dear Alice, Sounds like Guadalajara was just Fun City for all who was there. Our Mayor, "La Josicona" is rather "elastic" as are most politicians, ergo his omnivorous taste in music. The gaffe in the historical allocation NOT given to you in this pivotal exhibit is inexcusable and should be remedied even if it takes guerilla tactics of pasting up a placard at the venue after the opening! History is history and we have to stop rewriting it and/or letting it slide due to error. It seems like you not only wore your "Panocha" on your lapel, but you put it where it counts in registering your pique at being omitted, or like a friend of mine mother would say: "se lo dijiste en la fokin' cara!" Louis and I are greatly disappointed at not being able to attend. I hope someone has had the forethought of carefully capturing the show in camera to post online. I have not been able to see his pictures as they were placed in the show. I'm sure Colin and Pilar had mucho on their cabezitas putting this up and together. I just hope they can "fix" the error for the run of the show. With mucho carino, Kene J. Rosa

Anonymous said...

all i can say is you answered a lot of questions I had.
i would go on, but i will not.
thanks for the report Alice.

Anartkista "Ana" said...

Herstory ...the world want's your herstory too!! Leaving Alice Bag's herstory out of this exhibit it's like leaving the rice out of "arroz con leche" and that is NOT right! In order to make the exhibit a COMPLETE,they need to add your herstory too, ONLY then will it be complete.
Ana Chaidez

Colin said...

Ok, just a point of clarification: Alice is not excluded from the exhibition at all. So ya'll don't get the wrong idea. There are photos and materials aplenty that register her presence and contributions. At issue is the way that Vexing unfolds in a different space and on a different scale. It is admittedly not as effective as Claremont and does not fully articulate her position within that narrative. With hindsight (and being able to actually see the space in advance), we could have properly adjusted the map and didactics to make up for this and give her the proper tribute.
While I do agree with Alice's comments, those who haven't traveled to Guadalajara to attend the events or to see the show themselves are certainly not informed enough to criticize it or pass judgment.

Alice Bag said...

I want to thank each of you for commenting on my entry and also those of you who phoned and contacted me privately. I want to reassure everyone that the matter has been resolved. I am certain that Colin understands my desire to be presented in historical context and I trust that he will do his best to correct the situation in whatever way is possible. I also want to be honest with you and with myself. Ever since I was invited to participate in this exhibit I've felt like an outsider to the East L.A. scene. Last year when the exhibit was in Claremont the curators assured me that this exhibit was about more than the East L.A. scene which was centered around the Vex, they said it sought to include the work of Chicanas both before, during and after that time. Nonetheless I've felt a bit insecure and unclear about my role. I participated in Vexing because as a long time companion of Teresa Covarrubias and Angela Vogel I have the utmost respect for them and over the years I have come to think of them as part of my extended musical family. I also felt honored to be in the company of so many talented younger women because it's exciting to see their careers taking off. It is very probable that my insecurity made me sensitive to the lack of written history about me. I know that the curators and everyone involved in the show worked very hard at putting it together and I don't want the work of all the artists who contributed to this project or the exhibit itself tainted by a very brief episode in a much larger story. Vexing does pay tribute to the evolution of Chicana music from the late 70s to the present, so if you can, go see it!