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Interview with Yishay Garbasz

March 3, 2013 |


Yishay Garbasz was born in 1970 and studied photography at Bard College in New York. She is a Berlin-based British-Israeli artist whose work delves deeply into social and political issues of identity, agency, human rights, and the construction of gender. She has exhibited widely in solo shows in galleries, museums, and photography festivals around the world. “Becoming” , a project in which Yisha photographed herself as a standing nude, every week, over the entire course of her SRS, was installed as a zoetrope with 28 images in the 2010 Busan Biennale in Korea. “Becoming” is also available as a flipbook. Garbasz’s “In My Mother’s Footsteps” (Hatje Cantz, 2009), a riveting contemporary journey through her mother’s survival of the Holocaust, was nominated for the German photo book prize and exhibited at Wako Works of Art, Ronald Feldman Fine Art, Norderlicht fotofestival, Chiang Mai Museum of Art, and Tokyo Wonder Site.

YISHAY: I’ve never given an interview specifically like this. I refused to do it in the past because I am not a trans woman. Another reason that I am weary of this kind of language is something learned from the disability movement experience with language: the usage of “disabled person” versus “person with a disability”, where a disability is only a single attribute of the person rather then a qualifier for personhood. “Trans woman” makes the ‘trans’ the bigger aspect and ‘woman’ the smaller aspect. I can only speak about my current understanding of myself. I don’t philosophise about gender because this is not my strength, my strength is making work, part of which is understanding myself better.

Yishay Garbasz is the 2013 Hadassah-Brandeis Institute Artist-in-Residence. For the month of April 2013, Yisha will be visiting New York, Boston and surrounding areas to meet and photograph Jewish women of trans experience.  Her month-long residency at the Women’s Studies Research Center will culminate in a multimedia exhibition of photographs, video and text generated during the residency. Through interviews and portraits, Garbasz will celebrate a segment of the Jewish population that has been little discussed until recently, showing her subjects with their loved ones and families, at their jobs, or in their homes. The exhibition will immediately follow and be on view for a minimum of six weeks at the Kniznick Gallery at the Women’s Studies Research Center (WSRC) at Brandeis University. If you would like to be part of this project, please contact “Ms. Yishay Garbasz” <>.

YISHAY: I learned to write at age 25 at Landmark College in the U.S. It’s a tiny tiny college. They pretty much did the impossible thing and taught me how to write. I still have horrible struggles with writing, but stuff actually does come out, however painfully and slowly, in spite of my dyslexia. Which is why it’s totally awesome and cool and still blows my mind the fact that I have two books published. Isn’t that crazy? …I struggle for words. That’s why I’m a visual artist. That’s before anyone told me that being a visual artist is all about writing applications. (laughs)

Becoming (book cover image) (Mark Batty pub., 2010) Book cover image composed of two Gyotaku prints in water soluable oils (a traditional style of Japanese rubbing, the contemporary version in which a fisherman makes an imprint of the fish he has caught in order to show its size

TOBARON: At your recent opening at Ron Feldman Gallery NYC, I remarked that with both “Becoming” (2008-2010), your zoetrope series of selfportraits before and after gender clarification surgery and “Eat Me, Damien” (2010),  by displaying your formaldehyde protected testicles in the gallery, you have done something that many transpeople might have imagined allegorically, or even joked about – but you’ve actualized the punchline and enacted it. 

YISHAY: The “Eat Me Damien” piece is really about addressing Damien Hirst and his contemporaries that do this kind of conceptual art, more of an aggressive business model to art making.

What I’m suggesting is that I can use the same conceptual framework, but make a personal artwork and at the same time laugh at them, or point a sarcastic eye at them or whatever. Mostly, it’s a social critique. The piece looks at predatory art practices, predatory commercial practices. There’s a lot of this type of conceptual art making, and this piece is intended, designed and inspired to make you think about that.

TOBARON: Yep! I’ve been calling them your ‘kreplach’.

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Interview with Nina Arsenault

December 12, 2012 |

On Dec 13 to 15, 2012 Nina Arsenault will be exhibited in a 72 hour performance installation which echoes her involuntary 3 day incarceration in a mental institution in 2005. At 8pm each night N.A. will perform a workshop of her new performance piece OPHELIA/MACHINE.

Video Fag. 187 Augusta, Toronto, Canada.
Open to the public starting at 6pm Dec 13 – 15.
Reading of new script-in-progress at 8pm nightly.

This interview was conducted in Summer – Fall 2012, and is an excerpt from Tobaron Waxman’s forthcoming book, “Trans women Artists: interviews with artists on the MTF spectrum” with forward by Susan Stryker (forthcoming 2013).

TW: In what you have been developing around live art as an act of service, there is a dynamic tension: you are simultaneously cultivating identity thru body and yet your work is not about a transition to citizenship or to personhood, it’s about service and self-nullification and it’s simultaneously glamourus. So it seems like you have simultaneously altered your physical appearance and cultivated uniquely trans relationship to the symbolic. Sometimes it seems like, watching your artistic trajectory, almost like the body of work is male-to-symbol rather than MTF?

NA: As a transwoman I always sought to understand my body as it was being viewed by others, from the outside. I wanted to know how passable I was, how beautiful I was, how plastic I was. I wanted to know the definitive objective image of myself that existed in reality so I wouldn’t embarrass myself by believing I was sexy, by believing I was beautiful. Of course, this is impossible. I don’t think any of us have a single objective body.

Nina Arsenault in Teotihuican, Mexico. Photo by Jordan Tannahill (2012)

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Lifestyles of the Beautiful and Suicidal: Interview with Stephanie Schroeder

September 9, 2012 |

Stephanie Schroeder’s memoir Beautiful Wreck: Sex Lies & Suicide will be released Monday, September 10. On the eve of the publication, I interviewed her about her captivating personal narrative of mental illness.

I can imagine that writing this book, or any book, would be especially difficult while dealing with mental health issues. How did you know that this was the right time to write your book?

I started writing Beautiful Wreck in 2004, in the middle of suicidal episodes, a bad relationship, and it was hard because I couldn’t even really deal with what was happening right under my nose. I worked on it on and off until 2008, when I became unemployed.
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Game On: Interview with Anna Anthropy

May 18, 2012 |

Anna Anthropy is a video game designer and the author of a new book, Rise of the Video Game Zinesters: How Freaks, Normals, Amateurs, Artists, Dreamers, Drop-outs, Queers, Housewives, and People Like You Are Taking Back an Art Form. PrettyQueer contributor, Bryn Kelly had a conversation with her recently about wrestling, cowgirl dykes, and taking over the world of gaming. She spoke with Bryn from her apartment in Oakland, California, which she shares with a couple of sleepy roommates, a kitten named Encyclopedia Frown, and a colony of hissing cockroaches.
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In Conversation With Newark Mayor Cory A. Booker

May 11, 2012 |

“I believe that Newark should be a just community.”

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Mayor Cory A. Booker, one of the most popular politicos in the US. Our conversation focused on a topic that is often overshadowed, if not wholly ignored, within mainstream media outlets reporting on the Mayor’s tenure and issues of concern within the city of Newark, NJ

Newark has been cast into the national spotlight with its appearance in Sundance Channel’s documentary series, Brick City, and as the location where Mark Zuckerberg invested $100 million in educational reform from his Facebook fortune. Yet, there is much more to know about New Jersey’s largest city, especially as it relates to the many remarkable strides that have been made on behalf of the LGBTQ community in Newark.
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Heel the World: Interview with Ceyenne Doroshow

May 7, 2012 |

“You know, not every trans woman is a perv, slinging around a pole and butt-clapping,” says Ceyenne Doroshow, elegant lady chef and author of the new memoir cookbook Cooking in Heels, set to be released this August. “I’m happy being who I am. I have a full life. At the pantry where I volunteer, I hand out condoms to senior citizens. On the 19th of May I’m trying to get a mobile testing unit there for World AIDS Day. I do a lot.”

Doroshow, a trans woman, activist, educator, and, of course, chef, has always been an avid lover of all things culinary. She’s also keen on storytelling and the intersection of cooking and healing. “If it wasn’t for the kitchen, I don’t know where I’d be today.”

Photo: Stacie Joy

She took some time to speak to PrettyQueer contributor Katie Liederman about glamour, mentorship, pig parts, and her new book.

Katie Liederman: What’s the most glamorous outfit you have ever cooked in?

Ceyenne Doroshow: I once cooked in a Dolce and Gabbana wrap gown. When you walk in it, your leg comes out. It looks like Morticia Adams’ gown– basic black. All you need are earrings – not even a necklace. I made tempura in it.

PQ: How do you cook in those nails?

CD: Well, normally my nails aren’t that long. I wore them that long for the video we taped for our kickstarter. But I’ve been cooking for so long. I can burn myself and keep going. I can cook anywhere in nails– even at a fireside by a campsite. I get so much enjoyment out of cooking. Even if I’m upset, I can just tune out everybody and hum.
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Dean Spade Speaks On CeCe McDonald Trial

May 2, 2012 |

Dean Spade, legal scholar and founder of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, was in attendance today in Minneapolis at the CeCe McDonald trial. PrettyQueer was able to interview him hours after the announcement that she would be accepting the plea deal that will take her back to prison. Dean’s first-hand account is recorded below.

Tom Léger: Why don’t we start with what happened today in court.

Dean Spade: Yesterday was jury selection, and that hadn’t finished. They had only selected ten jurors by the end of yesterday. And then today, what was anticipated was that they would continue jury selection and begin the trial. I got here, along with the support team, at around 8:30 in the morning and we waited in the hallway.

I have never worked with any trans woman locked up who is in a women’s facility. Trans women are in men’s facilities all across the US facing enormous violence.

At about 11:30 or 11:45, they brought folks in and it was to do a plea deal. They did not continue jury selection. Basically what that means is that CeCe took the stand and her lawyer went through with her the facts of the evening she was attacked, and then the prosecutor and judge asked her a few questions and she pled guilty.

The plea deal is second degree manslaughter and a sentence of forty-one months. All of the time that she has served since last June will be counted, and also people here anticipate about one-third of the sentence will be given as “good time,” so she’ll probably serve about twenty-one months or twenty months.

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Christine Quinn Was a Cute Dyke When She Was Young

April 22, 2012 |

Ted Kerr’s 5-part photo essay on gentrification in lower Manhattan inspired by the 2012 book The Gentrification of The Mind by Sarah SchulmanRead More

Interview with the Producers of United in Anger: A History of ACT-UP

February 10, 2012 |

Jim Hubbard and Sarah Schulman have been collaborators for 25 years. In the mid-eighties, when Ed Koch was mayor of NYC and queers were fighting to pass a bill that would keep them from being denied housing and thrown out of restaurants, Jim was filming the queer movement and Sarah was covering it as a reporter of the gay newspaper the New York Native. The AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power (ACT-UP) was formed in February 1987 and both Jim and Sarah joined.  Jim and Sarah also founded the MIX Festival (The New York Queer Experimental Film Festival) that same year and the ACT-UP Oral History Project in 2001 where they have collected over 100 video interviews of ACT-UP members.

In Close to the Knives: A Memoir of Disintegration, David Wojnarowicz wrote: “A camera in some hands can preserve an alternate history.” We are very fortunate indeed that Jim and Sarah have worked so hard to preserve this history that differs sharply from the one told by mainstream media. The resultant feature-length documentary, United in Anger: A History of ACT-UP, is an inspirational film told from the point of view of the activists themselves and features rare archival footage of ACT-UP actions and meetings as well as interviews from the oral history project. Tickets for the February 16th world premiere go on sale today at the MoMA box office for the general public. (MoMA members may purchase their tickets online now.)

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PQ Interview with CeCe McDonald

February 6, 2012 |

Chrishaun “CeCe” McDonald is a young African American trans woman currently being charged with two counts of second degree murder following an incident on June 5th, 2011. Her case has drawn international attention and sparked a groundswell of community support. CeCe spoke to PrettyQueer on December 12th.

To find out more about the case and learn how you can help visit: Support CeCe and FreeCeCe McDonald on facebook.

You can also sign the petition to free her.
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Interview with Raafat Hattab

October 15, 2011 |

Editor’s note: Raafat Hattab’s work will be screened at “Queer/Palestinian: Critical Strategies and Subjectivities in Palestinian Queer/Women’s Filmmaking”. October 20, 7 pm, Yale University. October 21, 4-6, Hagop Kevorkian Center, New York University, 50 Washington Square South.

Raafat Hattab رأفت حطاب is a genderqueer Palestinian performance artist from Jaffa يافا. He uses his own body, family history, and language in his work. There is also a strong element of costume. We met in 2006, when I lived in South Tel Aviv and he showed me warm hospitality in his family home in Jaffa.  I co-curated his video and live art in 2008 in Ottawa, Canada at Saw Gallery, in “Radical Drag: Transformative Performance” a highly successful group show about artists complicating drag in political ways.  In much of his work, Raafat performs in a non-traditional drag as an MTF persona, ‘Arouse Falastine’ (The Bride of Palastine) عروس فلسطين. The Bride of Palestine is a traditional Palestinian reference to the ancient port city of Jaffa.
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Interview with the Ghost of Angela Carter

October 11, 2011 |

(Editorial note: Imogen says she did this interview with the ghost of English writer Angela Carter- who died of lung cancer in 1992- with a haunted ouija board.)

PQ: Hi Ms. Carter. Thank you for doing this interview.

GOAC: Totes.

PQ: For any of our readership unfamilar with your work, would you mind characterizing it?

GOAC: Of course! I was an English novelist and journalist, known for my feminist, magical realism, and picaresque works.

PQ: That’s it?

“I don’t know why we thought…that the brutality of patriarchy was solely the province of cis women, as if it were…something that lived inside your chest and wasn’t impacted by the world outside your ribcage.”

– Ghost of Angela Carter

GOAC: Well I don’t want to brag.

PQ: Okay I will brag for you: Between the mid-sixties and the mid-eighties, you had one of the broadest bodies of work of maybe any other writer alive: you wrote poetry, fiction, nonfiction, plays, adaptations of your own work and that of others for the screen, and curated anthologies. You were on the right side of the sex wars; I usually think that nonfiction is boring, but your book The Sadeian Woman and the Ideology of Pornography is a classic- and, characteristically in your body of work, iconoclastic- feminist re-reading of the Marquis De Sade, in which one of the most important themes was the relationship between power- social, cultural, and otherwise- and sexuality. I mean, it was basically Foucaultian, contemporaneous with Foucault, a more explicitly perspective on a lot of similar ideas.

GOAC: Well, sure.
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Q&A With Vaginal Davis

August 13, 2011 |

“The maladjusted rule, baby! People who are mindlessly happy and adjusted are inert.”

Vaginal Davis is the key proponent of the disruptive performance aesthetic known as terrorist drag. Disrupting the cultural assimilation of gay-oriented and corporate-friendly drag, she positions herself at an uncomfortable tangent to the conservative politics of gay culture, mining its contradictory impulses to interrupt the entrenchment of its assimilatory strategies. A self-labeled “sexual repulsive,” Davis consistently refuses to ease conservative tactics within gay and black politics, employing punk music, invented biography, insults, self-mockery, and repeated incitements to group sexual revolt — all to hilarious and devastating effect. 

Q: So, you were living in L.A. for centuries. I understand that you were evicted from your historic 1920s apartment there in 2002. That is so fucked up. And now you have blessed Berlin with your presence. Did you by any chance have a premonition that the U.S. economy would collapse? Do you have a bunker prepared for the apocalypse?

Photo Credit:

A: Yes I was evicted from my huge, heritage flat in 2002 and being that I am pychic or one of my performance personas is a psychic — The Whoracle et Delphi — it wasn’t completely a surprise. But when one door closes another one opens, sounds cliché and trite but it’s completely true, and getting evicted has led to a better life here on the European continent. It’s funny you should mention it but I had been saying in my performances since the mid-1990s that advanced capitalism or disaster capitalism was on the decline and that the U.S. and the West was heading for a big calamity. I don’t have a bunker in anticipation of the apocalypse, but as a sworn Armageddonist I certainly believe that some cataclysmic event is going to rid the earth of destructive mankind. I’m all ready for a new species to take full control of the planet. I believe it and I fully own in to it. Human beings had their chance now it’s time for something else.

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Interview with Filmmaker Tiona McClodden

July 29, 2011 |

PQ: I first met you back in 2008 when you were screening Black Womyn Conversations at Zami at the New School and if I remember correctly that film was a real labor of love that took like 7 years or something –

TM: Yeah, 6 years. Yeah, yeah.

PQ: Can you talk about how that project came about and what that process was like?

Tiona McClodden. Photo by Morgan Goode

TM: It was the project that I wanted to make once I realized or had access to the tools to actually make it. Because I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker but I didn’t know exactly how to make films. I came from South Carolina, didn’t have access to any kind of video camera or anything like that.  The first time I really even put hands on a video camera was when I was in college. So the idea really was kind of like a organic thing – oh this is what I’m gonna do once I get the tools – but I was thinking about my own experience because I wasn’t too far from it.
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Baby, One More Time

July 28, 2011 |

Have you ever seen an adult baby? If you watch basic cable, there’s a good chance you have. This past Sunday, July 24th, The Learning Channel’s My Strange Addiction featured transgender blogger, techie, entrepreneur and fetish model Riley Kilo, and her interest in the adult baby lifestyle. You can check out the show’s trailer here to get a sense of how it turned out. I caught up with Riley at Nowhere Bar in the East Village and we talked about her love of diapers, Ichi the Killer, her issues with Lady Gaga, and what life is like in this, her sixteenth minute of fame.

PQ: When I got here, you were standing in front of the bar smoking a cigarette. My first thought was, “babies don’t smoke!”

Riley Kilo: I don’t smoke all the time, but I picked it up when I moved to New York City because it’s fucking crazy here. I guess since the TV show, people think that I’m a baby all the time, but I’m just a normal person. I like drinking beer and I like hanging out and I smoke pot. I used to be really involved in drugs in California, and really just kind of “out there.” Working at bars and venues, and being around all these crazy cultures and scenes.

I’m really cute and cuddly, and that’s how I like to express myself, but the more consistent thing I get from other adult babies is like, “Wow, you’re a lot more hardcore and a lot more gangsta than I thought you’d be.” There are definitely parts of my personality that exist from living on the streets in California for a long time.

But at the same time, Riley Kilo, the baby, is almost like, my brass ring of personalities. Like, I wish I could always be Riley Kilo, but, you know, this is a tough world, and you can’t be an adult baby all the time.

I’m kind of hung over, actually.

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PrettyQueer Exclusive: (Possibly Fictional) Interview with Chaz Bono

July 11, 2011 |

Editorial note: Imogen swears that this is a real interview that happened in the real world, but to be frank, we at PrettyQueer don’t believe her, and want to be explicit that we are running it as fiction.

A week or so ago, I got an e-mail from Chaz Bono, asking to be interviewed on PrettyQueer. Stoked for the opportunity, I emailed back and forth with him a couple times, just to make sure that his interest in PQ was sincere; I’d have a hard time even expressing how many important celebrities are clamoring for space here. But after a couple of exchanges, I felt like his interest was coming from a good place, and also like he would be willing to answer difficult questions if they came up– an instinct that proved true. He invited me to Café Gratitude in San Francisco for this interview, where we shared the I Am Grateful, an I Am Grounded, and– the boring appropriateness was noted and mocked off-record– the I Am Transformed.

It’s interesting and worth noting that our whole process didn’t involve his publicist in any way.

PrettyQueer: Ok cool I think it’s recording. Hi Chaz, and thank you for offering to do an interview with PrettyQueer!

Chaz Bono: No problem! Thanks for having me. You know, I don’t really identify as queer in any way, but I’m always happy to help out a cool project, and I really respect the work that you and the other folks at PQ are doing. And I have some things that I want to talk about.

PQ: You mean after that New York Times article, and that “Becoming Chaz” documentary.

CB: Yeah, definitely. I’ve been thinking about stuff a lot, and talking to some folks about some stuff… see, there was some pretty intense backlash against some stuff I said, both in that article and in that documentary, but not from the places I was expecting it to come from. I was prepared for conservative folks not to get it, and like, old people, religious people, y’know– the people from whom we’re told to expect intolerance. But most of those folks have been surprisingly cool! I’ve been getting more static from the queer community, like folks with more aggressive critiques of our culture. Even though ike I said I don’t identify as gay or queer or anything, that stuff really hurt my feelings- accusations of misogyny, for example, that I’ve been essentializing masculinity, specifically by conflating testosterone with this callous, uncritically privileged way of being a man. Embodying hegemony, basically?

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