The only way to define the art of Lydia Lunch is simply not to.
Hailed by the Boston Phoenix as "one of the 10 most influential performers of the 90's", no other artist of the 20th century has fought, forged, punched, and sculpted their own artistic vision in such a uniquely original way. Defying categorization, Lydia Lunch actively has conquered new territories, and has gained international recognition for the innovative quality of her work.
Through music, books, spoken word performances, film, video, photography, poetry and a multitude of creative endeavors, Lydia Lunch has proven to be one of the most interesting and daring artists of the current era. While many others of her generation have dissolved into the trappings of commercialism, her artistic vision has, through the years, been strengthened, redefined, and focused into an expression uniquely her own.
Baptized as a confrontationalist, Lydia Lunch commenced at age 16 as primal screamer and guitar guerrilla for the seminal "no-wave" band Teenage Jesus and the Jerks (1976). In early 1978, artist and producer Brian Eno attended a series of shows put on to benefit the Artist's Space in Soho and influenced Island Records to finance an anthology LP featuring the four strongest bands- Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, The Contortions, Mars and DNA. The resulting recording, entitled No New York and produced by Eno, remains as one of the most impressive — and extraordinarily bold — debuts of the time.
Simultaneous to Teenage Jesus, Lunch formed Beirut Slump, released one single and recorded an album's worth of material. Her solo debut, 1980's Queen of Siam, proved to be one of her most acclaimed efforts, influencing an entire generation of underground bands and artists. Flavored with a big-band cabaret sound provided by The Billy Ver Plank Orchestra, featuring sophisticated arrangements by Ver Plank himself, and an appearance by noted guitarist Robert Quine, the album proved that Lunch could embark in new directions and succeed.
Also a critical success and favorite of the New York rock reviewers, her next band, 8 Eyed Spy brought Lunch into a more traditional rock format. After 1982's 13.13, which featured former members of the Weirdos, Lunch began a series of collaborations, working with Nick Cave and The Birthday Party on the EP The Agony Is the Ecstasy, as well as Einsturzende Neubauten, Die Haut, Sort Sol, The Swans' Michael Gira, Marc Almond, and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth.
In 1984 she founded Widowspeak Productions as an organ for her own prolific work and that of sympathetic creative renegades. The initial release on her label was The Uncensored Lydia Lunch (1984), her first penetration into what has become one of her most potent and direct mediums -- the spoken word. She also released much of her back catalog, including a two-CD retrospective, Hysterie, in 1986. Her next collaboration was the first of several with Jim "Foetus" Thirlwell, who remixed a shelved project with Birthday Party members from 1982-83 It was issued as Honeymoon in Red in 1987. The two also released the percussive sexual mantra, Stinkfist , under Thirlwell's Clint Ruin alias in 1989. That same year, Lunch teamed with Sonic Youth bassist Kim Gordon in Harry Crews, a one-off, all female noise-rock band, for the LP Naked in Garden Hills. She teamed up once again with ex-Birthday Party guitarist Rowland S. Howard for 1991's Shotgun Wedding, a sensual, sweat-drenched odyssey recorded in Memphis. Rockpool, the industry trade magazine, called the album "An instant classic."
Summer 1993 witnessed the release of the triple CD boxed set, Crimes Against Nature, that includes her earlier recording Oral Fixation and Conspiracy of Women, as well as new material. A booklet with the text of her piece The Right to Revolt accompanies the discs. The compilation, Our Fathers Who Aren't in Heaven (1990) features Lunch and author Hubert Selby, Jr. (Last Exit to Brooklyn), Henry Rollins and Don Bajema. Widowspeak has also presented solo recordings by poet Wanda Coleman and poet/performer Emilio Cubeiro. Her most recent foray in spoken word is the atmospheric Matrikamantra, an illustrated Word Double-CD with music by Joseph Budenholzer. A book of Lydia's haunting photographs accompanies the release. 1998 saw an international retrospective of her photography which culminated in Paris at the Museum of Erotic Art, where 4 of her pieces are now on permanent display.
The poster-girl for the Whitney Museum of Art's Underground Film Festival (Oct. 96-Jan. 97), Lunch appeared in 8 films in the festival including the gut-wrenching films of director Richard Kern with whom she worked in the 1980s. Together they realized Lunch's shocking personal vision of sexual violence and desire in The Right Side of My Brain and Fingered. She also traveled throughout Europe and Australia with the curator of the Whitney, Matthew Yokobosky, co-presenting The History Of Underground Film and acting as a mouthpiece for the festival. She starred in Beth B's Thanatopsis, which premiered in 1991 at the Kitchen in New York, and has been widely seen in film festivals since. A video documentation of Lunch's spoken word piece, The Gun Is Loaded, originally released in 1988 on Mystic Fire Video and is now available through MVD. It was followed 2 years later by Malicious Intent. In addition, Lunch recorded the spoken track for, and was featured in, Sacred Cow Productions' The Thunder (1992), which won a Louisiana Film Shorts Award. Other films include James Nares' Rome 78 (1978), Vivienne Dick's Guerillere Talks (1978), She Had Her Gun All Ready (1978), Beauty Becomes The Beast (1979), Liberty's Booty (1980), and Beth and Scott B.'s Black Box (1978), The Offenders (1980), and the critically acclaimed Vortex (1983).
October 1997 saw the publication of Lunch's harrowing novel Paradoxia: A Predator's Diary (Creation Press, London) with an intro by Hubert Selby, Jr. This widely acclaimed novel was translated into German, Czech, Greek, Spanish and French and she was hailed in France as the next generation Genet, Miller, and de Sade. 1997's Toxic Gumbo, a prestige format graphic novel illustrated by Ted McKeever for DC Comics/Vertigo was translated into Portuguese and Italian. A collaborative book of poetry with Exene Cervenka entitled Adulterer's Anonymous was published in 1982 by Grove Press and re-issued by Last Gasp in 1997. Incriminating Evidence, a collection of stories, rants and scripts was released in 1992 by Last Gasp, which also published AS-FIX-E-8, a comic scripted by Lunch and illustrated by Mike Matthews. In 1992, she collaborated with Bob Fingerman on the comic Bloodsucker for Fantagraphics, and in 1993, she taught a visiting artist workshop in the Performance/Video Department of the San Francisco Art Institute.
In August of 1999 she worked as creative consultant for the film Shadow Hours, starring Balthazar Getty, Brad Dourif, and Peter Weller - released in the spring of 2000. Her rendition of "Gloomy Sunday" is featured on the CD soundtrack from the 1999 film The Blair Witch Project. Additionally, her composition "The Closet" is featured in the film New York Beat, released in the fall of 2000. Joining forces with Nels Cline, she recorded the Tom Waits classic "Heart Attack & Vine" for Manifesto Records, on a compilation tribute to that artist, released in the summer of 2000.
In February of 2002, Crippled Dick Hot Wax released Champagne, Cocaine and Nicotine Stains - a CD EP of her work with Anubian Lights. The success of the EP led to what has been hailed as Lydia's most seductive endeavor, the 2004 release of Smoke in the Shadows, a full length LP which features Tommy Grenas, Len Del Rio, Nels Cline, Terry Edwards, Carla Bozulich and Adele Bertei, who together have created a jazzy, late night noir masterpiece which twists even further the unique genre she originated with Queen of Siam.
Few other contemporary artists have forged a unique and varied artistic vision as successfully, or forcibly as Lydia Lunch during her long, notorious career to date. After tearing through the New York late 70's music circles with hurricane force as part of the "No Wave" scene with her band Teenage Jesus & The Jerks, Lunch relentlessly continued looking for fresh challenges. She consequently began to make her mark in literature, film, spoken-word performance, video, photography, poetry as well as a multitude of other creative endeavors. There was also a succession of groundbreaking, highly influential bands following Teenage Jesus, including Eight Eyed Spy, Beirut Slump, The Devil Dogs and 13.13 that would set the tone and establish the standards for NYC's aesthetic agenda for decades to come. As Lunch became more involved in a wider range of artistic pursuits, her musical endeavors of the 80's focused on an extended, infamous series of collaborations with the likes of members of Sonic Youth, Birthday Party, Foetus, Einsturzende Neubauten and many others. She also released recordings of her spoken word performances through various labels, founding her own Widowspeak label in 1984 as a steady outlet for this work. In the 90's, Lunch devoted still more of her time to writing, spoken-word performances and lecturing at academic institutions at home in the U.S. including teaching a class on Performance Art at the San Francisco Art Institute and even more so abroad with foreign engagements taking up the bulk of her time in recent years.
In April 2002, Lydia taught a vocal workshop entitled The Musicality of the Spoken Word in Brugge, Belguim at the Institute of Living Voice, as well as presenting her Video Hysterie at the Athens film festival, a retrospective of her musical collaborations from 1997-2001.
In the present decade to date, Lydia has undertaken repeated tours of Europe and the U.S., and has giving spoken-word performances and been featured at internationally prestigious events including the Portugal Literature Festival, 10th Annual International Poetry Festival of Genoa, Italy, Switzerland's Kulturzentrum, and the Barcelona Literature Festival Centre de Cultura Contemporanea to name but a few. Her still photography has been exhibited at galleries in Prague, Paris, Eindhoven, Detroit, Los Angeles, San Diego, Melbourne, Australia and England. She has presented academic workshops on spoken-word composition and performance in Brugge, Belgium and Leipzig. Lunch has had a variety of short stories, essays and book Introductions published by outlets ranging from the Princeton University Press to Feral House to New Museum Anthology NYC to Rolling Stone Press. She co-edited and contributed numerous pieces to the Sex And Guts 4 anthology which featured work from Nick Tosches, Hubert Selby Jr., Jerry Stahl, and John Waters and co-edited Sin-E-Rama - Sleaze Sex Paperbacks of the Sixties out October '04 on Feral House Books.
Lydia's involvement with cinema was further expanded when she was invited by Asia Argento to operate as official still photographer for Asia's film based on JT Leroy's The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things. Lydia also narrated Cam Archer's award winning American Fame part 1 and 2, both of which will be presented by the Sundance channel in 2006, after having been featured at Raindance, the Tribeca Film Festival and AFI. She has also completed voice overs for his latest project Wild Tigers I Have Known which was produced by Gus Van Sant and will be released in the fall of next year.
Teenage Jesus and The Jerks/ Beirut Slump: SHUT UP ...
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