Cover Story


Left: LTTR coeditor K8 Hardy. Right: Bragan Thomas and Chris Spinelli. (All photos: Michael Wang)

Instead of the raucous, magazine-launch-as-a-good-excuse-for-a-party atmosphere I expected last Monday, when I slipped inside LTTR’s latest appropriated event space along the river in Williamsburg (for the release of the radical, lesbian, gender-queer publication’s fifth issue) I found hushed crowds pressed against the walls of the Glasslands Gallery. Artists James Tsang (going by Ingrid, his given name, in the magazine), in a black one-piece and heels, and Ashland Mines, in a hoodie and waistcoat, moved slowly through the performance space, clapping their hands and reciting what they described as an “old Appalachian traditional” by the light of a single bulb. The work’s title, Someone Else’s Song, aptly described a number of the evening’s queerings. The performances imbued appropriated material with a range of affects, from giddy talent-show enthusiasm (Michael O’Neill and Leidy Churchman of Tri-State Area’s celebratory pop-anthem covers), to the “deconstructive” criticality of Chris Spinelli and Bragan Thomas’s theatrical evocations of “WASP melodrama” classics, to the intergenerational reverie of Jeanine Oleson’s '70s-era lesbian sing-along.

“What happens in a performance when you take away the language?” asked Tsang. “What’s left is your body and your voice.” The different acts anticipated varying degrees of familiarity with their chosen texts. While Tri-State Area called out, “This is a song we all know by heart” before diving into Usher’s “U Got It Bad,” Oleson handed out Xeroxed pages from Something Good: A Feminist Sing-a-long Songbook and detailed her rediscovery of the 1973 manuscript (compiled by Di Otto) at the Lesbian Herstory Archives book sale. With Otto herself helping to lead the session, the mixed crowd quickly warmed to lyrics like “A room full of women getting high / Then I looked around and saw there wasn’t one guy!”

Left: Tri-State Area's Leidy Churchman and Michael O'Neill. Right: LTTR coeditor Ginger Brooks Takahashi.

Between acts, artist A. K. Burns set up shop in a booth offstage, exchanging straight currency for “gay dollars” that featured a prominent pink triangle. “You can circulate them,” explained Donnie Cervantes (of the artist duo Donnie + Travis), before slyly suggesting, “You can give it as a tip to someone you think is cute.” By the time Tri-State Area had finished their set (ending on Brenda-Lee-by-way-of-the-Pet-Shop-Boys’s “Always on My Mind”), Dean Daderko (in a RIDYKEULOUS defaced Guerilla Girls T-shirt) and Tsang’s tango dips drew the rest of the crowd into the dance party.

Meanwhile, editor K8 Hardy, working the merchandise table and sporting a grill of silver fangs, described the evening’s program as “fairly casual.” “We have to see who’s willing to perform for no money,” she reasoned. While the editors wanted to “include artists whose practice doesn’t easily translate into print” on the evening’s roster, they also tried to “push artists past their normal practice,” inviting several print and video contributors to perform for the first time. The latest issue of the magazine, LTTR V/Positively Nasty, puts pressure on the editors’ typical roles. “This is not just a magazine,” Hardy maintained. “This is an artists’ project.” For this issue, the editors resolved to work in ways that related more directly to the artistic practices of their contributors. “We wanted to be a lot more cutting, more severe with our editing. It’s a lot more political.” While past issues featured a single introductory statement, this issue features four editorials—from Ginger Takahashi’s economic analysis of the magazine’s production to Emily Roysdon’s “Conceptually Nasty,” an articulation of the issue’s theme. “We don’t mean ‘nastiness’ as in stupid-ass erotic shit, whatever it’s called . . . ‘porn,’” asserted Hardy. “At this point there were a lot of things about the project we had to write about and explain.”

Left: Artist Donnie Cervantes with Jeanine Oleson. Right: Artists Alessandro Codagnone and John Lovett performing Moments in Love.

Left: Former LTTR coeditor Lanka Tattersall. Right: Curator and artist Dean Daderko with James/Ingrid Tsang.

Left: Di Otto with Jeanine Oleson. Right: LTTR coeditor Ulrike Müller.