Katrina Daschner, Flamingo Massacre, 2011, color photograph, 24 3/8 x 44".

Katrina Daschner, Flamingo Massacre, 2011, color photograph, 24 3/8 x 44".

Katrina Daschner

Katrina Daschner, Flamingo Massacre, 2011, color photograph, 24 3/8 x 44".

For Katrina Daschner, it’s always showtime. The artist, born in 1973 in Hamburg, recently received the Otto Mauer Prize, the most important award for contemporary art that Austria has to offer, given by the Archdiocese of Vienna in memory of a priest and cathedral pastor. The work of this artist is anything but pious, however. She based her 2005 project Dolores on Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita and went on to found the band SV DAMENKRAFT (Lady Power Sports Club) before campaigning for radical performative practice in the Salon Lady Chutney she founded in Vienna, and belly dancing in such art institutions as Zache˛ta National Gallery of Art in Warsaw and La Panadería in Mexico City as well as various Austrian venues. She is also known for making crochet dildos and hosting the CLUB BURLESQUE BRUTAL, where her alter ego Frau Professor la Rose discourses on topics like “Boobs and Balls” and “La Tristesse.” Daschner has lately been at work on the videos that make up her film trilogy, whose first two episodes—HAFENPERLEN (Harbor Pearls), 2008, and ARIA DE MUSTANG, 2009—were shown at lesbian and gay film festivals from London to Lisbon.

For her recent show “Flamingo Massacre,” Daschner fitted out Krobath with a theatrical set consisting of a revolving circular stage with knives all around it, circus and vaudeville props, a psychedelically painted rotating disc in the style of Duchamp’s Rotoreliefs, and a black curtain made of a snazzy tinselly fabric and labeled las vegas. Flamingo Massacre, 2011, a flashy C-print film still showing performers dressed in glamorous red outfits and knee-length manga wigs in different colors hung kitty-corner to the glittery curtain, drawing attention to the forthcoming final installment of Daschner’s film project, for which the stage set presented in the show serves as a film set. Daschner alludes not only to “neo-burlesque”—a genre from 1990s New York that harked back to the Follies of the 1920s and ’30s, the girlie shows of the ’40s, and burlesque striptease, but also to filmmaker John Waters and the artist Jürgen Klauke. It is, however, Jack Smith, the godfather of American performance art and director of Flaming Creatures, his shrill travesty of Hollywood B movies, who is the precursor for whom Daschner summons her highest respect. In tribute to him and to Waters, she plans to call the last installment of her trilogy FLAMING FLAMINGOS.

In this film, Daschner will repeat from the first two the performance of a “lesbian queer chorus” that functions as a Brechtian commentator. A film still hung in front of the curtain in this show offered prospects of a tumultuous finale: The chorus—the aforementioned girls in red glamour outfits—are wearing their wigs back-to-front. In fact, the ending will be a choreographed orgy. In earlier parts of the trilogy, the chorus reflects on how an “ideal audience” might react to the drama—that is, to Daschner’s burlesque performances. The twenty-odd carefully styled performers observe this comedian’s act and then chuck their own passive roles: They laugh at a sailor-ballerina duet and burst into enthusiastic cheers at the sight of a ménage à trois involving a two-headed horse.

For Daschner, the point is to change our relationship with images. She makes short work of stereotypes—for instance, the way queer subject matter is so often situated in a subcultural context. Though her racy, empowered women dominate the scene, their sense of lightheartedness and good cheer spills over from her lesbian-queer burlesque to make a difference for the rest of us as well.

Brigitte Huck

Translated from German by Oliver E. Dryfuss.