Future Feminism: A social, cultural and political vision for a feminine utopia

The power of pussy: The inimitable Kembra Pfahler, spreading the gospel with a friend

So much of the popular, social media-driven feminist discourse is desperately treading water these days. The advances we’ve made over the years that have drastically improved the lives of women (unions, better wages, health care advances , reproductive rights) are under attack, and it only makes sense that we’d cling to what little we have left. It’s in this frantic crisis that we can sometimes forget the more utopian ambitions of the feminist second wave—the impulse not to preserve what little we have, but to recreate society entirely, in a way that exceeds the meager ambitions we’ve come to accept. Future Feminism seeks to nurture and develop that impulse.

The brainchild of Kembra Pfhaler (best known for The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black and her performance art), Johanna Constantine (of The Blacklips Performance Cult), Sierra and Bianca Casady (CocoRosie) and Antony Hegarty (Antony and The Johnsons), the collective is the result of three years’ of consensus-based artistic and intellectual collaboration, much of it forged during rigorous retreats in isolated locations.

Kembra Pfhaler, Johanna Constantine, Sierra Casady, Bianca Casady and Antony Hegarty, presumably on retreat
I had to opportunity to speak with Bianca Casady about the projects’ multi-faceted development.

“We didn’t have any plans, so we definitely didn’t have any models [for organizing],” Casady confesses, “it was five artists—the most obvious thing to do was an art project together, a co-authored piece.” The “group-authored sculptural work” is to be debuted at The Hole gallery in NYC, Thursday September 11, but it’s merely a fraction of the multimedia project that Future Feminism has bloomed into. The Hole also promises performances and lectures from such heroic foremothers as Lydia Lunch, Laurie Anderson, Marina Abramović and no-wave goddess No Bra. The sculpture itself remains somewhat shrouded in mystery, as are the “13 Tenets of Future Feminism” they will reveal on the opening night.

The five artists central to the collective will perform a concert at Webster Hall this Sunday to fund the exhibition, as it’s completely artist-funded thus far. Casady notes that the relative independence and autonomy of the Future Feminist collective has allowed them the freedom and time necessary to truly work as a unified body, though the timing for the reveal could not be more provident.

Some of us are very unplugged from the media. Mostly we really come together as artists. We’re certainly noticing a lot of uprising and actions going on formally, and a lot of momentum and energy right now. The timing feels like less of a coincidence. It feels like things are at a boiling point.


Image from the Future Feminism Benefit Concert poster
No one can predict which projects will inspire or move the masses, but it’s exciting to see feminism embrace the ambition of utopian thinking again—and it’s especially powerful to see women working together and creating new, strange culture—something that could (if we’re lucky) threaten the status quo.

“We’re not really looking for equal rights—that’s really different in our attitude,” says Casady. “We’re not looking to climb up the male pyramid scheme and try to assimilate into it to find some kind of balance. We’re proposing a complete shift, with the goal of balance, but it’s not like we want to meet in the middle. We have to reach for a better sense of ‘middle.’”

That’s a sentiment that’s existed before in feminism—the idea that having “what men have” is not enough, that we all deserve more. It’s fallen to the wayside in years, but I foresee a revival, as movements like Future Feminism strive for a radically different society, invoking the very qualities so often derided as “feminine.” In the words of the collective, “The future is female.”

The (absolutely packed) roster for the run at The Hole gallery is below.

Thurs Sept 11: Opening 6-9PM

Fri Sept 12: Bianca and Sierra Casady, Sarah Schulman

Sat Sept 13: Johanna Constantine, Lydia Lunch

Sun Sept 14: Clark Render as Margaret Thatcher, Laurie Anderson

Wed Sept 17: Narcissister, Dynasty Handbag, No Bra

Thurs Sept 18: Ann Snitow speaks with the Future Feminists

Fri Sept 19: Kiki Smith presents Anne Waldman, Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge and Anne Carson

Sat Sept 20: Kembra Pfahler and The Girls of Karen Black

Sun Sept 21: Lorraine O’Grady

Wed Sept 24: Marina Abramović

Thurs Sept 25: Carolee Schneemann, Jessica Mitrani, Melanie Bonajo
Fri Sept 26: Terence Koh as Miss OO

Sat Sept 27: Viva Ruiz, Julianna Huxtable, Alexyss K.  Tylor

Sun Sept 14: The Factress aka Lucy Sexton, Clark Render as Margaret Thatcher, Laurie Anderson

Posted by Amber Frost
06:03 pm
Cocorosie, Stephen Malkmus, Saul Williams and other indie all-stars performing in elevators

Netherlands Public Broadcasting digital channel 3VOOR12 for several years ran a segment called “(Behind) Closed Doors,” featuring homegrown and touring indie artists undertaking intimate performances in elevators. Here’s the amusing and clearly not entirely accurate Google translation from the Dutch language description on

Along with artists in a small space and sip what happens. Intimate one on one sessions behind closed doors. Began five years ago as a joke Gruff Rhys and now, nearly 300 sessions later promoted to gold format.

Any readers fluent in English and Dutch who can be more illuminating, I encourage you to please feel free to comment below at whatever length you see fit. I’d love to know more, myself, but I’ve been unable to find any significant trove of in-depth information in English.

The bulk of the videos available seem to date between 2005-2010, and, unsurprisingly given the circumstances, often feature stripped-down versions of a band’s material. While the offerings from the more twee likes of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Iron & Wine don’t exactly constitute eye-opening transformations, it’s neat to hear an ordinarily HUGE-sounding band like like We Were Promised Jetpacks forced to back off from the echo and bombast that typifies a lot of their work.

Cocorosie, I suppose, can’t help but be their usual idiosyncratic selves no matter where you have them play. This is wonderful:

To the surprise of exactly nobody who knows his work, Saul Williams refuses to stay confined.

Pavement/Jicks honcho Stephen Malkmus chose to record his segment a capella in a working elevator to amusing results.

Because I LOVED the confessional/TMI bad-love-and-worse-sex songs of Arab Strap, I have to include Malcom Middleton’s segment, though if you’re at work or in any public space where pottymouth will be frowned-upon, you might either plug in your earphones or just skip this video, as Middleton is abidingly fond of words like “fook” and “coont.”

Lastly, even though this one isn’t recorded in an elevator, thus blowing the entire point of this piece’s headline, I really want to share this acoustic performance by that great virtuoso of technical electric guitar playing Marnie Stern, whose Chronicles of Marnia was by far one of my favorite albums of 2013.

There’s a TON more of this and other great stuff to be had on 3VOOR12’s web site, from familiar names to obscure hopefuls. Should you choose to partake, I wish you an enjoyable dig.

Posted by Ron Kretsch
10:10 am