Catinca Tabacaru Gallery + Milk and Night's "TRANS-Ville" Exhibition
Performances, sometimes NSFW, inviting and exploring transitional states of being
by Ida Therén
If you happened to pass by Broome Street last Wednesday and saw a naked woman wag a fur tail in a gallery window then you were in "TRANS-Ville." The three-part performance series opened to a packed, steaming audience, during an unseasonably warm Manhattan night. "TRANS-Ville" is an art project inspired by vaudeville with short performances, all of which discuss the current state of cultural transition, within New York and the US—in and outside of the art scene. The performers included POC and members of the LGBTQ+ community—a mix reflected in the audience, where straight white men were a minority. "TRANS-Ville" is not part of the commercial venture of the gallery—which is currently showing artist Joe Brittain. Rather, owner Catinca Tabacaru explains that it’s part of her larger scheme to "change the world."
"I want to create a community of artists, while also bringing their art to new and unexpected places," she says. And this isn’t new for Tabacaru, who gave up a successful legal career at the United Nations to focus on her creative interests, which may now be heading toward a mainstream breakthrough. After being on the waitlist for the EXPO Chicago recently, she was admitted and written up as one of the Top-10 Must See Galleries by the Chicago Tribune. She ended up selling out the show—with pieces going mostly to respected museums. This summer, along with roster artist Rachel Monosov, Catinca Tabacaru built a gallery in Zimbabwe.
As for the "TRANS-Ville" experience, "I love to bring in a multitude of voices,” said the French-born Coco Dolle, who also goes by the curating name ”Milk and Night." She was the brains behind the show, offering a sharp, natural eye for diversity, without anxious woke-washing. "This type of curating doesn’t really exist in NYC right now. But when you invite new energies, new things happen."
Dolle asked six artists to explore different aspects of the word "trans*." "Wolf-clad" performer Christen Clifford took on the opening honors. Her DIY outfit was made on stage out of a fur coat—allegedly gifted from her mother who had grown up in a time when a fur was a life goal for females. Now, the once-prized garment was dissected into pieces and rubbed against the artist's genitals. The smell of sweaty vagina lingered in the room, even as the gallery windows were Windexed clean of body liquids (two pairs of Spanx still on the floor). This intense opening act was succeeded by trans-femme artist Jahmal B. Golden, with a more mellow, beautifully raw and poetic piece about the stage, in between society's binary identities—and sexes. Other performers from the evening were Kenyan-born Jerome AB, as well as Jennifer Elster, The Henry—in a pink pearl studded g-string—and cake-twerking Lindsay Dye.
In an art world that's currently suffering paralysis out of financial instability, Tabacaru wants to use chaos for creation. "It’s time to challenge the conventional structure of galleries that have been the same for decades,” she adds. Her current strategy is to embrace the turbulent times. "I've gotten the advice that 'Catinca, when you let go of the outcome, that's when you will really succeed.' So that's what I'm doing now." The result? Bushwick, in the Lower East Side.
"TRANS-Ville Act 2" will be on 5 November, 2-4PM and "Act 3" on 13 December, 7-9PM.
Images by Adam Lehrer