SPILL STINGS 11: Lauren Barri Holstein

Thu 01 Jan 1970

Madeleine Hodge speaks with Lauren Barri Holstein in advance of her National Platform performance.

I arrive a few minutes late at the Borough Market and immediately spot the Famous Lauren Barri Holstein: she is standing on the side of the road with a feather in her hair and wearing cowboy boots, and she looks nervous. The conversation starts as we line up for coffee, and she begins by telling me about some negative reviews of her work, and she tells me passionately that she feels that people are still affronted by having a cunt that speaks back. Things haven’t changed, she says.

Her work is about being a woman.  It is about being a woman that is attempting to become something, attempting to fulfil a role, and it’s about attempting to become a woman. It’s about how to be complete. It’s about independence. It’s about picking apart the metaphors of womanliness; she is rehashing these metaphors, and she is doing so unashamedly.

She says she feels that she is blurring the boundaries where one thing becomes another thing, and that in the attempted becoming, the attempt is always failing. It is not that one thing is what it is because it excludes the opposite – for example, being a woman excluding manliness; instead, one thing is what it is because of everything else, because the other is always on the border seeping in. She says she wants to expose that there is a border, and in doing so expand and absorb the other possible identities.

She says is still exploring the way she presents herself.  She says in most interviews she will present herself completely as the version of herself that is the Famous Lauren Barri Holstein. I ask what that might have been like, what would be different. I’m flattered that she is talking to me in a new way, and then feel slightly miffed that I’m missing out on the performance. I imagine siting here with the Famous Lauren Barri Holstein, that she would be shouting and talking about her break up, and I think that I’m happy that I can wait to see the famous one in the show on Sunday.

She says she takes her influences from the likes of Carolee Schneemann, Ann Liv Young, and Yoko Ono, and she is not ashamed of having references and influences in her work. If people think she is imitating them she says, “Well, that is all part of life”.  It also seems like it is very much part of the way in which artists work in this post pop age: everything is a reference, and Barri Holstein is able to easily traverse the cultural spectrum from pop references to cultural icons and art theory and back again in one easy breath. And she describes the support she has from an amazing community of artists, friends and influences in London such as Dominic Johnson, Helena Hunter, Julia Bardsley and Kira O’Reily. As a New Yorker she speaks very fondly of the supportive and connected community of artists that surround her in London, and she seems very happy to be here.

And so, in the words of the almost famous Lauren Barri Holstein: Britney Spears is not evil, sexuality is not disgusting and How two become one is definitely a break-up show. I can’t wait!