When Covid hit, artist Sibylle Peters went from being ‘the first female pimp of St. Pauli’s Red Light District’ and hugging sixty people a day, into isolation. This is when you need a good love story. As she couldn’t find any, she wrote one herself.
LADA is delighted to announce the publication of Sibylle's A GOOD LOVE STORY on Valentine's Day 2021. Marking the occasion we have invited Sibylle to be our Guest Editor for the month of February.
Sibylle has written this text which grapples with the autobiographical "I" and considers how other artists and writers have worked with that "I".
Books. They have been my life since my twenties, when I studied literature and philosophy and spent all my time in libraries carrying a sticker on my bag saying: "So many books, so little time." I read and read and read, until I wrote my PhD about Heinrich von Kleist and his newspaper project - a troublemaker’s daily zine, which reinterpreted the everyday of 1810 Berlin, until it was shut down by censorship. I will never regret those 10 years I spent inside of books. But at some point I felt, that it was enough. And that instead of being in dialogue with letters and ghosts I should go and try my ideas and thoughts in interaction with real people, in the flesh. Which brought me to Live Art. Of course, I continued reading and writing, but I never got back to this feeling of immersion in books, - until now. Unable to interact with people in offline space, and being fed up with screens, I’m sucked back into that safe space, where one book leads to four others. And I even wrote a story myself, A GOOD LOVE STORY, which is published by LADA and available to buy on UNBOUND right now. Me being guest-editor on UNBOUND is marking this publication.
Preparing for it, the question of genre came up: I hesitated to call the story autobiographical, partially because I was anxious, that other identities of mine might get affected by the “I” of A GOOD LOVE STORY, who is a woman in her forties going all out to try and reinvent her love and sex life. To explore how others dealt with the autobiographical “I”, I dived into reading other autobiographical works on UNBOUND related to love and sex in some way.
Bravado: A Memoir of Working-Class Masculinity
The first book I would therefore like to recommend is Scottee’s Bravado. A Memoir of Working-Class Masculinity (1991-99), which says on the cover, what is missing on mine: “written and lived by Scottee”. It is the script of a performance of the same title, which is not performed by Scottee himself, but is supposed to be read by a volunteering member of the audience, which is a great move to disperse the dreadful identity of me, myself and I. If A GOOD LOVE STORY is ever performed, I intend to steal this move.
Also available on UNBOUND is the fabulous I Love Dick by Chris Kraus, one of my favorite writers. The book starts with the sentence: “Chris Kraus, a 39-year-old filmmaker and Sylvère Lotringer, a 56-year-old college professor from New York, have dinner with Dick __”, a sentence which is clearly avoiding the “I”, thereby creating a split between Chris Kraus, the writer of the book, and Chris Kraus, the main character of the story. The book then consists of letters to Dick written by Chris Kraus, the character of the story. In these letters we are back with the “I and You”-constellation, the You being absent and unresponding. How to address an absent object of desire can become a powerful, and weirdly unstoppable, text machine!
A more classic, nevertheless great, memoir available on UNBOUND is “Girl in a Band” by Kim Gordon, which – just like A GOOD LOVE STORY – starts with a breakup, in this case the one of Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore and their band Sonic Youth. There is something about breakups, that makes people write: to stay in a dialogue, that no longer exists, but also to try and reclaim authorship over a shared story as part of their own.
Another autobiography that came up in conversations about A GOOD LOVE STORY is the one by Franko B, Because of Love published by LADA. I would have loved to read it, because Franko B’s work, especially his groundbreaking one-on-one-performances in between sex work, sexpositive role play and Live Art have been a huge inspiration for the Heteraclub project, that is described in A GOOD LOVE STORY, - a nightclub for heterasexuals, where male performers offered intimate one-on-one-performances to female visitors. Sadly, Because of Love isn’t available any longer. Maybe UNBOUND and LADA could make a PDF for download available? Until then I recommend Franko B’s I’m here, a generous look into Franko B’s archive, beautifully designed by David Caines.
Fat Activist Vernacular
Looking for other books with a connection to A GOOD LOVE STORY I found Fat Activist Vernacular by Charlotte Cooper, a smart, funny and sometimes mean "dictionary of terms that inform fat activism, a subversive demonstration of how people use language to shape their realities", which I loved reading, partially because in my story, the “I”tries to become fat at some point to please what Cooper lists as a “Chaser - Somebody who has a sexual interest in fat people, usually someone thin (…). Can be really fun or really annoying depending on whether or not you enjoy being fetishised.” That said, I would like to suggest a small amendment for the next edition of this vernacular: A “Fat Cat” is not only: “A symbol of capitalist greed disseminated by the left,” but also what the rapper CupCakke calls her pussy.
Joshua Sofaer: Performance | Objects / Participation
Eds. Roberta Mock and Mary Paterson
Related in a different way is the book about the work of Joshua Sofaer. Performance / Objects / Participation. Joshua Sofaer is not only my role model for how to bring (auto)biography and performance together and how to keep them apart, he has also been a friend and counsellor to me without whom I would never have written A GOOD LOVE STORY. Performance / Objects / Participation is one of the best and most beautiful books about the work of a singular artist I have come across. No downloading this time. Feel this paper
Speaking of different identities, one of my other identities is deeply invested into what LADA calls Study Room Guides, but – in the absence of the Study Room – turns out to be something else. The guide on One-to-One-performances, published 2009, just served me as a reader for an entire seminar at the University of the Arts in Zürich. The Action Recipes and the guide on Live Art & Ageing by Lois Weaver are really making me look forward. I wrote my own guide for LADA, the one on Performing Research - how to do research with kids and adults using Live Art strategies. I just have been contacted by an artist, who wanted to use the described process for the community driven transformation of a hillside in Palestine. I don’t know about your world, but things like that happen to me only with LADA.
Did you know that you can also get a poster at UNBOUND to make your home office more bearable? And the book with it, that is still giving the best advice, even for times like these:
“There is no such thing as an empty space or an empty time. There is always something to see, something to hear. In fact, try as we may to make a silence, we cannot.”
John Cage, Silence