It’s my belief that we all have the need to feel special and it’s this need that can bring out the best in us and yet the worst in us. This need created the velvet rope. - Janet Jackson
Nikki Darling catapulted a book called Pink Trumpet and the Purple Prose into our collective public via the chapbook press I began this year called Econo Textual Objects. It’s out and the only way to culminate the mid-wife duties is by being present for its opening performance. This is my eyewitness account.
Firstly, this is not a review but a critical beholding from a fairly well informed optique that was nonetheless stunned into submission because sometimes nervous energy and myth-making is shit-starting in its purest form.
Like when a sticky sullen Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski tells a wide-eyed Vivien Leigh as Blanche DuBois that some people may rarely touch liquor but that liquor often touches them. This sweaty panty-splashy encounter tickled an audience sauced on acidic red wine and prefaced Nikki Darling’s December performance at Human Resources.
Darling, using her body, in dark sparkle motion, in mysterious transit, produced a series of powerfully linked spatial metaphors in a performance piece that began with a movement forward; a very momentary timorous amble to the left of center of the radical white boxiness. Movements culled from the democratic spaces of YouTube strip tease how-to’s. She owns us from the jump; a bow down to the generations of complicated femininities that came before her; ones badly comprehended, nevertheless rendered indomitable by limited temporalities. Mariah Carey Dream Lover is the honor salve Darling spreads with scissor kicks and sativa-heavy fatties that she lights up, one after the other (four total), puffs and passes into the audience that has been instructed to sit the fuck down. She takes her clothes off but the looming shadows of a feral giantess behind her is what you can’t tear your gaze from and you think you know where this is going to go. But a stripping is a freeing; Nikki Darling staged a radical deprivation of oxygen the toxic value statement needs to live. The maelstrom of shame, self-worth, radical empowerment, desire, the body, violence, and feminism in a misogynistic culture reveals itself through the MGD forty-ounce shower coming down on her face and bare breasts; an aroma of beer on cold concrete and the aftermath of gooseflesh skin bruised with Abramović-style auto-violence.
And in the starkest transparency so sharp you feel the shards, Darling sits her naked ass down and proceeds to read to us. Her poetry soothes in its compulsory anti-pacifism.
Soon I’ll clean out your psychic parking spot but first let me squeeze this dry for all it’s worth.
Don’t feel bad about having been an asshole, as you can see now,
I’m an asshole too.
(from Monster Ballads)
Pink Trumpet and the Purple Prose the textual object disavows itself as a book of fiction, of prose, of poetry, of philosophy, and of theory. There are allusions to love and longing as well as a critique of the gaze, of images, of radical empowerment and of self-definition. Darling says it’s not a call to apathy or arms. It is not these things because it is a Body; always changing, shifting, and eluding it’s descriptors. She proposes a radical model of co-authorship between she and her readers.
There is one call however and it’s for a femme fiery feminist ghosting of a Los Angeles that is big and intrepid. Darling puff-puff partakes in the capital of myth-making in the West and takes it to give it back to those whose lands have been stolen. Or at least that’s the utopian longing here.
The chapbook and performance operate as the 2nd chapter of a three part performance/poetry/prose project that started with Pussy A Progression, last year, moved to Ascension, also last year, and ends with Pink Trumpet and the Purple Prose.
Nikki Darling is a student in the Creative Writing/Literature PhD program at USC. Her poetry and experimental essays center around subjectivity, persona, and post-structualist methods of deconstructing literary form and meaning. She is finishing her first novel, "Fade Into You," a memoir of mixed race identity in the San Gabriel Valley during the 1990's. Her criticism has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, Art Book Review, Tomorrow Magazine and Public Books, among others. Her essay Appropriate For Destruction was included in Best Music Writing 2010. Her new work Pink Trumpet and the Purple Prose can be purchased here.