PENNY ARCADE Interviewed

Perception of something is the complete reality of it...
[re: Mr Scribble's review of her show "Bitch, Dyke, FagHag, Whore"]
How old is this guy, like 25 or something? 

VB: 31, [29, actually] yeah. 

He's retarded.
Coz I think the thing [that] is the real problem is this need or hope 
that there's going to be somebody out there who's going to be 
someone out there who's going to tell them what to think.

VB: The expert syndrome? 

The expert syndrome, but it's worse when it comes to "visionaries" 
because then it's like...
The people who are into visionaries,
they think it is the *opposite* of the expert syndrome 
coz they don't think they're looking for an expert.
They're thinking that there's someone in the world...
that there are these entities in the world who are exalted 
in some kind of way and of course these people are such latent 
ego-maniacs that they also want to [be] exalted in such a way 
so if this guy comes to my show and somebody...
and I'm talking about something and...
I think that's how it happened...

Someone yelled out for Laurie Anderson,
And I say: "Laurie Anderson...", and I say:
"Well, last performance I went of LA she came out and stood there 
on the stage in front of 2000 people and said: 
''there are no artists left in the East village''
There is no such thing as a new young artist coz
artists can't affford to move to New York and 
I just started screaming at the back of the room 
"Fuck you! You've been making money for too fucking long, bitch!" 

Like, you know, what's with LA? 
Like, what does she think, that just her circle of friends 
that that was the last people who came to NY?
I just try to hear a point you could call art, I mean, fuck...
Its also that Laurie is really part of that really pathetic 
soho kind of scene.

VB: That's like that guy Ray

Who's Ray? With the t-shirts?

VB: He rang me up last night and he's all upset coz I've moved to where 
    they haven't got a phone on. He's just become infatuated with me. 
    He's been re-reading my book again and again and again.
    Haven't you read it? I'm trying to get people to *think*.

    What's your background exactly?
    I heard you did some stuff with Andy warhol

That was part of the factory.

VB: And were you actually a prostitute?

Let's put it this way, I've done everything except 
beg on the street and kill someone.
That's as far as answers go with questions like that because 
I really don't like to discuss my personal life because 
whether I would have been a prostitute or whether I wasn't a prostitute 
I think isn't really important in terms of my performance work.
And also I think that it's hard enough for women as artists 
to be heard without putting a lot of personal stuff in there 
because then they'll never talk about your work.

As far as my background: I'm immigrant Italian,
First one in my family born in America.
I didn't speak english until I went to school.

VB: How come you moved out at sixteen?

I didn't move out when I was sixteen;
I moved out when I was thirteen because I got put away. 
First I ran away... I ran away, which makes total sense if you figure 
that I was growing up in 1950s 1960s America and yet my family... 

My family is kind of stuffy Sixth century share cropper Italy
so there's this really strange dynamic between my home life and 
going to school because...

there's Modern America...

America at its most modern was in the 1950s and early 1960s, 
and there wasn't any way of tying in my home experience with 
my school experience, when I'd come home from school it'd be 
Sixth Centruy Italy and I was a serf, 
and so there were a lot of problems...

VB: You were the unpaid labourer as well as everything else.

It's just also the whole thing of what it is to be peasant and female 
and what it is to be from... and extremely...

My family is from Bosly Carta, Lucania in Southern Italy, 
which is like the real wilderness of Southern Italy.
It's the place that people from Rome and Milan...
(who are real trendy and hip)... 
and they go: "Your family's like from Lucania!? wow!"

Formidable... the real wilderness. 
But those people have been largely immune until the last ten years, 
untouched by civliisation.
They were ignored by the state; they were ignored by everyone.
For them: you're born, you work, you suffer, you die; 
there you have no food...
it colours their perception of the world.
It's not like Sicily
or even Calabria which is poor but the earth is good.
This is volcanic, mountainous, where they farm on rocks, and nothing grows, 
and everything is like a real nightmare of suffering;
and evil is imbued in earthly things. 

It's very interesting. It's a great background, it's very mystical,
very superstitious. They believe in magic;  they're not Catholics, 
they just use Catholicism to hang their Pagan beliefs on.
It's very Pagan, but its not a pleasant... 
It's not hedonistic.
Their idea of pastry is a piece of bread with sugar sprinkled on it.
They are not extending the pleasure principal. 
I had a lot of problems, especially since I was very intellectual, 
which they were very suspiscious of, 
and no-one in my family has ever read a book.

VB: What star sign are you?

I'm a double Cancer, Gemini rising.

So I ran away from home when I was thirteen, I guess, 
and was gone for six weeks, which, automatically, 
makes you qualify for reform school, [laughs] so I got put away 
into a refornm school, 'til I was fifteen, but it was very good for me 
because reform schools tend to try to convert street hoodlums into 
educated [hoodlums].
That's the problem with society: they try to educate you.
So like reading was a high priority, and I was a reader, 
so it was great atmosphere for me.

Then I left and I went home for about six months, 
and, of course, now I was this entity that had to be put away 
in reform school which was really socially not a good position 
to be coming back to...
But my family... (being superstitious and hideous):
if you get in trouble when you're eleven, that's it!
It's not like they forgive you or anything.

VB: They disown you?

They don't disown you, just then you're susposed to live in shame for 
the rest of your life in Virgonia.
Shame is a big thing for Italians (especially southern Italians) 
and I just wasn't willing to be in that atmosphere - 
just a hideous atmosphere - so when I was 16 I walked away, 
I just left. Actually, my mother had me arrested, coz I stayed out;
I went to some party, I didn't want to go home, I didn't go home 
for a couple of days, then I called home ...

[incomplete transcription]


Penny Arcade Interviewed by V. Bennet.
31/5/94 Transcription by
An agent of the Undesirable Propagation Unit