Peaches, musician and body-positive, gender-bending feminist warrior, has been working the past year on an ambitious 10,000 square foot, 14-scene multimedia institutional art show. Entitled Whose Jizz Is This?, it just opened in Hamburg, Germany at Kunstverein and runs until Oct. 20.
Those familiar with her music and stage show won’t be thrown off by its provocative, fun, sexual, kooky, empowered inventions and explorations. After all, this is the essence of Peaches.
Born Merrill Nisker in Toronto, Peaches paved a new path for women who didn’t fit into society’s definition of femininity, sexuality and decorum. Since debuting the project in 2000, she’s sold merkins at her merch table, wore outlandish outfits (such as multiple prosthetic boobs including one on her crotch) and donned a beard for the cover of her 2003 album Fatherfucker.
In between album cycles and sometimes simultaneously, her freedom of expression branches out into other realms, from the creation of a one-woman show Peaches Christ Superstar to an electro-rock opera Peaches Does Herself, which was made into a film. Whose Jizz Is This? is her first solo art exhibition and it’s both outlandish and sensible, giving respect to the disrespected, personifying sex toys and normalizing while distorting body parts. They revolt against passive use in orifices and become independent, strong-minded and equal.
In her exhibit, Peaches seizes on a narrative that still deals with her politics and humor but does so through sculpture, animatronics, photo, video and text, based on objects like the “double masturbator” silicone sex aid — with a mouth on one side, vagina on the other — which she renames a Fleshie. Helping her realize her vision were collaborators Black Cracker (also her creative consultant), Monster Kabinett, SculptureBerlin, House of North and RubAddiction.
To coincide with the exhibit, Peaches not only curated three club shows for Hamburg’s International Sommerfestival called Peaches Presents Shaboom! (Aug. 15-17), but has her own new, characteristically ambitious show, There’s Only One Peach With The Hole In The Middle. Described as a “variety-style futuristic stage happening” — featuring a 40-member international ensemble of musicians and performers — it premieres Aug. 15 at Kampnagel, with additional shows Aug. 16-17. She will reunite the group for shows in London, Aug. 28; Aarhus, Denmark, Aug. 31; and, at the end of the year, in Berlin, Dec. 28-30.
Peaches spoke to Billboard about the Whose Jizz Is This? concept and creation, wanting to tour the exhibit, the gender-fluid merch, and, ultimately, about getting some sleep.
As much fun as it would be to be able to see and feel and touch all your costumes from the pink Le Chateau bathing suit to the boob costume, you decided to create a whole art show from scratch. That is a big undertaking, when you could have just got your archives out of storage and organized it in some fashion (she has kept every show laminate, plane ticket, costume and 8,000 hours of categorized footage).
[Laughs] I just want to explain why. It’s because I thought “Why would I do my own archival show?” Somebody could just come in and take my stuff and video work and everything and make it an archival show. Why am I rehashing stuff that I’ve done? It doesn’t make any sense to me. I thought, “This is a huge opportunity. I would like do something new.”
You’re always thinking outside the box. Anything goes. You had a massive space at your disposal. How did you begin conceptually?
I began the way that I usually begin, with my attitude and politics and what I want to express, then how to make it fun and draw people in so that they can have fun with it and understand art, but also understand the importance of what my world looks like, what a lot of people’s world look like in terms of attitude and body positivity.
When I look at your world, I would say it’s humorous and provocative and political, unusual, sexual and imaginative. What other adjectives would you add?
Polarizing, maybe sometimes, because people aren’t ready to think that way, but that’s part of being provocative. I’m not trying to be provocative for the face of it. I’m just showing my point of view on how I see or how I wish to see the world, how people should be equal and feel comfortable in their own body.
I came across this video review of this object called the double masturbator. This person was reviewing it. The way they were holding the object and the way they were talking about women — “This is way better than a woman because you don’t have to deal with the talking all the time,” and it has that “shut up and suck my c–k b—h fantasy.” “It’s good because it’s got a mouth on one side” — and it got me thinking about the disembodiment of sexual parts and not seeing the whole or how this can just be abdicated to do away with whatever people can’t deal with.
Body parts can be beautiful, but also hilarious. Can you give us an idea of what people will see and experience at the exhibit?
You watch the video first, and then you go through a hallway of all these ‘Fleshies.’ You can see through them. You see how empty they are. You see how their function is just to please others, how passive they are, but also some see it as a formation, the way that they’re coming together. And then you move through a section, very abstractly, of me and the Fleshie trying to become equal partners. And then there’s a huge print of a Fleshie puking and bleeding out of a vagina that says, “I can’t take it anymore.” And you move into a new section, where there’s kind of an AA meeting and you watch a video and it’s all the Fleshies. I call them Fleshies because they’re rewriting their narrative; they don’t want to be seen as double masturbators; they want to be equal with each other, so they’re Fleshies and I respect their name.
Was there anything that you wanted to do conceptually that was really difficult or you had to track down a certain piece or technology?
No, they were just all very much thinktanks and having to make sure that all the details work. It was very different for the institution because they’ve never seen a work like this. The room is a live organism. So for them to understand it was new.
Is it interactive as well?
It’s active. There’s 14-channel sound at each station and lighting the whole room that’s DMX controlled and interacts with all the objects. The objects perform. It’s like a performance, but there’s actually no humans.
If there are underlying themes of body positivity, gender equality and gender fluidity, is the show suitable for kids?
That’s up to the parents. If you look at some old and ancient art, there was no sex in it. There’s nobody penetrating or anything like that. There’s images of these objects. If you look at old art, you see a dick. It’s inspired art from way back; you see these parts. It’s disturbing to all of us because it’s a disembodied image.
You’re also performing some shows. How does it tie in with the art exhibit?
Well, there is an object in the show called the Clusterfuck, which is the culmination of the Fleshies coming together and not even having a body anymore. They’re just sort of one glob, kind of like AI style, and that is the dancers that I’m using in the live show. They’re called the Clusterfuck and they move like that. So things like that are relating to it.
Do you have a gift shop and merch?
Actually, I do. We have one section called Saturnalia Returns. Basically, all the Fleshies are learning to enjoy each other with no humans. It’s a psychedelic video you watch lying down. You are passive and watching them. And I took an abstract image from this still from this video and turned it into duvet covers and pillows. There’s also gender fluid fake t-shirts that can be worn as dresses or long shirts.
And for people who can’t get to Hamburg to the exhibit, can those be purchased online?
Yeah. Also, part of the fountain is one little fountain that’s separate and I’m making 10 extra of those that can be sold.
Do you want a tour of this exhibit?
I’d love to do that.
Are the installations difficult to transport?
Who cares? If you want it, we’ll do it.
What are your plans after this, for the fall?
I think I might catch up on a little bit of sleep. This has been like a year in the making everything from scratch. The fountain, for instance, is like seven meters wide and three meters high. This was a lot of insanity going on.