Dirty Looks returns with a special Tuesday night screening of manic videos and camp performance, bringing together the work of Tom Rubnitz and Dynasty Handbag.
Tom Rubnitz’s zany infomercials and dessert tutorials from the 1980s feature prominent drag figures, like RuPaul, Lady Bunny, and Hapi Phace. Equal parts subversion and candy colored pop, contemporary audiences continue to hum the mantra (“Hammmm”) of Rubnitz’s hilarious Pickle Surprise, which has scored over 1.5 million hits on YouTube to date. Handbag, who is best known for her live media spectacles and performances, will participate in a rare screening of her single-channel video works, including the recently completed Eternal Quadrangle.
Over the course of the 1980s and up until his untimely death from AIDS in 1992, Tom Rubnitz captured the personalities and energy of the East Village scene in his loony, anarchic, and hallucigenically-colored short videos. Screwball TV broadcasts from an alternate reality, these videos take the form of cooking shows, music videos, or kids shows, featuring club kids like James St. James and Michael Alig, downtown luminaries like Ann Magnuson, and drag legends-in-the-making like RuPaul, the Lady Bunny, and Hapi Phace. As Amy Taubin wrote, Rubnitz's “glitter-dusted videos distill the sensibility of a generation of TV babies whose venue of choice was the Pyramid Club rather than the Whitney Museum.” Rubnitz and his demented TV takeoffs live on in the YouTube era, with the ever-popular Pickle Surprise racking up over a million views and inspiring fan remixes and remakes.
Called “the most outrageous performance artist in town” by Michael Musto and a “crackpot genius” by the Village Voice, Jibz Cameron has been performing as her oddball alter ego Dynasty Handbag since 2002. The Quiet Storm finds Dynasty Handbag deciding to take a vow of silence. She soon discovers that silence is golden, but the kind of golden that leads her into a vacuum of isolation and despair. Shot entirely on green screen using pirated internet photos as backdrops and in place of other actors, The Quiet Storm is both a dream and nightmare of contemporary video production. The recent Eternal Quadrangle finds Dynasty Handbag on a dating game show where she must choose between four contestants vying for a spot in her vast cosmic emptiness. The bachelors are: an aggressively ambitious professional golfer, a hard-luck stray dog, a disembodied brain, and, of course, the grim reaper himself. All have attractive qualities and perhaps sustainable methodologies for dealing with life, but must she choose just one? And why are these her only choices?
Drag Queen Marathon, video, 1986
Made for TV, video, 1984
Pickle Surprise, video, 1989
Strawberry Shortcut, video, 1989
The Mother Show, video, 1991
The Quiet Storm (w. Hedia Maron), video, 2007
Eternal Quadrangle, video, 2012
The event will also feature a complimentary publication featuring writings by Brian Bauman, Lady Bunny, Nicholas de Villiers, Joe E. Jeffreys and original artwork.