Multifaceted American artist Vaginal Davis is currently showcasing her most extensive retrospective exhibition to date at the Contemporary Art Museum of Stockholm’s Moderna Museet Magnificent Product, in partnership with several major art institutions in the city. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she is a perfect example of creating your own path for those living outside polite society. 
A renowned key figure in the queer punk movement, imbuing her work with elements of absurdity, humour, sexuality, vulgarity, and whimsy. Her art serves as a testament to the evolution of punk and post-punk scenes from the tumultuous Reagan era to the emergence of a certain type of club culture in the 1990s. As a pioneering zine creator, with contributors including notable figures like Bruce LaBruce, Ms. Davis openly expresses her disinterest in aligning with social media and critiques the current economic climate which she deems as more dire than any past periods she has lived in.
Vaginal Davis's chosen artistic moniker pays homage to the renowned Black Panther and American feminist political activist Angela Davis. Throughout her career, whether through performances, hosting events at clubs, conducting interviews for zines, filmmaking, and more, Ms. Davis has engaged in collaborations with countless influential figures from our contemporary pop culture. Her work is home for everyone who feels different, in her own words “we were too punk for the gays and too gay for the punks”, becoming one of the instigators of the queer punk scene in her hometown of Los Angeles and earning the tag drag terrorist. “I’ve always been fascinated by Vaginal Davis as an icon, she’s more than just a visual artist, she’s done so many different things, so the challenge of making this exhibition was to show it all. At Moderna Museet we show the arch of her forty years long practice, but it was important to move beyond from the museum, so we are collaborating with another five art institutions in Stockholm to highlight all the different parts of her practice”, explains Hendrik Folkerts, exhibition curator at Moderna Museet.
Seeking a change from the American way of life and the rising expenses in Los Angeles, Ms. Davis made the decision to relocate to Berlin in 2005. Since then, she has actively contributed to the vibrant nightlife and diverse cultural scene of the city. Now 63 years old, she is set to make a significant impact on the cultural landscape of Stockholm this summer. From painting and music to video installations, writing, performance, and collage ephemera, her work defies conventional boundaries. 
The punk scene initially had strong female influences, but by 1979, it had transitioned into a predominantly male environment. In response to this shift, movements like queer punk and homocore emerged. One of the most significant LA punk bands in history is Black Flag. Bibbe Hansen, a prominent figure associated with Andy Warhol and now the mother of musician Beck, played a role in producing Ms. David's commentary and parody of the predominantly white punk scene through her band black fag. This contributed to setting the tone for the queer punk movement, alongside the vibrant creation of zines, art gatherings, and demonstrations across North America.
Congratulations on this exceptional collaboration with Moderna Museet and the many great galleries around Stockholm! What does an exhibit like Magnificent Product signify at this point in your career?
I come from the extreme underground. Having more mainstream recognition is a bit unusual to say the least. It’s something that I never anticipated but it seems [my art] speaks to people from what I’ve been encountering so far (laughs).
I imagine growing up in Los Angeles during the 1960s and 1970s left a significant imprint on your inner performance persona. Can you recall any specific event or moment that sparked your desire to become an artist?
Growing up in Los Angeles — a very divided city — in the 60s and 70s. I graduated from High School in 1979. I started University that year at UCLA. At some point, I worked at the Municipal Art Gallery at the Barnsdall Art Park, right next to Hollyhock House of Frank Lloyd Wright. One of my mentors is the director of the UCLA, she’s an idol to me, she was one of the early people to appreciate me, my eccentric way of dressing. I would have never imagined at the time that one day I would have a gigantic retrospective at one of the most important museums in Europe like it’s Moderna Museet in Stockholm.
LA is the city of making movies. Was it your idea to become a film director too?
I [have] lost track of all the work I did, even the films that I made, but I never made feature films. I never thought of myself ever being a commercial filmmaker making Hollywood films. I lived a short time in the background of Hollywood in Los Angeles. But I come from the inner city, not from Hollywood proper. I’m one of the very few left born and raised in Los Angeles.
Your art is a vibrant tapestry, unconstrained by medium — whether through zines, writing, video, music, paintings, sculpture, performance, or even baked bread. What motivates your choice of expression?
Driven by whimsy and how the mood strikes me. The art is not just having a product, the art is basically me and my persona, that is what really shapes everything I do and taking absurdity and whimsy and letting it rain. My friend the great feminist artist Kembra Pfahler coined the term availablelism: making use of what is usually available for art or for life. We were born in the same year, I love her to death, she has so many great terms, anti-naturalism, I love that one. She has lived in the same apartment in the East Village in New York since 1979. She has a real estate apartment that pays $600! That’s why she can’t leave that apartment (laughs).
You testified to the rise of punk and post-punk movements. Why do you think so many good bands emerged during that time?
Punk and post-punk helped people to just create. They didn’t have to be pristine and precise performers, musicians or singers but just having the gusto and the courage and the drive to just explode upon the stage, and just do. As my mentor says, “doing by doing” and all these emerge from the 70s into the 80s, I was fortunate to come up from that. Whether I do a painting, or film or stage performance, that’s not really the point of it. The point is the process of doing by doing.
As matter of fact, your post-punk band Pedro, Muriel and Ether P.M.E was produced by Steve Albini who died a couple of weeks ago.
It was kind of hard to deal with his death having to carry on with all the work on installing all these wonderful events at the exhibition. I was just overwhelmed. He produced so many great artists during those days. He didn’t like thinking of himself as a producer, I love that (laughs) but he recorded on these records, like PJ Harvey, Nirvana, countless number of bands. He was so gracious, he and I are from the same generation. I’m 63, Steve Albini died at 61! That kind of graciousness doesn’t exist anymore and he was about to go on tour again!
Queer punk and homocore emerging as a response to the militant white men in the scene. Your new band black fag was established as a parody or criticism to the scene.
Bibbe Hansen produced black fag, she was the youngest of Warhol's stars. She was in several of Andy Warhol's films during the 60s and 70s. She was in the LA punk scene too as a photographer. Her father Al Hansen was living in LA at the time during the emergence of the punk scene in the 1970s.
What was the reception regarding the parody and commentary on the punk scene?
We were too punk for the gays, the gays didn’t embrace us, and too gay for the punks.
A few years ago during the Stockholm Film Festival, I had the privilege of interviewing Bruce LaBruce. Our discussion delved into the origins of J.D.s. I remember Mr. LaBruce emphasised its significance amid the Reagan administration. How do you recall this turbulent period?
We were tackling the issues of the cities where we lived. Bruce and J.B. Jones, who created J.D.s zine, was crucial in the queercore movement. They were based in Toronto, I was based in LA. We were all working in the same vain but we didn’t know each other. We didn’t meet until 1990 at the Homographic convention in Chicago. Before we met in person we'd been corresponding with these long twenty-four-page handwritten letters, by the time we actually did meet it was like we [had] known each other forever. 
As a pioneering artist in zine creation, how do you view the resonance between traditional zines and the digital platforms of blogs and Instagram accounts today?
I never really thought about anything that I did, the writing, the zines self-produced independent  [work was] going to have any lasting value, in the 80s and the 90s. I don’t even have copies of it myself (laughs). Back in those days I just moved on to the next thing. You put on your journalism hat and you were digging. I was very dorky.
What do you consider to be the most essential aspects of social media for newer generations?
When I first started to write online, I had one of the first websites as an artist, I think in 1994. Larry-bob, a friend working in Silicon Valley, created my web diary, and then he switched to this thing called blog, I didn’t know a thing about that. The New York Times approached me, how does it feel being an original blogger? I said, what are you talking about? I don’t know what a blog is! And when it comes to social media I know even less. Larry-bob and some other fans do maintain, how is it called, Myface? Oh, no sorry Facebook! Right? Maria Norman she takes care of Pintagram, the social media page, oh that’s Instagram, no Pintagram! (laughs). I don’t know the first thing about these social media things but I’m glad I have all these young people surrounding me to do it.