SiteWorks: San Francisco performance 1969-85

80 Langton Street

Karen Finley, I’m An Ass Man (21st September 1982)

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Karen Finley demurely entered the performance area, wearing a 60’s beaded evening gown with an empire waist. Clearing her throat, she requested a glass of wine, which she politely accepted and dashed to the floor with a shriek, beginning the performance. A non-stop barrage of images, characters, emotions and stories were enhance by her actions involving props all around her…a telephone, sliced beets in a can, a dozen ice cream sandwiches, books, spray cans, etc. She made tea with cream and sugar in a handbag…punctuated disturbing accounts of people on the subway by thrusting a fist into a freshly opened can of kidney beans…described depraved obsessions of the insane while inserting various foods and objects into her intimate apparel.

Tea break. Suddenly, as she put the sugar in her tea she imagined her teeth rotting and then she saw the dentist with his hand in her bra playing with her nipple as he drilled. She drank the tea quickly because she saw a huge, pregnant mama roach scurrying up the cabinet. She tried to smash the roach. She really wanted to smash to hell the egg that was protruding from the roach’s swollen carcass. But she couldn’t catch it. It was too fast for her and went past the first, second and third shelves up to the top shelf and you know what happens up there? That is where the nest of bodies, eggs and turds that look like coffee grinds. For years I thought those brown specks were coffee grinds. And sometimes, like on the Wednesday before Thanskgiving at 3:00 a.m., she gets real ambitious and gests the Lysol and disinfectant and cleans the hell out of it…

They’ve infested the entire house. They are everywhere. If only I married an exterminator, if only I invented color filed paintings, if only I was David Salle’s sister, Mel Torme’s son, James Garner’s wife. If my name was only Karen Kennedy. If only we were all in Hawaii – getting big and fat – just getting stoned on Maui Loa Punch. If only my dad didn’t die.

But it wasn’t so much having the PhD in Italian literature that upset her. Oh, no. It was living in Iowa. Living, breathing, sleeping corn. The terminal 20 year old student. The fluorescent lighting… (Finley in Pritikin 1983)

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