She can see right through you, but all you can see in her is your own reflection.
We’re lucky Beth B. has provided us a view through a trustworthy lens. A documentary on Lunch called “The War is Never Over” premiered at Doc NYC last weekend. The feature delves into the true essence of Lydia as a person and artist better than any article ever I’ve ever read. Panning a landscape of mostly never-before-seen footage, Lydia’s life and career are seen from a new vantage point. [I refuse to give any spoilers.]
Until now, Lydia Lunch has spent her entire career writing her own narrative. She is unwilling to feel shame or guilt when people want to “paint their fears on her face.” She is who she is. She does what she does because it feels good. Her ego is secure and she knows who the fuck she is. Her penetrating eyes both see through you and heal your wounds.
I’ve spent a lot of time responding internally to Lydia’s wisdom and recently got a chance to interview her.
As the days go by and I reflect on our conversation, I’ve been thinking about what really happened when we spoke. What I’ve realized is that while our chat went well, I didn’t actually extract all that much new information from her. She’s a talker. She exhales words. She says more in two minutes than most people say in a lifetime. Still, almost everything she told me was stuff she’s written or talked extensively about.
But I do think I accomplished something: connected with and write more about her. Gave her some press for her new podcast, an outlet to discuss the Beth B. documentary, and a little bit of a preview to her archives that NYU recently purchased (and will exhibit next year).
She brought most of these things up before I could even ask.
“You’re answering questions I haven’t even gotten to ask yet,” I told her.
“I’m psychic, don’t worry about it,” she retorted. And, “It isn’t hard.”
Lydia Lunch, whose very nature to most is intense and intimidating, was surprisingly not scary to talk to during our Skype call– but maybe that’s because after flubbing my first introduction to her (in person), watching a million interviews with her, and listening to every episode of her podcast multiple times, I knew that what she appreciates most is relentless and honesty. Though I have both of those in droves, I still didn’t ask some of the questions I had set out to ask, the things I really wanted to know (like Has she ever had any pets? and Would she read my tarot?), how I had actually wanted to continue conversations she has on her podcast and to unearth more of her memories of the past (she is a Rolodex of information).
I never intended to control the conversation because: no one directs a conversation with Lydia Lunch. Why would you want to?
Maybe I just understand nature. Maybe I am not one to wrestle the wind. Or maybe I know and respect that one of her most important achievements as an artist is being in control of her own narrative. She writes her own story. She is the myth and legend she says she is, and part of how she manages to be that and present herself that way is by driving her own story, utilizing almost every literary device in the book— some of her favorites include repetition, hyperbole, cadence.
I’d rather carry on the oral tradition. Snap to the beat. Hold up the microphone to her filthy mouth. Drag a highlighter across the page.
She already knows her lines– she wrote them– and as a performer, spoken word artist, and magician, she has perfect command over her captive audience, while she is behaving how-ever-the-fuck she wants whenever she wants or confessing her darkest thoughts.
It took us a few weeks to set up a time to talk, but when we did, it was easy.
When she called, a still image of her showed up.
She told me, “I have really bad reception here. I had to turn the video off. So I can see you but you can’t see me.”
I now realize her first statement was more than a courtesy reminder that I was being watched through a two-way mirror; it also demonstrated both the foreshadowing of and the perfect metaphor for our encounter.
She saw right through me. And all I could look at was my own face.
If I am the Page of Wands, she is the Queen of Swords.
No, scratch that.
I am the Fool and she is the whole god damn deck.
My interview “Lydia Lunch: Pathological Truth-Teller” is on Please Kill Me. And check out “The War is Never Over” when you get the chance.
Trust the Witch. Learn from the witch. Be healed by the witch.