why lizzi bougatsos' new book belongs on your summer reading list
As she gets the Gang back together, we catch up with the musician, visual artist, and actress about documenting punk shows and funerals in her first book, ‘Her Perfume Tears.’
Between Kim Gordon's memoir Girl in a Band and Chloë Sevigny's self-titled monograph, NYC's creative power ladies have been blessing us with all the books. But you better make room on your summer reading list, because Gang Gang Dance frontwoman and visual artist Lizzi Bougatsos has put out her own release, Her Perfume Tears. A cut-and-paste chronicle of her life thus far, Lizzi's compendium spans from childhood photos to snapshots of Gang Gang's days defining downtown. Having recently given a book talk at NeueHouse and with a brand new Gang Gang record in the works (!!!), Lizzi spoke with us about making art on the road and why Chloë's perm ruled.
When did you first become interested in making images?
When I was 16, I drew a plant all psychedelic and that was it. I had a lot of cameras as a teenager: video, Super 8 and still cameras. When I moved to the city, I just documented everything compulsively: punk shows, the music scene, art openings, funerals - I was inspired. The streets were tight then.
How did Her Perfume Tears come about?
Well, a publisher here in NY wanted to put out a book of Gang Gang and I was on hiatus from the band to work on my own art. I thought it was finally time to put out a book on my art. Just capture my life so I could get rid of everything, really.
Many of the images and artworks are collaged together in ways that don't feel precious but still intimate and personal. Can you describe your curation and design process?
Being on the road is frustrating for a visual artist, so I'd just clip things I liked when in the van, or photographed something I wanted to read and shoved everything in my journal. To me, it's just ephemera that I suppose has an effortless quality. My clothes would get worn out, ripped, and frayed--it's all part of the way I live my life. I wanted my book to have this quality of performance, to have a flow. The way the images were laid out was really about the aesthetic of my bohemian ways. The curating was a nightmare, so I had both the publishers do edits with me and I would just flip through the binders of images over and over til the flow felt right.
The book ranges from photos of your childhood in Greece through Gang Gang Dance tour shots. Was it important for you to balance personal with professional moments, or do you even see a distinction between the two?
OOF good question. I am battling with this quite a bit, as a lot of artists do with Instagram, what to display, what to keep to your own private little dreamhole. I guess it's an aesthetic thing as well. I'm definitely a control freak with imagery, it has to have balance. But for the book, it just is what it is. If it's personal or professional doesn't really matter; if I like it, it goes in and that's that.
When looking back through your archive, did you come across any images that brought back moments you'd totally forgotten about?
No, I've looked at these pictures so many times so I didn't forget anything but I was happy to be reminded of moments. My view of life through the lens over the years changed, perhaps become less romantic. I think my experience going through my archives was just straight up overwhelming. I had to switch mindsets in the middle and say 'Ok, that's for the next book,' so not trying to cram everything in was a relief.
Chloë is in this book and you've got a few shots in hers. Would you ever creatively collaborate on an art project (or one of her famous Halloween costumes)? What's the most valuable thing your friendship has taught you?
We styled each other for Self Service once and photographed each other in my apartment in Williamsburg, circa 2004. We set a trend with tube socks for sure, but all in all, it's fun to take artists out of their ordinary roles and let them go buck-wild. That was when she had a perm; that look was amazing on her. Chloë makes her own Halloween costumes and that's all her, I just come in when it needs to take a turn on the edge. But wow, what hasn't my friendship with Chloë taught me? We stick together. Our love song is Reel Around the Fountain by The Smiths. That kind of spells it out: loyalty and care for someone you love.
What's up next for you?
Gang Gang started a new record so this summer is sort of dedicated to that. I have a solo show with James Fuentes Gallery in January, I'm working on a series of prints that I am very excited about, and I'm making a track for the one and only Jennifer Herrema [of 90s trash rock outfit Royal Trux.] Oh, and I've been acting in some films, so I'm looking forward to them coming out and trying out this new obsession of mine.
Text Emily Manning
Images courtesy Lizzi Bougatsos/ Boo- Hooray