On Friday, November 27th, SomoS presents the first posthumous exhibition of the much beloved Brian Tennessee Claflin, aka Prix, Berlin’s champion nightlife provocateur and renegade artist. “The Five Senses” is a yet unseen five-channel video installation and studio performance featuring a young Claflin invoking sight, scent, touch, taste, and hearing. Created alongside Italian artist Greta Frau and by courtesy of the Brain Tennessee Claflin Foundation who preserves his brief but prolific career, “The Five Senses” seems a fitting choice for the first review of Claflin’s impact after his tragic death in 2014. His electrifying radicalism embodied both his life and art as the two seemed inextricably connected, taking on the roles of club promoter, performer, activist model, rentboy, and studio artist. Yet, he was never trapped by any of any of these labels as anyone who crossed paths with him described him best as a free spirit.
“Brian treated life essentially as a performance, as many fags do, but his was much more entertaining than most of us,” states Bruce LaBruce, the underground cinema icon who was close with Claflin. “He had a wild streak in him a mile wide, which is something that we both shared when we were together. We were both raised in oppressive environments that didn't allow us to express out homosexuality, so we tended to act out on it in the extreme at the drop of a bonnet.”
Claflin was born in Boise, Idaho and raised a Mormon in Salt Lake City, Utah, but eventually embarked on a nomadic journey that landed him permanently in Berlin, resonating with the city’s vibrant subculture and queer underground. In his lifetime of 33 years, he’s reported to have visited 70 countries according to close friend and Foundation organizer Travis Jeppesen.
“Brian hit a chord with so many queers because he embodied all the contradictions between the old and new schools of faggotry,” explains Bruce. “He was a thoroughly modern Millie, with a broad knowledge of the latest, coolest music and art, but he was also an old school queen through and through – not in quotation marks, but to the very breadth and depth of his nelly soul.”
The loving remarks from Bruce LaBruce only scratch the surface of Claflin’s far-reaching influence. Claflin would also be known as Prix, the hostess of the hedonistic “riot dance party” PORK, housed at Berlin’s notorious gay club Ficken 3000. The weekly club night reached Warholian-levels of intersection, attracting alternative pleasure-seekers from the art world to the junkie world and the gradient between them. Vaginal Davis’ blog reflects on Claflin’s life and death, referring to his work as “riveting” and calling him a “mastermind” – an appropriate term for someone able to finagle such extreme walks of life. Performance pieces ranged from body-centric movements of sexual-political transcendence to spiritual acts of defiance and liberation, such as the public burning of currency earned from hustling.
Snax, a musician, famed DJ, and close friend of Claflin’s, described his work as “politically charged yet accessible” and “subtle yet direct” in a heartfelt obituary. “The Five Senses” exhibition at SomoS continues building Claflin’s oeuvre; witnessing him communicate and isolate each facet of existence furthers the connection between his life, art, and sensuality as a relentless, voracious explorer. A publication featuring video stills and the writing work of Travis Jeppesen will accompany the exhibition, opening Friday, November 27th and concluding on December 20th. Be sure to also catch a reading from Jeppesen along with a live performance by Snax on December 2nd at 7pm. Additionally, Claflin’s film Moths Around a Flame will be screened at the Berlin Art Film Festival on December 12th, 10:30 pm, at Kino Moviemento, across the street from SomoS.
by JC Gonzo
And who the hell am I? If you’ve been following the blog at all, you may have wondered out of which horny hole this perverted punk has stepped. I won’t reveal too much – a bit of mystery is sexy, right? But a few things may be in order.
First, I was born in that part of the world that most people think is actually Canada, but it’s not. I was born in Alaska. Who would have thought that place could produce more than oil and Sarah Palin – two decidedly unsexy things.
Second, I’m no stranger to sex on screen. I appeared in two arty porn films with DVD releases: one in San Francisco and one here in Berlin. There may be other footage of me out there, but if so, I don’t know where. And yup, I moved to Berlin from gay ol’ San Francisco, where I learned to be a proper fag and how to be a writer all at the same time.
There’s more from San Francisco coming your way via Dandy Dicks, so stay tuned.
But I left San Francisco. And took my heart with me. Five years now in Berlin and I can’t think of a better place to be. I’ve been making it here as a writer ever since and I’m happy to report there’s no going back.
I think I’ve given you enough of the basics. More you’ll just have to find out either through this blog or a little Google. But I hope with that you stick around Dandy Dicks – for this blog and of course, the boys!