Controlled Burn artists Çicada L’Amour and Pouchet Pouchet from House of Larva
Tell us about the work you’re performing at Controlled Burn. What’s it about?
ÇICADA L’AMOUR: We are performing a new act called INSECT-A-DROME: think David Cronenberg meets pro-wrestling meets snuff film, but it’s also like a nature documentary. We love riffing on different media genres–the “trashier” the better–as a way to explore queer identity and the effects of interpersonal violence on our bodies and in our fantasies. There’s a lot about voyeurism and alienation in this one. You know. Comedy.
What motivates your work as an artist in general?
ÇICADA L’AMOUR: Frustration? Angst? Feeling like there is something under my skin, ready to burst! There’s always that “emotional” or spiritual side. A motivating force. But then there are also specific questions: What does it mean, on a physical level, to be socially constructed, to be shaped by imperialist, racist, and heterosexist powers? What does it mean to contain both the perpetuation of violence and resistance to it? I like that drag centers the building of a persona, and everyone is in on it. Like we are all celebrating this artificiality, and then suddenly “the artificial” character, the drag persona, helps reveal something about the “real me” or the “real you:” how we are made, how we emerge in the world, and how that whole process can be kind of ambiguous, even scary.
POUCHET POUCHET: This may be bordering on cliche but I really do feel like I need to make art and perform to have a meaningful life. I’m sure my life would be a lot easier in my ways if I wouldn’t keep insisting on performing, making art, or trying projects and techniques. However, I was really very sad when I took a hiatus from dance a couple years ago. So I think in general, there is something in my nature that does need to be doing art to be fulfilled. Artist all the way down, I suppose. But as Max said, I also believe art has a special ability to interrogate parts of our reality that we take for granted as “natural” and therefore, unchangeable. What is it really about gender, for instance, that is so natural? We talk about “nature” versus “nurture”, but there is very little behavior that can be attributed only to nature, and even if it can be, it is still worth interrogating.
Talk about your background as an artist. What sort of artistic experience are you bringing to this production?
POUCHET: My mom is a child psychiatrist and I was a very anxious and neurotic child. So, she put me in dance classes and community choir as a type of exposure therapy. It worked very well, although I don’t think she anticipated that I would commit myself so fully to dance and art as I have. I still grapple with anxiety and shyness and I know I’m still neurotic, but I think that brings an interesting tension to performances, and besides, Merce Cunningham was shy, from what I hear. I was a musician and choral singer and classical music nerd for many years, so many of the classical music tracks you hear in House of Larva performances were my suggestion, although not always.
ÇICADA: I first got into theatre through puppetry and costume, building body sized masks, hand puppets, shadow puppets, etc. In this show, we are doing our finest insect-inspired drag, so I am excited to include that part of me and play around with materials and fabrics that I don’t always get to. It’s also a great time for some more choreography, since McKay is an incredibly talented choreographer. This show really brings these sides of our artistic selves to the table.
Have you been involved with 20% Theatre in the past and, if so, in what ways?
ÇICADA: Yup. We did Controlled Burn last year. It was awesome! It was an act dedicated to Brett Kavanaugh, but I guess he wasn’t interested in attending. C’est la vie.
Which artists and/or performances have inspired you?
ÇICADA: This last year? Hands down: Marianne Williamson. What a performance. Slam dunk. Tens across the board. Love her. The way she articulates and the corresponding movements of the cheeks, the eyes, the corners of her mouth, I am drawn into her persona like a metaphysical whirlpool, the embodiment of everything I both love and hate about new age. “We have a sickness care system,” I mean ugh, so good. Chills.
POUCHET: My family doesn’t watch sports or wrestling so I didn’t grow up watching it. It wasn’t until a dear friend of mine, Danny Solis, introduced me to WWE, that I understood that professional wrestling is actually America’s most popular, and dare I say, finest theater performance. Professional wrestling is not “real”, it refers to nothing except the most abstract copy of a copy of a fighting match – professional wrestling is hyperreality itself. Professional wrestling is where we witness the real America.
Are you working on any other projects at the moment or coming up on the horizon?
POUCHET: House of Larva always has many projects in motion on the horizon. We are all very inspired by sci fi, fantasy, horror, so we have a long list of ideas kicking around.
ÇICADA: We want to do a Western show. Super gay, right? We also wanna poke a little fun at horse girls. There’s this Adam Ant song “Why Do Girls Love Horses,” and I just keep imagining this like tragedy where a cowboy returns home after a perilous trip to find medicine for his wife or something–very that–only to find out his wife’s left him for a horse. Relationships are hard.
Outside of House of Larva, I am working on a book, The(y)ology: Mythopoetics for Queer and Trans Liberation. It’s sort of a manifestoabout mythmaking in queer and trans spiritual, religious, and theological movements. It’s about loving nonbinary god/s, rethinking what it means to be gendered selves through embodied practices, and imagining a sexually liberated, gender expansive cosmos. I study theology at United Theological Seminary, and this is the culmination of my time there.
Aside from your artistic work, how do you spend your time? What are some of your hobbies or passions in life?
POUCHET: I used to really love reading and I’ve noticed that since I’m not in school anymore I don’t read very much, so I’m trying to get back in the habit of reading. I love sci fi and fantasy novels. Right now I’m re-reading a sci fi classic, Snow Crash. It was the first place where the word “avatar” was used to represent a person’s digital representation in an online world. If you read this interview and meet me later, please tell me book suggestions, it might seem weird but I’ll be expecting it so it won’t be weird.
What’s your favorite thing to do in the Twin Cities?
ÇICADA: I love swimming, especially when the e coli levels aren’t too high. I also enjoy watching the orangutans at Como Zoo.
POUCHET: I just moved to the Twin Cities from Rochester a few months ago so I’m still just so thrilled to be so close to so many artistic opportunities.
Who are your favorite artists right now and why?
ÇICADA: I have been so excited about the Boulet Brother’s Dragula, particularly drag queen’s Disasterina and Biqtch Puddin and drag king Landon Cider. Weird, scary, sexy, gross. delicious. I got to see Biqtch Puddin when she performed at the Saloon. It’s not really my scene, so I was kinda uncomfortable, not really having it, but the Puddin gets on the stage in full Fiona drag and does this whole Shrek themed number where she’s pulling something–a braid?– out of her ass, and then jump ropes with it, which turns into her donning an ogre mask and leading sing-a-long of “Believer” and I am like yes, that, that is what I want!
Why do you think artmaking is important work?
POUCHET: The regular rules of day to day life are boring, restrictive, predictable, and oppressive. We need artmaking to get us out of what is allowed to happen in “regular” behavior. I think artmaking based in the body and performance is especially important because our society tries very hard to create a separation between the body and the mind, and many people conceive of themselves as a mind simply being carried around by a body, an unfortunate and clumsy housing for a brilliant brain. However, they are inextricably connected – and the body has other knowledge for us that isn’t as straightforward or easily pulled out. Bodies are weird and wonderful and uncomfortable and comfortable, and I think performance is a place where we get the opportunity to really explore that and see it laid out and experience it.
ÇICADA: The fictional—and this is a big part of my upcoming book– is in the middle of what we imagine and what already exists. It uses already present language and images to access a moment that has not happened, even a world that is not yet. I think art creates new myths, and these myths expand our understanding of what is possible. How else could we possibly build a better world?
Describe your pre-performance ritual if you have one.
ÇICADA: We like to get our faces real close and just whisper “thank you, thank you, thank you” repeatedly. Or we’ll sing along to Oingo Boingo’s “Little Girls.” However the spirit moves us.
POUCHET: Yeah, we spend most of the day together before a show, going over act, putting the finishing touches on props. I always force Max to take selfies with me before we go on stage. Max is correct, we always whisper “thank you” to each other at least six times. Are we saying thank you to each other or to Benoit, the patriarchal demiurge of House of Larva’s mythos. Hard to say.